Aug 5, 2020–“Bro. Why is there a pencil on your tree.”


Because I recently built a pencil. An 8-foot yellow pencil. It’s hanging on a tree above my mailbox.

Why did I feel the need to do that?

Isolation does weird things to you. When work is caught up, and you’re home alone a lot, you start looking for things to do. Other Texans have fancy entrance gates, hewn of stone and wrought of iron. I have no ambitions like that. But I like to write. So why not make a big pencil?

Here’s how I did it:

I started with an 8-foot post from Tractor Supply, and “sharpened” it using an underpowered electric chain saw with a dull chain. It looks like a 3rd-grader did it using a manual pencil sharpener from 1973.

Applied an undercoat of Kilz, the paint that protects from insects, weathering, and random .22 shots, hopefully.

Spray painted the eraser end. Kinda looks like a Virginia Slim. For 100% authenticity I should have cut off half the eraser to make it look used.

Got my helper to add a couple coats of #2 yellow paint, the universal color for official test-taking bubble filling.

Added the lead point and a ferrule. Did you know the metal band that holds on the eraser is called a ferrule? I had to look it up. Can you tell what I used? Hint: a metal coffee can with the top and bottom removed.

Pencil in position. Still deciding whether I should add lettering to it. For now, it is a distraction for speeding drivers, lost bicyclists, and the guy who Snapchatted the opening comment.

The hardest part was hanging it up in a tree. I did it myself with an extension ladder, a lasso, and chains from an old porch swing.

So that’s it. That’s the story.

When I posted this on social media, it was fascinating to see commenters straining to make it more than it is. People asked about the hidden meaning. What is it saying? What does it symbolize? Where does it point?

It ain’t Balanced Rock.

It’s a pencil.

In a tree.