DONNA — Two men, Joe L. Dobson and Robert (Bill) Pitkin have different personalities and different religious perspectives. They do agree on one thing and that is their hobbies.
Dobson, a Winter Texan, born in Decatur, Iowa is an extrovert. “I learned to read when I was three,” he said. “I always wanted to be a lawyer, but when WW11 came along I went to the Navy to help my two brothers.” He is from a large family of six brothers and four sisters.
He is well-read and well-traveled, as he states, “I’ve set foot on every continent”. He quotes a lot from history books. “I like to read. I don’t like fiction. My favorites are history, of course, biographies, and non-fiction. We had a lot of lawyers and several ministers on my family tree. My parents were devout Methodist, but I am an Atheist. After service, he married, was successful in the business world , had a child and life was good. Sadness came after the death of their small daughter. As a memorial, the couple decided to provide scholarships. Their rules were simple. Students must be a second year History Major and maintain a 2.7 grade average. “Sometimes it is hard to give money away. Under those circumstances, so we started providing money for a History Chair. That way, all students were able to learn more.”
“I had a wonderful wife, but after her death I was lonely,” he stated. He started looking for things to do and as he enjoyed being around the ladies he wandered into the hall where crafts were being taught. Three women began to teach him how to crochet. He admits sheepishly “ I probably didn’t need as many lessons as I got, but it was nice to have the attention.” He put his new skill to work making pot-holders. “My mother used to crochet, so I enjoyed the memories,” he stated.
The pot-holders started taking up space. His niece saw them and suggested he donate them to a youth group in the Methodist Church. He agreed and over the next six years, approximately $10,000 was added to the project. When that project ended, he started giving the potholders to “nice ladies and the Salvation Army.” It takes about three hours to finish one pot-holder, Dobson said.
He enjoyed giving his work to charity and to others he came in contact with. “I do it to help my hands with this arthritis. I do kind of like the feeling when I give these things away.” He does not know how many he has made, but like Bill Pitkin, he has been at it for about 10 years.
He described his typical day with humor. “I am adept at doing nothing,” he said. One would question that if they viewed the stacks of pot-holders and books waiting his attention.
Move down the same street and you will meet Robert L. Pitkin, a South Dakotan, and an introvert who came to the Rio Grande Valley when he was 58. “I liked the warm weather in winter, but still wanted to be up home in the summer,” he said. Except for the three years that he wore Uncle Sam’s Air Force hat, he owned and lived on a 320-acre farm there.
He got tired of “mowing” and decided to sell and leave his beloved homestead. His before retirement jobs had included not only farming, but an auto repair shop on the farm, doing special jobs like electrical work, carpentering, and driving a school bus for 25 years.
“When I was a kid and went to school they didn’t have “snow days.” They put the bus on a horse-drawn sleigh and off to school we went,” he laughingly said.
He is father to four girls, nine grandchildren and two great-grandsons. He is proud he has attended their graduations and has fond memories of the July Fourth celebrations when the girls and their families came home to the farm near Britton, S.D. He doesn’t talk about himself much, but does share that he used to ride a Honda motorcycle all around the Valley when he first came down. He loves stock car races and square dancing and “when I can get a partner, I square dance every Saturday morning here in the park,” he said.
His main hobby now is Swedish Weaving. He buys two yards of Monk’s cloth and uses a skein and a half of variegated and solid colored yarns to complete a beautiful afghan.
He discovered the craft when he watched some women practicing their stitching and they knew they had a mistake but couldn’t locate the problem. They asked him where their mistakes were and he would point it out. Finally, they encouraged him to learn the process and he states, “I did.” It takes him about a month to complete one. There are a lot of different colors available in the Monk’s cloth and he recalled the first one he made was a navy blue background with red and white yarn. He gave it to his oldest grandson.
Like Dobson, he gives his work away. “It is relaxing for me to work on them, just like reading is for some people,” he stated. “I have always given my Lutheran church in Britton some of my work for their Harvest Festival. The Lord has been good to me in allowing me to have good health, so this is something I can do as a “thank you” gift. An Afghan makes a nice wedding or birthday gift. I work mostly in white Monk’s cloth, but sometimes I use the beige when I can’t get the white. They are washable and look as good as new after they are washed. I guess I’ve made over 50 but I haven’t kept track. I do have a list in my head of those I still want to give one to and it is a long list.”
When asked about his memories, he said, “I’ll always remember my climb up Mt. Fuji when stationed in Japan. Eight of us decided we wanted to climb the highest mountain there, so we drove to the base and started climbing. I was huffing and had to stop and get my breath often. My buddy and I were the only ones of the group to make it to the top,” he said. “I’ve always loved to walk but I’ve slowed down some this past year. Used to walk three or four miles a day down here, but now I do about half of that.”
He describes his typical day in connection with his volunteer coffee making. “I make coffee every day. On Craft days or special days, I make over 400 cups. It also includes keeping the pots clean,” he said.
On Monday, I make potato and ham casserole for potluck. Tuesday is lunch and jam session. Wednesday and Saturday mornings, I get up early to make my cookies to share with the regular coffee drinkers. I make either Molasses, Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip or light Sugar Cookies. Thursday night we have coffee available with the Soup and Friday night I wait until after the dance to set up coffee for the next morning. Saturday morning, I square dance and help set up the chairs for the Sunday Worship service. Sunday, I make coffee for the church and brings cookies for fellowship time. After attending worship, I go home and rest.” That is about the longest speech you will ever hear Pitkin make until he starts telling about how his efforts affected Dobson’s life.
Pitkin’s daily routine finds him walking up the street past Dobson’s place, several times a day. He noticed the inside light was off and Dobson was not seen through his front window. The same scene confronted him for a couple of days and he began to worry. He told a friend, “I am going to the office and have them check on him.” He did and they did. Dobson was unconscious on the floor; ambulance called and Dobson was admitted to a hospital. He says it probably saved his life when the ambulance was called. Now, Pitkin stops and checks on Dobson, even if the light is on and he can see him through the window.
Both men were born in the ‘20s. Pitkin’s birth date is March 3l, l924 while Dobson was born October 20, 1927. They both have a special girl friend. Dobson likes to talk; Pitkin likes to listen. They both are very independent.
How is their craft acknowledged by those who meet them? Well, there are still a lot of eye brows raised when they learn of the men’s hobbies. There are still the questions of, “you men do what?”
History reveals in 1500, the first textile guild was composed of only men. They were knitters. Today, a group of men meet in Ohio to learn to knit and do other sewing projects. Everything changes. Lines between women and men’s crafts are changing. Pitkin and Dobson are thankful they are able to contribute their time and talents to charities who have a mission to change the world.