Blind carver has feel for beauty

By PEGGY FUKUNAGA State Journal Staff Writer Published:

In his book The Meaning of Craft, Edward L. Chairman said there are only two basic rules of whittling - keep the ideas simple and original, and the knives sharp. Billy Cox of Frankfort agrees but would add, "keep it fun."

Cox is showing his skill as a whittler this weekend at the 33rd annual Bob Evans Farm Festival in Rio Grande, Ohio. He had never participated in the Southeastern Ohio festival before but he has whittled at festivals all over the region for the last 15 years.

Now, he actually works at just about five festivals a year. "There are more invitations than I can fill," he said. "If we go every weekend, it is not fun." His wife of 45 years, Darlene, goes with him to the festivals. She enjoys seeing the country crafts, she said.

Cox started whittling after an accident in 1979 while working for the Frankfort Electric and Water Plant Board left him blind and his hand injured. "They used lye, a caustic, to treat the water," he said. "We were fixing one of the lines that was stopped up. The PVC pipe sprung loose and the slush flew back in my face."

The years after the accident were a struggle. Cox went to physical therapy in Louisville and had multiple operations over the next five years. But, he refuses to be negative about the changes he had to make in his life.

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