The SWAT Symposium was Friday through Sunday, August 23-25, this year in Waco, Texas. The SWAT Symposium I’m referring to is does not consist of people discussing ways to slap mosquitos (that would be in Oklahoma). You might think the SWAT Symposium is related to the Special Weapons And Tactics teams to handle riots and violent confrontations with bad guys—that also isn’t the SWAT of which I’m referring. (Note to Editor: If Mrs. Harmon, my seventh-grade English teacher, complains about my use of non-words such as “wanna” tell her that at least I remembered to say “…of which I’m referring” instead of “…I’m referring to.” She should be proud.)

Anyway, the acronym SWAT I’m referring to is the Southwest Association of Turners and it’s not a symposium for people from the Southwest whose surname is “Turner”, (Bob Turner, Martha Turner, etc.)

The word “Turners” means lathe turners—people who turn wood on lathes. By cunningly cutting the material (usually wood) as it spins by in a blur you can make it round. It’s a lot of fun and sometimes the wood doesn’t fly off and hit the wall while simultaneously scaring you out of your wits. Which brings up the point: If you had your wits about you, would you really spin something that might…whoa…that’s not going to encourage you to try lathe turning. I’ll start over:

Turning wood is fun and safe if you’re taught properly. A good way to learn is by joining a woodturning club. By a coincidence we have the best one in the world, namely Hunt County Woodturners, right here in Greenville, our fair city. Great people to learn from, (from which to learn) and also some of the nicest people in Texas—and who’d wanna look elsewhere?

I traveled to Waco with a friend in his huge truck—big enough to haul my turnings for display at SWAT’s Gallery—where I actually sold one to my new friend from Louisiana. Made a cool $50.00. It only took three weeks to make, too! My friend/driver/roommate got that truck all the way up to 60mph between stops for us to buy coffee or release it after we…uh…filtered it. I told him that we could save time when we bought the coffee by going straight to the men’s room and pouring it into the urinal—eliminating the middle man—but for some reason that didn’t interest him.

At SWAT I learned a lot about turning and a bit about people, too. Most of the demonstrators were good, but one of them shone so brightly that we were almost blinded by his brilliance. Without doubt his woodturning method was best—all others were moronic. In fact, he was the best at…uh…just about everything. You could tell how special he was just by noticing how his ego filled the room and leaked out of the building and onto the parking lot. We students also had the privilege of learning why woodturners would be dumb or stupid not to buy his superior tools. After he finished with us, I was almost crushed by the stampede of folks pouring out to buy his tools. I didn’t buy anything and was left with the empty feeling that I was either dumb or stupid. Didn’t know which. Probably both.

The other demos were pretty good and the demonstrators stayed afterward to discuss anything you missed, misunderstood, or just wondered about. Some of them were even humble. (Never tried that myself—maybe next Thursday I’ll give it a go.)  

Back in the hotel, I eavesdropped on a discussion about dogs, children, and alligators (‘don’t let your children feed the alligators that occasionally show up on your lawn’).

“Y’all are way more interesting than us,” I said.

A good line for meeting people. Pretty educational article, huh? I should get the line copyrighted, but for you lucky readers it’s free of charge. BTW: It’s effective only if it’s mostly true.

Many of the vendors donated items for the final raffle that was held on Sunday after lunch. I purchased the minimum number of tickets and told my friends and passers-by not to bother buying tickets because I had the winning ones. When the raffle started I looked at the overhead screen and glanced at my tickets.  

Couldn’t believe my eyes. I held the winning ticket in my right hand (or was it my left?). That very first prize was a Thomson spindle gouge, a block of exotic wood and set of sanding supplies all worth $200. I guess it pays to be optimistic no matter which hand holds the tickets.

At SWAT you have to walk…and walk…and walk. I have RSD in my right foot. It’s a condition in which a stupid nerve thinks your stupid foot is injured and summons your body to send down all the blood it can find lying around. Your foot doesn’t know what to do with all that blood so it spends its time swelling and flooding the nerve paths with distress signals.

Despite the pain, I had a pretty good time. Pam, a SWAT representative, had asked me to donate a turned item for an earlier raffle. I brought a cherry piece with 434 piercings (holes), but as I sat innocently eating lunch Saturday Pam found me and said, “Johnny, we’re not going to use your piece in the raffle.”


“I’m putting it in the auction. It’s too nice to go in the raffle.”

Auction? Didn’t know there was one. I’d better smile and nod.

The cherry piece sold for $300 and I got to keep half of that. If you do the math that’s…uh…more than 100 bucks.

Now MY ego began to swell. After SWAT asks me to demonstrate next year I’ll enlighten my students with the Johnny Hayre woodturning method. All I need to do is figure out what the Johnny Hayre method is and give it a name and acronym. How about the Brute Strength method?

Johnny Hayre worked at E-Systems/Raytheon/L-3 until he retired in 2013. He and wife Karyl have lived in Greenville since 2002 and are now “empty-nesters.” They have three living children and seven grandchildren, who are each beautiful, intelligent and  all the usual parent-grandparent praises. Email him at

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