After a journey down the long, dark hallway to the door of Firearts, “You made it!” Mike greets my dad and I the same way every time we arrive. It’s as if he doesn’t expect us to be there but is absolutely ecstatic that we are. Mike has been the person watching over me since I started blacksmithing about a year and a half ago. He is a bit of a mystery to me still though. The things he does, says and such. I have little idea what Mike really is about.
After a journey down the long, dark hallway to the door of the shop, we walk in and are greeted by Mike with some sort of new piece, book, or story from the week before. Mike loves to talk and shit, does he talk! We will come back to Mike’s stories and talking but first I have to address the perfectionist attitude he has and flaunts. When I am working in the shop and Mike is walking around, surveying his students; I feel judgement as Mike looks at my piece. Whenever I am stuck it’s like Mike can sense it and he walks directly over to me. “May I?” He asks before he grabs the hammer from my hand. He somehow can take a piece of mine that I am stuck on, and with a few shaky hammer strikes, get it to look exactly how I wanted or even better. Mike is a perfectionist and it shows. When I asked him to be a part of my project he happily obliged but when he realized that I wanted to take photos of him while he was working, he said no because he was too shaky. He was embarrassed about how he felt he looked while he was working. I told him, “It doesn’t matter how you look while you work because your pieces speak for themselves, they are amazing.” He wouldn’t budge on the subject sadly. I resorted to sneaking photos of Mike working while at class.
Mike’s stories are almost as good as his swords. They are always so vivid and descriptive. And by that I mean long. Oh my god he likes to talk. But every once in a while, he tells a story that catches me by surprise. I would like to share one of those with you.
One of the last times we went into class, Mike told us a story about a bus ride he took to class one day. On this bus ride, Mike was wearing a policeman’s cap, a leather jacket and was carrying a four foot broadsword he was working on. Which of those three things sticks out most in your head? I think we all know our answer. The policeman’s cap! No? Well the policeman’s cap sure stuck out to the police officer as she boarded the bus that day.
She walks over to Mike and says “Sir, what do you think you are doing?” Well Ma’am I am a blacksmith, this sword is a project I happen to be working on. “No sir, the cap. Only Chicago PD Officers are supposed to have those caps. How the hell did you get that cap?” Officer, one of my students gave it to me, you see I’m a blacksmi… “Just take the hat off sir.”
This story shocks me even to this day purely because the man is carrying a four foot fucking broadsword and could chop anyone’s head off with it but hey I guess that’s just me. This story is just so Mike in the way that he always gets into weird situations like this. He is just a small old man, who carries swords on the bus and gets yelled at for his hat.