Slice of Life: Joshua Muñoz

MERCEDES — A sense of the magical emerges as Joshua Munoz describes working with walnut.

“I like the dark color and the grain,” said Joshua, 15, a member of the Santa Rosa FFA.

“When I oil it, the grain really comes out so you can see the wood,” he said. “It moves with the grain.”

Joshua was talking about a walnut secretary he and fellow FFA member Mario Bocanegra built for the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show.

They spent 2 1/2 months working on the project, and their industrious energy paid off Tuesday when the project took first place in the home and yard division.

“We spent hours and hours after school, wet and dry, dark and night out there working on it,” he said.

But that wasn’t the only project Joshua worked on in the days, weeks and months leading up to the livestock show. He also spent long hours with a goat which won the lightweight division yesterday.

“I spent one or two hours a day working with him,” he said. “Exercise is really important. You have to practice setting them up. You have to practice in the pens.”

He’s been showing animals for years, but he began doing shop projects in the seventh grade. Last year he won reserve champion for a walnut office desk set.

“There’s something about wood,” he said thoughtfully. “The difficulty of wood is the challenge.”

He was quick to point out the differences between wood and metal.

“In metal, if you cut a piece too short you can still use it,” he said. In wood, if you cut too short you have to start all over.”

He even had specific reasons for building a piece of indoor furniture rather than the more familiar picnic tables.

“Indoor furniture is a lot more challenging because you have different components to put together,” he said, revealing even more clearly his desire for difficult challenges.

Reflecting for a moment on the project he worked on with Mario, he said with satisfaction, “We worked so hard and it’s a good feeling.”

Certainly he and his partner will walk away with a good feeling and cash in hand after they sell their project at auction. Some lucky buy will enjoy the satisfaction of a handmade walnut secretary.