A Surprise Find: A Bargain Bamboo Art Board by Tamia Nelson

When, after much wrangling and many delays, a Walmart Supercenter sprang up on the outskirts of the little college town near my home, the handwringers’ chorus was much in evidence, forecasting the imminent demise of local businesses and an end to the dozy “small-town atmosphere” so highly prized by folks newly arrived from New York City. And truth to tell, some of the horrors that the handwringers prophesied did indeed come to pass. Friends lost their jobs when the local supermaket folded, and the count of empty storefronts on mainstreet increased dramatically, as craft and curio shops failed faster than new bars could open. Then—crowning irony, this—the Supercenter’s leach field packed it in after less than a year, forcing Walmart to export truckload after truckload of…er…customer effluent to a neighboring village for processing, with no end in sight to the malodorous flood.

You have to see the funny side of all this, I suppose. Still, the failed leech field was once a productive wetland, and many of my friends who lost their jobs are still out of work, so you’ll understand why I have mixed feelings about Walmart. But there’s no going back, is there? And a recent weekday found me cruising the aisles in the Supercenter, looking for a couple of juice glasses. Then I happened on this:

Bamboo Cutting Board

It’s a bamboo cutting board. It caught my eye immediately. I like bamboo. A more versatile plant would be hard to find. You can eat it. You can make scaffolds, bridges, and houses out of it. And flutes. Not to mention paper. Or even bicycle frames. Now, as it happens, I have perfectly good cutting boards, 30-year-old slabs of hard maple that have served me well and which ought to be good for at least 30 more years. So I didn’t need another cutting board. I did need a drawing board, though. The catch? Drawing boards don’t come cheap. The ones I’d been looking at go for USD15 and up. Mostly up. But Walmart’s bamboo cutting board cost less than USD10. I bought it then and there. It’s everything a drawing board should be: smooth and seamless, light yet rigid. It even has a cutout handle. All in all, it’s pretty close to perfect. I just needed to add a heavy-duty rubber band recycled from a bunch of broccoli heads, and I was in business.

Drawing Board

The rubber band holds my paper in place when the wind is blowing half a gale. And because the board is made to withstand meat juices and succulent veggies, it ought to hold up nicely even when used with watercolors.

Watercolor Board

Moreover, simply by adding a second rubber band, I can position a sketch pad just where I want it, in either “portrait” or “landscape” orientation.

Drawing Board

OK. It’s tragic that a wetland was bulldozed out of existence to build a leach field that failed before a year was out. And I wish my friends still had their jobs. But the wetland is gone, and my friends have moved on. Me? I have a new drawing board, at a very good price. Some bargain, eh? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot…

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For half a century, Tamia Nelson has been ranging far and wide by bike, boat, and on foot. A geologist by training, an artist since she could hold a pencil, a photographer since her uncle gave her a twin-lens reflex camera when she was 10, she's made her living as a writer and novelist for two decades. Avocationally her interests span natural history, social history, cooking, art, and self-powered outdoor pursuits, and she has broad experience in mountaineering, canoeing, kayaking, cycling, snowshoeing and skiing.