Quilcene: Music Man turns scrap logs into scholarships

QUILCENE — On Christmas Eve, Santa loads his sleigh and hitches up his reindeer, who fly around the world to bring gifts to good girls and boys.

Andy Mackie’s reindeer deliver the goods without leaving the country.

Mackie is an ex-cowboy and country music performer who was taught thousands of children in Jefferson County to play the harmonica, passing along the tunes he learned as a child in Scotland.

In the past few years, he has branched out into stringed instruments — and to school districts in Sequim and the North Kitsap area.

He also provides instruments to the schools free of charge, turning out mountain dulcimers and tenor guitars in an old barn next to his home on the Coyle Peninsula.

But in November, he switches from making wooden instruments to making wooden reindeer — the kind people put in their yards — to raise money for strings and scholarships.

“The only cost is the nails,” Mackie says.

“I pick up the wood by the side of the road.”

He started making the yard ornaments as gifts 10 years ago after seeing them in a catalog.

But his reindeer don’t look like anything like the stilted figures on the shiny pages.

Instead, they’re one-of-a-kind figures, with bent legs that look like they’re walking or moving around.

Lichen and needles add a rustic note, and each reindeer has a tilt of the head or a slant of the ear or tail, that gives it a unique look.

No two the same

“I don’t measure anything, that’s why they all look different,” he says, cutting a piece of fir into sections.

“Sometimes people take 30 minutes picking out the one out they want.”

When he started out, he could cut and assemble 100 reindeer a day, he says.

He took them to Christmas tree lots and asked the owners to get whatever they could. One year, he made and sold 1,000 reindeer to a Seattle man.

“I took 40 to a craft fair and sold out,” he said.

“So I went home and worked all night and made 40 more. I was selling them before I got to the door.”

He also donates the wooden animals to nursing homes, where staff and visitors like them so much, they want to buy them, too.

“It’s another testimony of how when you give something away, the Lord brings you back much more,” Mackie says.

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