Every instrument he has made has a story within it.
Duane Strand, 85, and his wife, Anna, of 62 years, live on the far east side of Carthage. When visitors enter their home, there are some eye-catching instruments hanging on the wall … The rest have their own room in the house.
“It got to be an obsession,” Duane said of his instrument-making hobby. “I'd see a piece of wood and wondered how it would sound as an instrument.”
Many instruments: violins, violas, mandolins, dulcimers, banjos and guitars are in the Strand's collection. He started out just repairing instruments, but in that process he needed to create pieces for them. Soon, he found a fun hobby in making a complete musical instrument.
The first dulcimer he made was in 2000, and he was hooked. In 2001, he finished his first violin made from a fallen branch in his son's yard in South Carolina.
“Everywhere we went we had to bring back wood with us,” Anna said. “He's always been very good with his hands.”
For Duane, the beauty of the instrument isn't just in the harmonies it produces.
“The wood is so pretty without staining it – why change it?” he said.
The Strands, who moved to Carthage in September of 2008 from South Dakota, have four children, 16 grandchildren and 36 (yes, 36) great-grandchildren – most of which live in this area. A daughter, Kristi Whitmore, and her family of five children share Duane's love for instruments. A grandson, Ben, 33, plans to serve his internship in music in Beijing, China; and a granddaughter, Saloam, 32, who lives in China, wished for a smaller dulcimer.
Duane granted her wish.
“I call it a 'dolci'” he said, holding it up. “My granddaughter in China was saying how she wished she could travel with her dulcimer, but it was too big. So I made this.”
The instrument is a foot shorter than the usual dulcimer size (which is about three feet long).
“It's such a good legacy for our family,” Kristi said. “These instruments will out last us all.”
The last violin Duane made was in 2008.
“With a violin, you can spend hours upon hours,” he said. “I've heard people spending their whole winter in the shop making them, then judge the season off of it – 'it was a five-violin winter.'”
For 22 years, the Strands ran a fishing resort in South Dakota – Duane said those were very happy days. However, the move south to be closer to family and better medical care for Anna has been a pleasant one.
“We are totally blessed,” Duane said.