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Comanche man defies age, odds, even cancer: making custom furniture at 93 years old

By Braid Blanks, bblanks@ktxs.com
Published On: Aug 27 2013 09:33:35 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 28 2013 01:11:27 PM CDT
COMANCHE, Texas -

"He's a celebrity in this town. Everybody knows my daddy."

The famous Merlin Davis: He's been in agriculture, a dairy farmer, he still ride's in rodeo's and parades (he's now won 23 awards for the oldest rider) and is currently a furniture maker, all at the young age of...

"I'm 93. 93 years and seven months right now,” said Merlin Davis, of Comanche. 

Think that's remarkable? How about the fact that he's done all of this with just one arm. He lost his right arm to a feed mill when he was just 24 years old.

 "Some people might call it handicap, but I never have felt like I was handicapped, much," said Davis.

It has never slowed him down, either. Even in triple digit heat, you’ll usually find him in a one room, workshop, where he makes his creations, almost every day.

"I put in six or eight hours a day sometimes. Still go all the time. I just love it, I guess, I don't know why. I couldn't tell you why. I just love it," said Davis.

We asked Merlin how he got into furniture making: he told us it all started with a 'honey-do.'

"One day my wife found an old straight back chair, she asked me if I would build her one for her desk in there. So I went out there and I tried and I made her a chair. While I was making her that chair a friend of mine came by and asked me to make me six of those for him," said Davis.

Business took off from there. He’s made hundreds of pieces now: rocking chairs, dining room chairs, swings, benches. But his up and at 'em routine came to a halt this past April. Merlin suffered congestive heart failure and pneumonia. He was rushed to a Fort Worth hospital.

"I woke up one morning and there was a big old Dr. in the room with me and he said "I'm Dr. so and so, I can't remember what his name is. He said I'm your lung Dr. He said you sure were a sick man when they brought you in. I didn't know whether we were gonna save you or not. I guess now we're going to," said Davis.

Merlin made it. But his Doctors also delivered some bad news. He had cancer in both of his lungs. He wasn't expected to make it through the month. Once again, he defied the odds… and the doctor’s orders.

"Those doctors, they give me three months to live in April. They told me you can't get out, you can't mow, you can't go to the shop, it's too dusty. Well, whenever we came home I told the kids that I'm going to the shop. I'm going to do whatever I want to do and there ain't a thing in the world you can do about it, and no use in you hollering cause it's not gonna work. I'm going. And I hooked up and mowed the yard and came out here and I've been out here ever since. Not dead yet."

Merlin’s daughter, Linda Hooker, says his fighting spirit is keeping him going strong. She doesn't expect him to slow down any time soon.

"He always does too much, but I've learned to just let him go. That's why I'm here, his days are numbered, we're aware of that. I'm here to let him do what he wants to do until he can't do it anymore."

Which is good…because it seems Merlin has the same idea.

"Just do what I'm doing as long as I have anything to do with it," said Merlin.

"He's tiny but he's a giant. He's got a big heart. Everyone tells me he's an inspiration," said Linda.

Merlin says his favorite piece that he's made, was the very first one he attempted: his wife's rocking chair.