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Brothers Receive Chestnut Carvings from Family Home

The Lyles brothers proudly pose with their American chestnut carvings.

Recently, I had the honor of presenting two American chestnut wood carvings to brothers Remus and Howard Lyles. The carvings were made by past president and TACF board member emeritus Gary Carver out of chestnut wood from two cylindrical posts that supported the first floor of the Lyles family farmhouse.

The MD-TACF Chapter’s Lyles Orchard is sited on a portion of what had been the Lyles family farm. Remus and Howard grew up on the farm and now live adjacent to it on either side. Since the orchard’s creation, they have served as informal orchard stewards, even though both are well into their eighties.

Besides helping with planting, mowing, watering, and groundhog patrol, the Lyles brothers have an inexhaustible supply of stories about their family’s saga tracing back to the time of slavery. No work detail at the orchard is complete without a trip to Remus’ front porch.

The Lyles family farm had been sold to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), which supplies water for both Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties, and became part of a green buffer around one of its reservoirs. WSSC offered the chapter a portion of the site for this new orchard, the fourth chestnut orchard on WSSC-owned land.

Last year the original farmhouse, which was over 100 years old, had to be demolished. WSSC was able to save the two chestnut posts for Gary. Despite the decay and termite damage, he was able to turn some of the wood into the magnificent carvings shown in the picture.

Both Lyles brothers were appreciative and moved by the gift, stating that the carvings from their childhood home meant so much. “You gave me a piece of gold,” said Remus. Howard told Gary that he especially enjoyed recognizing part of the outside surface of the post; reminding him of the home he grew up in. Gary responded by saying “I hope that every time you and Remus look at the carvings you will smile as you remember some happy event from your childhood.” Chestnut can do that.