We first met Mike Yarbrough about a year ago. He's local to us and shares much of the same passions to see men grow in the old school wisdom and classic manly virtues that are missing in men of recent generations. We hit it off over some BBQ and he's been writing some inspirational articles for us ever since. Yarbrough, as he is known, is a good example of a man endeavoring to make his mark and do work that matters. He's a husband, father, manly fellow, and creative individual that we think you ought to know.
Hey Mike. Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm just shy of 38 years old, born in Memphis but raised in and around Jackson, TN. I got married at the age of 18 to my high school sweetheart, was in the Navy for a brief stint, and settled in Charlotte, NC. We've been married for nearly 20 years and have two boys, Harvey (16) and Liam (13).
There are two different projects that you started up. Tell us about those.
Sure. The first is Wolf & Iron (wolfandiron.com), a site dedicated to helping men heed the high call of manful living. I write about true masculinity, virtues and skills, and just recently started a related podcast. I got the writing bug at an early age and found that I was a good communicator through that medium. My goal is to help men be better men in all areas of their life, and hopefully write and speak full time on masculinity and a broad range of other topics.
The second is Rustic and Main (rusticandmain.com) which is fairly new. My day job is a software developer, and there are some architectural and design elements I really enjoy about my job, but for the most part I create virtual things that have a limited life span. I had a desire to create things in the old artisan fashion, with my hands, and have something material at the end of the day I could be proud of. A while back I made a simple wooden ring that got a lot of attention. I decided to open a shop creating wooden rings from historic and symbolic woods, thus Rustic and Main was born.
When you say "historic and symbolic woods" what do you mean?
Historic, meaning woods that come from something with a history. It may be wood from an old tobacco barn or moonshiners hideout, or like one of our first signature rings, teak wood from the deck of the USS North Carolina, a WWII battleship. The USS NC has an amazing history, and much of its original teak was salvaged during a restoration project. The wood is pretty rare and beautiful. I am able to work that into wooden rings for those who enjoy history and having keepsakes of sentimental value, not just for the aesthetics. I use whiskey barrel oak to line the inside of the ring and a copper inlay as a band to add some contrast to the design. Bringing those elements together, for example, tells a story and I think those stories are where we find meaning in the past.
I can also craft custom rings as well, from wood and other elements which have particular meaning to the wearer. For instance, a tree growing on the family farm, an old rifle stock, a piece of furniture, almost any decently sized piece of wood can be made into a sentimental ring.
As far as symbolic woods, that is a little more varied. Woods that may not have been part of a particular historic event, but are significant because of the type of wood they are or their uses. For example, South American greenheart was used in the construction of the Fram, the famed ship of arctic explorer Roald Amundsen in his journey to the South Pole. The ship was constructed of this wood specifically because of its incredible strength which could withstand the crushing pressure of glacial ice. I don't imagine any wood from the Fram is available on the market, but the tree itself has symbolic value.
Teak wood from the USS North Carolina (outside) lined with Jack Daniel’s whiskey barrel oak wood and accented with a copper inlay. The rings are crafted by hand using a technique that makes them incredibly strong. Available at rusticandmain.com.
The handmade and quality over quantity culture seems to really be growing. Why do you think that is?
For people like myself, who grew up in the 80's and 90's, all we have known has been cheap, plastic, mass-produced things. In many instances this is necessary to support demand, but there is always a desire to have something unique and well-made. With the advent of Instagram and other social medias, many of us are getting our first glimpse into the life of a maker and we are getting to see the kinds of details in products and craftsmanship that our grandparents, and their grandparents, saw on a regular basis. In short, it's impressive to see someone make something by hand in a world where those skills are becoming more rare, and it is equally impressive to discover what quality feels like in a world where light, thin, and cheap are in the majority.
You use a lot of history in the articles you write for us as well as on Wolf & Iron. Why is that?
As a boy, I hated history. I loved stories, but couldn't stand history as a subject. It was, and likely is, taught completely wrong. As an adult, however, I find that understanding the past helps me grasp the current world in which we find ourselves. And, unlike studying the lives of celebrities, the men and women who have lived and died have a legacy for us to examine. We can look at their lives in whole and see connections to our own. We can also make judgments about whether they made wise decisions or not and accordingly choose to follow their example.
I'm also a believer that, if nature has its way, things degrade over time. That includes our bodies and our values. This means that without determined effort on our part, things will get worse, not better, over time. This isn't to say that our forefathers had it all right, but it is to say that when we stop focusing on core values and beliefs, we lose something. Sometimes we have to look back and retrace our steps and see where we got off track.
How do you balance work, life, and these other passions that obviously take a lot of time?
In short, I probably don't balance them very well at all. As a creative person I struggle to keep from being pulled in the direction of whatever I happen to be most passionate about at the time. The good in this is that I am always trying to fill empty space with something meaningful to work on. So, when I have a break in one project, my mind shifts to where I left off on another. I am aware of this and use reminders, usually on my calendar, to signal my focus to shift from one thing to the next. This is how I go about keeping my priorities straight, putting family first as much as possible, while also not letting time slip by wasted on surfing the net and Facebook.
The old adage that we find the time to do the things that matter to us is true. I still watch TV and movies, probably too much, and enjoy lunches or a coffee pretty often with friends. There are still things I could cut out that would be great from a time-management standpoint but perhaps not from a life-quality standpoint.
To find out more about Mike Yarbrough and what he's up to, give him a follow below. Also, if you are looking for insight into writing or media which engages men in a meaningful way, reach out to him. He would be happy to chat and exchange ideas.
Wolf & Iron
Rustic and Main