Larry Naeger was a six year old when his grandfather, Lawrence, gave him a pocketknife.
That little gift, many years later, turned into a tool that draws raves from those who see the woodworkings of the 88-year-old Pace resident.
This past weekend Naeger was just one of several who participated in the Homemakers' Holiday Show at the Santa Rosa County Auditorium.
Each of Naeger's creations is an extension back of his childhood in the Midwest.
"My grandfather was an immigrant as a young man from Germany," Naeger recalled. "Him and his family were brought here by the Parker Brothers Carousel Company in Leavenworth, Kan.
"When the depression, hit the carousel company went belly up and he moved to Southeast Missouri and started farming."
Despite becoming a farmer, Lawrence Naeger still worked as a master woodcarver.
"He did wood working on the side. He had a good name and when a horse (from a carousel) got damaged they would send him the damaged carcass and he would fix it and send it back," Larry said about his grandfather. "It was then he bought me my first pocket knife and taught me how to sharpen it and keep it sharp.
"I spent the next 11 years of my life as his shadow and that is when he started teaching me how to carve wood."
Naeger didn't immediately take to life as a wood carver.
He joined the Marines in 1941 and spent two years aboard the USS Tennessee. During his time aboard the Tennessee, he was wounded at Pearl Harbor, along with stops at Kista and Midway.
After his hitch on the Tennessee, Naeger was assigned to the Fifth Marine Division at Camp Pendleton.
Naeger was a demolition leader who saw action at the foot of Mount Sirabachi.
"I remember taking the flame thrower away from a guy who looked very nervous and scared," Naeger said. "We started up the mountain and we encountered a pill box where we opened the door and I stuck the flame thrower inside and emptied the tank.
"A few minutes later all the men in my squad were killed by a mortar but that empty tank on my back saved my life."
Naeger spent the next three days in a foxhole with an injured leg and no food until a Navy Seabee hoisted him onto his shoulders and took him to an awaiting ship. He would later find out he had killed 11 Japanese soldiers in that pill box.
"I beat on him like crazy because I didn't want to go on that boat," Naeger said. "I had watched from that foxhole every boat near the shore had been sunk, but he threw me on board and they got me to a hospital ship.
"In less than 24 hours I went from the hospital ship to Guam and then on a transport to Oakland Naval Hospital where they saved my leg."
Naeger didn't return to the farm he grew up on, instead he studied industrial engineering and returned to wood carving as a hobby.
"It was in 1953 I entered an art and culture show in Santa Fe (New Mexico) and did pretty good," Naeger said. "From there I would enter little contest here and there and did it more as a recreational hobby.
"After 20 years as a industrial trouble shooter, my wife put her foot down and I got out of the business and since then I have been doing wood carving after we moved to Panama City."
Naeger and his wife settled on two acres and he opened a workshop.
"People seemed to like my work and I have just done little things here and there," Naeger said. "One lady commissioned me to do a full size carousel horse.
"Most carousel horses were done in blocks and they had to be glued together and painted, but she wanted it in one piece, so I had to get a log shipped from Africa."
Naeger does not have a favorite type of wood to work with as an artist.
"At one time I use to have 53 different species of wood in my shop," Naeger said. "It doesn't matter to me if it is a hardwood, softwood I have learned to work with all different types."
One of Naeger's pieces had a very humorous story behind it. He took a trip to get some blades for his workshops band saw.
"I got the blades and there were instructions inside the box on how to make a wooden reindeer," said Naeger as he held up a wooden reindeer. "I then thought to myself, why didn't I copyright this back in the 1970's when I designed this very piece."