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(Today in Europe Spotlight, Stars and Stripes talks with Tom Myers, who builds rocking horses in his wood shop in Naples, Italy.)

Which horses are better — rocking or real?

Rocking are better. I don’t really get into real horses. I’ve been thrown off of them too much. You have much more control over rocking horses and they don’t give you attitude.

You come from a long line of horse ranchers, don’t you? Um. Wait. What do you call someone who raises rocking horses?

I don’t know. My father and grandfather did woodworking. My dad got me into building rocking horses when I was 10. You go into the wood shop and there’s all the sawdust, and the aroma of the wood, then you see the wood and want to build something. It’s really neat when you build something and it comes out exactly the way you pictured it.

Have you ever gone back and forth about sticking with this hobby?

Oh yeah, plenty of times. It all comes back to building rocking horses, though, because lots of friends had babies. They’re great gifts.

How big’s the “herd” you’ve built over the years?

One-hundred and ninety one. I try to keep track of these as I build them. Normally every Christmas I build between 12 and 15 rocking horses, about seven small and eight or nine large. (Pausing, then thinking) Well, maybe it’s up to about 200. I date each one of them — give them birthdates. I usually make whatever color people want. You want it pained, stained? Any color mane, eyes, ears and saddle they want.

How does a pony — or rather a plank — become a horse?

I usually build three at a time. If I built one I could do it in about three days, as I’m used to the way everything goes together. It takes about 10 days to build three, depending on if I’m staining them.

Have you “farmed” all of your horses out or have you kept a few in your own stable?

Two. I’ve got one made of solid cherry from tree wood back behind our house. The other one is made from a door from our old house here in Italy. It’s chestnut.

You turned a door into a horse?

I made a small rocking horse. We wanted a piece of the house to take back to Ohio with us (when they move back to the U.S. next year). They’re both my daughter’s — for her kids. She’s 12, so we’ve got time to wait.

Are these just for kids or have you made adult-sized horses?

I make adult-sized. I’ll make anything anyone wants. I’ve made pigs, cows, motorcycles and rocking chairs for kids. I built one adult-sized that stood 4 feet 7 inches tall at the saddle. That went to the riding school at (Allied Joint Force Command) NATO. They’ve still got it. That was like seven years ago.

Do you connect with each of your rocking horses or are they just inanimate creatures to you?

Every one I build is like something new. It’s like Geppetto building Pinocchio, there’s a little piece of me going into them.

Who’s your favorite cowboy?

John Wayne. I grew up watching him all the time. I thought he was the biggest guy, he took care of everybody. He reminds me of my grandfather.

Tom Myers

Age: 38

Title: Rocking horse wrangler/rancher

Day job: Commissary customer service representative, Naples, Italy

Europe readers: Know someone whose accomplishments, talents, job, hobby, volunteer work, awards or good deeds qualify them for 15 minutes of fame? How about someone whose claim to glory is a bit out of the ordinary — even, dare we say, oddball? Send the person’s name and contact information to news@mail.estripes.osd.mil.

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