A work in progress: Atlanta man finds second chance after moving to Crawford farm

There’s a horse in Crawford that Wilson Sanchez is dying to ride.

It was broken years ago, but it has been so long since she had a rider that she forgot how to handle one. So Sanchez leads her to the pond and lets her wade into the water. Then he jumps on her back.

“She’s the only one big enough to hold me,” said Sanchez.

Re-teaching a horse how to take a rider – not to mention how to ride it yourself – are just two of hundreds of new chores Sanchez has taken on over the past year. The Atlanta-born man moved to a farm in the Crawford area last spring to work for a friend of his grandmother’s.

“I found out that Mrs. Marsha needed a servant and agreed to do it before I even knew it was in Mississippi,” he said. “It’s not a choice that I regret every day.”

“MS. Marsha” hired Sanchez – a self-proclaimed “town boy” – to help her with the landscaping and the animals on her property.
As it turned out, the location of the farm hardly mattered at first.

“I moved here in March. Things were closed two days later (due to COVID-19), ”he recalled.

While entertainment options were limited in the area, Sanchez still had plenty to keep himself busy with work and school.
A working day is anything but an ordinary day in the office.

“There were a few warm days this winter that confused the mallards,” said Sanchez. “So we had a couple of ducklings that were born in the middle of winter. I raised them from young animals. I kept them in a water trough, but they grew up within a week. So I built an enclosure for them in the garage. I had never bred ducks before. “

As sure as he is about life on the farm, life on the farm has seized him.

“There was a horse that came up to me and purposely frightened me when it was here for the first time. Everyone said to me, ‘She can smell your fear,’ ”he said. “She’s the liveliest horse around and now she’s letting me brush her hooves.”

While Sanchez wins the animals’ trust during the day, he promotes his training at night. He is enrolled online at the University of Phoenix and has a certificate in information technology. He plans to continue his bachelor’s degree in hopes of starting his own furniture repair business.

By the grace of God
It’s not the first time Sanchez has reinterpreted his future. In 2014 he was in a car accident that almost cost him his left arm.

“I was hit by a car on New Year’s Eve,” he said. “It’s the only accident I’ve ever had.”

The surgeon who operated on Sanchez’s arm was surprised at his freedom of movement when the bandages were removed.

“The doctor was shocked when I moved my arm so far back,” said Sanchez, demonstrating the movement, “but that’s as far as I can. By the grace of God I have a left arm that bends. “

Although Sanchez considers his recovery to be a miracle, he was not entirely unscathed. Since he no longer has full freedom of movement in his left arm and wrist, he is considered to be medically disabled.

But that didn’t stop Sanchez. His grandmother Mariela Ayala was not surprised that he kept going under difficult circumstances.
“I am proud that despite all the challenges he does not allow himself to be dissuaded from his goals and dreams,” said Ayala, who mainly speaks Spanish, in an email via an interpreter. “I admire his tenacity and his will to succeed.”

Wilson Sanchez is standing next to a vintage Coca-Cola chest in his living room. The dresser is an example of the type of old furniture that fascinates Sanchez. Amelia Plair / Special to The Dispatch

The art of craft
Sanchez’s injury made it impossible for him to continue his work – restoring furniture – as he had done. This restriction was particularly difficult for him, because painting furniture is also one of his passions.

“I love reworking because it’s a kind of art,” he said.

Sanchez learned his art quite by accident.

“I was 21 years old and thought (my new job) was a regular delivery job,” he said. “But more and more orders from furniture painting mixed with the deliveries.”

Today, Sanchez can do almost any type of furniture repair job, from rebuilding parts of a piece to making minor touch ups.

“I could break a chair to pieces on the floor and then reassemble it so you never know it’s broken,” he said.

And it’s not just the restoration aspect of the work that Sanchez addresses. He also appreciates the story behind the piece.
“I love history, so I love antiques and the stories behind them,” he said.

He even discovered a bit of history himself.

“The most interesting piece I’ve ever worked on was a Louis XVI dresser. It sailed on a ship from Europe to go to the United States. When we pulled out the drawers to restore them, we discovered the words ‘vive Napoleon 1817’, ”he said. “Not even the owner knew about it.”

These types of experiences got Sanchez addicted to the craft. After injuring himself, the typical pace became too much for him.
“I’ve spent some time dealing with PTSD because of the wreckage and the idea that I now have a disability,” he said. “I’ve finally decided to do something about it.”

That “something” started when he returned to school in 2018. It continued when he moved to the farm.

Today he has a different future in mind – one that combines his love for restoring furniture with his love for helping. He wants to start his own furniture restoration business so he can continue his craft at his own pace and on his own terms.

“This job gave me the opportunity to advance in my education and have the chance to start my own business,” he said. “Getting out of here was probably the best thing ever.”

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