Willie Eaglin

Willie Eaglin says he spent a long time in grade two, till he was ten and left school. Blind since his sixties, he just turned 90. His career as an artist started fifteen or so years ago at the Lighthouse for the Blind, where he learned to make yarn dogs. The braided rag rugs--buttons, zippers, labels, and all--are, however, entirely his own creation. How’d he start? "Instinct," he says.

Willie grew up in Washington, D.C., and worked in the airport shining shoes. He did, though, get caught selling moonshine during Prohibition and spent four or five years in jail. Married twice--"one of them was good"--he now lives in a small house with a few other elderly. Other than making his rugs, his greatest pleasures are going out to the backyard for a cigar or having a friend sneak him in some gin for his grape juice. Even at 90 Willie can still relish being naughty.

Copyright 1999 Jeffrey Knapp and Tamara Hendershot.