“I’m blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other,” the George West resident says, smiling.
True enough. Watson says his left eye went totally blind after a fouled cataract surgery in 1979.
His right eye is affected by retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease that eventually causes blindness.
But he says his right eye’s blindness was augmented by a drug he was given during a gall bladder surgery.
His right-eye vision is similar to looking through a tiny pinhole.
“It’s like a white fog – can see movement sometimes,” he says.
But Watson says his left eye can’t see at all, so just using it is like being in a black room with absolutely no light.
Watson says he talks about his blindness, and keeps a positive outlook on life.
“What do you want me to do? Cry over spilled milk?” he says.
His great attitude is evident in the things he makes out of wood. He learned to love working with wood because of his grandfather who did woodwork and had a lathe.
Watson’s first project at the age of nine – and when he wasn’t blind – was a wooden kitchen utensil holder. He still has it.
Recently, he just completed his eighth butcher block, which took him more than two months to complete.
“I would like to thank everyone who loaned me their branding irons. The butcher block that I built is now complete and has over forty brands on it,” he says.
All of the brands he had burned on the butcher block are from ranchers in Live Oak County.
“I appreciate the generosity of those ranchers for trusting me with their irons. A special thanks goes to Richard May and Steve Walters for burning the brands onto the butcher block.”
Watson used 90 feet of 2-by-4 lumber to build the block, which has 240 pieces that are 4 inches long. The block weighs about 100 pounds.
Born in Santanna (some spell it Santa Anna) in 1944, Watson and his family soon moved to Mathis, where his father was from.
“We moved to Mathis after my father got out of the military,” he says.
“I grew up there, but I had a little problem with hearing, so we moved to Corpus Christi in 1958.”
In Corpus Christi, Watson was helped with special teaching. He graduated from W.B. Ray High School in 1964.
He says he knew actress Farrah Fawcett from Baker Junior High School and also at Ray High School. The star was a year behind him.
He then attended Del Mar Technical Institute for a couple of years and went to work for Lew Williams Chevrolet after that.
After four years, Watson moved back to Mathis, where he worked for a few years as a mechanic and then started his own business.
He ran his mechanics shop for 25 years before retiring and moving to George West.
He went to the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center in Austin from 1988 to 1989. There, he learned how to react to blind people, people skills and what to do as a blind person. He also received any equipment that he thought might help him.
“I don’t read Braille. My fingers are too thick because I work in wood,” he says.
In addition to building butcher blocks, he has built his porch, a glider, wooden paneling inside his house and many more wooden features, including a fence, to name a few of the numerous projects he’s completed.
Watson also kept his first butcher block, sold his second through fifth blocks, gave away the sixth block to a close friend and donated the seventh to the Brush Country Cowboy Church to auction off.
He has a little hope for his right eye, too. He learned that in Great Britain scientists have created a bionic eye.
In an MSN.com online story May 3, the bionic eye has given sight to the blind.
“Electronic microchips implanted into the eyes of a group of British patients suffering from retinitis pigmentosa, an incurable genetic condition that causes blindness, have partially restored the vision of the formerly sightless so that they’re able to view the world as a ‘grainy black-and-white image,’” according to the news story.
“I figure in the next three to eight years, they’ll get to know how to do that surgery over here,” Watson says.
In the meantime, Watson plans on continuing his woodwork and collecting coffee cups – he has more than 6,000 of them, but that is another story.