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Finding Minnesota: Slim's Woodshed

HARMONY, Minn. (WCCO) -- There's a good story at every stop as we travel Minnesota. Sometimes the story behind the story is even more compelling.

That's the case with a giant wood-carving collection in Harmony that's billed as America's largest. Slim's Woodshed, run by 70-year-old Stanley "Slim" Maroushek, features more than 4,000 wood carvings from around the world.

"I like my carvings to say a story of some sort, that they're doing something," Maroushek said.

Many visitors don't know it when they go to Slim's Woodshed, but there's a deeply personal story behind Maroushek's collection. He has always found an escape in woodworking, from the time he was a boy in Iowa while being raised by alcoholic parents.

"When they'd get fighting among themselves, they stabbed each other and they did all kinds of things," Maroushek said.

While a young boy, he would bike away to a neighboring farm where two brothers, Frank and Joseph Bily, made hand-carved wooden clocks. They would let him take a few blocks and figures home, although Maroushek's father threw his entire collection into a fire.

"I was fortunate to save one," he said, holding a slightly charred figure of a rabbit.

In his troubled world, Maroushek saw beauty and peacefulness in carved figures, which he started collecting by the hundreds. He didn't take up carving on his own; he was too busy as a homebuilder.

But then in the early 1980s, he learned he had multiple sclerosis, and his home-building was over.

"I was told in 1981 in five years I'd be in a nursing home," he said. "I'd be bedridden because I was going down so fast."

Faced with that devastating news, his two daughters had a hunch about what might help. They bought him his own carving set.

"My children were worried about dear old dad and got me going," he said. "Got me off the couch!"

Maroushek has since become an accomplished carver, artfully using hands that defy the doctor's diagnosis.

"You're always working them and you're keeping them limbered up," he said, "because the MS has a tendency to try to tighten your hand up."

With his family's support and wooden figures from around the world to inspire him, Maroushek now has what he used to admire in others. It's all come together in Harmony.

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