Anvils Fall from Sky (No Cartoon Coyotes)

No other object is shaped quite like it. Unique yet ubiquitous, it was the tool upon which all other tools were made for centuries. It is the common anvil.

"How do you feel when you're surrounded by anvils?" CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman asked anvil enthusiast Gay Wilkerson.

"I'm happy," Wilkerson said.

Although Wilkerson's garage in Farmington, Mo., is lined with anvils, this story is about a lot more than just a collection.

"Can we call it an obsession?" Hartman asked.

"I think so," Wilkerson said. "I think it is. I think it is, yeah."

About 20 years ago, Wilkerson became captivated by the form. And ever since - whenever he's not at his respiratory therapy job - he's usually carving anvils by the thousands.

"When I die I can't take it with me," Wilkerson said. "But I desire to have an anvil grave marker."

"I'm going to bury him under an anvil," Wilkerson's wife Cookie said.

She is remarkably tolerant of her husband's fixation not just because she put up with the carvings or because she lets him keep a Styrofoam anvil on her roof but because of the most obsessive part of his obsession.

"There's nothing like shootin' anvils," Wilkerson said.

"Shootin' anvils," Hartman said.

"Shootin' anvils," Wilkerson said.

"What's a shootin' anvil?" Hartman said.

"Shootin' an anvil off of another anvil," Wilkerson said.

"Bam!" Cookie said. "It'll go off."

"You'll never be the same after you see this," Wilkerson said.

And so it was, with more than a tiny bit of trepidation, that I followed Wilkerson to the park and watched as first he threaded a fuse through one anvil, then packed it with a pound of black powder, then set another anvil on top and finally told me where to stand.

"We're safe here?" Hartman asked.

"Oh, yes," Wilkerson said.

"Your grandson has seen this before?" Hartman asked.

"Yes," Wilkerson said.

"How come he's way back there?" Hartman asked.

"Maybe his mother told him to," Wilkerson said. "I don't know."

Anvil shooting has a long proud history in America.

No one is quite sure who was the first numbskull to try this, but Wilkerson said it was common practice during the pioneer days. Folks would shoot an anvil as a warning sign or in celebration. Today, of course, hardly anyone even knows what an anvil is, let alone wants to shoot one off another.

"It's launching something that wasn't intended to be launched," Wilkerson said. "And I think that's the allure."

"The men get very excited about it," Cookie said. "The women kinda laugh."

It is kind of a guy thing. But living for anvils, that's solely a Gay Wilkerson thing.

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.