ALVORD (CBSDFW.COM) – If anyone has an eye for history, it’s Ron Chilton. From about 75 miles northwest of Dallas at his home in Alvord, Chilton sands away time and measures the past in calibers.
“I built my first 65-caliber, black-powder cannon using baby buggy wheels,” he said.
Chilton has built replica Civil War cannons for personal collectors for more than 40 years. When watching the 66-year-old work, his hands seem to struggle, as if he is searching for the right tool or right fit.
“My fingers are my eyes,” he said.
Chilton needs every one of his fingers to see because the fact is, he can’t. At age 21, an allergic reaction to penicillin took away his sight, but not his passion.
“My life since blindness has been more full,” he said. “Far more full than it was before.”
Although he works without vision, his visionary work has not gone unnoticed. Chilton has been commissioned to build a cannon for the city of Alvord’s veterans’ memorial park, quite an honor for the son of a veteran.
“It was a dream come true to be able to honor my dad and my uncle. My uncle landed, June 6, 1944 in Normandy,” Chilton said.
Over the years, his passion for Civil War weaponry has inspired him to build 75 cannons, all of which are built to fire; gunpowder and all.
But the cannon he’s building for Alvord will be his grand finale, a salute to his father and uncle.
“What better to be my last one than to honor the people who have made this possible for me,” he said.
The new veteran’s park in Alvord is under construction and is expected to open in early 2012. As part of the opening ceremonies, Chilton will fire his last, and perhaps most memorable, cannon.