By focusing on one man and the simple act of passing the time by whittling, this documentary tells the story of time in American history, and how the politics of a nation — and the people of that nation — moved through the worst kind of poverty and evolved into the strongest and the freest nation in the world.
The man is Adolph Vandertie, a folk artist from Wisconsin. He was on the road, as much of the American workforce was during the Great Depression, living as a hobo, a tramp, bound by poverty and his own addictions. Along the way he learned to whittle and carve from found objects, a skill that acted much like therapy as he attempted to overcome his personal struggles.
Much of the over 4,000 objects that survive are beautiful in their minute detail and the cleverness of their design. He uses the human detritus, cast aside by an economy that became too arrogant to care and failed (before there were bailouts), takes the trash and discarded objects of this same civilization and turns it into art. Vandertie saves it and transforms it, and this seemingly simple act becomes a beacon of hope and shows us the true heart of the United States of America.