A FRIENDLY INVITATION

by ROBIN HOWARD / photography by HOLGER OBENAUS

IT’S 1803, AND WE’RE AT Acton Plantation in Sumter, South Carolina. Mary Huger has moved in to help her brother, Cleland Kinlock, manage the house after the death of his wife. While at Acton, Mary develops painful rheumatism, which keeps her from indulging in her favorite pastime, carriage rides. She laments her loss in a letter home to her family in Scotland. The family replies with a set of plans for a joggling board. The Kinlocks’ carpenter uses the plans to build the first American joggling board, which took its place on the Acton Plantation’s porch.

I know what you’re thinking. A joggling what now? Joggling boards, or jostling boards if you’re in Scotland, are long, semiflexible boards supported on either end by wooden stands that rock. Because the board is springy, it’s easy to bounce up and down, providing gentle exercise. It also simulates the motion of a carriage ride. Scottish joggling boards are mounted on posts, but following the Acton pattern, Southern joggling boards are on rockers.

When visitors to Acton experience the Kinlocks’ joggling board, they all want one. Soon joggling boards take over Southern front porches. An invitation to share a board is an invitation for friendship … and sometimes something more. In the mid-1800s joggling boards developed a decidedly romantic mystique. Young couples sat on either end and joggled, eventually meeting in the middle of the board for a moment of intimate conversation.

Joggling boards became a symbol of warm hospitality and are sweetly romantic, which is why Chris Outland made it his mission to give a joggling board to his bride, Kristi, as a wedding and housewarming present. Except he couldn’t find one, so he put his woodworking skills to use and made one. Of course, all the neighbors wanted one, and The Joggle Factory was born. Chris Outland was working as a paramedic and firefighter, and Kristi was a dietician. As demand grew, the couple decided to quit their jobs and go all in. Eleven years and two kids later, they are shipping joggling boards around the globe.

The Outlands make heirloom-quality joggling boards that range from 6 to 16 feet long. Boards are painted traditional Charleston Green, which is a shade of black with green undertones. They also offer an adorable kids’ size and unfinished DIY kits. “Modern homes have much smaller and more slender porches,” Kristi Outland says. “Joggling boards are only 21 inches wide, so they easily fit. You can also use them in nooks and entryways as benches.”

There are other joggling board companies in the world, but the Outlands are different. First, they are wholly committed to sustainability. “Sustainability is very important to us. We only purchase wood within 100 miles of our shop. That reduces trucking. All of our wood is bought through the Forest Initiative; they plant trees for each one they cut down,” Outland says. “Our wood is also untreated, so there are no nasty chemicals. We also use no-VOC paint, so it’s not dangerous to the environment or for people to touch.”

Second, the Outlands are dedicated to the community. They can’t keep up with demand on their own, so they get some help from the South Carolina Vocational Rehab program. The program matches people who have a hard time finding work due to a physical or mental disability with jobs suited to their capabilities. The Outlands like the idea that the program is helping people find work while keeping the craft of woodworking alive.

“You don’t have a front porch in the South if you don’t have a joggling board,” Outland says. “We love that they invite a feeling of family and togetherness. Up North, porches have rocking chairs or Adirondack chairs, which you sit in alone. Joggling boards are meant to be shared, and that’s part of what’s special about the South.” *

Robin Howard is a full-time freelance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com.