Steve Haisley of Putney stands beside his award-winning ice fishing shack.
Nancy A. Olson/Special to The Commons
Steve Haisley of Putney stands beside his award-winning ice fishing shack.

Getting a second chance

With his new business, Putney man pays tribute to the opportunity he got to turn his life around

PUTNEY — Steven Haisley has developed a CBD-infused salve, which he has named Second Chance. That's because when he was offered a second chance, he took it.

And it changed his life.

"About 23 years ago, I got sober," he said. "I was one of those people you read about in the papers, time after time. I was on probation, and I was given a choice: jail or rehab. I chose rehab."

Haisley had started coming to the Brattleboro area in his late teens, hanging around the Windham College campus in Putney.

"It was kind of 'fear and loathing' in Vermont back then," he said, alluding to Hunter S. Thompson's drug-fueled gonzo journalism. "It was party, party, party."

Once sober, Haisley took up carpentry and established a career locally. He renewed his childhood interest in fishing and built himself an ice fishing shack, which he called "Second Chance."

It's constructed from recycled materials, true to the building's name. The mahogany floor and walls are recycled pallets, the cedar ceiling is left over from jobs he did, and a shelf is from a cabinet in a judge's office.

Haisley's fishing shack won an award in 2021 in the inaugural Artful Ice Shanties Design-Build Competition, sponsored by the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center in partnership with the Retreat Farm. The award was for "Most Likely to Catch a Fish, a.k.a. 'The Real Deal.'"

Photos of the fishing shacks entered in the competition comprised an exhibit at the museum. He was interviewed by the Vermont Folklife Center. In 2022, his shack again won, this time for "Finest Craftsmanship," in the second annual Artful Ice Shanties contest.

Each winter, when Haisley sets his fishing shack up on the Retreat Meadows, he notes the irony of sitting in his shack, looking across the ice at the probation office to the north and the Brattleboro Retreat to the west - two entities that have played such a large role in his life.

A few years ago, he received an award for good citizenship.

"I took it to the probation office to show my former probation officer," Haisley said, "and told him not to give up because what he does makes a difference."

A new direction: CBD

As the decades have passed, Haisley said, he has found that his body requires longer and longer recovery times from the physical demands of carpentry. Also, the pandemic meant fewer people were calling for carpentry work.

Haisley needed a new direction. He heard people talking about CBD (cannabidiol) and decided to investigate.

"Other similar products have up to 31 ingredients," he said. "That means people with chemical sensitivities are much less likely to be able to use them. I wanted to develop something simple. There is no need to make it complicated. Life is complicated enough."

Haisley developed his salve, Second Chance, available in solid form. The only ingredients are coconut oil infused with CBD from hemp supplied by Green Mountain Orchards in Putney.

That's all.

"I like to say the hemp goes to the spa," Haisley said. "I heat the hemp in the coconut oil up to 200 degrees F and let it steep."

This process extracts the terpenes - the natural chemical compounds found in the plant - gently and naturally. "The hemp is not damaged," he said.

Haisley said he has sent his product to two testing labs, and there is very little tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the major psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, hemp's botanical relative.

"It's the CBD that you want," he said. "That's the magic. It doesn't get you high, but it relieves pain."

More second chances

At first, Haisley gave the product to friends to try. Results were dramatic.

"People were telling me that the product was fantastic," Haisley said. "A person with arthritis in their hands and feet said, 'I can go for walks now, and at night I can sleep.' A competitive athlete said it eased the pain after training hard. A store clerk said it took away the pain of being on their feet all day."

Second Chance salve retails at $40 for a 3 oz. jar. It is available in Putney at Green Mountain Orchards, Putney Co-op, Putney General Store, and West Hill Shop.

"I feel as though I'm giving all these people a second chance," Haisley said. "It's gratifying."

This News item was submitted to The Commons.

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