I Grew up Wanting to Be My Dad

By Alan McGuckin – Vexus Boats

One of the best pieces of advice any dad can give a child is to find a profession you truly love. Not just a job but a career that won’t make you dread Monday mornings. Blue collar or white collar, it doesn’t matter; just do your best to make a living doing something that brings soulful rewards each day. After all, most of us spend around 40 years working, so life’s way better when your work is centered on something you love. 

For three generations, the passion-based vocational path for talented fishing boatbuilders Burness “Nubbin” Stoner, his son, David, and grandson, Travis, has seemingly flowed as naturally as Jimmie Creek making its way into nearby Bull Shoals Lake. 

Grandfather “Nubbin” Stoner, now 84, was a legendary White River fishing guide and homebuilder who helped Forrest L. Wood build his first bass boats 56 years ago. He eventually became Wood’s top supervisor of all daily maintenance at the iconic facility—the same facility where his son David started sweeping floors and cleaning gel coat pumps soon after graduating from Flippin High School in 1988.

“I was just a kid trying to get my foot in the door. I was willing to do anything it took to learn how my dad and other craftsmen built a great bass boat. I paid close attention to everything they did and tried to make myself useful,” says David Stoner.

It’s fair to say his attentiveness back in 1988 paid off. Thirty-six years later, he is a highly respected and appreciated product design engineer for Vexus® Boats—in the same town where he once swept floors. 

“I took CAD classes and eventually moved into engineering, working closely with “White Cloud.” He was as good of a mentor as a person could ever ask for. Eventually, I was working with suppliers and even developing plumbing schematics for livewell and bilge systems,” reflects Stoner. 

“I joke that when we started Vexus, we didn’t even have a spare screw, but we had 50 years of experienced craftsmanship. Now, seven years later, I get to help engineer boats that look like pieces of art when they leave this top-notch facility and head to our dealers’ showrooms and customers’ garages. That’s extremely rewarding,” says David Stoner.

It’s the same kind of soulful satisfaction you’ll hear when you talk to David’s son, Travis. At age 31, you’ll find a young man who grew up following his dad around in the boatbuilding culture from the time he was a toddler, and now he’s the lead supervisor for the Vexus fabrication shop. 

“Dad would drop me off at the boat ramp on Bull Shoals before he went to work at the boat plant. I’d fish while he built boats. That’s who we are: fishermen and boatbuilders. Now I take my two little boys fishing nearly every weekend on the White River,” smiles Travis. 

Vexus V.P. of Operations Lance Newton is certainly proud of “Nubbin’s Grandson,” stating, “Not only is Travis completely committed to building the best product we possibly can each day, but he’s a great leader. He’s great with his crew, and perhaps the best compliment I can give him is that he’s a great family man who’s naturally instilling all the same values in his two young sons.” 

Travis Stoner’s perspective on life is indeed mature beyond his birthdays. He understands the big-time blessing of not only following in his family’s footsteps but doing something you love. 

“Vexus is still a fairly young company. We’ve grown really fast, and to achieve the level of quality we’re currently at while working with folks that are like family gives me a huge source of pride and daily satisfaction,” he says.

“I truly love it here, and getting to work under the same roof as my dad every day is a huge bonus too. I’ve looked up to him my whole life. I grew up wanting to be my dad. And now my little boy, Holden, tells me he’s gonna grow up and build boats with me and “Pa Pa” someday,” he smiles. 

If that comes true, it’s fair to say young Holden Stoner will someday be the fourth generation of highly talented Flippin, Arkansas, boatbuilders to never dread going to work on Monday morning and, instead, be much admired for continuing a family tradition known for the highest levels of commitment and craftsmanship.