"Canyon Ghosts"

Cliff dwelling series

Oak burl

15" d x 10" tall

Late 1990's

Carvings were inspired by multiple visits to Anasazi cliff dwellings.  The wood came from an oak tree with a huge burl at ground level that was growing on the grounds of the Austin State Hospital in Austin, TX.  I had a project on the grounds and saw the tree.  I made a deal with the groundskeeper to call me if the tree died.  Just in case, each time I went by the ASH I looked for the tree.  Years later, I went by and the tree was gone!!  Turns out the groundskeeper was transferred to another facility and the replacement guy did not know about me.  But we made a deal. 

Three of us with a winch truck and chainsaws, etc. worked all one Saturday digging around the burl (which fortunately was left in place), piling the dirt on plywood to keep the grass clean, and cutting underneath the burl.  With the sand, dirt, rocks, etc. the tree was growing in, we could only cut a few minutes before we had to sharpen the chain saw.  So while one guy was sharpening, the others were face down in the hole, holding their breath to keep from inhaling the dust and exhaust fumes and trying to get the burl free.  At sundown we managed to get it loose.  It took 2 men on a 3 ton chain hoist to move the burl out of the hole, so it weighed more than 6000 pounds.   

We split the burl about 60/40, loaded the 60% piece on the back of my 83 Isuzu pickup (probably in excess of 4000 pounds in a half ton pickup!!!) and managed to get to a service station where I inflated my rear tires to the maximum the service station pump would go.  Then, at 15-20 mph, drive the 40 miles to my house.  At night.  Across Austin, TX.  With my headlights illuminating the tree tops.  Absolutely no rear springs left.  And with the rubber overload bumpers mashed flat.  But we made it.  No blowouts, no tickets. 

PS.  I still have a large chunk of the burl left!

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