Old oak gets new life from a chainsaw at Antrim Township home

PAT FRIDGEN
David Rinehart and Marcia Galico opted for bears that greet travelers coming from either direction. They didn’t want the traditional single bear facing the road, because from the porch all they would see would be the rear end.

Heads may turn twice, but they don't have to. Motorists in both directions get a good view of a 16-foot bear, or bears, at 3446 Filer Road. The chainsaw-carved sculpture was created in the fall of 2010, and since then Marcia Galico and David Rinehart have had a lot of fun with the art piece.

"It was a Christmas present for my wife," said Rinehart.

The pair frequented community festivals, always drawn to the woodcarving demonstrations. When the couple finally decided the white oak in the front yard was too big and a danger to the house if it would fall, they explored possibilities. The mammoth tree was estimated to be 350 years old, with a trunk four feet across and 12 feet around. It would be good for something. They had the limbs and top removed in May and sought the right person to create the right figure for them.

Galico had always liked bears, so Rinehart chose that subject. Two, in fact, to cater to anyone driving by. Several artists reviewed the situation but declined to take on the project. They tracked down a plumber from Frederick, Md. who had an accomplished sideline. He agreed to carve the back to back bears, though it would be his largest assignment, and on a material with roots still green to cap it off.

The work was done over two weekends. Galico became the artistic director, selecting the finer features, such as the placement of the paws, for a whimsical touch. Rinehart and the neighbors rerouted traffic through his circular drive, so the sculptor wouldn't get hit, and no flying debris would damage vehicles. They installed eyes meant for antique carousel horses to lend authenticity. The figure was coated with a varnish designed for log homes to protect it from the elements. The two were so happy with the final result they gave the woodcutter a hefty tip for his services.

At Galico's gentle prodding, Rinehart has decorated the bears for different holidays, but he likes them au naturel too.

The mini tourist attraction has drawn favorable comments from passersby.

"They love it," Rinehart said. "People get out and have their pictures taken with it."

He shows them photos of the process, which was documented step by step.

The couple had briefly considered a sculpture for the porch, but realized it could be stolen. The bears they commissioned aren't going anywhere.

Even with a chainsaw, the detail on wood sculptures is very precise, as indicated by the claws.