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Guthrie landmark being carved out of countryside



e state Highway 33 intersection.


Like an archaic landmark from a time when Guthrie served as the state capital, a cedar log fence stretches for a quarter mile. Perched atop its posts are all manner of creatures, from owls, buzzards and squirrels to a bear stretching up to reach a beehive.

The menagerie is comprised of carvings that originate from the chain saw of Dwayne Hall, a Colorado-based artist who has taken up temporary residency on the land along with his chipper Kentucky bride, Marsha.

Property owners Mark and Sharon Hamilton stumbled across Dwayne and Marsha's shop in Sawatcha, Colo. Marsha Hall said the Hamiltons were so impressed, they asked the couple to visit Oklahoma and create a unique entryway on the land where the Hamiltons planned to build their new home. The job began as a brief, two-month stint, but a year later, the project continues to grow as the wooden creatures' population booms across the 45-acre estate.

"I hope to have 50 carvings by the time I'm done," Dwayne Hall said. "The smallest carving is an inch tall; the tallest is 32 feet tall."

He described himself as a "Colorado mountain man." The wind whipped his long, gray beard and his jacket opened to reveal a faded Pink Floyd T-shirt underneath. He makes a living traveling cross-country with his wife in their RV, taking dead tree stumps and carving them into works of art.

"He uses a regular chain saw with a stock bar "? just whatever you would buy off the shelf," Marsha Hall said. "He can use a chain saw like a pencil or a paintbrush. I've watched him for 15 years and I still can't believe some of the things he does."

Dwayne got his start at Disneyland where he was training to become a chef and created ice sculptures for the theme park. He met a man who introduced him to chain saw carving 15 years ago, and he never looked back.

The most impressive works in the Guthrie project are tucked away near a man-made pond. Settled in the middle of the water, an alligator skims the surface. Tethered to the bottom of the pond, the gator sculpture does lazy circles as turtles sun themselves on its back. Overlooking the pond is a towering eagle's nest and a life-sized Cherokee man holding a hawk with a 7-foot wingspan. At the base of the sculpture is the inscription, "his dui astudi," which is Cherokee for "open gate."

"Whenever I do a life-sized figure, I base him off my dimensions, my arm lengths ... and that's also where he got those abs," he said with a laugh, referring to the figure's chiseled six-pack.

Nearly the entire process is done with a chain saw, from sculpting to sanding. Hall said he has placed second and third in the chain saw carving world championships and unofficially has the world record for tallest chain saw carving in the United States.

"This guy called us up and told us to find out how big the tallest one in America was, which was 50 feet tall. It was one of those things that we thought we'd never hear from him again. After a while, he called us up, 'I've got this huge tree, I've just had it topped off at 55 and a half feet,'" he said.

The couple set up camp at the man's land and began carving the tree from top to bottom. Marsha Hall then went over her husband's work, smoothing it out and coating it with polyurethane to preserve the carving.

"We used 10 rungs of scaffolding stacked on top of each other," she said. "I got to 40 feet the first day. It was shaking, and I just thought, 'What am I doing?' After a while, we were just climbing all over it like monkeys."

If it were up to Dwayne Hall, the achievement would have been recorded for posterity, but he said the owner wasn't keen on attracting national attention.

"When we were ready to go home, I said I couldn't wait to call Guinness," he said. "He handed me 2,000 more dollars and said, 'Don't make that call.'"

The Guthrie project may not earn him a spot in Guinness, either, but he said it's the most involved project of his career. Tour groups have started sidetracking out to the land to see the work. The Halls have also imbedded themselves in the local community and recently donated a sculpture to the Guthrie Fire Department. The pair recently finished a carving of a football player outside the Huddle House at 2130 S. Division St. in Guthrie.

When asked when the Guthrie project will be completed, Dwayne Hall just shrugged and chuckled.

"This project won't ever be done," he said. "I hope when I'm 80, I can hang a cardinal on that fence and say, 'That's it, I'm done. I can't do no more.'"

"?Charles Martin


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