A pair of lifeless ash trees frozen in the crippling chilly a calendar year in the past could – less than standard instances – be destined for the chopping block.
But at the Abilene Zoo, it is much more of a circle-of-existence tale.
The zoo chose to make anything lovely, lasting and even educational out of the trees lost in the 2021 storm.
“Instead of cutting them completely down, the Abilene Zoo Society board and I decided to repurpose the trees into functions of art and conservation messaging,” said Jesse Pottebaum, the zoo’s director.
The do the job took 4 times, commencing Feb. 16 and ending Feb. 20.
Carving out conservation
Enter Ray Banfield Jr. of Granbury, along with two fellow artists – Jimmy Hobbs of Grand Saline and Justin Driver of Farmington, Kentucky.
The men have been contracted by the zoo to carve the trees into art showcasing Madagascar, its animals and the zoo’s conservation initiatives there.
The project is “in the spirit of maintaining almost everything intact with the zoo and just repurposing what we now have, but essentially earning it an education effort,” stated Mandy Ott, in demand of gatherings and growth for the zoo.
Following a tour of the zoo Feb. 16, the adult men fired up their chainsaws, chipping absent aged wood to expose a menagerie of animals and even a entire world concealed inside of.
A single tree, positioned in the vicinity of the hyena and giraffe exhibits, specially is devoted to conservation, Banfield mentioned.
“(They) wanted me to make absolutely sure Madagascar was up front,” Banfield, using a pause from carving out continents with a deft flick of his observed.
A map about the trunk demonstrates spots the zoo spends some of its pounds for conversation attempts, Ott said.
“We send (dollars for) conservation endeavours about to particular places that have been afflicted by wildfire in the Madagascar region,” she said. “So, this is where by our real funds have long gone. That’s what he’s showcasing.”
A handcrafted indicator, highlighting the Abilene Zoo Conservation Fund, also is aspect of the design, showcased on Banfield’s Facebook page.
Between other design aspects, it features two giraffes entwined to make the “A” in “conservation.”
Just around the way, a second ash tree near the zoo’s lake began getting condition, that includes a fossa, a Madagascar carnivore that resembles a cat, stalking a lemur.
In the amazing, midday breeze Feb. 16, the day the undertaking began, an occasional hint of spray stirred up by wind and water baptized the perform, while wooden chips and sawdust started to go over the ground like new-fallen snow.
Nevertheless nascent, one could currently see acquainted types arise from minimize tree limbs many thanks to the swift do the job of Driver and Hobbs.
“Basically, we’re making an attempt to benefit from every single Madagascar animal that they have listed here at the zoo,” Banfield claimed.
By Friday, the tree in the vicinity of the lake had blossomed into a zoo of its own, every branch protected in intricate operate reworking them in to perches for birds and animals, the trunk completed in a aid model.
By the end of the venture, what had once been lifeless wooden had been transformed into a riot of raptors, reptiles, amphibians and even insects.
Animals on the conservation tree include the lesser hedgehog tenrec, the panther chameleon and the Madagascan tree boa.
Animals on the 2nd tree, identified as in its last sort the “search for and discover” tree, include things like the ring-tailed lemur, the black and white ruffed lemur, the fossa, the Madagascan heron, the Madagascan barn owl, the blue coua, the Madagascar sea eagle, the sickle-billed vanga, the Malagasy leaf-nosed snake, the radiated tortoise, the satanic leaf-tailed gecko, the giant working day gecko, the Madagascar hissing cockroach and the comet moth.
Acquiring a enthusiasm
Banfield, who owns Rayzor Sharp Chainsaw Artwork, was released to carving in 2016, when he and his wife traveled to Vancouver and visited Grouse Mountain, a 4,100-foot-tall peak that functions aerial tramways, hiking and snowboarding.
A collection of wood carvings in the place were being “inspirational” to him.
“I was previously in the firewood company and by now acquainted with chainsaws,” he reported. “I did some analysis and started actively playing in the backyard.”
4 a long time in, Banfield’s artwork is now considerably much more than mere participate in.
Two of his pieces are publicly exhibited in Granbury, although a lot of his other get the job done in personal arms, he claimed.
When he’s not shaping wood, he will work at Lockheed Martin, building ejection seats.
He does not get to test them, he claimed, and there’s admittedly not a great deal that directly interprets over to woodcarving.
“Aircraft, you create by a system, a reserve,” he explained.
That reported, it is critical to appear geared up a plan, he claimed, when shaping wood into some thing speculative or magnificent.
In the movement
Requested what he loves about carving, Banfield as opposed it to a mindfulness follow, this sort of as Yoga.
“You put your headphones on and you are in your very own little entire world,” he reported. “You overlook about everybody viewing you.”
If there is a problem, he claimed, “you just hope when you are finished that everyone loves it.”
Driver mentioned he started out carving basically simply because he was “bored a person day.”
Now, it’s his whole-time task.
Tree-carving is one thing you understand by performing, he stated.
“At initially you are just type of winging it,” he claimed. “What the heck is going to occur with this?”
As soon as you go a certain position, the tree “kind of talks to you,” he stated.
“It tells you, ‘You can put this ear in this article and this arm in this article,’” he stated. “You find out how to circulation with that tree.”
A matter of time
Hobbs’ encounter is identical, and he mentioned it just can take “time” to learn how to turn a tree branch into, say, a creeping fossa.
But Hobbs has 10 many years of carving practice and on best of that, he’s owned his possess tree assistance for 20 several years and been a tree-climber for 30.
So, it is risk-free to say he is aware of his way all around lopping limbs. But turning individuals limbs into zoological fantasies?
Now, that is a distinct animal.
“You can see a thing in your head or in the piece of wooden, and it just takes time to discover how to do that,” he explained.
When you’re in that zone, “you kind of get misplaced in it,” he explained, very similar to the meditation-like encounter his fellow carvers described.
“When you start out, you just variety of forget about what you are doing,” he claimed. “You’re into that piece of wood and you are pondering about what is likely to materialize.”
A ‘landmark’ practical experience
Banfield admitted he was not common with Abilene’s zoo until finally he was contacted about the carving task.
But his tour impressed him.
“It’s a definite landmark for your metropolis,” he stated.
With a number of shares to social media, he previously had attracted two people from Fort Truly worth, as effectively as relatives users from Breckenridge, who instructed him they prepared to come look at out his work and the animals.
Ott claimed Abilene’s zoo has about 250,000 readers every single 12 months.
Virtually 50 percent of its yearly people, 48%, are not from Taylor County. About a quarter of the tally from out of point out, she said.
The ash trees, which ended up at the zoo when it opened in 1966, ended up an essential portion of the landscape, Ott said, furnishing shade for animals and men and women, whilst beautifying the place.
Though the cold minimize their life brief, the hope is that they will keep on to delight and educate visitors in their new, reimagined kinds.
And if practically nothing else, Banfield, Driver and Hobbs’ function just proves there’s a minor little bit of the wild in all of us — even if it might just take some function, and possibly, a chain saw, to deliver it out.
Brian Bethel addresses metropolis and county governing administration and standard information for the Abilene Reporter-Information. If you respect domestically pushed news, you can aid local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.
Where to see much more
Ray Banfield’s Facebook site for Rayzor Sharp Chainsaw Art is complete of whimsical and poignant types. You can obtain it by exploring for the title.
►A bare-bottomed, bouquet-keeping sasquatch.
►A tiny, white canine to guard a beloved pet’s ashes.
►A chorus of intelligent, previous faces.
►A complete jamboree of bears.
►A bevy of birds, which includes a especially animated coyote-chasing roadrunner.
►Holiday decorations, this kind of as a grinning Jack-o-Lantern.
►And eventually, a 7-foot shark. (We’re likely to need to have a bigger boat.)
In addition to his Facebook page, Banfield has an Instagram account that highlights his function at @ray_banfield_jr.