The last thing Gerry and Diana Adams wanted to do was cut down the century-old, 60-foot tall elm tree in their front yard on Locust Street in Windsor, but the final product turned out to be a piece of artwork that has passersby doing a double take.
When falling limbs from wetwood disease made it too dangerous to keep the tree, the Adams wanted to find a way to pay tribute to the old elm.
“We’ve had limbs fall in the street that have blocked the entire street. I’ve had limbs fall off that landed in my neighbor’s driveway right where his wife parks her car,” Gerry said. “I’ve had them fall on the house from the (2008) tornado. It wasn’t healthy, and it hanged right over the sidewalk. We were just afraid that it was going to kill somebody one of these days so we had to cut her down. We really hated to cut it, but it was just dangerous. We wanted to leave a tribute for it.”
The Adams contacted Faye Braaten, a master carver from Loveland who does custom chainsaw art and goes by the moniker of Chainsaw Mama. She carved out a bald eagle in full flight from the 8-foot tall, 4-foot wide stump earlier this month. Braaten also carved out the word “America” underneath the eagle.
“The tip of the wing of this eagle is 8-feet tall,” Gerry said. “She used every inch of it, and she carved this thing out in two days. It was amazing to watch her do this. She’s definitely an artist. Day 1, she wielded a 24-inch chainsaw the entire day. Day 2, she brought out some smaller chainsaws. Apparently, they’re made just for this kind of work and made to do art with. She got a dremel tool on the face and the eyeballs. It’s amazing the eyes and the details she has on the face. She just worked from the big saw down to the smaller saws down to the dremel tool.”
The finished product cost $700.
“We just sold our old camper for $800 the week before, so we decided to take the money from the camper and have her do this thing,” Gerry said.
Diana said she’s thrilled with the look of the bald eagle.
“I think it’s beautiful, and she just does remarkable work,” Diana said of Braaten. “We just loved that old tree. The house was built in 1897, so we figured the tree was planted about then.”
Gerry and Diana are bird watchers who love their country. Gerry, 61, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1969 and was awarded a Purple Heart at the age of 19, after being wounded in Vietnam in 1970.
“It’s mostly a tribute to the tree, but in the same breath there were two other issues that made us go with the eagle,” Gerry said. “It’s an opportunity to show our patriotism because we have a lot of military in both families. My wife has four brothers and a sister who served, and my father and my one older brother served, and myself in Vietnam. We have a lot of military in our family. The eagle is an American icon. We’re both bird watchers, and as far as birds go, the bald eagle is the top of the line. It’s the king of all birds as far as we’re concerned.”
Gerry said they initially were going to have a pelican carved out of the stump.
“We thought Windsor probably has enough pelicans. Let’s do something different,” he said. “The artist said, ‘I can do an eagle flying right across your picture window in your front yard.’ We basically killed two birds with one stone. Let’s show some patriotism and honor the bald eagle who we adore.”
The Adams have received numerous compliments on the carving.
“It’s just been amazing. People are stopping by,” Gerry said. “I’ve had some people knocking on the door. People are just amazed. I guess the word I hear most often is, ‘Awesome.’ Everybody loves it. A 10-year-old boy walked down the street the other day and I hear this kid go, ‘Whoaaa!’ I looked out and he said, ‘Did you do that? That’s awesome.’ He was screaming at the top of his lungs.”
Peg Bryant, who lives two doors down from the Adams, said the carved tree looks beautiful.
“I’m not a rah-rah person, but I just think the message is great,” Bryant said. “It broke both of their hearts to cut that tree down, but it had to come down. Gerry and Diana decided to do sort of do a tribute to the tree.”