, Muskogee, OK

September 9, 2013

Sculpture rooted in reading

By Wendy Burton
Times staff writer

— Local chainsaw artist Ben Sparks has completed a special donation to the Q.B. Boydstun Library and the community.

The sculpture of a cozy chair made out of giant books and featuring a wise owl and bookworms is sitting in front of the library. Sparks, with the help of Fort Gibson Mayor Brad Clinkenbeard, placed the chair and bolted it down Friday.

“Maybe someone can sit in the chair on a nice day and the kids can sit in the grass and get a story read to them,” Sparks said. “And one of my goals as a sculptor, being native to Fort Gibson and what-not, is by the time I’m too old to lift a chainsaw anymore, I’d like to have sculptures all around the town.”

The big ash tree that was in front of the library was dying, so the city took it down, Sparks said. Clinkenbeard approached him with the idea of using the trunk for his sculpting and Sparks decided to donate a sculpture to the library.

With the rest of the trunk, he sculpted two carousel horses and a sprint car.

The chair’s back is made from a special “book.”

“‘My Little Princess’ by Ben Sparks” is carved on the cover and the inside begins to tell the tale of his little princess — his daughter, Savannah, 9.

“She loved it. She came out in the shop when she got off the bus and saw it and gave me a big old hug,” Sparks said.

The sculpture, which was an estimated 1,100 pounds before carving and is now an estimated 400 pounds, will last forever if taken care of, he said.

“It’s covered with marine varnish, what they use on boats,” he said. “Simple upkeep just like you do on a log cabin and it will be there 150 years from now.”

Sparks is gearing up to start his carvings for the Christmas season, but he hopes to get a huge town project off the ground for the better part of next year.

“It’s a 100-foot wagon yard scene. So hopefully by next spring we’ll have all the funding in place for that and by the end of next summer have it all completed,” he said.

Clinkenbeard donated an acre along U.S. 62 near McDonald’s for the scene and parking. He has funded the drainage and parking areas, he said.

Public donations are needed to fund the rest of the project, whose cost is estimated at $37,000 to $40,000.

Sparks has agreed to do the sculpting and construction for half-price. He said that would cover his bills for the four to six months it takes to complete the project.

“I love this town and have a deep family history here, but financially I can’t do more myself,” he said. “This is a huge undertaking, so ideas, donations and prayers are all welcome.”

The proposed sculpture is a scene from early 1900s Fort Gibson, when Bascum and Pearl McElmurry, Sparks’ ancestors, owned and ran the O.K. Wagon Yard.

There will be a 100-foot long oak fence and six to 10 life-size sculptures of adults, kids, horses and a wagon, among many other things, he said.

Sparks hopes to make it an interactive display with seating, landscaping, picture opportunities and more.

“I also think I’ll hide a little something in each sculpture, like a sparrow or a mouse; make it fun to find things,” he said.

You can help

Anyone interested in helping or  donating to the town wagon yard project may call Mayor Brad Clinkenbeard at (918) 781-9424.