Jackson's Indian sculpture taken down

Friday, September 28, 2007
The wooden Indian sculpture outside Jackson's Chamber of Commerce building was taken down Thursday due to rotting. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

August Birk tried to make the "Jackson Indian" figure he carved into the trunk of an old pin oak tree on the grounds of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce last, but weather and time didn't cooperate.

Birk, known for the chain-saw sculptures he's created since retiring from the family plumbing and heating business, will try again, he said.

The sculpture, on the chamber grounds at Hope and Main streets, came down Thursday morning, victim of rot due to moisture entering through the base, which was the trunk of the old tree, and cracks that developed in the wood. He's going to re-create the statute using a pine log donated by Gene Penzel, which will be placed on a concrete and steel pedestal.

The original sculpture was created from a model drawn by then-Jackson High School student Megan Thiele in 2000. Birk still has the original drawings, although he must resize the template for the smaller log.

Over the years, Birk said, he's tried to slow down the deterioration by pouring concrete into the base, filling the cracks and repainting the sculpture with water-resistant stain.

"I don't care how good the wood is, but because of moisture, condensation, heat and cold, they develop cracks," Birk said.

Chamber executive assistant Cheryl Merkler watched the work that brought the teetering statue down. "He was cut down at the ankles," Merkler said. "The city of Jackson came in and helped" Birk "and got him on the truck."

Penzel Construction will install the new pedestal.

"Hopefully he can last a little longer that way," Merkler said. "We are going to have a 'save the Indian' campaign because we are going to have to pay for the carving."

The new carving may take a while to complete, Birk said, because the wood he was given was cut very recently. He rarely uses wood that hasn't been allowed to season. Birk estimates he's carved about 25 or 30 figures with his saw. "I won't tell you how many have bit the dust because people don't take care of them."

The Indian carving represented the mascot of the Jackson High School sports teams.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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