Alpena, Arkansas is small town located very close to the Missouri border. Driving on the highway running through town, we noticed a most unusual shop. This is a shop unlike any that we had ever seen. Owned by Kay and Roy Jackson, the sound of a chainsaw gives a clue to the art that is created.
At Alpena Chainsaw Art, Kay Jackson uses a chainsaw to take a piece of wood, just a stump, and turn it amazingly into a bear. There are various sizes and the lot near the shop is filled with logs of every size imaginable. More than just bears, we saw carvings of fish and carvings of pigs. Don’t forget that this is just a couple of hours north of Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas. Razorback country!
On our last trip to Big Cedar Lodge on Table Rock Lake (one of our favorite vacation destinations), we stopped to check out what we thought was a woman with a chainsaw in her hands. A lot of noise was going on and sawdust was flying through the air. Kay was working outside and to the side of the shop. We watched and the shape of a bear emerged from the wood. No one really knows what her next piece will resemble. Kay has the vision and cuts until the wood becomes a realistic bear or other animal.
We watched Kay and did not interrupt her concentration, but had an enjoyable conversation with her husband, Roy. Roy’s exuberant personality fills the shop with joy. His pride in his wife’s work is obvious. This shop is his stage while he talks and jokes with every customer. A natural salesman and storyteller, he brightens the entire place.
He asked where we were from and when we said Texas, he ran to another part of the shop and brought back a University of Texas sign that he had made. The sign was so neat looking that we intended to purchase it. Roy gave it to us just because we had the nerve to drive a car through Arkansas with a Texas license plate that sported “Texas Longhorns” and “Texas Exes”!
We also could not leave without finding a bear carving to take to our farm. Several years ago, we rented cabins in Pagosa Springs, Colorado for a Christmas vacation with several other families. Everyone could easily find our cabin because there was an almost five foot tall carved wooden bear standing beside the driveway. He held a lantern that lighted up each night at dusk. We tried and tried to find a similar bear in one of the local shops. But, no luck.
As Kay continued to work outside, we saw a carved bear standing over to the left side of the shop. The bear held a fish in one paw and we could imagine seeing a lantern in the other paw. Absolute perfection was exhibited in every part of the carving. It is beyond words what Kay can make from a stump, a log, a plain piece of a tree. Our carved bear is living at our farm now. He may be very out of place in East Texas and yearn for the mountains of Colorado. However, he reminds us of two wonderful vacation spots…a ski town in Colorado and Big Cedar Lodge, a lakeside resort in Ridgedale, Missouri (just a few miles from Branson).
We are going back to Big Cedar in a few months and we intend to stop by and visit Kay and Roy Jackson. Through reading interesting articles about the shop (articles published by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism), I have found that Kay carves in yellow pine, red cedar, maple, ash, sycamore, cherry, and elm. Most of her wood comes from local residents…perhaps from tree trimmers and from large trees downed in winter storms.
No matter what the type of tree, every piece of art is different. As Kay states, “I can’t make the same piece twice. It doesn’t come from a machine. It’s from my head and my hands.” I say the art also comes from her heart and from his heart.
If you happen to be in Branson or Eureka Springs or Fayetteville or on your way to one of the beautiful Ozark lakes, stop by to visit…
Alpena Chainsaw Art
122 E. Main Street in Alpena, Arkansas.
Alpena is a very small town and you can’t miss the shop…it is located in a building that is well over 100 years old. If you don’t see it, stop your car. Listen! Do you hear the varoooommmm of a chainsaw? You have found the right place! Just go on in. You will be warmly welcomed!