At first Hugh Croxall wasn’t sure what to do with the remains of a towering Ponderosa pine that toppled on his Taghum property a few years ago, but he was convinced there had to be a better solution than chopping it up for firewood.
Then one day he had a vision: he would enlist his friend Ken Muth to carve him an Easter Island-inspired visage in the trunk, something for visitors to marvel at for years to come.
“I’ve produced a number of pieces of wood for Ken over the years, because he likes turning wood into sawdust, and I decided he could probably do something with this stump in situ,” he told the Star.
“I recalled seeing Easter Island statues made out of big cylindrical pieces of stone, so when I saw a big cylindrical piece of wood I thought ‘Ken could make a Taghum Moai.’ And he just ran with it.”
The pair have been friends for decades — Croxall spent his career working as a veterinarian for the Nelson Animal Hospital, while Muth was a surgeon at Kootenay Lake Hospital — and this isn’t the first time they’ve worked on an idiosyncratic project together.
“We’re both surgeons, and neither of us is normal,” Croxall said.
For this project they used a front-end loader, and then scaffolding, to get Muth up to eye level with the trunk so he could carve out the nose and face. The 80-year-old retired surgeon, who is well known in town as an art enthusiast, then spent hours upon hours chainsawing away.
The resulting figure, which is just downstream from Grohman Narrows, is visible from the opposite bank of the Kootenay River. It’s nestled amidst other trees, with turkeys and sheep grazing nearby.
So how does Croxall feel about it, now that it’s finished?
“I think we should’ve made it bigger.”