Those guests who have wondered why there was a twenty foot stump left in the garden border between the parking lot and the street can now stop wondering. There was an eighty foot white pine here that had been struck by lightning and finally died. Three years ago after buying the 1905 bungalow behind our property the pine was taken down and I requested a 20 foot section be left. I knew that at some point I would commission an artist to create a totem pole or sculpture out of the remaining stump. I did a search on the internet to see if any artists lived in the area and discovered “Mountain Dan” who lived in Etowah, about 30 miles from Asheville.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mountain Dan at the Western NC State Fair in September when I was helping my fellow Master Gardeners set-up in the flower show tent. I looked at Mountain Dan’s portfolio and knew I had found the right artist. I had seen totems in Vancouver when visiting and loved the variations in animal life featured, recognizing the local native american cultures. I also realized having a killer whale and sea turtles would not make much sense in Western North Carolina. Mountain Dan said he had some ideas and made a site visit in October to discuss the possibilities. We decided to do a totem based on the Cherokee culture and the animals that have played important roles. The base of the sculpture is a large bear supporting a wolf who’s tail wraps the bear’s back. A terrapin sits on the wolf and the owl sits on the terrapin, and finally a majestic eagle with a six foot wingspan forms the top. The totem is carved in 360 degrees so you can appreciate it from any direction.
Mountain Dan started work in early November and finished four weeks later in early December. He built a scaffold around the tree and his early work with a chainsaw revealed a perfect specimen of white pine. He was excited to be able to create his vision on an almost perfect piece of wood.
Mountain Dan started at the top with the eagle and worked his way down. Many guests, friends, and neighbors were able to watch him work and listen to his fascinating stories. People driving by or walking would stop and watch him work. They were amazed by the detail he created, even down to the single feathers in the eagles wings. He created contrasts in color by using a torch. His final touch involved placing glass eyes of the appropriate color in various animals and signing the totem on the base. All in all it was a wonderful experience to have been involved in and I look forward to former and future guests at the WhiteGate Inn seeing this work of art.