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Dadeville resident donates skill to carve wood spirits into Pennington Park trees

  • 2 min to read
Cliff Williams / The Outlook

Ken Rhodes takes a look at a wood spirit carving he is working on in Pennington Park in Dadeville.

Pennington Park will soon be protected by the wood spirits being brought to life through Dadeville resident Ken Rhodes’ featured carvings.

When Kurt and Leigh Pfitzner cut down trees in the park to build the pavilion stage, they envisioned some form of carvings on the stumps left behind. After searching for the right person for the job, Kurt ran across Rhodes’ work on Facebook and struck up a conversation with Rhodes’ wife.

“When I found out the issues and what was going on and who he was and what he had done, I thought, ‘Well I’ll go take a look at it and see if it’s doable,’” Rhodes said.  

He was so impressed with the Pfitzners and the work they have put in at the park on their own dime, he offered to do the job for free.

“I’ve been in Dadeville going on 40 years now; I consider this home, raised kids here, retired from the state, had nothing to do,” Rhodes said. “This is a hobby and I would be more than happy to do this for Dadeville. I won’t charge a dime.”

Rhodes doesn’t consider himself an artist. He just began carving last Thanksgiving as a hobby and completely attributes his talent to God.

“I had never carved anything in my life,” he said. “It’s not me; it’s God. I have nothing to do with this. I just started carving. Don’t ask me how because I don’t know.”

That fact is what made Rhodes’ work even more impressive and special to the Pfitzners.

“He’s a self-taught carver and is donating his craft to the park,” Kurt said. “It will be a unique addition to the daily events.”

And Rhodes is just as impressed with the Pfitzners for donating their time and labor to the city of Dadeville.

“(Kurt’s) a real nice guy,” Rhodes said. “I’ve only known him for a week but I told him, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this on you, on your nickel. I wouldn’t even consider charging you for something like this. This will be my mark on Dadeville.”

After debating what to carve into the two trees, Rhodes told the Pfitzners about wood spirits, which originated centuries ago.

“People had them hanging around the house to keep evil things from happening,” he said. “They’re good spirits. Wood spirits are the god of wood — living wood and dead wood. It’s everywhere; we’re surrounded by it, every piece you see. Find a carver and he’ll bring them out for you.”

Rhodes began carving last week and each time he thought he was done with one face, he went back to tweak it more.

“I thought I was done and took a picture to show my wife and I was looking at it that night and said, ‘Something’s wrong with the beard,’” Rhodes said. “I got up Saturday morning and told my wife, ‘Come on; we’re going to the park.’ And I re-carved it. She thought I was crazy.”

He still wasn’t satisfied and went back a second time to fix the hair but has now finished the first wood spirit face.

“It’s the carver’s curse,” Rhodes said. “You’re never really satisfied with something. You just keep going, messing with it, tinkering with it.”

Rhodes’ plan is to carve one face looking to the left and the other a little higher on the tree and looking down.

Kurt plans on deeming the faces the Guardians of the Park. The two woodland faces will be on the cut trees bordering the stage and feature long beards and hair and goofy faces.

“I had never carved on a tree before,” Rhodes said. “I told him, ‘This is it. You don’t make a bad cut and fix it. It’s a done deal.’”

And so far the Pftizners couldn’t be happier with the pending result.

Amy Passaretti is a staff writer with the Alexander City Outlook.