SEDRO-WOOLLEY, Wash. — This little city (4,300 souls) for many years was mostly a logging town, but in the past decade or so has become a sculpture gallery. The sidewalks of Metcalf Street, also informally known as Main Street (even though there is another Main Street that is not nearly as Main as Metcalf), are lined on either side by the work of chainsaw artists, depicting the logging history and celebrating the animal residents of the region. These include bears, salmon, cougars and other creatures.
The bear sculptures are the most interesting and the most numerous. They are very ferocious-looking because actual bears are, too. Actual bears are not Teddy bears. Those who have run-ins with them know they are strong, quick, ill-tempered and don’t smell too good. In fact, the bears smell awful if you are a human. I have not smelled a bear in the woods, of course, because I stopped going into the woods years ago. Why? I had heard tales of bears chasing people.
The ones on Metcalf in Sedro-Woolley are frozen in the wood from which they are carved.
Nobody knows what all these sculptures are worth, but my guess is in the millions of dollars. And the collection keeps growing all the time.
Sedro-Woolley puts on an annual Logger Rodeo, and some genius decided to have a chainsaw art contest.
Chainsaw artists come from all over Western Washington to enter the contest and create beautiful carvings. The winner gets money, and the artists donate their work to the city, which has them coated in antigraffiti polymer and puts them on display.
When you look at the carvings up close, you see they are done with great care. The artists start with big logs, and take away everything that isn’t needed. You wonder how big men who fell big trees for a living can create something so delicate, timeless and beautiful. If I had room in my trunk, I’d take one back to Madera.