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(Editor’s note: the print version of this story begins to identify Donald Davidson with the incorrect last name midway through the story. We regret the errors. The story below has been corrected.)
By David Knopf, Richmond News
There’s nothing unusual about corn growing along Route DD between Hardin and Norborne. In fact, farmer Don Wheeler’s made a good living planting fields of corn and soybeans along the two-lane road, which winds its way north and east to his good friend Donald Davidson’s house.
But Wheeler never imagined a six-foot ear of corn until a storm blew down a tree in front of his house.
“That ash tree was more than 200 years old and the storm come along and blew that tree off,” said Wheeler, who counted rings to estimate the age.
Wheeler had an idea what to do with the nine feet of stump left in his front yard and went to see Davidson. The retired railroad worker used a chainsaw and other tools to make mushrooms out of stumps in his own backyard, so Wheeler figured he was the man for a special job.
“He come by the house and said he’d like a big ear of corn,” Davidson said.
The chainsaw artist would be breaking new ground, but go to work he did – figuring out how to proceed as he went along.
“It’s hard to figure what size kernel you want up there,” Davidson said.
Davidson said he’d drop his grandkids at preschool and then set up shop in Wheeler’s front yard. He worked from mid-summer through the end of September, some days for three hours, others for six. In the end, he’d turned a nine-foot stump into a six-foot work of agricultural art.
“He got carried away with it, didn’t he?” said Wheeler, who hasn’t tired of the giant ear of corn or the attention it’s brought. “You wouldn’t believe how many people stop.”
It’s not everyday you see roadside art of a magnitude that would leave even the Green Giant breathless.
“Everyone tells me I couldn’t get it through the combine,” Wheeler said.
“I had a lot of fun with it,” said Davidson, who was coaxed to engrave his initials on the backside near the base. “We made it about as big as we could. I guess it’s a novelty. All I’ve ever done is little mushrooms.”
Davidson said he started making morels from trees in his backyard while clearing some land for a swing set for the grandkids. He had a decision to make, he said, and chose art over the back-breaking labor of stump removal.
“So I started messin’ around with it,” he said. “It turned out to be a nice retirement project.”
His morels were ornate, but not nearly as large – or colorful – as Wheeler’s corn colossus. In the process of finishing the job for his friend, Davidson learned that stain could be mixed to colors like pecan (the base) and mustard (the kernals).
He made the kernels look lifelike by cutting channels that ran up and down and notches from left to right.
“Someone said you should do Indian corn there, but can you imagine how much time that would’ve taken coloring that?” Davidson said.
As it was, there were plenty of trials in this trial-and-error project.
“There were a couple of times I wanted to tear it down but then it all come together,” Davidson said.
The ash that blew down in Wheeler’s front yard is one of several planted in a line, apparently at the same time. He said he already has a plan for his friend should severe weather take down another tree.
“I told him if this next tree falls down I want him to do a soybean pod there,” Wheeler said.