Sitting ducks

Posted on January 28, 2011


You’d be surprised how much is going on around here under the snowpiles.  When I went over to see Wendi Wooten about the photos of Egypt, Terry was there too.  We talked a bit about the book he’s working on, and he lent me his copy of Glenn Neumann’s memoir, Penny Pencils.  Then he showed me the decoys he’s been making this winter.  The bodies are carved from old fenceposts and the heads from Torch Lake driftwood.  He named them Star, Snow and Full Moon.  He’s decided that Full Moon looks like a Pioneer Lady in her Lace Cap.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he ended up writing a poem about her.

Terry’s been collecting folk art decoys for years—both antiques and contemporary ones by woodworkers he admires.  One of his favorites is Fingers, so named because the artist dipped his fingers in paint and pressed them to the side to make the feathers.

He likes Sagi-Gnaw, too.  It bears the rough marks of the machete used to carve the body.

A lot of decoys are carved just for show, which is another way of saying they aspire to artistry of the sort that is displayed in glass cases.  Some of the artists have become famous, and some of their work has sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.  A great many old decoys, though, were carved with the materials at hand and a trickster’s eye.  They were meant to entice ducks to swoop in for a landing where the hunter waited.  Sometimes they bear the pockmarks of an errant shot.  Those working decoys aspired to supper.

All of this reminds me of Amanda Campbell’s daddy’s bait shop and canoe livery in Rhinelander.  The cabin was our playhouse in winter, and we spent hours messing around with the fishing lures.  I loved those things.  Makes you think, doesn’t it, about how one thing becomes a Valuable Collectible and another becomes That Old Junk.  And how either can be precious.