Dead cedars become art


Thursday, October 14th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- A rough-cast pair of hardened characters is
reported to be watching the comings and goings of train passengers
at the Norman Depot from a nearby stand of trees.

The figures of a conductor and an engineer from the 1890s are
being fashioned from two tree stumps just south of the depot by
renowned tree sculptor Clayton Coss. The engineer, with mustache
and overalls and holding an oil can, was completed Wednesday. Coss
worked on the conductor Thursday.

Using a chain saw, Coss, who resides in Inola, has created
thousands of figures across the country since he began tree
sculpting in 1986. He has done more than 800 figures in the Tulsa
area alone. They include a 12-foot-tall American combat soldier, an
eagle with a 12-foot wing span and legendary sports figure Babe
Ruth.

"I've done so many it's become almost commonplace," Coss said.
"What I enjoy is watching others enjoy them."

Two years ago, Coss sculpted the figure of a Union soldier in
front of Jim Maguire's home in the 1500 block of west Main Street.
It stands as one of his favorite pieces.

"It was more of an event than just a sculpture," he said.
"People stopped to watch and Civil War actors came and bivouacked
there."

The depot project was born with the death of two cedars in a row
of 10 trees located south of the train station at 200 S. Jones.
Rather than remove the two trees, Parks Department officials
suggested to the board of Norman Depot Inc. the idea of
transforming the stumps into public art.

According to city park planner Jim Polston, the Norman Depot
board then partnered with the Norman Park Foundation and applied
for a $2,000 grant from the Norman Arts and Humanities Council to
fund the project.

"It was a real team effort," Polston said, adding that the
owners of the Montford Inn have provided a room for Coss to stay in
while he's in Norman.

As the remaining eight old cedars die, Polston said officials
will discuss having them hewn into the figures of people waiting on
the train.