My Dad & the Snow Sculpture

When I was very young my family lived in Carey, Idaho. Dad’s Father helped him buy a small farm a mile East of town. Times were hard for my family and dad took a job, a few miles away in Sun Valley Resort, as a grounds keeper. In that position he did many different tasks. In the winter it usually had to do with moving snow.

Every winter Sun Valley would hire a professional sculptor to design and build several large snow sculptures for the enjoyment of the guests. He was assigned to help the sculptor which meant that he was to do the grunt work.

In the little house where we live the cooking and water heating was done by wood in the kitchen range.My job as a 5 year old was to keep the big wood box next to the stove full of wood. I would fill my wagon (sled in winter), drag it to the house and then transfer the chunks of wood to the box a few sticks at a time. Dad selected one of these pieces of wood and sitting next to the fire began whittling. He was making a covered wagon complete with oxen. I thought it was very cool. I didn’t now it at the time but he was making a model for a life size sculpture. This seems, as I look back, to be a little above his pay grade but he did a beautiful job of it. I later learned that he had decided to show it to the sculptor who was planning a snow sculpture of a wagon and oxen.

Years later he told me that the sculptor was having a hard time getting it going so he decided to help him out. When Dad showed him the wood carving the sculptor told Dad to go ahead with the project. The sculptor worked on the other sculptures while Dad took charge and finished the wagon and oxen.

That little carving lay around the house for several years. My sisters and I played with it but I would never have thought to ask dad to give it to me, but my cousin,Wilken was not so timid and asked for it and Dad said “sure”. I was disappointed but never said anything.

Dad posing next the the sculpture

The first picture was taken by my mother. Dad took the next one. My older sister Anna May and I must have been in school.

About 15 years ago Chris and I were in Sun Valley and decided to go to the public library in Ketchum, the small town near the resort, and see if we could find any information

Mother and my little sister Janie sitting on the sculpture

about the sculpture. We discovered that Sun Valley published a weekly magazine for their guests which included among other things pictures of the attractions. I guessed the year it might have happened and began looking through the winter magazines hoping for a picture and we found one! When we asked the librarian if we could get a xerox copy we found that they had all the old negatives from Sun Valley and we ordered this print taken by a professional photographer for publication. Notice that it is possible to see under both the wagon and the oxen. The engineer in me is wondering how this thing managed to stand.

When dad was old he told me, when he was a boy, his grandfather Dahlstrom was a blacksmith, who made beautiful wrought iron gates, had made him a set of wood gouges, ,which he used to carve many different things. When I asked him what happened to the carvings and the gouges he said: “I don’t know they just got lost.” I have often thought how fun it would be to see the carvings and to use the gouges.

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