Dan Gisvold at Bear Creek

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


A few years ago, Dan found a man in Montana who did chainsaw carving. As an adult I had gotten into the cartoon character Opus and from there into collecting penguins. Dan would find penguins for me at truck stops and out of the way places. They were always  original and always had something to say to me. One was about  a half an inch high- a crystal penguin on a round piece of mirror with a pink rose. So kitch but so beautiful. Very tiny, but speaking to my passions of the collection and roses (at one point we had 100 varieties of rose in our back yard. So I went overboard...)

So one Christmas a package arrives from Missoula marked fragile.

I have no idea what my brother is sending me now.....I open the box and the packaging and another box and the packaging....to find 18 inches of chain-saw carved penguin with a fishing pole and a fish. Made out of pine, it is gorgeous and hysterical. It has graced every mantel of every house we have lived in since I got it.

This was typical of Daniel presents. When they came, which wasn't at the expected times, they were very, very special.

 Let me tell you about the one that tells the most about Dan.I have mentioned several times that Dan and I ignored each other for a long time during our childhood. Even though looking back, I am quite sure he protected me without me knowing it. He also noticed me. He noticed what I liked and what I did. He noticed my passions.

From the time I could walk I wanted a horse. I wanted to learn to ride. And every year, at Camp Nelson, my parents would let me go on the day rides out of the public stables. The horses were VERY tame and there was always a guide. But owning a horse and really learning to ride was out of the question. I wasn't allowed to go on any backpacking trains or even care for a horse. I dreamed about it. Heck, as a kindergartner I insisted on being an Indian in the Cowboy and Indian show because they got to attack on horseback! (stick horses of course. And I was the only girl to be allowed to do that. I put up a real stink according to my mother.)

At Camp Nelson I had my trusty stick horse and I rode it everywhere except past the stables because that would be embarrassing! Everyone thought I was crazy but it was the next best thing to a horse for me.

So on my 16th birthday I got a present from Dan that I did not expect. He had gone out in Camp Nelson and found a woman who carved wood. Specifically, she carved redwood and he took her a picture and asked her to make something.

I opened a present that was a 5" high Palomino horse complete with leather saddle and bridle and a rider that looked just like me. They were hand-carved in redwood and meticulously painted. The leather was tanned a dark brown. My outfit was my favorite shade of blue, and the hair on my head was just as I wore it then--to my shoulders in a flip. The hat was white.

I was stunned. I was thrilled. I was in awe. My brother had found the perfect gift. For by that time I knew I would never have a living horse. But I had Dan's. I still have it.

It is fragile now with age. The redwood has dried and is brittle. The hat brim has disintegrated. But the saddle and bridle are still there and the girl in the blue outfit still sits proudly on her Palomino.

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