Ralph Edmonds fulfilled a life-long ambition Tuesday morning,
“This is a big accomplishment,” the grinning Edmonds said. “I always wanted to have something in Hamley’s since I was a kid.”
Edmonds, 64, now has two somethings in the iconic Western store in downtown Pendleton — a pair of cowboys he carved from big slabs of Ponderosa pine.
One is a long-faced fellow with beefy hands standing atop a base replete with local brands. The other is a life-sized version of one of the Pendleton Round-Up’s most famous champions — Jackson Sundown, complete with bright blue shirt and the woolen chaps.
Edmonds, a Pendleton native, said he probably put 70 hours or more into Sundown and 60-plus into the smaller companion cowboy. Sundown had a knot in the brim of his hat, which Edmonds said he had to remove and fill. He also spent hours researching the brands he worked into the other cowboy’s base.
He started painting when he was 13, he said, took piano lessons for nine years and plays the mouth harp, which he carries in his pocket. He graduated high school in 1972, joined the U.S. Navy two years later and got out in 1980. He said got into the wood carving about 20 years ago “with a cheap chain saw my wife bought for me.”
He followed instructions from a book on chain saw carving to cut his way for a while, he said, then studied under Toby Johnson of Aurora, the master carver who helped create the world’s largest nutcracker — an 8-ton, 41-foot-tall beast capable of smashing coconuts.
That first chain saw gave way to a growing collection of tools, he said, from large chain saws for cutting through tree trunks to smaller saws for detail work. He also uses chisels, sanders and grinders to shape his works, which proliferate in his home.
“I’ve got bears and fish and birds,” Edmonds said. “I’m making an eagle right now.”
But he is not done with cowboys. Edmonds said he has plans for other famous rodeo champions, including George Fletcher.