After shading the house at 2003 Trippe St. in Richland for decades, the old sycamore tree in the front yard has a new lease on life -- as art.
"It was rotting out and had to be removed before it fell down," said Jerry Todd, the tree's owner, who estimates the tree to be more than 100 years old.
"My neighbor said he moved into his house in 1952 and it was already there and full grown at that time.
"We thought it deserved something better than to become a pile of sawdust," he said.
Jerry and his wife, Darlene, told the company they hired to remove the tree to leave a big stump, which was about 10 feet high.
Having it carved was Jerry's idea. Their daughter, Crystal Owens of Kennewick, suggested they try a chain saw artist living a few blocks from her home, Butch Elrod.
Elrod has helped with the two sculpted trees in Howard Amon Park and did the one standing at Sacajawea Elementary School in Richland. He's also done numerous others, including those at Wholesale Sports in Kennewick.
The carving went quickly.
"It took him just three days and he did a wonderful job," Darlene said. "He's a very talented man."
The result was a sculpture of a soaring eagle with a nearly 7-foot wing span, a flag and the words "God Bless America." It's drawn immediate attention, and numerous people have stopped and snapped photos of it.
"It's less than a week old and already becoming famous," Jerry said. "It's pretty impressive."
The carving cost the Todds $800, but they consider it money well spent.
"I had it trimmed once and it cost me $750 and it cost $1,600 to have it cut down," he said. "I figure I have about $3,500 in the whole tree, so carving it was well worth it."
"It would have cost us a lot more to take the stump out because the roots run under the driveway," Darlene said. "Plus this is much nicer to look at than an old stump."
The Todds also gained five to six cords of firewood, some of which is destined to be turned into bowls by his cousin. "We're not wasting a single piece of the tree," Jerry said.
Elrod protected the carving with four coats of spar varnish so it should last for decades even outside exposed to the elements.
"It's a good use of the tree," Jerry said. "It's amazing what he can do with a chain saw."
To see more of Elrod's carvings go to www.woodhacker.com.