Local wood carver

March 24, 2017

This morning, when I glanced at this story, a question came to mind: is there a greater percentage of people in rural communities who have creative pursuits because they have less to distract them as compared to city people?

If so, is new technology (i.e. the fact that you have dozens of shows to choose from on your television/movie screen) changing this?

I do not know the answer. Suffice it to say that I always notice a plethora of varied art in rural communities. Less, I think, in urban communities because  in more populated centres, you have to go to the areas designated to The Arts.

This article was written in the 1980s when cable was just beginning to invade small communities:

Gravelbourg Gazette

November 23, 1982

Local wood carver

by Tanya Lester

Bernie (F.B.) Smith’s house has become a place where Mossbank residents take their friends and relatives when they are visiting the town. Tourists from as faraway as Japan have also made special trips to Mr. Smith’s house.

Mr. Smith encourages people through his “Prairie hospitality”, to visit him and, at the same time, they come to visit his birds. The birds are precise cedar wood carvings modelled after the real wild life versions.

The pride, that Mr. Smith takes in his work, shows. He takes extra care to make sure each wooden bird is painted in the same colours and markings as the feathers of each wild bird after which it is modelled.

This might seem easy to do unless a person takes a look at the multi-coloured pheasant feathers, for example, which Mr. Smith keeps on hand to ensure his own birds are accurately coloured. Pictures in the many bird books that he owns also help him in this task.

As a result,  a small hummingbird might take Mr. Smith two days to complete while a large hawk could take three weeks to a month. But Mr. Smith’s extra care means that he hasri been able to produce award winning carvings which included first prize and the silver medal at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver.

During Canada’s Centennial Year, he was asked for bird carvings to present to Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip at Expo in Montreal. Earlier , in 1968, the Hudson’s Bay Company in Regina purchased two of Mr. Smith’s flying ducks for display in their Canadian Room. His carvings have also been exhibited in the Saskatchewan Legislative Buildings.

Among the 75 species of birds, Mr. Smith keeps in his house and work shed, is a long-billed curlew carving. A woman from Montana asked him to carve the bird because the building of a road complex near her home had made the curlew birds nest elsewhere. She wanted a momento of the bird which she had enjoyed seeing.

Mr. Smith’s copy of the curlew sits in his livingroom. Of the 600 to 700 carvings that he has made, Mr.Smith always keeps at least one of each species for himself.

The craftsman always enjoyed watching birds as they flocked around sloughs and marshes. He used to hunt them at Lake Johnston. But then he decided to make them instead of killing them. Mr. Smith swears he would never hunt a bird again. Perhaps this is why he claims his carvings of birds of prey and those which live near water or on the grasslands are “not only works of art, but works of love.”

Mr. Smith was born in Toronto and came, with his parents, to homestead Saskatchewan land in 1906. In Alberta and Saskatchewan, Mr. Smith worked as a CNR telegraph operator for 38 years. He finally settled in Mossbank where he was a station agent until he retired.

It was during his time as a station agent that Mr. Smith sold his first wood carving. In the 1930’s, a traveler saw a small goose carving sitting on Mr. Smith’s desk and asked if he could have one made for himself.

Mr. Smith got his “break” om the wood carving business when he attended an ornithologists’ (people who study the science of birds) meeting in Regina. At the meeting, Mr. Smith talked with a renowned painter of birds who was at the meeting and eventually showed the expert some of his carvings. After that, ornithologists, biologists and universities began buying Mr. Smith’s work.

Mr. Smith used to make his birds from old cedar railway ties. Now, he works with 2×6 cedar planks. He glues the planks together to the right size.

Mr. Smith, then, laminates the wood and draws a cardboard cutout of the various views of the birds. After tracing the design on the wood , he cuts out a rough version of the bird with a band saw. Then, he uses rasps, files, and sandpaper to finish the bird. The bird must be very smooth in order to paint properly.

Mr. Smith hand paints all of his birds. The tails and beaks are made of hardwoods. One particular pheasant has an old airplane propeller for a tail. The legs are made strong by using copper wire. The bases, to offset the birds, are often made from driftwood or decorated branches.

Although Mr. Smith has an order list of about 60 people who are waiting for their carvings, he makes “no promises” and does not let pressure influence his work. He insists on producing only quality work. Mr. Smith “tries to make each bird a little better than the last one; perhaps stronger, painted better, or truer to life.”


Tanya works as a psychic, specializing in tea leaf reading and tarot but also does mediumship. In addition to this, she is a reiki master and a full time house sitter. To access her services, go to her website at teareading.wordpress.com or her pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google.  Or contact her directly at tealeaf.56@gmail.com or call her cell at 250-538-0086.

Tanya’s books are: Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader, Friends I Never Knew, Dreams and Tricksters, and Women Rights/Writes. The first two can be purchased at amazon.com or from the author. All are in some library systems.

To read more posts on this blog, go to writingsmall.wordpress.com or tealeaf56.wordpress.com


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