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Unveiling the totem pole

Instead of chopping a dying tree down, the homeowner had a totem pole carved
by: Vern Uyetake, Judy Dauble’s totem pole contains fish swiming in a circle, standing for the circle of life. The bear holding a fish depicts integrity and the eagle means self containment and strength.

'It's going to drop.'

'There it is.'

'Oh my.'

'Hurry, we want to see.'

'Come closer, you're going to miss it.'

The children were antsy Sunday afternoon in Judy Dauble's front yard standing in a circle beneath a big tree. The adults were also but tried to act cool.

After more than a year of planning and carving, a 50-foot, 4-inch totem pole stood covered in an enormous black tarp as it was just about to be unveiled. The totem pole is a result of a dying tree on the Lake Oswego property.

Dauble has lived in the home on Glenmorrie Drive for 32 years. And when a more than 100-foot tree in the front yard started dying in 2007, she viewed it as an opportunity.

'At first I was so upset about the tree dying. Then I got enthused about a totem pole but I didn't know anything about them,' Dauble said.

The yellow cedar tree was, 'limbed and topped,' she said. Dauble used the remainder of the tree for firewood.

The resulting tall stump was perfect for a totem pole. The Bell family up the street has a carving of characters from the popular book The Wind in the Willows greeting passers by. The same company, Pearson's Art Gallery, was enlisted as project manager on this project.

'I really like art and I have learned a lot about Native American art through this project. I learned about the different types of totems,' Dauble said. 'It was a wonderful project.'

James Hart of Canada designed the totem pole after Dauble, 'wrote him a 10-page letter with lots of pictures of what was important to (her).'

Jose Huerto trimmed the tree to prepare it to be carved.

How it's carved

The totem pole features a bear holding a fish, which stands for integrity and a strong foundation, Dauble said. Fish swimming in a circle display the continuity of life and an eagle provides strength. And of course, family stories are depicted.

Don Richins with Alpha Omega Artistic Design carved the totem pole by himself in nine weeks, he said. Richins has Chateau Blackfoot Native American roots.

'I'm enamored by how this went off without a hitch,' he said. 'No problems at all. Nobody got hurt. No cuts. No bruises. Nothing fell. The neighbors put up with the sawdust and the noise. It was perfect.'

Standing upon scaffolding platforms from Waco Scaffolding, Richins started at the top of the pole and worked his way down to complete the design. Totem poles are traditionally completed on the ground, he said, but his workspace was still attached to a stump in the ground.

'Yes, my arms hurt,' he said.

Richins said Dauble often climbed the scaffolding at the very top.

'She had no fear,' he said.

But his fears were to make sure the design was implemented perfectly.

'There had to be a scale and we had to be careful that we didn't cut too much off,' Richins said.

Because, you can't put it back on when you're grinding, sawing and sanding, he explained. After the design was carved, the totem pole was treated with Bora-Care, a termite insecticide. It's also water protected.

'And cedar is already rot resistant,' he said.

Mike Privratsky from Pearson's Art Gallery in Oregon City said he's worked on totem pole projects throughout the country.

'We're seeing them more and more in Oregon, but in Seattle, they're all over the place,' he said.

Let's see the totem pole

A hundred people were invited to Dauble's unveiling ceremony and judging by the crowded driveway it looked like everyone showed up - many with gifts. Dauble hugged visitors before they made their way into her yard to view the completed totem pole, covered in a tarp before the unveiling.

'I've watched it go from a live tree to a dead tree to a limbless tree to a totem pole,' said Gloria Handy, a neighbor. 'I literally drive, bike or walk past here two to five times a day.'

The totem pole is in a prominent location on Glenmorrie Drive.

'It's going to be a landmark,' said Robert Johnson, of Portland.

And neighbor Susan Bartz said this is another example of how Dauble, 'gives to the community.'

'The only reason she puts Christmas lights (at the end of her driveway) is so the neighborhood can enjoy them. She can't see them but the rest of us can,' Bartz said. 'This is Judy being Judy.'

Judy's friend Dan Driscoll of Beaverton said that he hopes the totem pole provides some, 'esoteric benefit from being here.'

'On the top is a watch man and he's always on the top of totem poles,' Driscoll said. 'What's he watching over?'

'The neighborhood and family,' Richins said.

Six-year-old Kaija attended the party with her grandma, Sonja Haugen, of Portland. Wide-eyed she waited for the tarp - wound tight with rope - to be untangled. When the tarp fell, her face lit up.

'This is education day,' Haugen said.

Before today, Kaija didn't know what a totem pole was. Many local kids are learning about totem poles this month, said Brenda Troisis, a volunteer at Hallinan Elementary School.

'(The school is) studying Northwest coast Indian tribes between the Columbia and Alaska this month,' she said. 'This fits right in.'

Totem poles were carved by indigenous cultures along the Pacific northwest coast of North America. The name of totem poles comes from 'totem,' the symbol of a North American native clan, according to About.com. Totem poles can tell stories, honor heritage, portray ancestry and provide decoration.

Joan Austin of Newberg watched the unveiling in awe.

'When (Dauble) told me she was making a totem pole I said, 'Oh Judy, I want one,'' Austin said, who also has a home in Sisters. 'We're in Indian country.'

And on Sunday, everyone in Dauble's yard paid homage to a magnificent piece of art for the whole neighborhood to share.

'It was a dead tree,' Johnson said, 'and now it gets to live forever.'

To contact Don Richins, call 503-577-0066. To contact Mike Privratsky, call 503-266-2334.