By Linda O'Hara
Thursday, October 10, 2013 —
He has the hands of a worker, the eye of an artist and the heart of a good Samaritan.
Add a long gray beard and an even longer pony tail and you get Ron Knight, a national champion chain saw sculptor who lives in Midland and performs all over the country. He can take a tree and turn it into a bear in an hour. An eagle takes a little longer, but one has to consider all those feathers.
He will perform his tree magic Saturday at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church’s Hot Off the Grill barbecue competition. He is donating his time and talent because he believes in giving back.
“When I heard that the proceeds are going to help others, I was happy to participate,” he said, adding that he is blessed to be able to share his talent in this way.
At Hot Off the Grill, Knight plans to carve a bear about five feet tall from the trunk of a giant cedar tree donated by members of St. Martin’s. The bear will be auctioned during the event and all the profits will go to Stanly Community Christian Ministry, Community Care and St. Martin’s Shepherd Fund.
Knight was a carpenter until he had open heart surgery a few years ago and retired. He realized he had a talent for wood sculpting when he tried making a bear for his daughter. The first one wasn’t perfect, he said, but his daughter treasures it.
“But I don’t think anybody is going to steal it,” he said.
After that first one he made another and another and just kept going.
“You learn something with every one,” he said, “and you learn pretty quick that a two-by-four isn’t anything like a bear.”
The creative process can be a bit of a mystery, Knight believes, and sometimes talents just emerge from within. When asked how he knew how to turn a tree into a work of art, he said that we all can do more than we know.
“Sometimes God takes one talent and gives you another. This one has been good to me,” Knight said.
Knight is known in the chainsaw sculpting circuit as the Bear Man because he has made so many and can make them so fast, even with an artificial right shoulder.
“It doesn’t slow me down,” he said.
“I bear most of the weight of the saw with my left arm and guide it with my right.”
While he often competes in speed carving, he prefers to be able to take his time.
“In six to eight hours you can carve something to be proud of,” he said.
Joseph Whitley, this year’s chairman of Hot Off the Grill, said watching Knight in action is worth the $10 price of admission, but visitors will also get to sample more than 30 different kinds of barbecue grilled by the best pit masters in the area.
Tickets for the event are available at Handi-Mart, from St. Martin’s church members and at the door.
Other entertainment includes games for the kids, gospel singing and a silent auction.
To learn more about the Bear Man and his art, visit Facebook’s Bear Man Chain Saw Art.