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Logging Museum dedicates new Rodney Richard wood carving exhibit

Sue Fitzgerald and Rodney Richard, Sr., stand beside his 1975 chain saw carving “Jerome, the Indian” that she donated to the Rangeley Lakes Region Logging Museum. The carving was a long-time fixture in Fitzy’s Donut Shop, Rangeley, that she and her husband Ed “Fitzy” Fitzgerald owned and operated. (Peggy Yocom Photo)

RANGELEY - On a recent Saturday, an enthusiastic crowd gathered at the Rangeley Lakes Region Logging Museum to welcome the wood carving, “Jerome, the Indian” to its new home. Carved in 1975 by retired logger Rodney Richard, Sr., of Rangeley, the “Indian” graced Fitzy’s Donut Shop on Main Street, Rangeley, from the time it was created until May 2002 when the shop closed.

Mrs. Sue Fitzgerald donated the carving to the Museum. In honor of “Fitzy” and Sue, the museum served donuts and coffee; some of those donuts were handmade by and donated to the Museum by Mrs. Betty Millbury.

On behalf of all of the museum, president Ronald Haines thanked Rodney Richard for his artistry and Mrs. Fitzgerald for her generosity. “We’ll give it a good home,” he promised, as he presented Mrs. Fitzgerald with a certificate of thanks. Then, with the help of museum curator Peggy Yocom, Mr. Richard and Mrs. Fitzgerald shared their stories of “Jerome, the Indian” that, like so many of Mr. Richard’s carvings, have given the Rangeley community many good memories.

An amateur historian who dedicated himself to American revolutionary re-enactments, Mr. Ed “Fitzy” Fitzgerald (1936-2008) was hard at work in 1975 planning costumes and more for the Bicentennial re-enactment of Benedict Arnold’s march to and battle at Quebec. He offered Mr. Richard a year’s free coffee and donuts if he would carve a life-sized Native American figure.

“We figured out,” Mrs. Fitzgerald said to Mr. Richard, “that given prices at the time—and you used to come in twice a day in those days sometimes—it was about $800.” Everyone in the audience laughed. “But Fitzy went on vacation right after I made the deal,” Mr. Richard replied, “so I had a hell of a time when he came back. I ruined my health trying to catch up.”

Laughing, Mr. Richard continued: “I can tell you how it came to be. There was a pine tree within sight of the road down in Oquossoc on Wolf Kramer’s land. The top had been struck by lightning or something because it was dead, and I asked Wolf if we could have it. So Jim Stone and Fitzy and I and two, three others went in there and cut it down. I tried to get Fitzy to lay down on the block of wood so I could outline him, but he wouldn’t!” Mr. Richard laughed. “So, I cut it off, and it was six feet tall! Jim Stone was a rugged monster at the time, and he put it on his shoulder and started hiking out. He’d go about three steps and drop right to his crotch in the snow. And then there was a struggle to get him out and get started again!”

Mr. Richard roughed the figure out with his chain saw and finished it indoors. One night, when his eldest son, Rodney, Jr. got up in the middle of the night, he forgot about the “Indian” being there. “He pretty near scared himself to death,” Mr. Richard said. Then, Mr. Richard and his friends took the “Indian” to Mr. Fitzgerald who painted the carving with great care, using multiple colors of stain.

Calling themselves Rangeley’s “Shadow Government,” the regulars at Fitzy’s Donut Shop discussed local politics and played pranks on each other—and on outsiders, sometimes using “Jerome, the Indian.”

“We had a lot of fun,” Mr. Richard said as he told the museum audience how the Indian got his name. “Of course, Frenchie’s real name is Jerome Guevremont,” Mr. Richard explained, speaking of one of Fitzy’s faithful customers. “And, some woman came into the donut shop, and she said, ‘Oh, that’s a nice Indian.’ She says, ‘What’s his name?’ And Fitzy, just like that, said, ‘Jerome.’ That’s how he got named. That was funny as heck.”

Another time a man came in to the shop, claiming to be an expert on cigar store Indians. He declared that the “Indian” was a very nice one, made around the turn of the century, and he asked if Fitzy were interested in selling it. “I remember Ed (Fitzy) saying that he let this guy go on and on,” Mrs. Fitzgerald said. “He finally told him it was made by a fellow right up the road here, five years ago. And that sort of took the wind out of his sails!”

Mrs. Fitzgerald also remembered that, for some people, the tall Native American figure grasping a tomahawk was frightening. “My younger grandson, Shaun,” she said, “would go by the carving, and he was looking at it all the time, and he’d back up. He wouldn’t go past it. And some people wouldn’t walk past it—there where it was in the corner—to get to the other seats. We moved it a couple times!”

For Mr. Richard, this Native American warrior figure was his first life-sized chain saw carving. And he carved it, tomahawk and all, from just one block of wood. “The biggest challenge,” Mr. Richard explained, “was remembering how a figure would look. And of course the saw was heavy, so I had to be careful. Back in those days, they didn’t make the small tips for saws. You had to worry about getting kick-back. But, it was part of my gift to be able to see something and then make it come alive, come out of the wood.”

The Rangeley Lakes Region Logging Museum invites the public to see this new exhibit between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays until Labor Day, and on weekends during the fall, at 221 Stratton Road, Rangeley, 864-3939. For more information, visit http://rlrlm.org

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2 Responses »

  1. Wonderful stories, many I had not heard! Thank you for sharing...much happened around Fitzy's that provided a lot then and does now...as colorful history. Thank you Sue, Fitzy, Rodney, and of course, Jerome!

  2. I waitressed during the summer in Rangeley while in college. I had the pleasure of serving Mr. Richard & his wife one evening at the Rangeley Inn. During his dinner he carved a marble-sized bunny which he left as part of my tip. Almost 20 years later & I still have it!

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