Artist creates totem pole for Bristol

Bristol totem pole

BRISTOL, Va. - We all know the saying "the low man on the totem pole," even though we haven't really seen a real totem pole or if the low man is any different than any of the other images on the pole.

Those are questions that you can now ponder as you look over a real totem pole that's been erected at Bristol Virginia's Sugar Hollow Park.

"This is the first time I've got an overall look at what its going to look like, you know when it's picked up," Bristol artist Carl Jessee said about his winter project. It began last February and with the help of some friends, his 30-foot totem pole has become a permanent fixture at Sugar Hollow Park next to the playground.

"You get tired of carving just little stuff, so you think maybe I ought to carve something pretty good size. [The totem pole] came to mind. It's something you can put a lot of color in, I like to paint," the artist said.

And the totems or images that appear on the pole are images representing the wildlife that you can find in our region. "The poles out west, they've got ugly faces I call them. I thought it would just be animals around here," he said.

Carving and painting this 30-foot work of art took a little bit of help from his friends, one who jokingly calls himself an apprentice. "He had actually just said, 'I really could use some help on this. You want to help me carve it?' I didn't think I could but I liked the idea so I told him, 'I tell you what, you tell me what to do and you show me how to do it and I'll work on it,'" friend Glen Goad said.

Except for the eagle on top, it's one solid Poplar log cut by Jessee. "It's just hammer and chisel, mallet and chisels and we used a chainsaw a little bit, but not much though," he humbly said.

It's destined to be one of those Bristol symbols, a milepost of sorts, to be enjoyed for generations to come.

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