EAST FAIRFIELD TOWNSHIP — Hazel and Russell Anderson virtually never miss their driveway anymore and don't have to give visitors to their home an address number or description of their house. "We're getting known as those people with the large red cardinal in the front yard," Hazel said. "You can't even imagine all the compliments we get, too."
If you haven't driven on Route 322 north of Cochranton lately, you may have missed seeing the carved bird perched atop what was once a red maple tree in the Andersons' front yard. If you have been in the area, missing it seems impossible.
"Every time we go out somewhere, somebody comes up to us to talk about the cardinal," Anderson said. "Some just tell us how much they like it, but local people think of it as a symbol of Cochranton."
Cochranton Mayor Mark Roche is familiar with the history of the Cochranton Junior-Senior High School mascot. "Back around 1913 the high school didn't have a mascot," Roche said. "Sports teams were recognized by colors. Uniforms didn't even have numbers on them, but Cochranton's uniforms were always a 'cardinal' shade of red."
In fall of 1939 that year's senior class wanted to fundraise for their senior trip, Roche said. They were allowed to sell something embroidered and decided to form a committee to pick a red and white emblem to sell, he said. Grace Peterman-Ott was a member of that senior class committee and her favorite bird was the cardinal.
"She gets credit for the origins of the mascot," he said. "It was around that time that lots of high schools and colleges were picking mascots. It was a popular thing to do back then."
Hazel Anderson, a Cochranton alumna, feels as if the wood-carved bird has increased her family's popularity, but the selection of a cardinal to adorn the front yard wasn't her first thought.
"We knew the tree had to come down. It got to the point where it could damage either the power lines or the house if it fell," she said. "I knew that I didn't want an eagle, owl or bear, but I wasn't sure what I did want."
Last March the Andersons drove southeast to Ridgway for the Ridgway Chainsaw Rendezvous. "I saw some cardinals there that I really liked, and that's when I realized that's what I wanted," she said. "What better choice could I make than a cardinal?"
The next step was to contact a chainsaw carver. Anderson had admired a wizard statue in Cochranton that happens to be holding a small cardinal in one hand. She contacted the artist who created it, and he worked his carving wizardry again.
Adam Tate is the carver of the wizard. Tate has been teaching art in the Jamestown School District for nine years. Chainsaw carving is a part-time hobby that he said he "just kind of fell into."
"I live in a log cabin in the country and there's lots of free firewood," he said. "One day I experimented and made an owl from a log and it just progressed from there."
Tate was an art major at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania who concentrated in sculpting. When Anderson chose her subject and contacted Tate, he started the process by creating a clay sculpture depicting his vision for the carving.
"I had to think about what kind of cardinal to create," Tate said. "I didn't want a super-happy cardinal. I decided on a proud cardinal that would represent the town well."
The carving process took about a week, according to Tate. "I was out there about four or five times," he said.
Once the carving was complete, he chose to use paint as opposed to stain on the bird. "It's brighter and more noticeable," Tate said. "It sure is," Anderson agreed.
As they stood gazing up at the cardinal, both expressed their satisfaction in the almost-finished product. "I do want to do some gloss work on the eyes once the wood dries enough," Tate said. "Then it will be complete."
In the meantime, Tate is looking forward to his first live chainsaw carving event. The Gibson House-Mark Twain Manor in Jamestown is having a haunted walk on Oct. 29, according to Tate. "I'll be there from noon to 5 p.m. doing a live chainsaw carving of a Frankenstein bust," he said.
Is there a chance Tate could be headed for a new career? "I love teaching," he said. "But chainsaw carving could keep me busy some day when I retire."
Lorri Drumm can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.