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Making something of it


Kevin Purcell

Spud Gooch stands with an eagle he carved out of a chinaberry tree.

JACKSON COUNTY — Growing up on a farm puts you in contact with a lot of tools. There was one in particular Spurgeon “Spud” Gooch hated.

“I’d gotten sick of using chainsaws for cutting up firewood,” he says. “It was a lot of work. Hot too.”

From those days where the heat would bounce off the saw’s engine and tag up with Georgia humidity, though, Gooch would lay the groundwork for a skill he’s presently exploring to bless others and show them Christ.

In June a storm blew through between Jefferson and Athens, leaving two fallen oak trees at Attica Baptist Church. The trees were adjacent to a playground and thankfully had caused no damage to the equipment, but needed to be disposed of.

“Several of our folks started cutting up the trees for limbs or firewood, but Spud had another idea,” remembers Pastor Kevin Purcell.

Gooch had been tinkering with chainsaw carving, easier and much more aesthetically pleasing than laying out a pile of firewood. It began in earnest earlier this year when he wondered what he could create, rather than tear apart, with a saw. His first step in that direction was pretty simple, with his saw chain drawing out in a chunk of wood the large “G” beloved by Gooch’s fellow Georgia Bulldog fans.

Gooch had actually begun delving into chainsaw carving a few years earlier before his mother developed Alzheimer’s (his father was already deceased). His mother’s illness led to a break from carving.

With a renewed interest in the craft, his education came through online videos and trial-and-error. Gooch dragged a log from the woods behind the family farm and created a small bear that’s at a local country store “if someone hasn’t bought it.”

Kevin Purcell

The Attica Baptist Church member took advantage of a felled tree from a summer storm to create a cross on the church's playground.

Since then he’s played around with the hobby, creating an eagle, more bears, and a few tiki heads.

Up until then the closest he’d come to using a chainsaw for creating was some benches he made in his 20s. One day Gooch was helping a friend cut down a chinaberry tree when he began studying it and asked if it was okay for him to do something different. Time found here and there with the stump eventually revealed an eagle preparing to take flight.

It reflected a change in perception.

“Cuttin’ firewood was work for me. Now when I get a saw in my hand I look at a piece of wood and see what I can make of it,” he explains.

At Attica Baptist this summer, one tree had been cleared away, but Gooch saw some potential in the second. He’d since set aside his standard saw for one designed for carving that had more of a tapered end. Six hours of work over two consecutive mornings revealed what only he saw in the 18-foot-tall trunk – a cross that now stands tall in the children’s play area.

Purcell said plans are to add the passage of Jesus in the gospels saying for the little children to come to Him, “for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”

“Out of the storm left behind is now the picture of the cross,” adds Purcell. “Jesus, the person, has a way of taking the storms of life and turning them into wonderful works of art.  What other symbol in the world projects such saving qualities as the cross, in the person who it glorifies, Jesus Christ of Nazareth?”