She waited more than a year to see it come to pass, but Betty Hatcher now has a giant totem in her yard to honor Chipola College and its Indian mascot.
Chainsaw sculptor Chad Gainey did most of the work Monday.
Hatcher, Jackson County’s tax collector for 20 years, moved into her mother’s home across from Chipola about four years ago, well after she’d retired from that position when her last term ended in 2004. Until October of 2018, that home was surrounded by big trees.
“I had a yard full of gigantic pine trees,” Hatcher recalled. But Hurricane Michael damaged or destroyed them all. “Not one of them fell on the house, but I had limbs fall a foot from it all around. I call it the miracle house.”
Hatcher wasn’t going to depend on another miracle to spare her again in a storm to come. She had the remaining trees cut down, except for one. It was spared because she took to heart something suggested by her neighbor’s son.
Watching all that work underway when the trees were being taken, he came to her and said she ought to have the “sculpture man” do something with the one that the crew hadn’t gotten to yet. She stopped the cutters short. And they knew who the “sculpture man” was: Chad Gainey. He’d made a name for himself as a chainsaw artist long before that fateful storm, and the woodcutters gave her his number.
He got a lot of work out of that disaster as more than on individual or entity sought him out to create something lasting from the loss of their beloved trees.
He warned her up front that he probably wouldn’t be able to get to her job for at least a year, and he was right.
The tall tree, its bark still intact, stood waiting for a long time and Hatcher was patient. When Gainey finally got free, she was ready for him to get started.
Hatcher figured he’d just make an Indian head as a nod to the Chipola College mascot.
“I looked out, and there I saw he’d made not only that, but had gone as far as making a torso and folded arms,” Hatcher said. “He had eight chainsaws lined up. I was real impressed with what he’d done at that point and figured that was all. Then I look again, and he’d given him legs.
“Mr. Gainey really made something wonderful, something that really touched my heart. Chipola is important to my family. My brother and I both went there. I have two children that finished at Chipola, and a grandson. My brother’s three children went there too, and now his children’s children are going. I think 14 members of my family have gone to Chipola so far.
“My Indian faces the Chipola Language and Literature building on College Street. He’s watching over a place I dearly love.”