Mark Lindquist History





Birth of Project

To Blakely
Team Blakely
Building Bridges
Knowing Blakely
Studying Tree
Show Begins
Digging Deep
Main Event
Tree Character

Super Ax
 Film Perspective
Trust Vision
Last Day

Studio Life
Winding Down
30K View





The Blakely Burl Tree Project: The Story

The Blakely Burl Tree Project:
From The Ground Up

by Terry Martin



Under Mark and Gary’s directions, locals Billy and Felix Davis attack the brush surrounding the tree with enormous enthusiasm, clearing the way for the first stage.

Gary Stevens, Jim Carver and crew preparing site for bridge  Photo: Mark Lindquist

While others lay out tools, Gary shows why Mark chose him as harvest master.
He disappears inside the warehouse and soon emerges driving a thundering long-reach forklift called a Tele Handler that has a 10,000 lb lifting capacity and can extend up to 54 feet. It will prove to be our most versatile tool. He parks the Tele Handler, then returns for the Zoom Boom, a telescoping man-lift with an 80 foot-high reach that will be used, among other things, for the film crew to work from. Next he emerges from the warehouse with a John Deere backhoe/loader for the light dirt work and a John Deere excavator for the heavy digging. It’s like a charge by the mechanized cavalry and I am pretty impressed by the easy way he jumps aboard any equipment and fires it up. I’ve worked with Gary before on art exhibitions, but I haven’t seen this side of him.

Gary Stevens with tele-handler Photo: John McFadden

In pouring rain Steve Cross pulls up in his truck loaded with lumber. Mark and Gary have designed a bridge and Steve has pre-cut all the components.

Steve Cross (left) delivers wood for bridge.  Photo: John McFadden

Steve Cross (left) and Mark Lindquist in the rain onsite - rain, rain, rain...
Photo: John McFadden

While Mark supervises the unloading, Gary gives clear instructions and the visitors and locals jump to it together as if they have been doing it for years. The tools are unloaded, the wood is laid out and people swarm all over it. Within a remarkable two hours a footbridge has been constructed and is swung across the Big Ditch. It immediately becomes clear how much easier it will make everybody’s tasks.

Mark Lindquist (left) inspects wood prior to bridge building  Photo: John McFadden

Gary Stevens (center) building bridge Photo: John McFadden

Chris Smith (left) and Steve Cross sawing lumber for bridge  Photo: John McFadden

Photo: Mark Lindquist

Jim Carver (left), Gary Stevens, Chris Smith building bridge  Photo: Mark Lindquist

Chris Smith trimming ends  Photo: John McFadden

Mark explains: “The Big Ditch is really impassable and it’s a long walk around to the other side, but we needed access to both sides. Also, we needed a place where people could safely watch what was going on. We did it together, visitors and locals, and everybody worked really well. It was symbolic of how the project would go.”

Overview of bridge building - photographer John McFadden (Center)  Photo: Mark Lindquist

Mark Lindquist preparing rigging - Terry Martin working on bridge in rain (right)
Photo: John McFadden

It was astonishingly fast, but it was not a rough job.

Gary Stevens (left) and Mark Lindquist, working on underside of bridge. 
Photo: John McFadden

Even while the bridge was suspended in the air and some of the team were underneath screwing braces into place, Chris was balancing on the teetering topside, carefully planing the handrails smooth. Once the bridge is in place, Gary and Chris give it a final inspection. “I don’t like that rough edge there,” says Gary, pointing to a handrail that has a less-than-perfect edge. “Neither do I,” says Chris. Within moments they have taken the handrail off, turned it over to hide the imperfection, then attached it to the bridge again. It is a joy to watch their determination to do the job as well as they can.

Chris Smith planing hand rails  Photo: John McFadden

Gary Stevens (right) hoisting bridge into position with telehandler 
Photo: John McFadden

As work proceeds, John is everywhere taking photographs, lying on his back in the mud, climbing machinery, ever watchful for unlikely angles.  He smiles at me as helpful people scurry everywhere around us. “Boy,” he laughs, “people are so nice, you have to be careful not to ask for anything trivial because they’ll go and do it!” 

Photographer John McFadden (right) documenting project and crew 
Photo: Mark Lindquist

Gary Stevens building ramp off bridge 
Photo: John McFadden

The finished bridge 
Photo: John McFadden

Terry Martin (left) Stanley Houston, assistant project director (center) Mark Lindquist (right) discussing next steps in the project  Photo: John McFadden

The smaller trees and saplings around the burl tree are soon cut away and the site is cleared enough for work to proceed, but a lot of mud and debris have accumulated on the large slab.

Photo: John McFadden

We are all mightily impressed when a fire truck arrives and with their heavy hoses the firemen blast the site clear in minutes. It is a wonderful example of how the community supports what we are doing, even though at this stage most of them are not quite sure what is going on.

Photo: John McFadden

Around about now I start to hear the rumors about the tree. One man watching us work says to another, “I hear that tree is real valuable.”

When Charles and Catherine Rice arrive, work pauses while introductions are made all round. Everyone gathers on the bridge for John to take a historic group photo. With eighteen people on it the bridge sags noticeably. Gary and I exchange eye rolls, but the bridge passes with flying colors. It’s a good beginning.

Blakely Burl Tree Project bridge building crew, group photo 
Photo: John McFadden

As evening approaches, I watch Mark and Charles in a quiet moment while they stand in front of the tree and feel its rough surface.

“It’s pretty amazing isn’t it?” says Charles.
“It is,” agrees Mark, pointing to the thickest part of the trunk. “This wood here will be utterly spectacular.”

“Is it just these little knobs here that will be burl, or is it all wonderful wood throughout?”
“Well,” says Mark, “that’s what we’re going to find out!”

Mark Lindquist (left) and Charles Rice inspecting the Blakely Burl Tree
Photo: John McFadden

Introduction | The Story | The Tree | The Artwork | Team | NewsFilm | Sawmill | Location | Rice Foundation