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
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The Blakely Burl Tree Project: The Story

The Blakely Burl Tree Project:
From The Ground Up

by Terry Martin



It's early Tuesday morning, and the team gathers by the tree. Silhouetted by the rising sun, the massive trunk of the tree looks strangely imposing now that it has been shorn of its foliage and branches.

Terry Martin (left) and Mark Lindquist with limbed tree
Photo: John McFadden

 Its lumpy, gnarled surface gives an impression of extra weight. The trunk now resembles a large letter “Y”, with an elongated lower part and two short arms where the major limbs were cut.

The main fork   Photo: John McFadden

The impression of weight is enhanced by the fact that it is very solidly embedded in the bank of the Big Ditch. Somehow, the crew has to lift that whole trunk out of the ground with as much of the root system intact as possible.

It’s time for creative and careful use of the digging machines.

Jim Carver positions telehandler (left) while Gary Stevens secures the tree (right)
Photos: Mark Lindquist
The telehandler is attached to the top of the trunk with a chain to prevent unexpected movement, then the contractors start carefully scraping away the topsoil and the accumulated trash of decades. Bricks, lumps of metal and concrete all are lifted into the dump truck. I imagine the people who threw these unwanted things away thinking, “Nobody’ll ever notice this back there behind the store. I mean, nobody ever goes there….”

Chris Smith Left) and Gary Stevens (right) digging amongst the debris getting at the roots 
Photos: John McFadden

Gary Stevens excavating around the roots. 
Photo: John McFadden

With Mark supervising, Chris and Gary are busy with the local crew, working their way towards the roots with shovels and pickaxes, occasionally stepping back for the digger to scrape dirt away from what they have exposed.

Mark Lindquist (left) and Gary Stevens with Blakely Burl Tree 
Photo: John McFadden

They want to expose as much as possible before they call on the enormous crane that has arrived. Gary repeatedly climbs down right beside the heavy swinging digger, delicately guiding every scrape of dirt and once more I marvel at his rapport with the operators.

Gary Stevens (center) working with equipment operator carefully excavating around tree roots 
Photo: John McFadden

Jim Carver (center) runs a jack hammer to break up concrete pad above roots.
Photo: Mark Lindquist

Jim Carver (center) and his crew, excavating the front side of the blakely Burl Tree
Photo: John McFadden

I talk with Jim Carver, the contractor for much of the work, about our day at the Kolomoki mounds and I mention Charles and the Indian arrowheads he collected. Jim tells me that Greg Baxley, one of his workers, has an enormous collection. “He’s got a nose for ‘em,” said Jim. When I am introduced to Greg, he happily invites me to see his collection. It’s another new experience to look forward to.

Arrowheads from Early County, GA 
Photo: John McFadden

The hole deepens and the root ball is increasingly exposed. The major roots are widely spread and decisions have to be made about where to start cutting these roots to free the tree from the soil. It’s painfully slow work and by late afternoon Mark calls a halt because the tree has to be left standing overnight and any more soil removal will make it unsafe.

Gary Stevens (center) cuts roots in preparation for hoisting of the Blakely Burl Tree
Photo: Mark Lindquist

As evening approaches the tree stands ready for the next day's work, the lifting of the tree. A barrier is erected around the now-enormous hole and the site is left in the care of the Sheriff’s Department.

 End of day, tree is secured with telehandler. 
Photo: Mark Lindquist

Word appears to have spread that burl trees might be valuable and we hear that there is an oak burl tree on a farm not far out of town. In cool evening light we drive out to inspect the tree. At first glance it is a fine specimen, even bigger than the Blakely tree. Mark and Gary sound the tree with a large metal bar, resoundingly thumping the sides, but instead of a solid ‘thunk’, there is a flabby-sounding ‘spludge’. The tree is hollow and largely rotten, but we are not surprised as trees like this often let in water, then rot from the inside out. We stand back, disappointed. It’s a shame nobody found this tree before it started to rot. The unspoken fear is that the next few days will reveal the Blakely tree is also rotten inside.

Another burl tree in Early County, unfortunately rotten on inside.
Photo: Mark Lindquist

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