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



It is a Saturday in late November 2009, and the rain mists down out of a humid sky as we trail in a convoy of four vehicles to Blakely, Georgia. The first vehicle is Mark Lindquist’s pickup and Mark is guiding the team from his home in Quincy, Florida, to Blakely in south Georgia. We are going to work on a project that promises to be unlike any other project we have ever worked on.

Mark is the driving force behind the Blakely Burl Tree Project (BBTP). Charles Rice challenged Mark to create a new project that would fit in with the objectives of his Early County 2055 project and Mark has come up with a timetable that will challenge us all over the coming two weeks.


Mark Lindquist (left), Terry Martin, (center), Gary Stevens, (right)
Photo: John McFadden

The next vehicle is an enormous motor home driven by Gary Stevens, the “harvest master.” This huge vehicle will become our on-site mission control and project office. Gary is a construction superintendent from Santa Cruz, California, and he is the harvest master for the BBTP. There are two things that make Gary the right man for the job. Firstly, his work in the construction industry means that he understands machinery and how to lead a team. Gary is also one of the most successful wood artists in the United States. His energy and know-how will prove invaluable.

I follow behind in John McFadden's pickup, bouncing all over the back country roads in the turbulent wash of the motor home. John is our photographer and in the back is all of John’s equipment. I'm here from Brisbane, Australia, to record and write about our time in Georgia. I only heard about the project from Mark a few weeks ago and I flew into Florida yesterday. Mark is good at convincing people to do what he wants. Despite visiting the USA more times than I can remember since 1969, I have never been this far south before and I am fascinated by the countryside.

 At the tail end is John himself, driving a rental truck loaded with every piece of equipment imaginable, from a range of chainsaws to heavy rigging tackle, and from studio lighting to folding tables. Originally from Texas, now John lives in Minnesota, but spends a lot of his time working with Mark on a range of assignments. I’ve long admired John’s photography and he is gifted with an insatiable desire to create unique images.

    John McFadden, photographer - Photo: M. Lindquist

  As we track and backtrack from state highways to small country roads, we cut through a large slice of the extreme southwestern corner of the state of Georgia. I am fascinated as the country unfolds because a few weeks before Mark had sent me a copy of I Can Go Home Again, a book written in 1943 by a favorite son of Blakely, Arthur G. Powell. He was a famous judge who lived and worked in Atlanta, but his book was about the very country we were driving through and particularly about Blakely, where he was born in 1873.

I wanted to see if the land still resembled his description from those wartime years. Just like us, he had traveled from Florida and he speaks of the countryside in glowing words:

In the pastures the cows grazed, and pigs grunted and rooted the ground. Roosters crowed and hens cackled in the barnyards. The farmhouses were neat and well kept. On the brow of a hill stood a modern brick schoolhouse. Here and there the steeple of a newly painted church rose above the grove of a country churchyard.

Georgia country farmhouse  Photo: John McFadden

I see that we are traveling through good land. The soon-to-be picked cotton looks like it will be a good harvest, the forests are thick and healthy, and we often pass trucks loaded with pine logs on the way to the mill. All the signs of a healthy countryside are still there, but somehow it is not like the picture Powell painted. Instead of newly painted churches, we pass a lot of tiny, run-down roadside chapels in sore need of paint. Many of the farmhouses we pass are derelict and their barns lean all awry in that sad way of wooden buildings returning to the earth. We see old trailer homes surrounded by weed-filled yards full of rusting car bodies. Occasionally we pass a shack with a few people sitting on the porch watching the cars go by. The air of depression is at odds with the quality of the land.

Like many rural areas in the post-industrial era, we are passing through collateral damage of globalization. Powell had described how in his lifetime he had seen this part of the USA “…rise from primitive conditions to a state of prosperity and culture.” Sadly, we are seeing the same country after decades of reversals.


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