Retirement provides Pike with lots of time for horsin' around

November 03, 2003|EMILY TOADVINE

Jesse Pike's grandsons won't quarrel anymore over who gets to ride the wooden rocking horse when they visit. Pike carved a second one.

"They have to ride every time they come over," says Pike of the youngest grandsons, Dylan Forte, 5, and Landry Forte, 2, who live in Richmond. "They fight over who's going to get to ride next."

A broken ear on the first horse that Pike carved is testimony to the grandsons' bronco riding skills.

Pike carved his first horse four years ago. He had some free time after retiring from 30 years with the engineering department of the Norfolk Southern Railroad. His latest carving effort was completed a month ago after two months of work.

The shiny horse with its light-colored mane began as a sycamore that was being cut down near his Green Acres neighborhood outside Harrodsburg. Pike, who always is on the lookout for large chunks of wood, stopped and asked if he could have part of the tree. The tree's age meant that it had grown to a size large enough for carving a horse.


"I counted up to 137 rings, but I lost several rings," he says.

Pike immediately knew what he would make with the wood.

"I think a horse is about the prettiest animal there is," he says.

Maybe some of Pike's love affair with the horse and his desire to create children's rocking horses stems from the crude horse that he played with as a child. A limestone rock painted white with black eyes sits in front of his home. His father and brother carried that rock to their home to be his toy.

"I've had that since I was 2 years old," says the 55-year-old Pike. "People who have known me a long time say, 'That's how we can tell where you live is by that rock,'" he says.

His latest horse, which weighs about 100 pounds, is sturdy. "I've rocked on that. It's big enough to hold me."

His first horse, which is considerably smaller than the last one, originally was a white pine at the end of his driveway.

"My wife's aunt set that tree out when they moved here in 1964," he says.

It took him three days to turn the tree into a horse. He used the bedsteads from his wife's grandfather's bed to make rockers.

Pike did break from his pattern of making horses to do a likeness of his dog, Katie, a Yorkshire terrier. "I just had some extra wood out there and I cut that out," he says.

To create his latest horse, he cut out the rough size of the finished horse and used chisels to add detail. He cut the rockers out of pine.

A lot of labor went into the smooth finish. The horse shines with a dozen coats of varnish on it. A lot of time was spent to remove the horsehair from four paintbrushes to make a mane.

"It took 20 hours to put the hair in there," he says.

Paintbrushes were the only available source of horsehair.

"I've got a cousin who fools with horses, and I started to cut out some mane from one of his, but I didn't think he would appreciate that much."

After seeing his tribute to the horse, many people have admired his work.

"I've had several people wanting me to sell it, but I wouldn't price it," he says.

Pike already has started another horse in his small workshop behind the home of he and his wife, Linda.

"I do a little bit every day. Usually clean the shop up or chop on something," he says.

Pike has a couple more grandchildren who don't have horses yet, but he isn't sure if he'll create a herd.

"It's just whatever is in the wood that I need to get out," he says.

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