Biography Bronzes Drawings-Pastels Mixed-Media Contact

She welcomed me into a hallway that opened on the right into an open kitchen and breakfast room. A large bay window revealed the Smokey Mountains. The inside walls were exposed logs with traditional chinking and the huge fireplace was made of stones roughly mortared together. Could rern a man’s reputation.
I would work there in the sitting area by the fireplace. She and her sister from the West Coast poured coffee. I went back to the car to get my sculpture stand. Bill followed, polite but present.
I set up the stand and brought in the works one at a time; the bronze of Andy, the clay figure of Eudora, and finally, the clay bust of the man of the house.
“I think it’s just marvelous,” I heard Miz Ruth say from the sink as I returned from the car one last time with my sculpting tools. “I think he will like it.”
We discussed the process, how I had arrived at the present state and what needed work. Ruth turned to Bill, obviously there to watch me and any other visitor who was at Little Piney Cove for the first time.
“Why don’t you see if he will come up here? He’s back in the bedroom.” She smiled as she looked at the bust, then at me and then back at her clay husband peering out the mountain top window. In March, it was still cool on top. “He’s not moving very well this morning. Oh, but I think he’ll be surprised and delighted. Don’t you?” The West Coast sister nodded.
“He does know about this, doesn’t he?” I hoped it was an unnecessary question.
“He will in a minute.” She giggled almost to herself and turned to the sink. Her sister walked over to the bust, staring at the brown clay face, eye to eye.
“It’s just uncanny, Ruth. I think he’s going to speak.”
I heard the slow shuffle of feet easing down the planked floor of the hall. I was repositioning the stand so the bust would be looking at the man. When I turned around, there he stood in the opening to the kitchen, six feet four inches, with white long hair, thinning and combed back, his eyeglasses big rimmed and tinted like watered down ice tea. He wore blue jeans and the jean jacket that once belonged to Johnny Cash. The face was very familiar to me; every angle. I had felt the contours for months. I needed to look at the real face. I was. He did not look so much surprised as shocked, standing there looking at his own face looking back.
Ruth dried off her hands with a dish towel. I heard her still snickering.
I walked over to shake his hand. “Before you say anything, remember, this is really not about you or me, it’s for your lovely wife. She sort of put this together.”
Some of the tension in the room needed to be broken. After all, there he stood with a stranger in his kitchen on an early Saturday morning. Not only that, he stood looking at his own head sitting on a platter by the fireplace looking back.
“I realize this must be a little bit of a shock.”
“She’s shocked me a few times before,” he glanced over to her, his face showing the beginnings of a smile, as he slowly walked over towards the stand and the bust. For a few seconds there was silence.
“I think it’s just marvelous,” Ruth seemed to be baiting some response from her husband.
“How did you do this?” he asked as he turned to me, then moved over to his comfortable chair with good light and eased down in front of the sculpture stand.
“Well, it’s taken quite a bit of research; watched a lot of sermons on video. You’re not a bad preacher, by the way,” I was looking for some much needed comic relief. The sisters chuckled in harmony. That helped some, but it was the genuine smile of approval from the man himself that helped the most.
I began to explain the process of building the armature, applying the clay, how the tools worked, and describing the difference between works in three dimension and those on paper. He acted interested.
“So what now?” His tone was not really ‘lets get this over with’, but one of ‘how do we proceed from here’?”
“Well, to really get it right, I need some measurements using these calipers,” I showed him the aluminum prongs that are used to measure dimension and proportion, in his case, to measure life size. One to one.
“How does that work?” he was looking at the prongs.
“If you don’t mind, I’ll show you.” I took the calipers and moved towards his face. I felt Bill tense up from the corner. I measured pupil center to pupil center then compared that to the clay model. Perfect match. I knew better than to take credit. I laughed a muffled cough.
“What?” He was curious.
“We’re right on. The measurements are perfect. Your eyes are the right distance apart.” He could hear the surprised tone of my voice.
“Aren’t they supposed to be?” He looked at me and I looked back. He seemed less surprised than I did, as though it was meant to be.
As we worked on, I made other measurements, checked facial landmarks, and found some off. The head size was right but some of the structures were just off the mark. The visit was crucial.
“I’ve got your ears a little too far forward on the sides of your head. I’m gonna have to slice them off and move them a little.” I took out a carving knife, the perfect weapon for moving large chunks of clay.
Without a word, he reached up and covered his own ears. The kitchen laughed before I had seen his gesture. In that short time, the iron was heating up. I knew I had to strike and I worked feverishly while the man sat in the comfortable chair with the good light, confirming the angles. “Dr. G, how you feeling this morning?” I heard the friendly voice of a man entering the back door and into the makeshift studio. “Miz Ruth, you’re up early.”
Maury Scobee was never far away from his employer of twenty-five years. He knew more about what the man after God’s own heart did day to day than the man did himself. This was one adventure, however, that even Maury was unaware of. Did Ruth keep a good secret? I never thought it would get this far, not really. There we all were. The secret was out.
“Wow!” Maury walked over to the bust. “I’m Maury. This is just incredible.” I shook hands with a man anybody would immediately like. “How did all this happen? Miz Ruth, what have you been up to?” He looked over to the man in the chair and smiled. The boss smiled back to his personal manager, confidant, and friend.
Ruth shared the story and Maury studied the portrait. Up close. Then he back deeper into the kitchen to get a different look, passing by Eudora and Andy sitting side by side on the breakfast table.
“Look at these. Dr. G, have you seen this?”
“I brought them to show what a finished bronze looks like. The Eudora Welty work I just thought Miz Ruth might enjoy seeing. I plan to take it to the foundry with this new piece for casting.”
“What do ya think, Dr. G?” Maury pointed to the clay head of the Pulitzer Prize winning author.
“I thought it was Eleanor Roosevelt,” he answered from the wingback chair.
“You know, I hadn’t thought of that but I can sort of see it. I’ll tell you this though, as I drove up here yesterday, I kept noticing these cars passing, even truckers, staring over at me. Looking back sometimes. I first wondered if something was wrong with the car. Then it hit me, they were looking at you and Eudora riding on that back seat platform looking out the windows. I know there’ve been no scandals in this ministry, but I can see the headlines now, ‘Billy Graham spotted in Alabama with another woman’.”
I heard Ruth snicker over by the sink as she looked out the window across the treetops. A subtle smile grew across the lips of her seventy-nine year old partner. Amazing Grace. Somewhere along my road, I had finally heard the words and not just the sound of them. It was cool and it was March and God had dropped me off at Little Piney Cove for the morning.
With a wire loop I scored a thin layer of clay from the contour of the left ear. Then I palpated his left ear. Back and forth. That’s how I do it. He understood. Later we walked out onto the stone steps to use natural light for the photos. I squatted down and clicked the shutter, looking for the angles. I felt the nudge of the big dog and I looked up towards the man after God’s own heart. I saw her glance out the paned window surely reflecting on their long life together. She smiled towards him as he peered into the distance and she knew. He was just here for a visit.