Wesley’s Merganser

Dewey discovered Wesley, an older man who lived with his wife in a trailer east of Mount Pleasant. Dewey built Wesley a little studio at one end so Wesley could continue his work after he’d been ill and couldn’t get around quite like he used to. Wesley’s wife has since died, followed recently by Wesley himself. I met him a few months prior, just before Christmas, about a year ago, when he gave me a blackbird he’d carved. He was in a wheelchair by then, but cheerful and hospitable. I was moved by the modest circumstances in which Wesley created such prolific and impressive art.

I have always loved Wesley’s work–usually carved life-size, or even larger–and I’ve seen quite a bit of it, from the woodpecker Dewey gave me many Christmases ago to full-size bears to sharks to porcupines, all carved roughly and painted without much fuss, but oddly winsome. I don’t usually like carved animals, but Wesley’s charm me way past resistance.

This merganser was the only Wesley that I could afford in the Tamarack that day, but I fell in love with it. For one thing, I knew what it was and I was pleased that Wesley must have known as well. (So many people see Mergansers flocking on Lake Michigan but never really look at them.) I think I paid under a $100 for it. It must be a hardwood–quite heavy for its 16 x 14 size. I think he has a look in his glass eye, which I didn’t quite catch in my painting, that says he knows something he knows I’d like to know, and if I hang around long enough, someday he might just tell me.