Community spirit grows from fallen oak tree at Pleasant Valley Primary

Sept. 7, 2023

Crews work on cutting down an oak tree

Last April, crews cut down a dying oak tree on the Pleasant Valley Primary School campus

Since the Pleasant Valley campus opened in 1976, two red oak trees have stood in the front yard of the primary school. But last spring, an arborist noticed that the larger of the two was showing signs of decay. Chains were added to prevent limbs from breaking, but it was clear the tree would have to be removed for the safety of the students and staff.

“I knew this wasn’t a little thing to our community,” said Principal Craig Pearson, “so I reached out to our parents and staff asking for ideas on how we could preserve the culture and community the tree represented.”

Enter Mike Bryson, a part-time local artist and father of three Pleasant Valley Primary students.

“My wife saw the message (from the school) and said, ‘You need to hear this!’” Bryson recalled. “We jumped right on it. Sent the school some pictures of our other work, got the OK to do it and then we came out and saw the tree and… it was big.”

Bryson was there when the massive tree was brought down with a resounding crash. Around 9 feet of the trunk were left to work with. Bryson, who often works with his identical twin brother, Patrick, started with sketchings. The twins then “blocked out” their creation in chalk before setting to work with chainsaws and, eventually, carving tools.

“Oak is a really hard wood,” Mike said. “There were a few times I was scared I wasn’t going to be able to get it done. It took a lot of sharpening, but we got through it.”

Man cutting stump

Mike Bryson begins work on turning the stump of an oak tree into a work of art

This was Mike’s first solo chainsaw carving, though he has helped Patrick on some projects as part of Bryson Art Design, a business they run together.

During the school’s spring carnival, Mike and Patrick roped off the area and worked on the statue while families looked on. At that point, students referred to the carving as the “Minecraft beaver,” because it looked similar to blocky characters in the popular video game.

Patrick and Mike Bryson pose with their Buddy the Beaver wood carving

Patrick Bryson (left) and his twin brother Mike pose with the new Buddy the Beaver statue they helped carve

Slowly, the figure took shape until, just in time for back-to-school night, the school’s longtime mascot, Buddy the Beaver, stood waving atop the stump of that once-mighty oak tree. Bryson estimates it took around 46 hours of his spare time to carve the beaver over the summer. All volunteer work, just to leave a legacy at Pleasant Valley Primary for future generations.

“My youngest daughter asked me, ‘Are you famous?’” Bryson laughed. “It’s been pretty cool to hear them telling the other students, ‘My dad made that.’”


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