National Geographic : 1975 Jul
T4 T E WERE RAISING CHICKENS at the time," Ivan Denton says of the f Early 1950's, when he began to turn a * lifetime hobby of wood carving into extra cash. He had come to the Ozarks from North Carolina by way of Canada, Alaska, and New Mexico, where as a cowboy he worked the spirit of the West into his bones. His first carvings sold for a dollar apiece. Then, "chickens started going down, and I saw I couldn't supply the demand for carv ings part time, so I just kept on carving." He put a lot of wood behind him-10,000 carvings in the first ten years. That appren ticeship led to fewer but more complex pieces, such as the four-inch-high "Drifter" (above), whose features resemble his own. Ivan sets up shop anywhere on his place and carves (left) while he talks with friends like Phil Casey, sometime bronc and bull rider who now works in a city. For that, Ivan says, "I pity him." Ivan's herd of wooden animals are doing better than live chickens ever did. His at home show in the fall of 1974 saw one buyer pay $1,125 for a three-horse set. Another carving of a cowboy shoeing a horse went for 300 bales of hay, two cows, and a heifer. "Now I've whittled my way back into the cow business, I guess," Ivan says. "As a mat ter of fact, I've whittled just about everything I've got."