Clyde Jones and his critters

Just when I thought the fun in North Carolina had come to an end my lovely friend, Becca, said that I had to see Clyde Jones’ crazy sculptures before I went home.

We got in the car one afternoon and drove for about an hour or more. I had no idea where we were heading, but we ended up in a tiny (dot-on-the-map) town called Bynum, NC. It was actually less than “a town” – more like a sprinkling of houses along a country road. There was a general store that was open only occasionally and a small public building, and that was it. Driving through Clyde’s ‘hood, I noticed that just about every house had a wooden sculpture in front.  Many sculptures were reindeer, festooned with lights. It must be quite a cheerful scene in the dark days of winter.

The creatures

We parked the car and walked towards Clyde’s wee house.  The front porch was papered with photographs of people who had stopped by for a visit and the front and back yard hosted a menagerie of sculptures. There were reindeer, giraffes, pigs, alligators (lots),  horse-like critters with saddles, and Santa. All were glorious fantasy shades of pink, turquoise, green, blue, and polka-dots.  We took a quick tour of the yard when Becca suggested that we knock on the door and say hello. (Canadians don’t do that type of thing. We’re more inclined to drive by, maybe twice, and look without pointing. We would never knock on a stranger’s door just to say howdy-do. ) But I managed to sidle up to the front porch while she knocked on the door.

A minute went by without any movement from within. Then the door cracked open and the gentleman himself – Clyde Jones – stood at the door. (A dark cavern loomed behind him and my mind turned to the three horror films I have seen in my life.) However, Clyde was very gracious and delighted that we had dropped by to see his critters. We were invited to spend some time exploring his collection.

We amused ourselves in the garden before Clyde came out to meet us. Then a neighbour dropped by to join the gathering. Becca is a graduate student with a keen interest in NC history and sociology. She was engaged in an intelligent conversation with Clyde et al while I stood there mute, dripping with sweat, wondering how to get out of the blistering sun. As far as I could figure, it was about 180 degrees Fahrenheit that day, but they didn’t seem to notice. They thought it was kind of amusing that we northerners can’t stand the heat.

Clyde began his wood work many years ago after an injury at the mill. He is very proud of his sculptures, and apparently refuses to sell them. As I understand it, he will give sculptures to friends, but won’t sell them. He has been asked to sell sculptures to NY buyers, but isn’t interested in that market. He laughs at the absurdity (to him) of taking his sculptures to an exhibit in NYC. But I can understand why everyone would like to take a creature-sculpture home with them. They are charming, amusing, quirky, and certainly every child’s vision of “good art.”

Clyde seems happy enough just making his sculptures out of found pieces of wood and does it “just because he likes doing it”.

I wondered how I would get a sculpture home to Vancouver if I became “a friend” of Clyde Jones. How would I describe my bulky package to the Customs Officers? We left with a promise to drop by again, and mail him a photo to pin to his porch.  Driving out of Bynum, I was impressed by the number of friends that Clyde has. If I ever visit Clyde again, I’m going to take note of which neighbours don’t have a sculpture, and ask him for the details of the dispute.