Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Thunderbolt" completed

All the kids knew the stories about the horse called Thunderbolt. He was big and strong, with a unique style of bucking, and a strong dislike of humans. Thunderbolt was a mechanical horse that sat in front of the dime store, beautiful and shiny, like a magnet for cowboys and cowgirls! But something in his eye, something you felt when you touched him, gave you pause….made you shiver, even on a warm day. Babies and little kids would sense danger almost immediately, when their parents would plop them in the saddle, and they would cry loudly until removed to safety! One day he lurched to life and kicked a second-grader into a shopping cart, spraining the boy’s wrist and causing him to speak about himself in the third person for nearly a week! The grown-ups said it was probably an electrical short that made it start like that….but we knew better! Some kids said the stains on the base were from spilled kool aid or a cherry Icee….others said it was the blood of those kids thrown from the saddle and trampled under his hooves! Only the best dared to climb in this saddle, those heroes blessed with a combination of bravery and foolishness, those cowpokes who would challenge the horse called Thunderbolt!
Play can be pretty serious, when you‘re a kid! Your imagination breathes life and nobility and heroics into all kinds of things and your world has many adventures. This carving, this toy, is an attempt to capture that spirit, that joy, that realistic thrill that we experienced while playing. I grew up in the country, with woods and creeks and pastures, and herds of kids who galloped and fought and built forts and hideouts and played pretty much full-time until we were forced to come inside! A stick was a horse, a spear, a rifle, or a pistol, depending on how you held it, and our heroes were Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger. The good guys always won, but it always seemed like both sides were the “good guys”. I hope looking at this piece, watching it move, or playing with it, will make you smile; will remind you of adventures that you once had. I hope you will remember the time when you rode “Thunderbolt”.

This piece is approximately 20”tall and 12” wide, and is made from basswood, pine, and birch plywood. It is finished with acrylic paint, gold leaf, satin polyurethane, and has some leather and metal accents

Here is a video of it in action and a link to more pictures. Thanks for looking!


  1. mike
    great job you nailed it, great idea. Keep em coming.

  2. I love the "random action" of the bucking. Could you add a drawing for better photo of the mechanism so we can see how you did that?

  3. The random action is primarily due to the operator.....If you look toward the end of the video you will see me turning at differnt speeds, reversing the direction I'm turning, and finally just rocking the gears back and forth. That's part of what draws you in, that you can make him buck in different ways. I'll be glad to draw out the mechanism if you still want it.