Oklahoma Watches and Warnings

‘Wet Willie’s’ biggest project ever: This Oklahoma carver takes on a 10-foot tall bear

EL RENO, Okla.-- It's been a couple of months since Willie Chadwick dragged a charred Douglas Fir from Colorado into the back of his workshop on Route 66.

"I go with whatever walks in the door," he quips. "This was breathtaking."

We were there for some of the first cuts with his 20-inch chainsaw.

"That's a whole tree," remarked his visitor.

"Yeah," he replied. "It's a tree."

'Wet Willie', as he's known around town, had been thinking about what he could do with this tree ever since he got the commission from another El Reno business owner who had a cabin in Colorado, and a spot on his property for a waving bear.

Chadwick says, "Every night I'd go to sleep and dream about this big old bear. I cut this bear a dozen times before it ever got here."

Willie argues that he spent his whole life preparing for something like this.

He was a welder for the Rock Island Railroad, a painter of biker gas tanks, a t-shirt designer, then 6 years as a carver of smaller bears with his chainsaw.

"None of my bears look alike," he says. "They all have a different personality."

Over the course of three different visits, his waving bear came out through smaller and smaller cuts.

He continues, "This is not work, Galen. This is love. When I come up here to my man cave, I'm in heaven."

He figures on a little over 40 hours total, a few more to get the clear coat on.

His last step, to carve his initials into the biggest project he's ever taken on.

"At the very bottom, I've got to put W.W. for Wet Willie," he says.

'Wet Willie' got his nickname from friends who said his finished artwork kept shining long after they were complete.

He insists his big bear will shine too, waving at no one and everyone from his mountain perch.

"I wish I could keep him," says Willie. "There's a lot of me in him. I think I love him."

Willie's big bear will be tipped on his side, and loaded on a trailer headed for Colorado in the next few weeks.

To follow its progress or see more 'Wet Willie carvings, go to his Facebook page.

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