Soon after the once-beautiful, 40-year old Juniper tree tumbled to the ground in a pile of chopped branches and twigs, artist Russ Riendeau recalls the sight of the fire pit full of random cuttings and branches ready to be set ablaze when one large branch caught his attention: a shape that resembled the silhouette of a wild horse. He reached into the tangled web of wood and saved the limb, setting it aside.
Over the next year, he worked diligently with the limb, removing layers of bark and stems — “Anything that wasn’t a horse”, as Russ explains. After 50-plus hours with saws, hammers, shaping tools, chisels, hasps, dremels, drills, and sandpaper, the image of “Juniper’s Fire” emerged.
Once finished with special teak oil, he transported it to a foundry in Oregon, Illinois to be cast into a very limited edition (7) bronze piece. The “lucky” number 7 was chosen not just of the limb’s own good fortune being saved from the fire, but from a remarkable event just a few days before.
A photographer friend of Russ’s, who had taken some marketing photos of the piece at his shop, called to say Russ could pick up the sculpture at his shop after work. With rush-hour traffic and wet snow falling on a cold damp night, Russ remembers thinking twice about the 30-minute drive, considering stopping by the next day, but recalled, “He’d done me the favor of taking the pictures right away, so the right thing to do would be to just go tonight and get it over with.”
As Russ arrived, the smell of engine exhaust fumes hung in the air of the building. His friend’s dog, which normally jumped up to great him, was unusually sedate and calm, and his friend was moving very slowly and seeming confused. Russ called 911 and opened doors for fresh air, moving his friend and dog to outside. Upon arrival, firefighters found dangerous levels of CO2 in the building — a result of one of the tenants running trucks in the building with the doors closed. Firefighters also rescued another man in a remote office in the same building who was in need of attention.
Russ recalled after his drive home how he was overcome with tears — realizing that the person the firefighters found in the remote office may well have died had it not been for events put in motion nearly a year before. Russ was “lucky” enough to be in the right place and time to smell the fumes and call for help, all for having seen the image of a horse’s silhouette in a pile of juniper.
Juniper’s Fire, now also nicknamed “Lucky Buck”, is limited to a (lucky) 7 editions. Russ can’t swear to it, but wouldn’t be surprised at all if it might bring those 7 new owners good fortune, as it already has for him, his friend, his friend’s dog, and the rescued stranger in the remote office. Those interested in owning an edition of Juniper’s Fire may contact Russ at 847.363.9789.