Pickering Lions Club’s Bob Whipple explains Dean Heflin’s walnut wood carving, Bucking Bronco, to the Pickering Community Building, April 18. Other Lions at the event are Donna Smith, Charles Smith, Michael Clements, Martin Farnan, Stuart Clements, Jerry Rousch and Gary Vogel. Not pictured are Junior Rousch and Bob Colville.

Dean Heflin, Pickering, donated one of his wood carvings, Bucking Bronco, to the Pickering Community Building, April 18.

Heflin picked the piece he thought would fit because “Pickering is a horse show town.” The story of the carving started in 1900 when Heflin’s grandfather cut walnut trees on his property. He had the walnut cut into boards and stored it in a barn for 30 years.

In the 1930s, his grandfather took the better boards to a furniture maker and had two bedroom suites, consisting of dresser, bed and chest of drawers, made for his two daughters. Heflin still has one of the sets. The extra wood was used to line a grainary for his uncle.

When his uncle moved to town, Heflin and his brother tore out the walnut. Heflin has used the wood for his carving projects. Bucking Bronco was carved in 1973 and he estimates it took him 50 hours to complete.

Heflin started carving when his mother gave him ivory soap bars to practice on. He went from that to twigs and branches. He started carving in earnest about 1970. Besides wood, he carves in cow bone, boar tusk and jade which he picks up at gem and mineral shows. His favorite medium is jade.

Heflin is self-taught. He says his secret is time, by not hurrying and carefully taking his time, he comes up with his works of art. He starts with a pattern and then looks for the wood or media to fit. He has stories about most of his pieces.

Three bears carved from jade along with a salmon carved from bone set on a rock Heflin had found. He is pleased with this piece and the rock on which the tableau is placed matches a photo he later found in a magazine.

His Sodbuster piece tells the story of the pioneers breaking the prairie sod. The detail shows the overturned ground, a mule with a man walking behind it. Following them is a bony dog looking for mice or other critters. Each character has a name.


He donated several of his wood pieces to the Remington Nature Center in St. Joseph. Other of his pieces have gone to friends and relatives. Heflin has quit his carving endeavours as he is unsure what will happen to his completed projects.