When students returned Thursday at Smith-Cotton Junior High School, they saw many familiar images at the iconic campus, with two soon-to-be traditions to admire.
In two of the 100-year-old trees on the grounds, carvings were completed to show the Tiger pride of the school.
“Several years ago we had two trees on the grounds that had been showing signs of splits in their trunks,” Principal Jason Curry said. “They started to drop some large limbs and we knew there were safety concerns with the numbers of students who are on campus going to and from lunch and to the gym.
“We had the trees topped but the lineage of them goes back a long time and we knew we wanted to do something other than completely remove the trees,” Curry added. “That’s when we came up with the idea of having the trunks carved.”
The idea seemed simple but finding someone to actually do the work proved to be rather difficult.
“The hardest part was actually finding someone to do the carving for us,” Curry said. “I did some research on the Internet and I found a man from the St. Louis area who was willing to come down and do the work.”
Ryan Meyer of the Wood Den came to Sedalia to tackle the project July 13 and 14.
“It took him a lot of time, but he was able to complete the work in two days for us,” Curry said. “All he used were some chain saws with varying lengths of blades and some scaffolding but that was all he needed.”
Curry said Meyer went back and forth between the Pecan tree, located closest to the FEMA Building, and the Elm tree in front of the gymnasium throughout the time he spent on the job.
“He actually finished the Elm first, which is the smaller of the two tress, but it had more knots in it and the lettering in it was more intricate,” Curry said. “I thought it would be harder to do because we varied the lettering up a little bit from the large block style he used in the Pecan,” he added.
So far, the reaction to the tree art has been very positive, Curry said.
“The students have been really intrigued by them, and the alumni and community seemed pleased too,” Curry said. “I’ve seen a lot of posts by former students on social media.
“Homecoming is Sept. 16 and a lot of people are planning on coming back to the school for visits,” he added. “When he carved the letters in the in the Pecan he positioned them so they are in view of the bell on the grounds.”
There is a tradition at the school that whenever the staff and students celebrate a victory they stand in front of the bell for a photograph.
“We have a tradition of celebrating our victories here, no matter what they are, of taking a picture with everyone involved lined up by the bell,” Curry said. “Now we will not only be able to see the bell but ‘Tigers’ in the picture, which is a neat addition to our tradition.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.