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Sonoma Stories: Spared by the Nuns fire, a horse of steel and redwood is bound for Geyserville

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Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

When Bryan Tedrick’s horse survived the Nuns fire in Sonoma Valley seven months ago, a collective sigh arose from the town of Geyserville well to the north.

The day flames surged down timbered hills toward Glen Ellen and Kenwood, sculptor Tedrick was three-quarters finished making a massive, muscular and bristling horse of salvaged heavy-gauge steel and redwood. Nationally recognized, Tedrick is perhaps best known to fellow Valley of the Moon residents and to fans of Burning Man and Wilson Artisan Wineries.

His horse, 25 feet tall, was commissioned for $100,000 by art-appreciative people in Geyserville who envision it forever rearing up alongside Highway 101 at the town’s southern gateway, delighting passersby and perhaps enticing some to pull off and drop in.

Tedrick’s heart was leaden when, shortly after the fires, he drove to where he was building the piece in a field on Nuns Canyon Road.

The sculptor feared that if the unique slabs and chunks of redwood in the horse were destroyed or badly damaged, there might be no satisfactory way to replace them.

He discovered the firestorm had indeed blown right through his work space. But, thankfully, he’d earlier cleared the grass from around the in-progress horse, and had regularly hosed it down.

His spirits lifted as he approached it. “It suffered minimal damage,” he said.

He celebrated by adding to the piece, here and there, subtle steel elements suggestive of flame.

The horse now is finished and joins the other forceful, outsized animals in the 62-year-old Tedrick’s portfolio:

Coyote, locked in a cry outside of Wilson Winery on Dry Creek Road, and Lord Snort, the charging boar that resides at Ken and Diane Wilson’s Soda Rock Winery on Highway 128 in Alexander Valley. There’s also Spread Eagle, the great wings that Erik Garcia purchased for his Wine Country Garden Center in Sonoma.

Both Coyote and Lord Snort sojourned at Geyserville before Tedrick trucked them to their permanent homes at the Wilson wineries.

The horse soon will become the most visible of all his creations.

The afternoon of May 20, members of the Geyserville Community Foundation will welcome the public to a dedication of the piece in the sculpture park immediately east of 101. It will become part of the Geyserville and Cloverdale Sculpture Trail.

The Geyserville celebration, set for 2 to 5 p.m., will feature music, refreshments, a color guard and a blessing of the horse. The event’s highlight will likely be the announcement of the sculpture’s name.

“I am the only person on Earth who knows the name,” said Victoria Heiges, the prime mover behind the community effort to raise money to bring a Bryan Tedrick sculpture to town, permanently.

Late last year, Heiges put out a call for suggested names. And at Geyserville’s Fall Festival & Vintage Car Show, she invited people to vote for one of those names, or to write in one.

Her tabulation revealed a clear winner.

Heiges is eager for Tedrick to deliver the horse in three pieces and assemble it for the May 20 dedication — and for the sculpture to become part of Geyserville’s landscape.

While the horse will no doubt attract attention to the town of about 1,000, Heiges said, “What I really like is that it will start conversations.”

Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

With the placement of the horse, sculptor Tedrick, whose earlier, smaller public works include the horse outside Santa Rosa City Hall, the sphere at Oakmont’s Berger Center, the gate at the Sacramento Convention Center and the bike rack on the Sonoma Plaza, will be free to start a new project.

He’s thinking it may be another winery animal for Ken Wilson.

“He wants a bear,” the artist said.