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The Codger Pole.

Megabuck salaries notwithstanding, fame is fleeting for most football players. Not so for these 51.

Enter Colfax, Washington, on Highway 195, look about 30 yards over toward the town's unusual concrete riverbed, and you will see the Codger Pole, only memorial of its kind in America, and an appropriate one for a timber town.

The memorial is actually a bundle of five cedar logs, each 22 to 36 inches in diameter, bound together and standing vertically, with an 18-foot Ponderosa pine topping them. Chainsaw sculptor Jonathan LaBenne of Idyllwild, California, painstakingly recreated on the poles the faces of 51 players in a 1938 football game between Colfax and St. John high schools who met 50 years later for a rematch.

Completed about a year ago and officially named the Codger Pole in dedication ceremonies, the creation is the largest chainsaw sculpture of human likenesses in the world, according to LaBenne. "It may even be the largest chainsaw sculpture of any kind," he said. The pole is also thought to be the largest football monument in the world.

LaBenne carved all 51 faces, as well as the generic bearded "codger" toppiece from which the memorial took its name, entirely with chainsaws in a variety of sizes. He did do some smoothing with an electric sander before applying paint and wood preservative, though. "With application of a preservative coating every three years," the sculptor said, "I'm hoping this will last for 500 years."

The faces at the tops of the poles are larger overall than those at the bottoms, in order to give the ground-bound viewer the proper perspective. "The first faces were seven feet tall and took about three days each to carve," said LaBenne. "At the halfway point, each face was 42 inches tall and I could do two a day."

Most of the 51 players actually climbed up onto a scaffold and posed for the sculptor. For those who couldn't be present, photographic likenesses were used. To establish the positions of all 51, each facial site was assigned a number and then the players drew matching numbers from a hat.

The monument was the brainstorm of John Crawford, a local resident and one of the Colfax High players on that 1938 team that lost to archrival St. John. He was also the organizer of the Codger Bowl rematch 50 years later, which brought the town national attention.

"Crawford first saw me carving on a TV program in Los Angeles, and called me to commission the art," said LaBenne. "I quoted him a price of $150,000, but we finally settled on much less. He arranged donation of the logs and other things we needed, and a place for me and my family to stay in Colfax during the nearly three months it took to complete the project."

LaBenne, 35, learned to wield a chainsaw while working for the U.S. Forest Service and began carving with it nine years ago.

His Codger Pole is the centerpiece of a new town square that has built up around it, putting little Colfax on the map in a most unusual way.

Bob Loeffelbein lives in Clarkston, Washington, and covers subjects in the Pacific Northwest.
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:memorial for football players in Colfax, WA
Author:Loeffelbein, Bob
Publication:American Forests
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Words:532
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