Local Dinosaur Folk Art

I came across this rockin’ dino in the driveway of a house in Gill, Massachusetts, next to where a town fair was held a few Augusts ago. The rocker was made by the late Mr. Shebell, who used to teach shop at the high school. Extremely handy with a set of tools, he built the house several decades ago, including beautifully fitted word-work on the inside, like a little jewel box.

The house is situated on land hugging one side of Barton Cove, just above the falls at Turners Falls/Gill. The cove is the site of some of the best dinosaur footprint fossils excavated during the excitement of discovery and speculation over their origins in the mid-19th century. One of Mr. Shebell’s sons took me around back to see slabs of tracks lying around the yard. Dinosaur footprints had been an unremarkable part of the Shebell tribe’s growing up years. Mr. Shebell made the rocker for his kids. I wonder if they realized back then how cool it was to have a rocking dino instead of a rocking horse.

It’s a wonderful piece of local folk art that has a special connection to a once-obscure part of local history, so I bought it on the spot. The wood is fairly well dried out, so I will get help in treating it before it becomes too brittle.

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