LUMBERTON - The large tree stump at Main and Landing Streets had bothered Tommy Shover since he took down the rest of the diseased red oak about five years ago.
What could he do with it?
As general foreman of Lumberton's public works department, he could saw it off to the ground - or he could ask his brother Guy to turn it into a work of art.
And that's what happened Sunday while a small crowd watched mesmerized. Motorists opened their windows to offer praise every time the corner traffic light turned red.
Over about 10 hours, the eyesore became a graceful bird in flight, the inner wood grain beautifully mimicking the feathers of the wings.
"It's drawn a lot of attention to this corner," said Guy Shover, 47, a sculptor from Clam, Va., who was visiting his mother, Rhoda, in Lumberton over the holidays.
"It's been fun for me," said the former Medford resident. "I'd prefer doing this than anything."
Shover said his brother Tommy called him about a week before his visit to suggest the possibility of transforming the stump.
"A little birdie told me to ask my brother about it," Tommy Shover said.
So when the sculptor arrived, he was ready to go to work, equipped with a chain saw, power carving tool, and files to chip away at the hard, red wood.
But what would he create?
The idea came to the brothers about the same time.
As they were leaving the public works building to check out the stump, "a big red-tailed hawk jumped in front of us," Guy Shover said. "It took off from a telephone pole."
The hawk "hangs out around public works," said Tommy Shover. "He's always there."
On Saturday night, the project was on the minds of both brothers.
"It's labor intensive, and I couldn't sleep last night," Guy Shover said Sunday.
The work ahead was also keeping Tommy Shover up. How would it turn out?
On Sunday afternoon, he got his answer as passersby and motorists offered nonstop compliments. "I think it's excellent," he said with a smile.
The work was difficult. The hard wood dulled the sculptor's blades, but the transformation was dramatic.
Many times, "I wanted to get out of my truck and cut that stump down," said one motorist who briefly pulled over to get a better look. "This looks good."
Others stopped to take photos.
Then it was mom's turn.
Rhoda Shover got out of her car to inspect her son's work.
"That really looks like what it's supposed to be," she said. "It looks like it belongs here."
Guy Shover, who usually works in bronze, would have preferred to spend more time on the sculpture but said, "I got the form I like," while covered in wood chips. "I would probably have more detail, but this is selling it for me."
Tommy Shover coated the sculpture with a water sealant to protect it, further accentuating the grain, as several people stood with Guy, marveling at the change.
"I can't thank him enough," Tommy Shover said.