“Bobcat Bob” Schrage Revisited

Bob Schrage, longtime resident of Fairfield Bay, now residing in iowa, shows some of his whittled works of art for a feature story in the Nevada Journal /Tri-County Times newspaper. Photo and article furnished by Nathan Cook, Staff Writer at Nevada Journal.

By Nate Cook, Staff writer at the Nevada Journal. Bob Schrage was once known to most people as “Bobcat Bob.” But that was a different time, when the Iowa native was living in Arkansas, and working as a fishing guide for a local marina. “I was interested in Bobcat work. I kept busy landscaping,” and doing other odd jobs with the machine, he said. It was one of those odd jobs that would lead him into his hobby for the past decade — whittling wood. “A friend of mine was going to build a garage — and he said ‘I’m not going to pay you, but I’m going to give you something that you are too tight to buy for yourself’,” Schrage said. So he oversaw the construction of his friends’ garage, and in return he was given a set of wood chisels imported from Germany. “I didn’t want to disappoint him,” Schrage said, “so I thought I better whittle something for him; and that’s how I got started.” Schrage was originally from Allison, Iowa, about 90 miles northeast of Nevada, and was a farmer by trade. Schrage spent about 30 years of his life raising feeder pigs, and proved to be exceptional at his trade, winning the 1972 Iowa Pork Producer of the Year award. After he won his producer of the year award, he decided it was time to move on to something else. “I was always interested in fishing,” he said, so he decided to put that passion to work and became a fishing guide at a local marina. Opposite his wall of wood carvings hang several of his most impressive catches, including a 17 pound 2 ounce walleye he caught at Greers Ferry Lake. While Schrage seems to excel at everything he tries, what is possibly most impressive about his whittling skill is that he has no background in art or design—he’s just spent the last decade learning as he goes. “I was so fascinated with the hobby that I couldn’t quit,” he said. In order to get his designs done correctly, he bases them off of pictures, which he measures to get correct proportions, or other objects, such as porcelain sculptures. The large cowgirl that now stands on the corner of his entertainment center at Windsor Manor is impressive, but it’s not even close to the largest of his creations—that record goes to the eight-foot bear that stands outside an Arkansas home. “Lightning hit a tree and killed it—I had them cut the tree down to nine feet to be even with the eaves of the house,” Schrage said. In order to whittle the tree trunk down, he had to build a staging around it so he could start the top-down process of forming the bear. The work took him almost an entire winter, and when he was done he adorned it with polished deer antlers for teeth, much like the ones he used for the horns on his wall-mounted bull’s head that can be seen in the picture above. Of course, whittling the figure is only half the work. “It takes about as much time to finish them as it does to whittle them,” he said. Once the figure has been created he uses a rasp (a file-like tool used to even the wood), and “a lot” of sandpaper to smooth the wood out. Despite his apparent talent at creating wooden works of art, Schrage could only recall one time that he sold one of his creations. “I had a friend that owned a Ready Mix business and also raised chickens. He wanted to know if I could whittle him a rooster. I said I had never done it before, but I would give it a try — he was so impressed with it he gave me $250 dollars for it,” he said. Instead of selling his works, Schrage keeps whittling as a personal hobby to pass the time. “I get so involved in them I don’t even know what time of the day it is,” he laughed.

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