Volume 5, Number 10, Winter 1975-76
If you live in Ozark county and decide to try your hand at creating a replica in a baffle, what more logical choice for your art than a mill? Thats what Ralph P. Laughlin, caretaker at the Zanom Mill Farm property near here, chose for his first effort at bottle art.
A talented man with a piece of wood and a knife, Laughlin has long found a satisfying outlet in carving birds and animals from a variety of wood. He became interested in bottle art one day while examining a wooden stopper designed so that a side piece kept it form being removed.
"I decided that I could make a stopper like that and checked books on bottle art, but Im no Navy man, Im an ex-Marine and I didnt have any interest in building a ship model in a bottle
so I chose to do the mill," Laughlin said.
The bottle Laughlin chose is bell shaped with a long neck and pale green in color. He fashioned the mill and millwheel to scale. But instead of constructing the model in a flat fashion to be pulled into shape with strings after it was in the bottle, he dropped pieces of the model into the bottle and erected the mill in this fashion.
Because of the long neck of the bottle, he had to make the tools he used, shaping long wires with hooks and tweezers with breakline and wire.
For his base, he used putty dyed with green food coloring, pebbles from the mill area and achieved a forested effect with lichen. To keep the interior of the bottle sparkling, he used long swabs.
The roof of the mill is made from pieces of an aluminum frozen dinner tray, cut and grooved to resemble the roof on the recently refurbished mill. The putty base Laughlin arranged to resemble the ground where Zanoni Mill sits and he placed the mill model so that it resembles its natural relation to the ground.
Laughlins knowledge of the mill developed during the past three years while he was in charge of rebuilding the mill and other property at Zanoni for the Gramex Corp., Hazelwood, after the corporation acquired the property from the A. P. Morrison heirs in 1970.
The mill in the bottle is painted green and white just as the remodeled mill is now painted. The mill had been painted these colors at one time during the years A. P. Morrison was miller, storekeeper and postmaster at Zanoni. The mill building dates from 1905.
This month, a grandson of A. P. Morrison, and his wife, Mary, purchased the property from Gramex Corp. The Morrisons live in Logan, Kans., and Laughlin will continue as caretaker of the property, one of the duties he held under Gramex when 40,000 pines were planted on the hills surrounding the mill and acreage was cleared for a Hereford and Angus cattle operation.
Laughlin, who had been on the Springfield city police force before he and his family moved to Zanoni in 1973, had served in the Marine
Corps, including a 13-month hitch in Vietnam. He has an associate degree in law enforcemental corrections from Drury college in Springfield.
Laughlin and his wife, Tanya, have two children, Kathy, 11, and Steve, 5. Mrs. Laughlin, a licensed practical nurse, is employed at the Ozark County Health Center, and Laughlin, along with his management duties, does substitute teaching at Dora.
Laughlin, who likes to work with his hands, discovered his talent for wood carving when he was eight years old and whittled out a toy truck for his sister. "I guess it was good," he said, "at least people could tell what it was."
One of his works, a carving of an ibex with its long feet and bill as supports, won third prize one year at Ozark Empire Fair in Springfield.
After the toy truck, the next venture here members especially were decorated pistol grips for his girl, now Mrs. Laughlin. The grips were decorated with her initials and a heart and his initials in the stylized pattern he uses to sign all of his work.
He has checkered gunstocks for family members and recently added a decoration he calls "the screaming eagle."
Laughlin said he liked to do direct carving in wood, using only a picture as a model. The structure and shape of the wood gives distinction and variety to the work he is carving, he said.
He said he found carving a way of relaxation. a combination of working with his mind and hands that was satisfying because he was creating something to be enjoyed.
He uses walnut, mahogany, cedar and pine mainly and he enjoys bringing out the beauty of the wood in animal and bird forms especially.
His talent for mass, ratio and detail is shown in the carvings he recently has done of an owl in cedar, a wolf in walnut and a stylized goat in mahogany.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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