A year after his studio burned down, this carver's wooden statue overlooks the Williams Lake Stampede grounds

·2 min read
Carver Ken Sheen pictured next to the new cow boss statue at its unveiling ceremony in Williams Lake, B.C., on Tuesday. The statue overlooks the stampede grounds. (Submitted by Walt Cobb - image credit)
Carver Ken Sheen pictured next to the new cow boss statue at its unveiling ceremony in Williams Lake, B.C., on Tuesday. The statue overlooks the stampede grounds. (Submitted by Walt Cobb - image credit)

A new wooden statue has been installed in Williams Lake more than a year after a fire burned down the carver's original version.

On Tuesday afternoon, the City of Williams Lake held an unveiling ceremony for the new Cow Boss statue overlooking the Williams Lake Stampede grounds.

It is the third statue built and intended for the location. The first, made of laminated pine, collapsed in June 2020 due to rot, after overlooking the stampede grounds for 15 years.

The second — and the original replacement — caught fire from a wood stove at carver Ken Sheen's workshop, located off Highway 97 near McLeese Lake. It burned the same day it was scheduled to be delivered.

The fire reached heights of about 80 feet tall, and also burned other sculptures and tools, according to Sheen, bringing Highway 97 to single-lane traffic for two hours.

Ken Sheen
Ken Sheen

For years, Sheen has been commissioned to build wooden sculptures for the city in B.C.'s Cariboo region, in the Central Interior.

Many are displayed across Williams Lake, including Heart of a Champion, which features the long-time local bull rider Gerald Palmantier. The four-metre-tall statue is located at the intersection of Cariboo Highway and Chilcotin-Bella Coola Highway.

Sheen's work is also displayed in Quesnel and 100 Mile House.

The new statue, made of red cedar and about two metres tall, is modelled after Evan Howarth, who was the cow boss of the Cotton Ranch, located west of Williams Lake, for four decades.

Starting from scratch

Sheen says he had to "start from scratch" last year after the tragic fire destroyed the statue — which took him several months to create — as well as $7,000 worth of tools.

But thanks to the cedar inventory he had — which survived the fire, he says — he was able to create a new statue within five months.

He says the new statue is a bit different from previous versions. "I put buckskin on him, and he looks nice," he told guest host Doug Herbert on CBC's Daybreak Kamloops. "He looks like a heavyset man ... like a cow boss."

Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb, who attended the unveiling ceremony with Sheen, says the timing of the statue unveiling was just about right.

"I'm so happy that we are able to get it back just prior to the stampede coming up," Cobb said.

The Williams Lake Stampede will be back this year from June 30 to July 3 after being cancelled for two years due to pandemic restrictions.

Cobb also said the city will continue to work with Sheen on other projects and will need him to help conduct regular maintenance of the statues.

For now, Sheen says he'll be carving a sculpture for a friend based in Quesnel.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting