The intricate carving of a 3-foot-tall bald eagle with a seat in Lynn "Forest" Cunningham's pickup truck has been the subject of a few double takes, he said.

Most people who see him driving around Boulder, though, first notice the wooden sign carved with his name and phone number, and mounted to the back advertising his services as a practiced wood carver.

Right now, a jack-o'-lantern carved from granular wood peeks out from a platform in the truck bed and a tree trunk taking the shape of a bear lies on its side on his trailer.

"My favorite thing to carve is anything I've never carved before," Cunningham said, listing his desire to sculpt a skull, a mermaid and a gecko reading a book on a toadstool. "It's just a challenge."

The 47-year-old Cheyenne, Wyo. native with long hair and endless supply of chuckles arrived in town about six months ago seeking a place with both a view of mountains and a reputable nursing home for his significant other of 19 years, Linda Cannon, who is battling the pain that comes from multiple sclerosis.

They've lived in Walden and Wheat Ridge since moving from Wyoming, but have landed at the Mesa Vista nursing home, living out of his truck when they aren't there for her treatment.

"I like it better here because I can scoop her up from the nursing home, put her in my truck and we can be in the mountains in no time," Cunningham said.


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He said lifting logs for a living gives him the strength to pick her up, though he has his own pelvis ailments from a car crash on U.S. 287 when he was 21 after he dropped out from the Art Institute of Colorado in Denver.

While Cannon sits in the passenger seat of his truck, Cunningham carves.

"I think he's a wonderful man and I love his artwork, every piece he makes," Cannon said, adding later that, "He loves it. He does it well — most excellently."

First, he finds the wood. He is constantly on the lookout, and in Wyoming, he scours forests for short lodgepole pines he can turn into small bears.

Then, he has a vision for the piece. He starts with a chainsaw and works his way through five or six other tools that get smaller as the piece becomes more intricate. The final steps are coloring the piece with stains and pouring a honey-like wood sealant over it.

His most recent masterpiece was the carving of a snake wrapped around a tree branch that now hangs over Eric Jacobson's driveway in a cul-de-sac off Iris Avenue.

Jacobson said he and his wife were connected with Cunningham through his neighbor, who saw the artist's sign. More than 100 hours of work later, the piece honors a corn snake named "Roxy" that Jacobson's daughter kept as a pet when she was a child.

"She thinks it's totally amazing; she's thrilled," Jacobson said of his daughter, who is now 26. "(Cunningham's) a very interesting guy. He's kind of a fall-back to the '60s in terms of just being very full of love and very open, just a very kind person. Obviously he's a creative genius, also."

Jacobson said he let Cunningham stay in his basement while he worked, touched by his gentle soul, care for Cannon and dedication to the job.

"He really put his heart and soul into it," he said.

Cunningham said he carved his first bear about 16 years ago in Wyoming, and over the years, became known in town. A bear he carved for a friend made news in 2015 when Cheyenne officials decided it violated right-of-way codes by sitting on a corner deemed public land.

"It's kind of like they stole him from public view," he said. "He was too beloved or something."

For Cunningham, nature — and specifically bears — is his spiritual guide and have sent him signs throughout his life.

"My mother, when she was pregnant with me, met a black bear in the path and they were only like, 26 feet apart," he said. "My mom and the bear were both kind of looking down, and they looked up and my mom said, 'Oh hello.' And this bear kind of raised up, sniffed and went off. Ever since then, I've seen bears when I need reassurance in life. It's really strange."

Now that he's finished with a carving of a snake, he's hoping to be commissioned for more work around town. And he's less in it for the money ($350 to $400 per foot of carving), and more in it for sharing his love of people and artwork.

"The less I have the more I gain," he said. "I think from a young age I was kind of attracted to wisdoms like that and kind of tried to trap them my whole life."

Cunningham can be reached at 307-920-7660 or forestbear@gmail.com.

Amelia Arvesen: 303-684-5212, arvesena@times-call.com or twitter.com/ameliaarvesen