'Willow' Bill helps families bond with reindeer-making class



Dotted throughout the Carson Mall are willow reindeers, dressed to their Christmas nines in multi-colored lights.

And if your timing is good, you may even see their numbers grow by one, though not in the mall - it will be "Willow" Bill Goulardt helping a child build one to take home.

Holli Covington, 13, was building one Saturday afternoon, screwing the branches together and absorbing the variety of lessons Goulardt threw her way.

"She was surprised," Covington's grandma, Peggy Owen, said.

"She's seen them all over town and really wanted one, so I didn't tell her what we were doing."

Holli was quiet through much of the building - although Owen insisted that's usually not the case - and showed her appreciation to the gift simply: she gave Goulardt a high-five when they were finished.

"For me, (the best thing is) watching the kids, watching the parents come together," Goulardt said afterward. "They are going to have that forever."

Willow Bill would pre-drill the joints and help Holli screw them together. He got Owen in on the act on a few occasions, also.

Goulardt also pitched trivia to the two, from the number of types of willows (288) to Native American uses for willow (they chewed it as a painkiller).

When half of the reindeer's body was built, Willow Bill held it up and asked what could be seen. The adults gave the boring answer - half the reindeer's body - but Holli saw an F. It's part of what Goulardt said he likes about teaching kids his craft. He recounted one interesting answer he got for the question "How many circles do you see?"

"It took me about three-and-a-half years before some kid (counts) the screws," he said. "I was like, 'whoa!' That's why I like this so much. I always get a different perspective."

Through the build, former students walked up to Goulardt, including a young girl who stood and waited for a hug. She asked for a piece of willow and, when obliged, beamed brighter than Rudolph's nose.

He bid her adieu with a casual "See you later, reindeer maker!"

About Willow Bill

Willow Bill is taking appointments for his willow reindeer-making class at the Carson Mall. When you finish making the reindeer, you get to take it home with you.

Hours: By appointment only

Contact: 842-3594

Cost: $25


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