Turning willow into wondrous | NevadaAppeal.com

Turning willow into wondrous

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Samuel Johnson, 6, of Carson City, helps 'Willow Bill' Goulardt assemble a reindeer at the Carson City Library on Saturday. The reindeer will be on display at the Capitol for Christmas.
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Children from all parts of Carson City came to the library on Saturday to make a new friend.

Out of coyote willow branches.

The children spent the afternoon making a reindeer under the tutelage of “Willow Bill” Goulardt. They learned how to measure the wood, the difference between dry and wet wood and, most importantly, how to be creative.

“I want you guys to open your minds, be creative and envision what the next piece is going to be,” Willow Bill said.

It was 8-year-old Robin Johnson’s first time using a drill, but she had no trouble driving the screw into the soft wood that would become the deer’s leg.

“It was fun, not as hard as I thought,” Robin said after slapping hands with Willow Bill.

Next up was Valerie King, 3, who seemed hesitant but said she liked pushing the button on the drill.

Willow Bill said his drive to create the wooden woodland creatures began 13 years ago after an innocent question from a 2-year-old.

“I was baby-sitting and she was watching ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ and I was building furniture. She walked outside and asked why I didn’t make reindeer,” Willow Bill said.

Since then, he has made over 2,000 reindeer in five different states, most recently completing a project to cover a 16-mile stretch of Highway 101, nearly 700 creations in all.

His next goal is to get more than 1,000 reindeer throughout Carson City, including a large herd at the Capitol.

“I want to be able to do them with the children. The best way to do it is with a group of kids who just want to have a lot of fun,” Willow Bill said. “We are all children in the eyes of the spirits.”

Willow Bill said building so many reindeer has taught him a lot about the children and himself, including that each reindeer is different.

“We were at Seeliger and let them design their own reindeer, and we made it,” Willow Bill said.

The creature ended up with six legs, three tails and eight eyes.

Once his latest addition was completed, every child who helped it come to life signed their name in black marker.

“This isn’t my reindeer, this is your reindeer, all of yours,” Willow Bill said.

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at jshipley@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.