by Richard Ward
The bird feeder story starts well over 30 years ago and includes the following: Richard’s parents, Brad and Betty Ward, were retired and living on Betty’s home place in North Texas. In 1992, a foundation backed by the country music singer, Reba McEntire, opened the original Reba’s Ranch House near the hospital in Denison, Texas.
The Ranch House serves a similar function to a Ronald McDonald House: People from out of town who have relatives in the hospital can stay there for free. Guests have kitchen privileges, and, on a rotating basis, local churches furnish buffet suppers. Brad was associated with a docent group at the nearby Hagerman Wildlife Refuge.
A leader in this group asked him to build a bird feeder for the docent group to donate to Reba’s Ranch House to garner some local press for both organizations. Being a crafty guy, Brad took a look at the Ranch House and built a model of the facility as a bird feeder. Some years later, Denison built a much-larger hospital near the freeway, and Reba’s followed suite by constructing a new Ranch House a block from this hospital. (The old hospital is now an in-patient, physical rehabilitation facility, and the old Ranch House is a dementia care home.)
In 2017, Brad was terminally ill in the new hospital; and Richard and his wife, Julie, were staying at the new Reba’s Ranch House. During a save-our-sanity drive around, they tried to search out the original Ranch House and the model. Unfortunately, 25 years of Texas sun had cooked the bird feeder to near disintegration.
In a subsequent discussion, Julie said, “Well, your dad built a model of the old Ranch House, maybe you should build a model of the new one.”
Thus began a major project. A contact on Reba’s staff obtained the original AutoCad® architectural design files, and skilled designer, Dennis Bacon, created a corresponding Solidworks® scale model and generated parts drawings. After joining the Hacker Lab in Rocklin, CA, Richard used their woodworking equipment to create the walls and dormers. Jim Krebs, an excellent all-arond crafter at the Lab helped him laser burn the door, window and rock wall patterns into the wood while a sheet metal shop, Roseville Precision Industries, fabricated the base and roof decks (as a favor to a former good customer).
Richard assembled the pieces and cut the “shingles” on a work table in my side yard. The actual project work did not consume all these years; there were many, many months of delay due to personal issues and work load at the sheet metal shop. Some touch up work remains, and a custom shipping crate remains to be built in order to ship the feeder to Texas, but completion is close enough to celebrate.