Where’s Morris? update on town icon

Published 5:59pm Monday, November 5, 2012

A large sawhorse remains in place for Tryon’s beloved mascot months after Morris the Horse was “kidnapped” by fundraisers to be restored.

The inside of Morris’ head displays how water damage had caused the icon to rot from the inside out. The extent of damage to the statue caused the entire thing to need to be rebuilt. (photo submitted)

Save Morris campaign chair Patti D’Arbanville said builders Chip O’Brien and Johnny Hipp are working diligently to return the horse to its home in the center of town.

“Doing good work takes a long time,” D’Arbanville said. “Everybody wants to return Morris and return him in the best shape. His return is eminent.”

D’Arbanville met with Tryon Town Manager Caitlin Martin Monday, Nov. 5 to discuss progress on the town icon.

“The pictures I saw today seem to show that he is almost done – it looks that he just needs painting. I’ve been assured that he will return soon,” Martin said.

Morris was taken from downtown Tryon in the middle of the night June 9. For weeks after, fundraisers submitted “ransom notes” and letters from Morris to encourage donations. The final fundraising push was held July 28.

Since then, Morris has been taken apart and rebuilt from the bottom up. Organizers originally said he would be returned Labor Day, but the work has taken longer than expected.

D’Arbanville said water damage from years of neglect caused the horse to rot from the inside out. When the layer of painted material was stripped away, the inside wood crumbled at the touch, she said.

“This is a complete and total rebuilding – structurally it was decrepit,” she added.

Tryon-area residents are beginning to get antsy awaiting Morris’ return in what is undoubtedly a busy tourist period for the town.

In a letter to the editor, Tryon resident Greer Prevatte had the following to say:

“Here we are in the midst of the most beautiful season we have here, when our roads are stopping places as well as thoroughfares for leaf-watchers, and we’re stuck still … with that sorry excuse of a sawhorse,” Prevatte said. “I think this has been handled very badly. Whoever (and that’s a big whoever, isn’t it?) has been contracted to repair this town treasure should make a public declaration of when Morris will be returned, a public apology for taking so long, and should too, perhaps, return to the town’s fund some of the rather exorbitant sum charged to do the work in the first place.”

D’Arbanville said she’d like to put together a booklet of photos to show what was discovered so town members can fully understand the process and work it took to build the horse.

She said right now the horse’s torso and head have been rebuilt with the fiberglass of the horse currently in the curing stage. She said this takes a progression of curing and sanding before the horse can be painted.

“It is a process,” she said. “Everybody is working as hard and as diligently as possible. I don’t want to give an exact date because there are too many factors – but where we are now is the final mile.”

A total of  $17,693 was raised through fundraising efforts, Martin said. Exactly $12,000 went toward the reconstruction, she said, with $4,191 used to purchase fundraising materials such as T-shirts, posters and food for the silent auction. Martin said $1,501 remains in a town fund to provide for maintenance of the new Morris. Martin said she expects other fundraisers to occur as time goes on to replenish that fund as needed.

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