A man landed a 3,500-pound catfish…with a block of wood
Published 6:09 am Saturday, April 3, 2021
Weighing over 3,000 pounds, this catfish is possibly the heaviest in the world, but it will probably never make any record books for biggest catfish because it’s crafted from wood.
It’s the whimsical creation of a Yazoo County artist with a deep love of working with wood.
“He’s 14 feet, 3 inches long,” said Alexander Brown of Bentonia. “He weighs about 3,500 pounds. He’s made from a single, solid piece of white oak. Everything I do is from a solid block.”
The giant catfish with its curled tail, flowing whiskers and larger than life eyes is making its home in Satartia.
“This is going to be something for kids to play on,” Brown said. “They can ride it like a horse.
“For kids, I generally make the eyes bigger than they should be. There’s something about big eyes that makes kids feel safer.”
Catfish are an icon of Mississippi, but the inspiration for this big fish has its own history. Brown said it was commissioned for the little town of Satartia because that was the setting for a book written by Daniel Brown, “Eli — Pride of the Yazoo River.”
In the book, Eli is a giant catfish that lives underneath a bridge. He is also elusive and no one can catch him. However, this tribute to Eli won’t be difficult for anyone to get their hands on.
‘I LEARNED WITH MY EYES,’ WOODCARVER SAYS
Eli is the latest creation fueled by a decades-old love of sculpting wood. Brown said he always loved art and even considered being a photographer early in life, but the fibers and tones of wood caught his attention.
Brown said he met a friend who worked in various forms of art, including woodworking. His friend asked Brown to do some sanding on a piece. He eventually hired Brown to sand and he watched as pieces were created by his friend.
“I could watch the process,” Brown said. “I learned with my eyes.”
He also learned that working with wood was his passion.
“I knew it when I was sanding that guy’s work, and it wasn’t even my work,” Brown said. “I love everything about it.
“You’re creating. You’re using nature. The funnest thing is opening a log and seeing what nature created. It’s just neat cutting into the wood and seeing what God created. I never get the same palette to work with, ever. I love the creativity. I love the challenge.”
WOODCARVER RELOCATED AFTER HURRICANE KATRINA DESTROYED HIS HOME
Brown said he started with small pieces and hand tools and worked in his garage. His tools now include chainsaws, grinders and a tractor for moving logs.
And the logs are all native. Brown said when he relocated to Yazoo County after Hurricane Katrina destroyed his Bay St. Louis home in 2005, he discovered the beauty of native wood that was available. Among them are southern magnolia, Virginia cedar, southern sugar maple, blue gum and mimosa.
“A lot of people don’t know what’s here,” Brown said. “It’s amazing.”
And from those native logs come any number of things. Brown creates bull dogs, benches that look like alligators and cats, serving bowls, sinks and even a monkey that can be hung from a tree.
Brown said he travels the nation selling his pieces at art shows and festivals. Over the past year those were canceled due to COVID-19, but Brown had plenty of commissions to keep him busy. He said the catfish alone took about 200 hours to create.
While 200 hours of studying, sawing, cutting and sanding may not be for everyone, it’s something the 61-year-old hopes to do for many years to come.
“Hopefully until I take my last breath, and that’s the God’s-honest truth,” Brown said.