There’s no place like gnome

When Jack Tompkins retired after 36 years of working for Marshalltown Parks and Recreation in June, he began looking for something to fill his time.

Then lightning struck – literally.

Tompkins’ mother, Elenora Gregory, 85, said lighting struck an already-cracking tree in her front yard at 310 Bromley St. during a storm last month. Since she had to have the tree removed, her son decided he would take the opportunity to make the stump into something decorative. They opted to have the tree cut a little higher on the trunk than they would otherwise be inclined, Tompkins said.

After the trunk dried, he set to work sculpting the tree’s remnants into a garden gnome around which his mother could plant a garden, adding to the decorative hostas already planted there.

Gregory said she already has some plans for the space.

“I have two little guys like that inside,” Gregory said.

Tompkins, 62, had worked as an equipment foreman during his tenure with Parks and Rec. In that time, he picked up a few things about woodworking. He said seeing Gary Keenan’s wood carving of the Big Bad Wolf and Three Little Pigs at Riverview Park inspired him.

“I thought ‘that doesn’t look that hard. I could do that,'” he said. “I like to do carpentry, and I like art and stuff like that. I like to use my hands.”

Tompkins said he had already put in roughly four days’ work on the gnome as of Thursday afternoon. At least that much more time would be required to finish the little guy, he said. He said he will likely look for other carvings to do once the gnome is complete.

One thing is for sure, he said: he has found something to fill his free time.