In our own Backyard

Story last updated at 11:02 AM on Wednesday, December 7, 2011

OUTDOOR DECORATIONS bring light to the season

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Photographer: McKibben Jackinsky, Homer NewsPhoto provided

Linda and Dave Etzwiler have lit up their Bayview Avenue neighborhood with holiday decorations appreciated by family, as well as strangers.

If you hear Santa's looking for his sleigh, tell him to look at Dave and Linda Etzwiler's Bayview Avenue home. The red and white beauty is parked in their front yard like the real thing, complete with a red-nosed reindeer poised to leap into the night sky for a round-the-world, present-delivering flight.

Maybe it isn't really Santa's sleigh, but it's pretty close, thanks to Dave's skill as a carpenter and Linda's talent with a paint brush. Close enough, in fact, that people stop at the Etzwilers' house and ask permission to have their photos taken among the holiday decorations.

"It's a regular routine — people stopping, cameras flashing, people taking photographs," said Dave. "Some even want to sit in the sleigh and have their picture taken."

Although the sleigh is the focal point, the yard holds much more. There's a tree outlined in lights and there are knee-high Christmas tree shapes also outlined in lights.

"Those are tomato cage things," said Dave of the conical shape. "I turn them into Christmas trees by just putting some lights around them and they're great."

There's a snowman that depends on wire rather than snow to keep its round shape. There are stars. There's the reindeer at the head of the sleigh.

There's even a Santa — of the inflatable variety — that appears to be sitting in the sleigh. Like the lights, Santa was a birthday gift to Linda, but not one easily found. The family members that gave it to her "hid" him on the roof. With just the right amount of wind, Santa's outstretched arm waves to passersby.

If your attention is fixed on the front yard, but you feel as if someone is staring at your back, you're probably right. Perched along the top of the fence on the opposite side of the driveway are three figures also made by Dave and painted by Linda: a snowman, a reindeer and, of course, Santa.

All of the couple's work are products of the shop Dave has set up in their garage. Neatly organized, there are shelves of paint and an area for hand tools. There are workbenches. There is a band saw, table saw, scroll saw and drill press. There are pieces of wood stacked up, ready to be transformed into something out of Dave's imagination.

About the time of his 2009 retirement from serving as the field safety supervisor for Laidlaw, now First Student, Dave developed "Dave's Woodshop," a home-based business through which he puts his woodworking talent to use. He builds planters and a number of other items, such as the crane silhouettes that have become popular at local craft fairs and bazaars.

"I had all my wood stuff at the Nutcracker Faire and did very well," said Dave. "It was well worth my time."

Like any artist, Dave is always looking for ways to improve on his creations.

"I've never hooked up (the sleigh) to an animal, but I'm contemplating putting wheels on that thing and using it in parades," he said. "That would be very easy to do."

Even though Linda works at Voznesenka School and Dave returned to work in August as a school bus driver, the couple has not been too busy to make the yard perfect for the Christmas holiday. The decorations go up the Saturday after Thanksgiving and don't come down until after Christmas.

Their reward is the self-satisfaction coming from the effort.

"It makes me smile," said Linda, looking around the yard at the product of their labor.

There also is the joy the decorations bring their family.

"This time of year is for the kids," said Dave, speaking specifically about his and Linda's four grandchildren that range in age from 2 to 10. "That's what Christmas is all about."

And then there's the appreciation of others.

"The neighbors can't wait for me to put up this stuff," said Dave. "And I always say (Homer Electric Association) loves me at Christmas. I'm sure my meter is spinning."