A couple of years ago, my friend Gene Seneca was showing us his swamp-found treasures and creations. Lying on the floor off to the side was a preserved garfish body.

      You know that moment when you see a thing, and it lights up something deep inside of you? That was me with this garfish. It hit a profoundly primal, aesthetic-gatekeeping nerve that said, "yes, this, we LOVE."

      Even though I was born on Bayou Lafourche, raised in south Louisiana, and have a kinship with both the land and its creatures more than most, the garfish had eluded me.

      I was holding the preserved body of a prehistoric fish that has been swimming in our waters for more than 180 MILLION years. The stories it could tell.

      Instantly I knew I was about to dive deep into this rabbit hole. And deep I went.

      I learned its history, how it sustained itself over time, and how it sustained us. I also learned how, somewhere along the way, we turned on it and decided it was a “trash fish” to kill for sport.

      After interviewing an expert, I learned that despite their intimidating size and fierce look, garfish are surprisingly docile.

      I took breaks from hours of carving only to spend hours staring at detailed pictures of their heads and eye sockets. I studied the way their jaws connect and how the teeth close inside them, the way their gills lie, and how their fins nestle against their body.

      I didn’t find that garfish as much as it found me. There is an ancient knowing that emanates from a life force that’s been around for so long. It was a gift to be immersed in the deep with it for a while.

      The garfish is a survivor unscathed by extinction. It was unbothered while lands shifted and mountains rose and while humans moved in, took over, called it names, and tried to eliminate it.

      A survivor who, despite all its ancient wisdom, grins ever so slightly like the most unlikely Buddha.

      There was a meditative spirit in the tediousness of hand carving each scale, and I developed a deep appreciation for a creature I only knew from scary bayou water monster stories.

      This fish is my most challenging carve to date, but it deserves the effort.

      It’s a garfish. Not a monster or a threat, but a wise old waterway wanderer born of millions of years of survival. This piece is my way of honoring it.

      Design inspired specifically by the Alligator Gar.

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