Havre Daily News
When local sculptor Cory Holmes checked his Web site's email box a few weeks ago, he came across one that just said “From Jill,” with no subject. Thinking it was probably some kind of computer virus, he almost erased it. But by “some kind of fluke” he opened the message.
In the e-mail, Miss Montana USA Jill McLain introduced herself as a Havre native and asked Holmes if he would make a sculpture for the Miss USA charity auction to benefit the Cystic Fybrosis Foundation.
Holmes readily agreed to help out.
“How many times does Havre have a Miss USA?” he said Tuesday.
McLain needed to bring something to the auction that represents her home state. She was familiar with Holmes' buffalo sculpture on First Street, and that led her to the artist.
“I'm from Havre. I saw the buffalo and thought it was amazing,” McLain said Tuesday.
Past contestants have brought quilts and paintings, and McLain said she wanted her entry to be “a little different.”
Holmes had many ideas for a subject. He initially started sculpting a horse, thinking that “everyone back East would first think of cowboys” when envisioning Montana.
Holmes had been particularly happy with a Canada goose he sculpted for aDucks Unlimited fundraiser, so he decided to do a similar piece for McLain.
“This one's going to be better. I think I sort of figured it all out,” he said.
Holmes said he is approached by about a dozen charities and benefits a year and usually does a piece for about four.
“Nobody can do everything for everybody all the time,” he said.
Holmes also has done sculptures for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and local benefits for cancer victims.
“I don't want to make geese all my life, but never say never.
“I don't want to do any more buffalo, once is enough,” he added.
Holmes has come up with two possible titles for the goose: “Montana, The Last Best Place” and “Montana: Tall, Wide and Handsome.”
“It was really cool for him to say yes. We were thrilled,” Jill's mother, Stephanie McLain, said.
The goose will be his 15th sculpture this year. He is perhaps best known for his “fence art,” which are metal sculptures of various bugs and other subjects that are found all over Montana as well as many places across North America. Holmes estimates that he has 600 pieces scattered around.
The Cystic Fibrosis Charity Auction is April 8 in Baltimore. Holmes has to finish the sculpture by March 31.
Holmes said he hopes to get the sculpture done by Monday, when he is set to attend the Western College of Auctioneers in Billings.
He said the other goose took him about 60 hours.
“These geese have a lot of feathers,” Holmes said.
In his workshop north of Havre, Holmes does each feather by hand. He flattens steel rods with a trip hammer, which is a blacksmith's tool, and then polishs the feathers with a grinder.
Jill McLain will represent Montana in the 55th Annual Miss USA Competition on April 21.
Jill McLain, 21, is a senior at Dickinson State University in North Dakota.
She will graduate next year after cutting her courseload in order to be available for pageant activities.
She was born and raised in Havre and graduated from Havre High School in 2002. Jill McLain said she is looking into attending grad school and wants to move back to Montana.
“When I give them this, I'd like to at least get to meet her. All I got was an email,” Holmes said.