Osakis man keeps carving beautiful ducks despite paralysis
Brian Bangtson of Osakis carves beautiful decoys with dexterity and taste. What's so miraculous about this?
Bangtson, 47, was paralyzed from the chest down in 2005.
A staph infection in the fall of 2005 left Bangtson paralyzed in the hospital for more than 15 weeks.
The terrible news of his paralysis didn't put a damper on his spirits.
Bangtson has been carving since the 6th grade, when he carved his first duck decoy. His father, who passed away when Bangtson was just 18, was the one who stimulated the love for carving, as he was a carver himself.
Bangtson continued carving throughout the years, even after his paralysis limited the use of his arms.
In the corner of Bangtson's garage sits an eight by ten-foot shop where he performs these miracles.
"I call this my therapy room," said Bangtson. "When I'm here working, I feel no pain."
Bangtson spends six or more hours in this shop every day and is frequently helped by his nephew, Grant Backes.
The limited use of Bangtson's arms has required some innovation. Bangtson has contrived numerous devices to facilitate carving with his condition.
"He didn't give up," said Brenda Majerus, Bangtson's fiancée.
Majerus noted that there were difficulties along the way, though. She related stories of Bangtson returning from the shop with bloody hands, writhing in pain.
"It wasn't an easy start," she said.
Bangtson now carves at a rate of one duck decoy per week.
As Bangtson's skills grew, so did his business. His company, OldSchool Spearing and Duck Decoys, sells duck decoys on eBay for around $15-20.
Bangtson also donates his decoys to events like silent auctions for fundraisers.
Bangtson's charities do not end there. He spent a couple of years volunteering in his sister Julie Backes' classroom, where he helped with spelling, reading, math and writing.
"The kids looked forward to the days when Brian came and enjoyed his sense of humor," said Backes.
Backes has immeasurable respect for her brother, and was quick to praise his positive attitude.
"In the last seven years, Brian has had a lot of bumps in the road, but he has never had the 'poor me' kind of attitude," she said. "I have a deep respect for him because he has chosen to focus on the things that he can do rather than what he can no longer do."
Bangtson is eager to share his gratitude for those who care for him, including family and friends. One person who has really had a great influence on Bangtson is Jim "Big Jim" Snyder.
"Big Jim keeps reminding me that if it were easy, then everyone would be doing it," said Bangtson. "He's my mentor."
Bangtson has known Snyder for four years. Majerus is also grateful for Snyder's caring manner. "He's been a very good friend ever since [they met]," she said.
In order to improve Bangtson's quality of life, Backes and Sara Uhlenkamp, Majerus' sister, are working to raise money for a new van for Bangtson.
Bangtson's current van is relatively dilapidated. Holes litter the floor and rust adorns the exterior. The van is not very conducive to assisting Bangtson in his wheelchair, either.
On Saturday, July 28th, family and friends of Bangtson as well as unacquainted community members are invited to participate in Bangtson's fundraiser, "Walkin' for New Wheels."
The fundraiser will be held at the Osakis Track Field. It will be held from noon to midnight, and walkers are welcome any time in between.
At least one family member of Bangtson's will be on the track supporting him at all times. Bangtson will be participating as well, when he is not being cared for at home.
Although walking is free, donations are welcomed. Donations are being accepted at the First National Bank of Osakis.
T-shirts are also available for $10, and can be purchased at Osakis True Value.
Sponsors for the event include Tip Top Dairy Bar, Schoeck Electric, The Headquarters Salon and Tan, TrueValue Hardware, Lind-Rite Precision, Inc., Kornerstone Konsignments, Galeon, The General Store, True Service Inc., First National Bank of Osakis, Sadlemyer, Hart Travel, Glacier Canopy Company, Osakis Lions and Bangtson's own OldSchool Spearing and Duck Decoys.
All proceeds will go to Bangtson to be put toward purchasing a new van.