In a yard outside Sebastopol is one magnificent clock made of junk
Rusting nicely alongside Lynn and Barbara Deedler’s country home is a tall and slender sculpture constructed of antique farm implements and old parts salvaged from a long-gone Sebastopol apple plant and lumber yard. You could call it a timeless piece of west Sonoma County junk art, except for this:
The thing, quite astonishingly, keeps time.
This one-of-a-kind tower clock was built by Lynn Deedler, at 76 a restlessly retired high-school industrial arts teacher, commercial building contractor, Christmas tree farmer and recreational sailor, ultralight pilot and cyclist.
“It was a labor of love, a challenge. An ‘is-it-possible?’’’ kind of thing,” he said at his and Barbara’s home on the former Bollinger ranch off Highway 116 and Elphick Road, south of Sebastopol.
Dial back a decade or so and there was a serious plan afoot for Deedler’s 25-foot-tall clock to become a permanent visual element of the heart of Sebastopol, a functional tribute to the progressive town’s agricultural heritage and passion for preservation and artistic expression.
For a number of reasons, among them a work injury that held up Deedler’s completion of the clock, that vision for the piece of art’s prominent placement near the Sebastopol town square and Rialto Cinemas never came to be.
In 2015, the spot at Petaluma Avenue and McKinley Street where the clock was to stand was occupied instead by the Sebastopol Living Peace Wall, an anti-war monument engraved with the names of local, national and international advocates of non-violence.
So Deedler’s clock, engineered to mark the arrival of each hour and half-hour with the striking of a hammer on an empty old propane tank, stayed in his backyard. Deedler came to unplug the electric motor that keeps the clock running by intermittently winding up the mechanism’s 200-pound weight because the chiming all day and night was driving his wife nuts.
The Deedlers came to accept that the creation once intended to become the Sebastopol town clock would stand for eternity alongside their house.
Enter Clocksmith Cyrus.
Deedler a short while back put out word that he’d like to pass to someone another his projects, also a clock, one far smaller than the one in his yard. He started to build it 56 years ago, while he was in college. He never finished it and, concluding that he never would, posted his desire to give it to someone who would.
Spotting Deedler’s offer, longtime Santa Rosa clock repairman Cyrus Eaton Wind Dancer arranged a visit to the Deedler place for a look-see. He thought the unfinished clock was OK, but then Deedler led him out to the tower clock.
You’d have thought Wind Dancer was beholding the Holy Grail.
“It blew my socks off,” said the clock man. The closer Wind Dancer examined Deedler’s creation, the more impressed he was.
He explained why: A clock is a precision instrument. Clock makers strive to construct each part — each wheel, each gear tooth, each bushing, each component of the pendulum — perfectly.
“It’s one thing to design and build a tower clock with modern materials and methods,” Clocksmith Cyrus said. It’s a whole other thing, he said, to construct a clock of junk — hay-baler and corn-seeder parts, tilling discs, compressed-gas tanks, components of old machinery recovered from Sebastopol’s former Barlow Co. apple processing plant and Diamond Lumber Co. — and expect it to keep time.
“This is an amazing clock,” Wind Dance said of Deedler’s creation. He regards it extraordinary that Deelder started with the theme of Sebastopol agriculture and kept to it. And he figured out, through marathon research and trial-and-error, how to compensate not only for the myriad imperfections of the components but for the temperature-caused expansion and contraction of the old steel.
“It’s very difficult, what he did,” Wind Dancer said. “It took tremendous skill and problem-solving.”
“This,” he declared, “is living art.”
Hearing from Deedler of the demise of the plan to place the clock permanently near town square, the clock smith resolved to find a worthy home for what he regards a masterpiece. He contacted Northern California members of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, and a couple of them came to see Deedler’s clock.
That visit led to calls being made, ideas being floated. And there exists today a plan to truck the tower clock to the San Diego County city of Vista and to its West Coast Clock & Watch Museum.
Deedler said he’d love to donate his creation for permanent display there. He’s aware that before he can load the clock onto a truck for the long drive south, there are permits to be obtained, obstacles to be overcome, arrangements to be made.
He figures that for his labor of love to stand where people can enjoy is just a matter of time.
Chris Smith is a former Press Democrat reporter and columnist. He can be contacted at email@example.com.