Colorado welder has been honing his skills for 40 years
April 1, 2019
Bill "Three Feathers" Bunting learned to weld in high school ag class and as a necessity on the southeastern Colorado ranch of his youth. Welding corrals eventually turned into teaching himself to make knives, spurs — crafts he has honed for 40 years.
"I farmed and ranched all of my life and the welding was always a part, either as a side income or on the place," he said.
His grandfather homesteaded the family ranch in 1906 and his father, now 94, is still on the ranch running cattle.
Bunting took agriculture classes in high school at Pritchett and the welding skills learned there have served him well. Poetry and art pulled at Bunting for a number of years. Frustrated that he couldn't draw the images he wanted to, he found that he could go to the shop and weld a sculpture together.
"When I was a senior in high school, I basically lived in the welding shop at school," he said. "I was probably pretty rebellious. I didn't go to class, I just went to the shop."
This love of the ag program and welding shop came full circle when Bunting was commissioned to make an FFA emblem sculpture for the ag program that taught him his craft.
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He was one of the first in the area to have a plasma torch and made farm and ranch signs. The scraps from the signs were used in his first sculptures. Shortly thereafter, the downtown business association in Springfield, Colo., commissioned 11 pieces to place downtown. Bunting was using scraps quickly and began buying sheet metal, which is the material he uses today.
His book of poetry, High Lonesome, is the culmination of years of writing, beginning when he found himself at a low spot. He had divorced and said he lost everything.
"When I finally got down to nothing, and I finally got right with God, the poetry started flowing and it's come ever since," he said. "A lot of the sculptures are the result of poetry I had already written. Sometimes the sculpture comes first and then the poetry, but most of the sculptures I do, have a poem to go with them."
He performs his poetry at various poetry gatherings, dinner theaters, banquets and church services. He said some are classic cowboy poetry and most have a spiritual theme but the rhymes allow him to remember and share the stories. He also writes a regular column for the local newspaper as well as a subscription email newsletter.
Travel is something he and his wife, Cheryl, enjoy so the couple lease the grass on their spread to a young cattleman, allowing them to travel.
"That way I can look at them and go get some cow manure on my boots if I need to and still not have to feed in the wintertime," he said jokingly.
Bunting is currently working on a commissioned sculpture that will be in downtown Fort Collins, Colo., for one year as part of an art show. The piece, "With Wings Like Eagles," will be placed in April.
His sculptures are available to view by appointment or by chance and he said he appreciates when people enjoy the sculptures, even if they're unable to purchase them.
"I just like the idea that people enjoy my work," he said. "Sometimes, people stop in and they can't afford it but it's almost better than if they could. I've sold pieces (to those) that had the money and didn't seem to care about it, but it means more than that to me … but then, I'm hungry like everyone else so I hope it means more to them." ❖
— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at email@example.com or (970) 392-4410.