HOLDEN, Maine — A local artist whose bird sculpture was damaged after he was cut off in traffic said he regrets scaring the other driver and her passenger by chasing them, which prompted them to call police.
“I wanted them to know about the damage they caused and how sad it made me,” Claude O’Donnell said of the broken sculpture on Tuesday. “I put a lot of effort and time into this.”
O’Donnell, 65, was driving back to his home in Holden on Jan. 21 after showing a few of his hand-carved bird sculptures to his mother. As he was driving down Route 1A in Brewer, another car merging onto Route 1A from I-395 failed to yield, according to O’Donnell and Holden police.
“This lady comes from 395 and is barreling on to 1A and just cuts me off. I jammed on the brakes,” he said.
The sudden stop caused the box O’Donnell had his sculptures in to slide off the back seat and slam into the back of the front seat, breaking the beak off one of the birds, which were each covered in bubble wrap.
The sculptures, he says, have fetched purchase prices between $1,700 and $3,200 — when they’re not broken.
The former banking executive, who’s been sculpting and painting for the last 10 years since his retirement, has exhibited his works at The Salty Dog Gallery in Southwest Harbor, Asticou Connections in Mount Desert, the High Street Gallery in Belfast, and the Blue Hill Public Library.
O’Donnell started following the car, driven by a young female with a female passenger.
“He was upset, so he tried to get the girls to pull over by honking and flashing his lights and waving at them, but they got scared,” said Holden Police Chief Gene Worcester.
“The more I drove, the more upset I got. They almost caused an accident,” O’Donnell said.
The two females drove to the residence of a family friend on the Upper Dedham Road and parked in the garage, closing and locking the door behind them while calling police. In the meantime, O’Donnell drove up, walked into the driveway with his damaged sculpture, and was asking for someone to come out and talk to him.
The report: A man with a stuffed bird was following their car and shouting at them.
“I had decided I’d keep driving until I ran out of gas,” O’Donnell said. “But then afterward, I thought, ‘You crazy old man. What are you doing?’ They probably thought I was crazy.
“I didn’t handle that right. I should have just driven to the police department and filed a report or explained the situation.”
Officers Stefin Brown and Anthony Cobb sorted things out and asked O’Donnell if he wanted to file a complaint.
“I wasn’t going to press charges or demand restitution from them,” he said. “I just wanted them to see what they did in a moment of haste. I’m just glad nobody got hurt.”
Worcester said the other driver admitted she cut O’Donnell off. No one pressed charges and both parties were satisfied with the resolution.
By Wednesday, O’Donnell was already well into the task of repairing the damage. He had reconnected the beak of the raven — part of a collection titled “Murder of Crows” — but it was still cracked and broken.
“Will it be what it was? No,” said O’Donnell. “I can repair the damage, but it’ll never be worth what it would have been, and it won’t sell for how much it could have gone for.”
And what will eventually become of the wounded raven?
“I may contribute it or donate it to a group or cause,” he said. “Things happen for a reason. Someone’s going to get the bird after I’m done, and they will love it.”