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Local artisan creates an end table and lamp as part of a Hospice Auction Christmas tree display in memory of Jim 'Digger' Smith

PHOTO COURTESY OF BRUCE SMITH - Brooke Smith of Rafter BT Creations made an end table and lamp out of scrap metal found in Jim "Digger" Smith's shop. The table accompanied the Christmas tree display entitled "Even Though the Shine is Gone, Digger's Memory Will Live On" during the Silver Anniversary Hospice Christmas Auction, held last Saturday at the Crook County Fairgrounds as a benefit for St. Charles Hospice.

Where would a tree decorated with Black Velvet bottles and tiny Tonka Truck ornaments accompanied by an end table made of scrap metal bring in $2,600 in memory of a local excavator named "Digger"?

The 25th Annual Hospice Christmas Auction, presented by St. Charles Foundation and Robberson Ford of Prineville, of course.

And that's exactly what just happened.

Bruce Smith, the son of the late Jim "Digger" Smith, mentioned to a family friend that they were thinking about making a Hospice tree this year in memory of his father. Digger was a long-time Prineville excavator who played a role in developing many spring watering systems for the Upper Country ranches and the Forest Service and installed cattle guards and culverts.

"At the same time he was talking about doing a Hospice tree, he's overwhelmed with all the stuff that his dad had in his shop and sheds around the place — a bunch of scrap metal," said Brooke Smith, who makes metal art. "So, I just suggested, well if you'll let me come and go through your dad's stuff, the stuff you boys don't want, let's make something out of it to put with the tree."

Digger, who established James L. Smith Excavation in 1966, passed away in May of 2015 at age 79. He got the nickname "Digger" because he was always hauling dirt and operating his backhoe and dump trucks. As a heavy equipment operator, he also installed septic tanks and built logging roads and highways throughout Oregon.

Although they have the same last name, Digger is no relation to Brooke and her husband, Tim, who own Rafter BT Creations, in Prineville. They specialize in making and selling upcycled and unique metal art.

PHOTO COURTESY OF BRUCE SMITH - Brooke Smith's end table and lamp sit alongside the tree that she helped decorate for the Hospice Christmas Auction in honor of Jim "Digger" Smith. Using her keen eye, Brooke found a treasure of salvageable materials and envisioned an end table lamp.

"The majority of all the parts and pieces that went into that table and the lamp all came from Digger's shop," Brooke said, adding that they came right off his workbench, from his toolboxes, around the shop, and from his scrap piles.

Brooke went to work creating the one-of-a-kind metal table and lamp, using an old trailer hub off of a backhoe trailer as the base of the table. The table leg is a Cummins camshaft. The edge of the table is a wheel rim, and a hydraulic jack serves as a lamp. Nuts and bolts, chain, sprockets and bearings, and wrenches all went into the table.

Bruce and other family and friends created the display for the Hospice Christmas Auction and titled it "Even Though the Shine is Gone, Digger's Memory Will Live On."

Jim Puckett won the bid last Saturday, and the tree brought in $2,600 to benefit St. Charles Hospice.

For Brooke, the metal end table and lamp was right up her alley.

"I like to do unique metal art," she said.

Brooke's creations are for sale locally at Home Beautiful Oregon, and she welcomes custom orders. She also has an Etsy store online and a Facebook page.

"I do everything from those tables to propane tank animals and planters," she said. "I enjoy welding random things together and making stuff out of it."

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