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Project by mpounders posted 02-26-2011 08:03 AM 2197 views 1 time favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The legend of “Thunderbolt”

All the kids knew the stories about the horse called Thunderbolt. He was big and strong, with a unique style of bucking, and a strong dislike of humans. Thunderbolt was a mechanical horse that sat in front of the dime store, beautiful and shiny, like a magnet for cowboys and cowgirls! But something in his eye, something you felt when you touched him, gave you pause….made you shiver, even on a warm day. Babies and little kids would sense danger almost immediately, when their parents would plop them in the saddle, and they would cry loudly until removed to safety! One day he lurched to life and kicked a second-grader into a shopping cart, spraining the boy’s wrist and causing him to speak about himself in the third person for nearly a week! The grown-ups said it was probably an electrical short that made it start like that….but we knew better! Some kids said the stains on the base were from spilled kool aid or a cherry Icee….others said it was the blood of those kids thrown from the saddle and trampled under his hooves! Only the best dared to climb in this saddle, those heroes blessed with a combination of bravery and foolishness, those cowpokes who would challenge the horse called Thunderbolt!

Play can be pretty serious, when you‘re a kid! Your imagination breathes life and nobility and heroics into all kinds of things and your world has many adventures. This carving, this toy, is an attempt to capture that spirit, that joy, that realistic thrill that we experienced while playing. I grew up in the country, with woods and creeks and pastures, and herds of kids who galloped and fought and built forts and hideouts and played pretty much full-time until we were forced to come inside! A stick was a horse, a spear, a rifle, or a pistol, depending on how you held it, and our heroes were Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger. The good guys always won, but it always seemed like both sides were the “good guys”. I hope looking at this piece, watching it move, or playing with it, will make you smile; will remind you of adventures that you once had. I hope you will remember the time when you rode “Thunderbolt”.

This piece is approximately 20”tall and 12” wide, and is made from basswood, pine, and birch plywood. It is finished with acrylic paint, gold leaf, satin polyurethane, and has some leather and metal accents

Here is a video showing the piece in operation….

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

19 comments so far

View TJ65's profile


1377 posts in 3018 days

#1 posted 02-26-2011 08:43 AM

He turned out fantastic.
It seems to me that carving a piece like this, always comes to life after painting it, and this is no exception. I really dont know the story of Thunderbolt but it sure does look like what you tried to capture has come about.
Well done and thanks for the blog along the way. Not to mention the doing the video of him in action.

-- Theresa,

View Dez's profile


1166 posts in 4045 days

#2 posted 02-26-2011 09:16 AM

I could send you pictures (given enough time) of my father, he didn’t look much different!
Great job!

-- Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity!

View Houtje's profile


311 posts in 2940 days

#3 posted 02-26-2011 12:21 PM

That’s a fantastic piece of carving….

View Spoontaneous's profile


1334 posts in 3298 days

#4 posted 02-26-2011 02:50 PM

Awesome carving…. Awesome paint job!

-- I just got done cutting three boards and all four of them were too short. (true story)

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4128 days

#5 posted 02-26-2011 03:11 PM

hang on there, little buckaroo… hang on.. you can do it.. tame that beast.. tame him . and ride like the wind!

I have thoroughly enjoyed the blog, and now the icing on the cake is this WONDERFUL blog. Beautifully written. And Thunderbolt & rider are excellent.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Maveric777's profile


2693 posts in 3044 days

#6 posted 02-26-2011 04:07 PM

Now that is just cool! Outstanding!

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View WoodenFrog's profile


2737 posts in 2881 days

#7 posted 02-26-2011 04:11 PM

Wonderful! Just Wonderful!
Mike, this is just too…COOL!
Awesome story and great video too!
Great work my friend.

-- Robert B. Sabina, Ohio.....

View Pimzedd's profile


598 posts in 4110 days

#8 posted 02-26-2011 04:38 PM

Mike, I’ve followed your blog on this. Well done. I’m getting the itch to give it a try.

Thanks for the story of Thunderbolt as well. It brought back memories of the mechanical horse in front of the Safeway store when I was a kid. Spent lots of time setting on it. Not riding mind you, just setting and imagining. Mom was too busy to drop in the nickel.

Thanks again for the trip down memory lane.

-- Bill - Mesquite, TX --- "Everything with a power cord eventually winds up in the trash.” John Sarge , timber framer and blacksmith instructor at Tillers International school

View Rustic's profile


3253 posts in 3564 days

#9 posted 02-26-2011 05:07 PM

Beautiful carving

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 2986 days

#10 posted 02-26-2011 08:43 PM

Wow, Mike, this is amazing! The sounds generated in the video sounds like a bucking bronco. I do remember galloping around with my brothers and sisters growing up! Mostly my brothers. Hopalong Cassidy was one of my favorites along with the Cisco Kid and Pancho. Thanks for bringing back memories and for posting! You did great with the cowboy’s face, looks very realistic! I’ll wager they come to life every night!

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3236 posts in 3680 days

#11 posted 02-27-2011 03:44 AM


It’s seems you walked right back into history with your story. We couldn’t afford to ride the mechanical horse, but now we’ve gotten to experience the “terror” through your eyes.

We have dial-up so I keep Flash player disabled, but enabled it and spent a half hour downloading the first 12 seconds so we could see Thunderbolt in action. Your carving and painting is fantastic.

Thanks for sharing.


P.S. We can’t decided where you are more creative: in the carving or in the writing!

-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3271 days

#12 posted 02-27-2011 04:43 AM

mike you have done a wonderful piece of work here…that is just awesome…you have a wonderful talent and i bet there are kids out there who would just love to play with ole thunderbolt…lol…i know i would have loved it as a kid…i had the whole outfit..down to my double holster and pistols…lol…....that was around 1964 or so…i think im getting old…keep up the wonderful work…what is next…grizzman

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2008 posts in 4373 days

#13 posted 02-27-2011 01:39 PM

truly a master’s work. The painting job is as wonderful as the carving!

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View mtnwild's profile


3474 posts in 3495 days

#14 posted 02-27-2011 03:03 PM

WOW, you did such a fantastic job on all counts.

Design, carving , color and emotion. Art should evoke some sort of response from the viewer and I bet there’s not many that do not turn a big smile when they first see this. So cool…......................

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 2806 days

#15 posted 02-27-2011 05:03 PM

So imaginative. The rider looks a bit like Ronald Regan in his cowboy days!

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

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