Andrew Dys

Finding the child inside

Dennis Kramer built this carousel, which sits in front of his Rock Hill home.
Dennis Kramer built this carousel, which sits in front of his Rock Hill home.

It was almost Christmas last year, and Dennis Kramer, the 57-year-old craftsman and electrician, was a kid again.

What's better for a big kid at Christmas than a carousel?

But Kramer didn't buy a carousel. He didn't order one. He built one. About a dozen feet across and maybe 10 feet high with dashing horses painted gold around the circle.

And to top it all off, he installed his carousel right smack in his front yard.

Then, he made more wild horses to put in the yard.

But wait. Of course, there is more.

The carousel doesn't revolve, so Kramer spent weeks fitting the carousel with lights and music set on a timer. The music plays and the lights make it look like the horses are leaping and whinnying and neighing and whatever other "-ings" that horses do.

"'Escape of the Horses,' I call it," said Kramer, an industrial electrician at U.S. Cotton in Charlotte.

Kramer said we are all kids at heart, if we just take a minute to remember what it was like as a kid.

"I just wanted to enrich the Christmas spirit of the season," Kramer said. "We stand in lines at the bank, sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic, but that's not what life is about."

And bumper-to-bumper traffic on Centennial Drive southwest of Rock Hill, Kramer might get that, too.

"Sure makes people stop if they drive by," said Kramer's wife of 27 years, Alyce. "You don't see a carousel in somebody's front yard every day."

I asked Dennis Kramer, a transplant from the Pittsburgh area, if the idea came one night while he was in bed, when he sat bolt upright and shouted out: "I got it!"

"That's just about how it happened," Kramer said.

For about a year, Kramer has been working on the carousel. He did a painting called "Escape of the Horses" first, and used photographs of wild horses and carousel horses as guides. He drafted about 60 pages of blueprints. He cut out all the horses himself from plywood, and built the carousel framework. He put up ornamental trim just like a carnival carousel has. He even consulted his mother-in-law by telephone almost daily about the project, including what color to paint the thing.

"She said gold, so gold it is," said Kramer.

Smart guy, Dennis Kramer.

The gold paint came from the hand of his wife, a quilter when her husband doesn't have her painting horses gold.

For weeks at the house's kitchen counter that looks like a 1950s diner, Kramer fussed over the lights and music to get it synchronized just right.

It took about three days for Kramer to put up his carousel. An old utility pole, painted gold, too, serves as the axis. He found some big candy canes and other stuff to jazz it up a little bit. A few cars have slowed down with drivers wondering what is going on.

What is going on, Dennis Kramer said, is "just plain fun."

But Kramer isn't done bolting upright in bed with ideas. Next year?

"I'm thinking about penguins, lined up at a ticket booth waiting for a ride on a Ferris wheel," he said.

Penguins and a Ferris wheel, right there in the front yard.