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By ROBERT VILLANUEVA
email@example.com RADCLIFF — Locksmithing, American Indian art and animal rescue are not commonly thought of as being related, the trio of skills is just business as usual for Jenson Enterprises, a family-owned business in Radcliff.
“The locksmithing makes the most money; the animals spend the most money,” said Eric Jenson, who is part Cherokee.
Eric displays and sells his handmade crafts — smudge boxes, drums and flutes — in his workshop and store, the same area that displays keys, doorknobs and his locksmith tools.
Outside the building to the right, kennels contain dogs and cats that have been rescued and are waiting for homes. Another row of kennels, in a fenced-in area to the left of the Jensons’ home, houses cats and chickens. Still another room of the main house is used to house more cats.
“Spay and neuter, spay and neuter, spay and neuter,” Debbie Jenson said, as if reciting a mantra. Twelve dogs and 30 cats were housed at the property at the time.
Debbie’s rescue efforts have not gone unnoticed. In fact, animals find their way into the shelter anonymously.
“They drop them right here in my driveway,” Debbie said.
Pot-bellied pigs, squirrels, ducks, ferrets and “lots of turtles” are dropped off at the rescue center, she said.
“We’ve had people knock on the door at 2 in the morning with a box of kittens,” Eric said.
Since Debbie also has a full-time job with the Hardin County Humane Society, her time with Jenson Enterprises is chiefly spent working with the animals.
Eric does most of the locksmith duties. Keys hang from the wall behind a counter in the shop, and even the discarded or damaged keys are not wasted.
Beyond the front room in the store, another area provides space for cutting animal hides and smelting unused metals from keys to make decorative metal pieces in the shapes of eagles and wolves, among other things.
This work is done primarily by Alex, 12, the Jensons’ son.
“It takes about 45 minutes for the smelter to warm up,” Alex said. Then it takes about 15 minutes to make the mold, which is done by pressing porcelain animals into sand to make an indentation into which he pours the smelted metal.
Alex made the metal wolves ornamenting the stand that holds one of his father’s latest creations, a buffalo hide drum. He said that was his favorite work.
But Alex also has used his skills to make what he calls “bling blades,” knives with leather handles and sheaths.
The large buffalo drum that sports his son’s ornamental metalwork — which was completed mid-May — also is special for Eric.
“We took it to powwow the 17th of May,” Eric said. That powwow was in Cookeville, Tenn.
In order to make the drums, Eric uses the same large room where his son does his smelting. He measures and cuts buffalo, elk and cow hide to make the drum surfaces and lacings.
The drums range in size from the small elk drums, which are about a foot wide, to the large cow and buffalo drums, which are about three feet wide. While they take a lot of work and are for sale, Eric will not sell them to just anyone.
“This drum I was offered $2,500 for,” he said, indicating the cow drum.
But when he heard the woman planned on using the drum for a coffee table, Eric decided not to sell. He said Native Americans believe spirits are in drums.
Eric also painted scenes of American Indians on the elk drums.
“I’m not an artist,” he said.
Among his other works are flutes, dream catchers and smudge boxes. Smudge boxes hold sage for ceremonial rituals.
Crafting the pieces involves cutting and sanding a lot of wood, mostly cedar.
“For Cherokee, everything’s cedar,” Eric said.
Debbie often helps Eric by sanding down wood. Then he finishes the piece, which can take many hours.
When all is said and done, one of the flutes, for instance, will take about 20 hours.
But the family seems to enjoy all aspect of Jenson Enterprises, helping out each other when they can.
Eric credited his wife with the hard work she’s put into the animal rescue.
“What she’s done with this place and what she’s done for the community, they don’t even know,” he said.
Likewise, Debbie complimented her husband’s work.
“He doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves,” she said.
Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743.