Kevin Pritt just spent more than a year of his life cutting down Douglas firs, setting them up and putting them together like Lincoln Logs.
Pritt sure is glad this sprawling Cowboy Church is finished. Now, he’s going to uproot it.
“We’ll take it apart, log by log,” said Pritt, owner of Republic Log Homes. “No nails or glue or anything. Everything is just cut and carved.”
Pritt and four workers built the church in the company yard, on the side of the road just outside this Ferry County town. The church will be shipped according to plan - piece by piece in 10 semitrucks, down to Granbury, Texas, home of the fledgling Cowboy Church movement.
It now takes up a good chunk of hillside, this log Taj Mahal. The roof sits next to the first floor. It’s a mini tourist attraction. It’s a mini forest, a fitted puzzle of almost 400 trees. It’s surrounded by piles of tree waste - saw dust, leftover tree slabs and pieces of wood.
Pritt always builds his creations in his lot and then trucks them to their final homes. Letters and numbers are scrawled on each log, a cheat sheet to putting the building back together again.
“I’ve already been through the alphabet twice, and I’m starting on a third time,” said Pritt, 38.
The building will become the new home base for the Cowboy Church, a non-denominational ministry started by Jeff Copenhaver, who grew up in the Inland Northwest. The church, with offshoots in Post Falls and Calgary, blends Western life and God.
“A lot of people are tired of a lifeless kind of dead church,” Copenhaver said. “They’re looking for something that’s kind of real, a get-real kind of deal, a straight shooter. That’s really what we represent.”
Copenhaver’s more of a straight roper, a world champion calf roper in 1975 from State Line, Idaho. He still teaches a calf-roping camp. He and his father were the first father-son team to win world champion rodeo titles. His father, Deb Copenhaver, of Creston, Wash., won buckles in 1955 and 1956 as a saddle bronc rider.
The church started 10 years ago in Billy Bob’s, a Fort Worth, Texas, bar advertised as the world’s largest honky tonk. It moved next door to an old musty auction barn in the Cowtown Stockyards. It moved to the Stockyards Hotel. It hopped 45 minutes south, to an old cemetery church. It skipped to a building cobbled together out of a roller skating rink.
And now, this log church, which sprung from a conversation between Copenhaver and his father two years ago.
“I said, ‘The Lord’s waiting for us to build a bigger church,”’ Jeff Copenhaver said. “I said, ‘It would really be something to build a log church.’ We really started with nothing other than the faith to do it.”
Pritt started with a lot of logs - 13 truckloads. Pritt chopped down three loads himself. He looks like a log man, with a weathered red face and deep grooves near his eyes from wrinkling his face in the sun.
Pritt wears a uniform of cracked sunglasses, a flannel shirt, Levi’s and shoes the color of dirt. He moved to Republic from Ohio in 1981 and decided he liked logging.
“You’re just by yourself, working in the woods, nobody bugging you too much,” Pritt said.
He started his business in 1990, mostly building log homes. Deb Copenhaver tapped Pritt to build his son’s church after seeing one of Pritt’s creations.
“This is a Hallelujah day for us, to see those logs on the way to Texas,” said Deb Copenhaver, who’s watched the building grow through fall and winter. “The Lord has provided. It’s just really been special to be a part of it.”
The foundation is waiting in Texas, etched with “To God be the glory.” That’s the same phrase chipped into Deb Copenhaver’s concrete barn floor, next to his indoor arena.
The church, which measures 100 feet by 40 feet, will be nestled in a pine grove. It will have a balcony and a stage. It will seat more than 500 people. The former Cowboy Church building will be turned into the Buckaroo Club, a children’s church.
Pritt will ride down to Texas on his own, to supervise putting the logs back together. That’s the easy part, he figures. The hard part’s all finished.
“It’s all tricky,” said Pritt, standing in the middle of his roof and looking up at his logs. “There ain’t very many people who can do it.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo