It appeared at first as though drinking may have inspired Larry Dennis's peculiar masterpiece, but the bottle he was holding when he greeted me turned out to be nothing more than a frosty root beer. As I found out, Larry doesn't even drink. A tug on a strip of beef jerky is about as wild as he gets. “They used to call me Ol' Straight, Straight Larry,” he confessed.
As I looked up at that colossal piece of furniture in the parking lot, though, I knew the soft-spoken carpenter could be a lot nuttier than he let on.
The chair stands in front of the Texas Hill Country Furniture and Mercantile, a rustic home-furnishings store outside Lipan, run by Larry and his wife Sherry. According to Larry, the idea for the big seat came to him after a visitor to the shop brought by a photo he had taken of a novelty rocker, 12 feet tall. Realizing what an attention-getter such a spectacle would be for the business, Larry set about creating one of his own.
He began by gathering together some of the larger cedar logs delivered to the workshop out back, where he and his team create the handmade furniture sold in his store. Finding timber the right scale, said Larry, was the hardest part. After all, it had to look real; rocking chairs are his business.
After five and a half days of construction, Larry's little splinter project had grown enormously. It's six times the size of a regular rocking chair and weighs in at more than 8,000 pounds. It spans 12 feet 7 3/8 inches wide and reaches exactly 29 feet 10 1/2 inches high. Naturally, Larry downplays the whole thing. “We just wanted to build a big chair.”
As far as Texas Twisted has been able to determine, the Star of Texas Rocker is the largest in the world. It overtakes Penrose, Colorado's 21-foot “World's Largest Rocking Chair” and although Hattiesburg, Mississippi touts its Country Rocker at 30 feet in height, it has been disqualified due to its embarrassing lack of rockers, the very thing that makes a chair a rocking chair.
Should Larry's title be challenged, though, it's unclear whether he would attempt to reclaim it. “It would be fun to build a bigger one,” he said. The problem is, he admitted with a smirk, “Much bigger than that, you'd have to add onto the parking lot.”