Chalk sun

Adianna Wasson planned for this chalk art to be a surprise for Tom Shafer and his wife, but got caught mid-drawing. It was still a much-appreciated gesture in turbulent times.

OTTUMWA — Tom Shafer and his wife weren’t really supposed to look out the window when they did.

Adianna Wasson had done this before. Sneak over, do a quick chalk drawing, and disappear without being caught. The first time cut it close. She had to “make a mad dash” home to avoid being spotted. But the Shafers seemed to appreciate the gesture and Adianna figured it was worth a shot to brighten their day.

Then the door opened.

“I was like, ‘Oh, shoot. That didn’t work,’” Adianna said. There wasn’t any time to disappear on Wednesday, and she was caught right in the driveway.

Shafer did indeed appreciate the effort to bring some joy with all the turmoil currently in the country. He said it reflected well on Adianna, who also drew a stegosaurus on a neighbor’s driveway for children in the home who love dinosaurs.

Why chalk?

“It’s something pretty easy for me to do. I’ve done it before,” Adianna said. “It’s a challenge to work with.”

Adianna is a sophomore at Ottumwa High School, and her efforts to find ways to help others already have her on what could be a career path. She’s a volunteer at the Omaha Zoo, something she stumbled into during a visit several years ago.

When she spotted a group wearing matching T-shirts that weren’t from the uniforms she recognized, Adianna asked the leader what they were doing. He turned out to be in charge of the volunteers, and as soon as she was able she applied to join.

“We talk to the public about different things. We help talk about conservation and things like that,” she said.

Adianna said working with the public and animals is something she can see herself doing professionally. It blends her love of animals with good memories from her childhood, and gives her a way to offer future generations similar memories.

This year was supposed to bring a new opportunity: shadowing the zookeepers as they care for the animals. But then COVID-19 hit. The zoo shut down just before that opportunity was scheduled to begin.

So, for now, things like the chalk art are what Adianna can do locally. She said it isn’t hard, but there’s still technique to learn before people get what they have in their heads translated to the sidewalk or driveway.

“Any sort of sidewalk chalk will work,” she said. “I have a very miscellaneous collection.”

She did offer one tip for people who want to create their own works. Light rubbing with your fingers can help smooth the colors and keep from leaving a pile of chalk dust that can easily blow onto other areas.

Matt Milner can be reached at and followed on Twitter @mwmilner

Matt Milner can be reached at and followed on Twitter @mwmilner


Managing Editor

Matt Milner currently serves as the Courier's Managing Editor. Milner is a trained weather spotter and is usually outside if there are storms. He joined the Courier in 2002.

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