Friday, August 22, 2008

Dream Time (approximately, except you)



I grew up on a farm in Day county, South Dakota, the glacial lakes region. One of the things that exists on the farm that few farms have is a real live cemetery. I am not certain of the dates as to when the cemetery originated, but it was when wagon trains trekked through the region from the east. A family lost 2 daughters to cholera and they buried the girls on this hill. When I was a child, my father showed me the "less than obvious" stones that marked the children's graves. The hill is one of the highest points in Day County and offers a panoramic view to the west. At sundown you can see 45 miles to Aberdeen. The more I thought about it, the more I realized these unfortunate children needed a proper headstone. So.................. One winter during my youth I created this piece. The wings are the front quarter panels of a 1950 Ford. I cut the cactus using 2 railroad signal switch crossing posts. The center piece has a bell footing with bolt holes, and the arms are cut and welded from the other. The bird is mounted on a wheel spindle and rests inside the top and it pivots with the wind. Its rear is always windward. The head is fabricated from the hood of a car. I cut a pattern from cardboard and transferred it to the hood, cut it and shaped it into the head. It has a pivot point similar to those bobbing dogs in your rear view mirror. The breast is formed from a piece of expanded metal. Rebar talons wrap around the exhaust system from the same car. A structural crossarm holds the thing together. The foundation that supports it is a concrete footing. Unfortunately I never learned the names of the girls buried there. I scratched two crosses and the word "CHOLERA" into the wet concrete. Sparrows have since made a nest in the body and a badger has excavated a home under the concrete footing. The graves are just to the east of the sculpture.

When I go back to S.D. people come up and say "what did you do that for?" I am sure that no one outside my family knows the reason why, except you.

4 comments:

Jennifer Young said...

Welcome home. What a fantastic piece! Is it welded together? Do you do any more sculptures like this? If not, you really should consider it. Perhaps, I dunno.......crabs?

Any way,it's wonderful. Dark, but whimsical too. It truly helps to tell a small part of the story of these two. If not of their lives, at least their deaths. This sentry watching over them is a reminder of the cycle of things. How fitting that he also serves as condos for new life.

Rick Nilson said...

I will ask my next door neighbor if he would mind if I built a blacksmith shop in my back yard. I will let you know what he says. and I will be needing a couple of junked cars for parts.

Marilyn M. King said...

Hi Rick, I also welcome you back to computerland. You have a very tender heart to have given of yourself (and at a young age) for the honor of these girls. I know of few that would have been so heroic. The giving of your talent will stand for a long time and I think is much appreciated by more than those of us who can see the monument with human eyes.

Aside from the purpose of this sculpture, What a great piece! Very impressive and I'm surprised you are not involved in more three-D work (except for the obvious workspace limitations). You were so very creative and showed much talent those years ago....

Debbie said...

I like the way you memorialized the graves of the pioneer children. Some people dislike buzzards. I think they're pretty cool and appreciate the work they do.
And no, if you were MY neighbor, I would appreciate a blacksmith shop next door!

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