An ongoing project of mine has been to research and write the text for a series of historical markers that dot the sidewalks of my small town's downtown district. It's been a good exercise regime for the research muscles in my brain and has introduced me to the colorful past of my adopted hometown. The experience thus far has also been rewarding in that I'm doing my part to preserve a bit of how we got here and where we came from.
Although I think the "historical walking tour in-progress" has had little to no impact on tourism, local interest, and citizen apathy, a local artist noticed enough to ask me to contribute to an art restoration project currently underway.
Back in 1976 when the entire country was scrambling to spend Bicentennial funds being allotted to communities throughout our then 200-year old this-land-is-your-land, a group of "concerned citizens" led by the venerable local American Legion chapter decided to fund a life size bronze of a typical farmer, called "The Farmer."
The good citizenry rallied around the oh-so-starred-and-striped project, started a fund drive, commissioned an artist from up north to create the sculpture. In the interim, local merchants and volunteers bricked up a pedestal to mount the thing on and a concave backdrop wall was erected behind the entire setup. For good measure they dropped two time capsules into the pedestal and had a bronze plaque mounted on the wall.
My role in the restoration project would be to research and pen the text for two additional plaques to be placed on a newly constructed pedestal for the statue. Plaque one will tell a little history on the statue itself, while the second one will provide some background on the significance of "The Farmer" to the creation and continued existence of my small town.
It was while conducting said research that I upturned yet another rock, uncovering yet another skeleton in the closet of my small towns past.
Every published account from 33-years ago dealing with the creation, erection, and dedication of The Farmer lists the statue as being of bronze construction. Several pictures were taken and published of the artist working on the piece, including one that shows molds being taken of the clay original to be used in the bronze casting process. I even found an account listing the fund raising efforts being made on behalf of the American Legion to cover the costs of the bronze figure.
Only problem is, The Farmer that stands in front of my small town's courthouse on Main Street is not made of bronze. He's some sort of hardened concrete-plaster hybrid (according to the Artist planning to restore it).
Had he been made of the brown ferrous metal, no restoration efforts would be needed for another 100 years or so.
So, what happened to the bronze? He was planned as a bronze. Molds of him were made in preparation for a bronze. Funds were apparently raised for him to be cast in bronze. The papers from July 4, 1976 (the day he was dedicated and unveiled) clearly state he is a statue of bronze stature.
So, where's the bronze?
To be continued...