Patriotic Iron

[GGG mom-in-chief Julie Podulka sends a dispatch from the wilds of Michigan.]

There are not many things more American than the practice of erecting public displays of patriotism along rural roadsides (e.g. barn roofs painted with the American flag, corn fields mowed to provide an aerial view of the outline of the Mayflower, hay bales crafted into replicas of Mount Rushmore).

I saw this peculiarly American practice spread out in spectacular fashion when on a recent trip back home to the northern lower peninsula of Michigan. I had occasion to drive over to Rogers City, a small town on the Lake Huron side (aka “ the quiet side”) of the state. There are few state roads as remote and rural as M-68 East and fewer still that hold as many startling examples of the aforementioned displays. There was new snow on the hard plowed fields even though it was nearly April, and I almost rammed my CRV into a bald eagle as it swooped low from the dark pines, chasing a crow in dead silence across the road in front of me.

My first glimpse of something incongruous along the route was a fifteen-foot-tall bronze metal bust of President Gerald Ford complete with kaleidoscope blue eyes.

About one hundred yards away in the field was an equally massive bust of George Washington. “Well. That was interesting,” I thought.

But the patriotic metal parade just rolled on. There was a deep red bust of Lincoln, a fiercely pugnacious bald eagle, and a wonderful, empty eye-socketed head of the Statue of Liberty in patina copper green outside the local car wash.

All of these incredible works and more are the creation of the owner of Moran Iron Works of Onaway, Tom Moran. Mr. Moran has been making these huge metal art pieces for floats in the Onaway, Michigan, Fourth of July parade since 1989. Afterward the pieces find homes all over northern Michigan, and many of them end up along M-68.

At the end of the road is Rogers City on the shores of Lake Huron. At Lakeside Park there stands one more giant metal sculpture, the Liberty Torch. This is the kind of true blue Americana that has always been a part of our national landscape, especially along rural roads in the way back of beyond. It is sort of reassuring to find that there are still earnest individuals ready and willing to wear their love of country not only on their sleeves but writ large in their fields, front yards, parking lots, and parks.

The cynic might say these are misbegotten creations, the products of misplaced and romantic notions emanating from minds besotted with nationalistic fervor. But I don’t know. They tug at my heartstrings. They make me wistful. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just a sucker for big metal stuff.

To see more of these art pieces, go to http://www.moraniron.com/artwork/html/artwork.php

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