Saturday, June 14, 2008

I Had to Go Back with Flags

“What is this place?” I wondered as I stepped over a drooping rope strung as if to deter trespassers. Grass grew high in spots and rain water lay stagnant in low spots. The figures rose as high as Indian totem poles I’d seen in museums but clearly these figures depicted individual men.

Two of the figures stood in bamboo cages. They wore camouflage uniforms and hats - one a beret, the other a military cap. Each reached a muscular arm through the fencing that made a cage around the bamboo structure. Were they reaching for help, maybe food, or a cup of water?

Beyond the cages were some figures of firemen. One rested his fists on his hips as if surveying the damage. Another held up a hand in a gesture of stop. The third held his arms in a suspended motion. Weeds grew high around their feet.

A carving that looked like the span of wings overhead rested across the tops of the two cages, an entrance of sorts, yet it appeared that something was missing.

“I have the eagle head in my garage,” said Jonathan Hyman. On a visit to the convenience store some time ago, Jonathan had noticed the eagle head had fallen from the overhead winged section. He wanted it preserved so he took the initiative to hold it for safekeeping.

This place was not Jonathan’s property. Someone else in town owned the lot. Jonathan confided, “Some people in the community think this place is an eyesore. Others, like me, see it as folk art.”

Jonathan is a well-known photographer who lives in Smallwood, New York. He had stopped at the Citgo to buy a coffee for himself and a afterschool snack for his daughter Jane. Ed had stopped here to buy his daily newspaper. I expected to wait in the car until the figures drew me to them.

I learned from Jonathan that the property owner Zak Zacarri's hired and paid a Ted Walker to come down from Peru, Maine to do the "wood carvings". Walker used only a chain saw to create these carvings. We speculated that Zak must have quit paying Ted since only a few of the firemen figures appeared to be finished. This place started as a memorial to prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action. The tribute to the firefighters of the 9/11 came later.

In the weeds, I found a marker and two tattered faded little American flags. It read:

In Memory of P.O.W.s and M.I.A.s

We Will Never Stop Looking

A day later, I returned to this place. I brought two new flags to replace the worn ones doing my small part to never forget the men of the armed forces who battled in wars and never came home, to never forget the brave firemen who lost their lives in the rescue of 9/11.

June 4, 2008

The wood carvings memorial is located on
New York Highway 17B
near Smallwood, NY in a lot next to a
Citgo gas station and convenience store.

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