“One gray night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more.
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.”
It’s been a bad week for mythological creatures — or a least for art based on mythological creatures.
In recent days, someone drove up to Jim Vance’s shelterbelt in rural Barton County and stole his big green dragon sculpture. He made it 11 years ago, when he was learning to work with fiberglass so he could build an airplane. He created it after his grandson told him every forest should have a dragon. It’s been a source of amusement for area children since the dragon first stuck its massive head and 8-foot-long neck from the trees.
“You have to imagine the body,” Vance says, pointing to a photo of the beast. Thirty feet away, a trident pointed tail pokes from the other end of the shelterbelt. Or did, before someone stole it. The whole thing disappeared.
Around the same time that thieves were slaying Vance’s dragon, someone was sneaking into a widow’s back yard in California and carrying off another sculpture of a mythical creature. The woman’s husband, Theodor Seuss Geisel, was better known to millions of children as Dr. Seuss, creator of The Cat in the Hat and a tree-loving character called The Lorax. Geisel’s daughter made a bronze sculpture of the Lorax that graced the Geisel garden for years, but it too has disappeared.
We know Great Bend isn’t immune to theft or vandalism, even in the case of art, and those crimes aren’t unique to our community, either. One of the last pieces of outdoor art that was attacked here was the Clara Barton mural on the side of the Post Office; someone spray painted a “Hitler moustache,” on the image and its removal left a permanent scar on the painting.
Another of Great Bend’s murals, by Chet Cale, was legally and intentionally covered up during the repair of an old brick building.
We love Great Bend’s public outdoor art: The quilt blocks laid in the sidewalk around the courthouse, the Union Soldier standing guard in Lafayette Park (the official name of the courthouse square), and the murals scattered around the city. Soon we will add “The Gift,” Cale’s bronze tribute to Jack Kilby, who invented the integrated circuit, and Jack Kilby Square (the unofficial name of the Courthouse Square) may become forever fixed in the public nomenclature.
What we would like is to see more art — in our parks and on the college campus and school playgrounds. Bring us kinetic sculptures! Fantastic interactive installations! Art Deco birdhouses along Main Street, if you like. Art in every idle space.
And then, we would really like to see people cherish that art. If we don’t, another dragon will slip into its cave and cease its fearless roar.