a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pioneer dude with spikes

WEST NEWTON, Pa. – Those who use a popular hiking and biking trail should be glad it got a rifleman from the quirky sculptor Bill Secunda instead of the giant steel cockroaches he crafted for Texas.

The self-taught Butler, Pa., artist designed 12-foot likenesses of those pesky bugs for the ABC Pest Control building in Dallas. Secunda also planted a giant fire-breathing monster in a swamp in Alabama, his Web site indicates.

His new statue at the Yough River Trail entrance along Route 136 in West Newton, Pa., seems tame in comparison. It’s an odd caricature of a squatty pioneer man forged in railroad spikes.

To earn the commission, Secunda had to come up with a piece that is reflective of the heritage of this small town along the Youghiogheny River.

His subject apparently pays tribute to a band of pioneers under Gen. Rufus Putnam that briefly stopped here in 1788 to build boats before continuing on to explore the Northwest Territory. The rusting spikes Secunda used to build the guy speak to the abandoned rail line that was ripped up to create the 43-mile trail that is among the best sections of the Great Allegheny Passage.

We’re so lucky to have this trail in my part of the woods. I guess we’re lucky to have the Secunda statue, too, but it kind of reminds me of Big Jim, the giant folk art cowboy in Bentleyville, Pa.

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