Whispering Giants

Saturday, October 15, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Day 2:  Murfreesboro, TN to Cape Girardeau, MO.  Driving through Paducah, Kentucky today, we came across an impressive sculpture in Noble Park.  Called Wacinton, the hand-carved wooden statue was created from a 56,000-lb. red oak in 1985 to honor the Chickasaw who claimed the lands in Western Kentucky and Tennessee by a Hungarian-born artist.  Peter Wolf Toth immigrated to the U.S. with his parents at an early age, settling in Ohio where he later attended art school.  Beginning in the early 1970s, Toth began creating a series of more than 70 sculptures of Native Americans called the "Trail of the Whispering Giants."
Peter Toth
Using only a hammer and chisel, Toth considers himself just another tool in the creation of these works of art to honor people who have faced injustice.  The artist, whose own family was displaced from their Hungarian home in that country's 1956 revolution, feels a kinship with the native peoples who became refugees in their homeland.  
In the last forty years, Toth has traveled around the country chiseling expressive faces out of local trees.  Ranging in size from 20 to 50 feet tall, examples of these sculptures stand in every state and several Canadian provinces.  Working with cities, parks, chambers of commerce and private individuals, Toth carves his creations in the local communties where they will be exhibited.  Sometimes he accepts assistance with living expenses but he refuses all offers of compensation.
Toth drew inspiration from John F. Kennedy's famous statement, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."  His sculptures, he says, are his donation to America.  See Wikipedia for a list of all the statues and their locations.
The statues are not meant to represent a particular person nor are they totems.  "I study each of the giant logs until I can visualize the Indian within," he says, "and then I try to intertwine the spirit of the tree with the spirit of the Indian."   The face is meant to be an interpretation and blend of all the Indian cultures in that particular state.
Wacinton statue and the commemorative stamp
An Illinois letterboxer has taken on the daunting task of creating a letterbox to honor each of these magnificent sculptures.  As faithful representations of the sculptures, the stamps that he carves for the boxes are works of art themselves.  Of course, the letterbox is hidden somewhere near the sculpture, like the one we found today in Paducah.  We look forward to visiting more of these dual works of art.
Occupy the Hinterlands.  The Occupy Wall Street movement has made it to the heartlands.  Today we saw a group of protestors gathered in the Paducah park near the Toth statue.
Stay Away.  Kentucky makes explicitly clear its prohibitions for traffic on interstate highways.  At each entrance ramp is a sign indicating:  "Prohibited: Pedestrians, Bicycles, Motor Scooters, Metal Treads, Farm Implements, Animals on Foot."
Bait and Pump.  Upon entering Illinois, we saw a gas station advertising $2.999 per gallon.  As we were screeching to a stop so we could fill up, we noticed that this price was for E-85 (flex fuel with up to 85% ethanol).  The price for regular unleaded was $3.499.  Never mind.
Behave in Missouri.  What an offer from Missouri!  On a highway sign:  "Hit a worker | $10,000 Fine | Lose Your License"
Well, maybe some electrical gadgets are okay.  Seen in southern Illinois:  Two Amish women collecting their withdrawal from an ATM and returning to their buggy.

  • Miles driven:  300
  • States:  4 (TN, KY, IL, MO)
  • Letterboxes found:  5
  • Cars pulling into Starbucks ahead of us:  8
  • Additional cars that arrived while Ken went in for coffee:  17
  • Kids at soccer games:  3,827
  • Occupy Paducah protestors:  33
  • Rivers crossed:  Cumberland (repeatedly), Tennessee, Ohio, Mississippi
  • Barns:  9,371  

Coffee tanker??
Monument to Lincoln-Douglas debate in Jonesboro, IL
Occupy Paducah protestors, Noble Park
Stamping in
Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge over Mississippi River
Cape Girardeau, MO