Saturday, November 19, 2011


Americans have a sense of humor. And I am constantly reminded of that endearing truth wherever I happen to be traveling. It finds its way into the names of towns and villages in every state and I have filled a notebook with examples – from Alligator Lake, Pumpkin Cove, Hardrock Candy Mountain, and Mosquitoville, to Sow-and-Pig Island, Picked Chicken Hill and Yankeetuladi.
             In a small Ohio town, I pulled to the curb to enjoy a tailor’s sign which, with Biblical good humor promised “As Ye Rip, So Shall We Sew”; and I know of a purveyor of female attire with the name of “Maggie’s Drawers” where the owner indicates when the store is open by flying a pair of old fashioned bloomers from a clothes line over the front door. A restaurateur I know still proudly maintains a sign suggesting “Eat Utah Lamb: 10,000 Coyotes Can’t Be Wrong!”, or another in coastal Oregon proclaiming “Friends don’t let friends eat farm-raised salmon”.
            Then too, down-home people and the villages they call “home” often delight in erecting roadside displays designed with nothing more complicated in mind than a desire to engage the smile-and-laugh mechanism of those passing by.  With my camera at the ready, I have gained much pleasure from observing and recording their very-American style of Roadside Whimsy.

In an area where signs beginning with the word “NO” tend to detract from a leisurely afternoon walk, it is both refreshing and amusing to run across so subtle a reminder as this one on Monhegan Island. Thank you for proving there are ways to say “No” with a smile.

 The Autumn harvest season seems to inspire the artist slumbering somewhere in each of us, and this small-town family takes obvious pride in bringing visual pleasure to those passing by on “Main Street – USA”.

 Stumbling upon this monument to wit and fancy in the high country of Utah gave us an excuse to pause, take a needed breath of fresh mountain air, and laugh out loud. Someone took time and effort in order to grant us an unexpected guffaw.

 Not all art springs from an artist’s paint, brush and pallet. The particular artist who lives in a humble retirement house behind this exhibit brings wit and whimsy to life with a cutting torch and the rusty remnants of a changing world.

 One man’s junk is another man’s inspiration, and has the power to entertain thousands just passing by.

If this retired piece of London history could speak, I would love to hear the stories it could tell. Today, it sits silently in an Oregon corn field.

All Photos by Al Cooper 

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