My daily bicycle ritual usually takes me north of town, past the hospital to pedal along our rural county roads. On a windy day at the end of April a most unusual scene unfolded as I headed out. I stopped to gawk at a crane grabbing hold of an osprey and lifting it almost 30 feet off the ground.
Before crying fowl, let me explain. The osprey weighed 2500 pounds. I know this because the crane operator shouted the information out his truck window while he manipulated the crane’s hydraulics with the skill of a pinball wizard. The osprey was already familiar to me, a commissioned sculpture designed and assembled by local artist Bill Teetzel at his studio north of town for the newly constructed Osprey headquarters, just across the street from our newly constructed combined-court building. Osprey is Cortez’s sanctuary for backpacks, not birds. The company designs, manufactures, and sells a trademark with greater recognition than the actual ospreys.
A half-dozen men scrambled to orchestrate a gentle landing for the sculpture after its awkward flight from a flatbed trailer, suspended by cables, swinging and swaying slightly as it hovered above its permanent concrete perch. Famous for its expansive six-foot wingspan, the osprey is impressive, but the record for any living bird’s wingspan is held by the wandering albatross, a spread of up to 12 feet. But who would want to go hiking with an Albatross backpack?
Teetzel’s osprey stands 9.5 feet tall and 18 feet wide. It, too, is impressive, constructed out of three gnarly sheets of half-inch crusher screen slightly arced, then welded in layers to form a three-dimensional background relief. The company’s skeletal trademark bird is fastened to that wired slice of sky.
While I admire the sculpture very much, what I admire even more is the way a community came together to make it happen. Osprey could have easily outsourced the art project, but they opted to work with local talent, ingenuity, and sweat.
Standing among a growing crowd of onlookers, I recognized many faces involved in the undertaking. The crane operator whom I first met at parent-teacher conferences while his boys studied their way through high school—the same school district where his wife and I taught. A volunteer at the county jail who instructs inmates wandered over to see what was going on, then vanished before I could say hello. The crew included a former manager from our local Empire Electric Co-op, a young Osprey employee assigned an eight-hour construction shift, and some friends who have worked with Teetzel for years, including Joanne, his wife, a nurse with a career in Four Corners public health. The scene smacked not of a business venture but of neighborhood celebration.
Bill Teetzel shared his vision with me, one of finding common ground between art and community, encouraging both to occupy the same gallery. His salvage-yard installation south of town stands as a case in point. It occupies a roof at Belt Salvage, depicting two enormous metal vultures gutting the carcass of an overturned car placed up there, no doubt by another crane. Three companion vultures survey the highway nearby, as if awaiting their turns. The sculpture constitutes a reality adjustment, a lens where Bill adds perspective, and humor. To a stream of amused tourists passing through, Teetzel’s vultures stand as goodwill ambassadors for the city of Cortez.
The word connectivity could be a source of confusion for those trying to grapple with the concept of community. Social platforms, followers, postings, and traffic shape the internet vocabulary for users trying to grow an audience. Donald J. Trump boasts over 51 million Twitter followers, yet he follows about 48. Katy Perry holds a Twitter record with almost 110 million fans. She follows about 200. Apparently, social media communities run mostly with one-way streets.
To people growing a physical community, a social platform might be as simple as a neighbor’s deck where food gets grilled and glasses refilled. Followers might be confused with stalkers. Postings occur at the Post Office, or on a public bulletin board if a pet disappears or some possession loses its charm and needs to be sold. As community traffic increases, we build medians and signal lights. An internet hit is trivial compared to one while pedestrians cross the street.
Eventually I bicycled home, because the serious work of drilling concrete and installing bolts gave me the willies. Relationship-building should never require wearing a hardhat.
David Feela is a retired teacher living in Cortez, Colo. See more of his works at http://feelasophy.weebly.com/