Esoteric Bunker Productions commissioned the statue. Over two years ago, I started to look for a symbol for the Esoteric Bunker concept as I described in (the definition of Esoteric Bunkerism) and (What is an Esoteric Bunker). It needed to be something that would symbolize an individual’s struggles to make sense of life in the density of our physical existence contrasted with the lightness of our spiritual yearnings. Spirit made manifest. In thinking about this concept, I had driven by Rob Lunsford’s Welding Shop south of Stratford, Oklahoma and saw a sculpture depicting a twenty-foot tall, metal left hand with a butterfly sitting on top of an extended index finger. The hand had been completed but the arm had never been finished. It was looking rather rusty, but it had weathered the elements, as I would later learn, for twenty years.
I immediately started asking questions about the hand and instantly saw that Rob had answered these questions often. I made the obligatory reference to what the statue would look like if the middle finger had been extended for the butterfly to rest upon. He had heard that reference so many times that he no longer found it the least bit humorous. I then asked him if the statue could be purchased. It soon became apparent that this icon of State Highway 177, was not going to be leaving its perch next to the welding shop. Not because it was a one of a kind, which it was, nor because it couldn’t be reproduced, which it could, but because it was Rob’s art. This item had attracted a great deal of attention over the years and Rob relished talking about its history. The statue was part of who he was.
But as happens with all of us, the Bunker side reared its practical head and whispered in Rob’s ear that a welder always needs work. Bills have to be paid if you want that welding machine to turn on when you need it. Mouths have to be fed. Rob told me that if I were serious about buying one, he could make a new one. It would be constructed better, it would be complete unlike the original, and it would be unique since he would sculpt the hand into a different position. The deal was eventually inked and the materials were ordered.
I was told that it would take a couple of months to build with a completion date of around the end of December 2013. Any great project has its challenges. During the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, the chief engineer of the bridge, Washington Roebling, became debilitated after suffering from Decompression Sickness while working on the bridge. Unable to personally supervise the construction, he worked from an apartment within view of the bridge. Roebling was not the only person to pay a high price during construction, as 27 men lost their lives building the bridge. Sadly, six days after the bridge opened, the public paid a heavy price when 12 people were trampled to death during the melee that followed a rumor that the bridge was about to collapse. We had our challenges, obviously, not to the degree of Washington Roebling. But one particular challenge is worth noting.
The thorn in the side of this project was a person who I will refer to as DEADBEAT, a friend of Rob’s, who had helped with the original hand, and was going to help with my version. Within days of starting, it became obvious that the partners were having problems. Within a few weeks DEADBEAT informed me he would take over the project. After considering his demand to build the statue without Rob at my ranch, I told him that I didn’t want to go that route. I suggested he work it out with his partner. I texted:
DB: “One more thing, if you don’t build it you have money problems, legal problems etc. If you do build it, you save a friendship, make some more money, potentially create a universal symbol, create some buzz that could help you make a living on other projects, make me happy because my project gets done. What Rob brings to the partnership is a workplace, some semblance of financing, stability, tools, manpower, welding experience that I can see, and the hope that I can get this project done.”
DEADBEAT responded: “As I have clearly stated several times, there is not project involving Rob. I am the only one who can, or could have built the statue. But you keep wanting to involve Rob. I have no idea what your true agenda is, but you don’t want to take me seriously. I will not be talking to Rob, but my attorney will be talking to you.”
I thought that those where rather bold words for a guy who had taken a substantial amount of my money and refused to do the work. DEADBEAT was clearly calling for Rob’s name to be stricken from anything related to the project. His proclamation sounded like King Ramses I in the movie TEN COMMANDMENTS when the King tells the court to strike the name of Moses from the monuments and temples of Egypt, “So let it be written, So let it be done.” Actually, he was as melodramatic as Yul Brenner.
Meanwhile, Rob, never said a cross word or complained about DEADBEAT. DEADBEAT’s chief bitch was that he wanted one-third down, one-third in the middle, and one-third upon completion. But Rob and I thought it wiser to put one third-down, and pay two-thirds upon completion of the project, to give them the incentive to finish quicker. You would have thought that we called DEADBEAT’s wife fat and his kids ugly. The ranting by text continued in earnest finally ending with my last response:
D.B.: “My contract is with you and Rob. I choose to talk to him. So as I have clearly stated, talk to him. As to your attorney, I would love to talk to him or her. So please forward my number to them. Since you have a partner and an attorney, please no further contact. Have a blessed day and a merry Christmas.”
My experience as a businessman, having signed literally thousands of contracts over my 25 year career, is that invariably the people who caused me legal problems, and ultimately unjustly wormed money out of me, were always the least deserving, and the most responsible for their inabilities to honorably perform their work. The flip side was that good successful business people often cave into these malcontent’s demands because they know it would cost more to prove the malcontents wrong. So I found myself in that familiar position as the Bunker minded businessman, who gets things done, joined at the hip with a flaky malcontent who commits to a project with so many conditions that the likelihood of completion is remote. He lacked integrity. I was too pragmatic.
Not surprisingly, DEADBEAT skipped town with half of the down payment. His attorney never called. He didn’t do any of the work. He built an eighteen-inch styrofoam model that wasn’t critical to Rob’s efforts. I imagine Deadbeat will complain, to anyone who will listen, that he has suffered a great injustice. So many in our society are constantly aggrieved. It just makes your butt tired dealing with such narcissistic people. The wrong word is used. Someone is disrespected by a look. Someone parks on the yellow line in the parking lot. The opportunities are endless for aggrievement.
Well, that’s another story for another day. Rob was cheated out of money he needed to pay his wages while he continued to work on the statue. In the long run, I didn’t get hurt, although I wasn’t very confident the statue would be built. Two months became two years. Rob was busy with an onslaught of oilfield work and his regular customers. But, he never wavered in his commitment to complete the hand.
He never asked for additional money or any progressive payments. He told me on more than one occasion, that if I didn’t want to wait on him or if I didn’t like the statue, he would refund my money. My constant inquires as to the status of the work became less and less frequent. I mentally surrendered, and decided if it were meant to be, it would happen. If not, so be it. At the beginning of the summer of 2015, I got the call that the statue was finished.
Sometimes, just sometimes, we are all surprised. I became the businessman who didn’t cut his losses, by demanding my money back, and cancelling my involvement in the project. Rob, instead of a welding guy with greasy clothes, and bushy beard, changed before my eyes. He became the caterpillar who transformed into the butterfly of our project. Despite DEADBEAT’s prediction, I found an artist who merged welded steel with artistic form. Who would have thought it possible? One should always honor the time worn adage, don’t judge a book by its cover, or in our case, a welder by his soft-spoken demeanor and practical skills. Congratulations Rob, you da man!