BROMIDE - In this small farming community 40 miles southeast of Ada, the only business district to speak of is in Billy Joe Sandusky's back yard, and it's populated by kokopellis, pigs, bears and the occasional roadrunner.
The animals are the byproduct of a fertile imagination, uniquely rendered yard art sculptures assembled from old farming implements, car parts and other found objects. Old plow parts, rakes, wheels, gears and just about anything made of metal can become art in Sandusky's hands.
A retired farmer and rancher who spent most of his adult life working his land, Sandusky was often forced to make his own parts when his tools wore out, but his welding and forging ability soon sparked a desire to turn functional tools into works of art.
"I've always done stuff, but I was just too busy building my own plow tools and didn't have time to do the stuff I enjoyed," Sandusky, 72, said. "But after I retired, well, I do what I want to do."
A giant metal spring and a plowing tool can turn into a farm pig in Sandusky's hands, and a set of old cooling fans and old farming implements is magically transformed into giant gerber daisies. An old bicycle frame sits near his workshop, waiting to be recast as a praying mantis, and a pile of empty Freon cans will soon be assembled and find new life as a giant alligator sculpture.
"My totem pole there is made out of Freon cans," he said, pointing to a colorful sculpture of humorously rendered metal heads stacked 10 feet high.
"I've got an idea in my head now where I'm going to take smaller Freon cans together and I'm going to make me an alligator. He'll be 10 to 12 feet long. Wait until I get him painted - he'll be a real eye catcher. He'll be a mean-looking cuss."
Anything he sees at a yard sale or junkyard can become art, and Sandusky is constantly on the lookout. It doesn't have to be an old farm tool, tire patching kit or engine gear to make it into his mechanical menagerie - all he needs is a piece of sheet metal or an old water tank, and he can cut a new piece of art from it, like a father-and-son armadillo duo. The father is on his back, guzzling from a bottle of liquor.
"But that armadillo over there is a little baby - he's drinking IBC root beer because he's not big enough for the hard stuff," Sandusky said.
One of his favorite objects to create from raw metal are kokopellis. The American Indian tribes of southern Utah had a legend about a little man with a flute named Kokopelli. When Kokopelli came into a village, playing his flute, the just-planted corn crops would suddenly be four feet tall and the women would find themselves "with child."
"People love the kokopellis," he said of the sculptures, which are festooned with card-suit cutouts and show the mythical figure in action, playing his flute. "I like him because he was a fertility god and he got the women pregnant."