Sunday, March 1, 2009

Where the Whirligigs Start -- and meeting a legend

I bet you've seen those crazy whirligigs west of Mullinville on U.S. 400. They just go on and on, easily over 1/4 mile. Drive into town and you'll see more -- and you'll see more east of town, too. They are everywhere! As you're looking at all these creations don't you want to meet the guy that makes all of these "things?"

You've probably heard about M.T. Liggett a time or two. In fact, his version of grassroots art was deemed so unique that he was one of the 24 finalists for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Art. The neat part about his art is that it garners lots of conversation.

The other day WenDee and I were headed back from doing a game show in Garden City and stopped in Mullinville to deliver the 8 Wonders finalist poster to M.T. I had never met him so was hoping he'd be around. Locals said they had seen him driving around at noon but they thought he wasn't home right now. After about four different sets of directions, we found his house. The neighbor said I should just leave the poster in his car. As I was leaving it, he drove up in his brown pickup. I was about to meet Mr. M.T. Liggett!

Before you know it, we were following him to his "shed" or workshop. When we got there he picked up a broken key under a metal plate and proceeded toward the front of the shed. We soon got a taste of his humor because there is no door to this place.

He was explaining all sorts of things -- including his penchant for coffee cups. Coffee cups EVERYWHERE! Well, everywhere that there wasn't other stuff. Dirt floor. This was definitely shaping up to be an Explorer adventure.

We saw his tools of the trade everywhere from signs, to paint, to metal scraps, to leftover anything.

He told us all sorts of stories including some pretty intriguing ones about his days overseas. He asked us our names and he was just sure he had one of those disc plates with the name "Marci" on it. To look for it was to find a jillion of those plates with just about any girls name on it you could imagine. Of course, none spelled WenDee. In the end, we just told him we'll be glad to come back. He gave us some crazy looking metal face piece and we felt like we were getting a gift from the grassroots Smithsonian!

We ended it all with pictures. It sure was fun meeting M.T. A living legend. That's for sure.

Kansas is full of characters and they all have a story -- and talents! To know M.T. is to "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

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Unknown said...

As soon as I saw the header I knew where you'd been and whom you had met. Great fun! Nancy, Melody Dog and I met him on our last stop there too, but we unfortunately didn't have the time to go back to the shop with him. What an adventure that sounds like! I'd say yes that was a grassroots art Smithsonian gift.

Anonymous said...

We drove by there every time we traveled to Dodge to visit Mike's parents. It is an amazing sight, and constantly changing!!

Anonymous said...

The time that I discovered his art, he drove up while I was taking photos. But some of the messages on the art made me feel so uncomfortable that I didn't feel good about talking to him and we only exchanged a couple of sentences.

I've since met many Grassroots Artists around Kansas. It is usually at their home and the first few times, on the way to the homes I wondered what the experience would be like.

But every experience has been positive. Usually the artists (and their spouses) are even more interesting than the art.

Since then, I have stopped in Mullenville hoping to meet MT a couple of times, but have had no luck.

Milt said...

See this video about Mr. Liggett:

Anonymous said...

I too happened to have the opportunity to meet MT. He drove up as my husband and I were taking photos. I truly enjoyed visiting with him and yes he is opinionated but it is refreshing to meet someone that is not afraid to say what they think. What was also interesting was the comments we heard from the other folks in the area that we visited with when they heard we had met MT. Some were very fond of him and others not. Did not seem to be any middle ground there. - Janet