A Monster Made from Bois d’arc
Photograph Birney Imes
If you’ve lived in the Prairie, you know about the bois d’arc, a tree so tough a fence post made from its wood will outlast two postholes.
Sometime around the end of the millennium Johnny Gerhart happened to be clearing farmland around the intersection of Shaeffer’s Chapel Road and Highway 45 South. Gerhart piled up debris around an old bois d’arc tree and set it afire. This was not the farmer’s first experience with a tree to which some ascribe supernatural properties, so he was not surprised when the burning was over to see the curved trunk of the bois d’arc still standing.
Not long after this came Margaret and Jacky Triplett, who live on a ridge across the highway. What for most looked like a charred tree trunk, looked to the Tripletts like a dinosaur. Johnny didn’t mind, so Margaret and Jacky got busy. Using an old tire, tennis balls, plastic reflectors and spray paint they converted the bois d’arc stump into what has been an enduring bit of roadside art.
Since then, the Tripletts have taken to decorating their creation for Christmas, Easter and the Fourth of July.
“The kids at the church (Shaeffer’s Chapel) always get a kick out of it,” says Margaret.
They dubbed the creature the Motley Slough Monster, so named for a nearby creek. Jacky says people fishing off the iron bridge over the slough claim to have heard cries of the monster in the night.
The possibility of extinction arose when the highway was being widened. Engineers assured the Tripletts their monster would remain unscathed, and so he has.
“I think it will be there a few years because it’s bois d’arc,” said Margaret. “It’s hard as nails and just doesn’t go away.”
“He just brings a touch of whimsy to the prairie land here,” she added.