You can’t expect a retired military man who grew up in a sharecropping family to keep his opinions to himelf. But even among his peers, M.T. Liggett comes across as a bit of a curmudgeon. And he’s chosen a very striking way to get his outspoken opinions across. As you drive west from Mullinville, Kansas, along Highway 54 and Route 400 towards Dodge City, you can hardly fail to get the message. You’ll see a forest of metal sprouting up along a half-mile stretch of roadside next to Liggett’s farm, and you’ll hardly believe your eyes.
Welded to the top of an iron pole stands a cartoon rendered in sheet metal. It portrays an angry-looking man runs towards the right, his body made out of a swastika, clutching a Soviet hammer and sickle in one hand. Beneath it is the caption Hillary Clinton, Sieg Heil, our jack-booted Eva Braun. On the pole next to it, an iron-clad knight with a swastika on his helmet labeled Reno, Queen of Waco. And just to prove he’s an equal-opportunity critic, another cartoon is labeled “Dubya – Bring Back Slick Willie.”
These are just three examples out of literally hundreds of sculptures M.T. has put up since he retired from the Air Force in 1989. And he shows no signs of slowing up. He sets 17-foot poles into the ground and welds any scrap bits of metal he can find onto them. Not all of them are metal cartoon heads either. Sometimes he sticks old plowshares on the poles, or other bits of farm equipment that his neighbors donate to the cause.
And just in case you feel like dismissing M.T. as a crotchety old man, let us set your mind at rest. Not all of his sculptures come with heavy-handed political commentary. Some of them are more personal comments that only the locals – or
perhaps only M.T. himself—could understand. We don’t know who Skaggs and Cliff Bone might be, but the cartoon of the angry-looking cow with a human body is fun to look at anyway. And some of the sculptures don’t seem to be attacking anyone. They’re just sitting on top of metal cartwheels and other ersatz fence material around the Liggett property, looking as though they fell on Kansas out of the Beatles cartoon movie Yellow Submarine. And frankly, that’s good enough for us.