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July 15, 2008 4:49 AM   Subscribe

In the little town of Enterprise, Alabama, there stands a bizarre statue that would make any card-carrying surrealist proud: an archetypical Greek goddess raises her arms toward heaven and holds high above her head... an enormous insect. Of course, it's the boll weevil. That cotton-eatin' critter inspired not only the world's only monument to an agricultural pest, but some great tunes as well, from a wide range of artists. [note: see hoverovers for link descriptions]

The Doc Pomus-penned tune (sung by Elvis) Little Sister refers to the boll weevil in one of its lines.

MeFier Astro Zombie's tune A Man is Coming, right here at MetaFilter Music, opens with a line addressed to a boll weevil.
posted by flapjax at midnite (35 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
After the boll weevil destroyed (1910-15) the area's cotton, diversified farming was begun. In gratitude for the resulting prosperity, the city erected a monument to the boll weevil in 1919.

Exactly. Diversity = broad base = security = prosperity. The same goes for energy. The irony, of course, is that Alabama is one of the most conservative states in the US.
posted by DU at 5:11 AM on July 15, 2008


...Alabama is one of the most conservative states in the US.

Not to mention a hotbed of Surrealist sculpture! Who'da thunk it?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:15 AM on July 15, 2008


Well, it's unusual but not really Surreal in the proper use of that term as I understand it. It also seems a little odd to praise the the crisis, rather than the response to the crisis. Like a statue raised to global warming rather than renewable energy.

But then again, "boll weevil" is fun to say.
posted by DU at 5:35 AM on July 15, 2008


Wow, I had ice cream in downtown Enterprise, right next to this statue, last year. Small world. I remember thinking it was really odd. Glad to know the story.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:39 AM on July 15, 2008


DU: Somehow I had a feeling you'd be back here, and pretty quick, too!

It also seems a little odd to praise the the crisis, rather than the response to the crisis. Like a statue raised to global warming rather than renewable energy.

Yeah, well, Alabamians can be a little odd. Just speaking for myself, I often find oddness interesting. I mean, more interesting than, um, non-oddness.

Well, it's unusual but not really Surreal in the proper use of that term as I understand it.

I'm sure the "proper use" of the term coincides exactly with the way that you understand it, DU. :)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:50 AM on July 15, 2008


It also seems a little odd to praise the the crisis, rather than the response to the crisis.

Yes, they could have put up a statue for the guy popularized the crop rotation solution in Alabama. Bugs are cool too though I guess.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:54 AM on July 15, 2008


Missed one.
posted by Eideteker at 5:55 AM on July 15, 2008


...the proper use of that term as I understand it.

On the other hand, DU, surrealism is, after all, "characterized by fantastic imagery and incongruous juxtaposition of subject matter." Perhaps you were not aware of this, and therefore your understanding of the term is not necessarily entirely correct or all-encompassing.

Just sayin'.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:56 AM on July 15, 2008


My understanding of Surrealism is that it is deliberately bizarre, non-sequitous (if that's a word), and lacking in inherent meaning. Whereas the boll weevil statue has a meaning, it's just unfamiliar. To the people of the time and place, the meaning was (and is) clear.
posted by DU at 6:00 AM on July 15, 2008


Missed one .

No, actually, I didn't. That song is called Boll Weevil, but is not directly about the insect in the way that all the other linked songs, so it was a concious decision not to include it. I also don't care for the song at all. Thanks anyway, though, Eideteker, for linking to it, as someone might discover it here and enjoy it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:02 AM on July 15, 2008


the statue is pretty spiffy, but more interesting to me is realizing that elvis was a johnny cochran impersonator
posted by kitchenrat at 6:14 AM on July 15, 2008


I didn't know it was a real thing, but "the boll weevil monument" does get a mention on a song forever burned into my brain, "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota" by Weird Al (from the UHF soundtrack album), within a long list of strange tourist attractions...
posted by jozxyqk at 6:15 AM on July 15, 2008


From burnmp3s link I learned about "products made from peanuts that were useful for the house and farm, including cosmetics, dyes, paints, plastics, gasoline, and nitroglycerin."

In alternate years I'll make my useful nitroglycerin from gun cotton.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:19 AM on July 15, 2008


Yes, they could have put up a statue for the guy popularized the crop rotation solution in Alabama.

Such a statue does exist, though, sadly, not in Alabama (his birthplace), but rather in Missouri. The George Washington Carver National Monument.

Definitely should've put that in Alabama. We did learn about him in high school there, though.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:26 AM on July 15, 2008


As with all good southern stories, there's also a local version of it to complement the official version: In 1919 they were building the new main street in Enterprise and had the road all torn up, and were discussing putting in a Statue of Lady Liberty in the new median. They built the big base, but hadn't yet raised the funds for the statue. Local folks got tired of answering the same question all the time, "Whatcha gonna put up there?" One local wit started saying it would be a monument to the boll weevil, and some traveling salesman got told this and went back to Montgomery and told a newspaper editor that this little hick town was putting up a monument to a boll weevil. So they did a big write-up, and of course the town couldn't back down after all the publicity, so they but up a nice monument to the boll weevil, or so I was told.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:54 AM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Heh, I guess that bug is just too scary.

Thanks for providing your rationale, rather than merely snarking at me from upon high! Though the song is about a weevil, it is not about weevils in general. So yeah, point taken. Still an awesome song, though. Not as good as Dune Buggy, which is about a spider.
posted by Eideteker at 6:54 AM on July 15, 2008


The works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur.

It's a broad term. In it's capitalized form, it could be confined to the movement that included Dali, Magritte, and others. In general usage, it means pretty much the above quote.

Here's another Wiki link that is descriptive.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:05 AM on July 15, 2008


Dang, its. Also, great post!
posted by Burhanistan at 7:05 AM on July 15, 2008


This is gonna be a fun read. You just lit up a bank of memory neurons that goes back to the last time I heard about the Boll Weevil monument, which was in some book of random facts and stories I read when I was a child.
posted by not_on_display at 7:33 AM on July 15, 2008


Nice work again, as usual, Flapjax. A bit of music, a bit of history, a bit of music history.

I love these sort of artifacts (whether they count as surreal or not), like the monument to Benedict Arnold's LEGacy (that is, a monument to just his leg, thank you).

And the evolutions of folk songs / pop songs is of particular interest, as you know.

I like how the banjo guy (Rev. Goob) switches between rhythm and riffs as he sings. The riff begins as soon as the vocal line ends and vice versa, like Chuck Berry on Johnny B. Goode.

That Pat Boone arrangement has -- something. It sure ain't his voice. I don't know who's on it but the playing is fine, and the guitar tones are advanced. I'm glad I got to hear it.

Oh, and Little Sister is my favourite Elvis song, bar none. A great composition, Elvis is at the top of his game, the rhythm section is tighter than a ******'s ***, and Nashville cat Hank Garland's guitar work is brilliant in that spare arrangement. Even the jOrdinaires sound good. It's everything a pop song should be.

Thanks for another winner, Flap.
posted by Herodios at 7:35 AM on July 15, 2008


Say, d'ye think there might be a small town somewhere in America named Weevil playing host to a statue of the USS Enterprise?

Or perhaps in the smaller suburb of South Weevil, which would of course be the lesser ofBCRVBENW%Z%X%G%NO CARRIER
posted by Herodios at 7:42 AM on July 15, 2008


Boll Weevil songs always make me sad. Even my own.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:51 AM on July 15, 2008


If you can track it down, Greg Hale Jones revisitation of an acappella "Boll Weevil" from the Library of Congress is utterly haunting.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:00 AM on July 15, 2008


This is a great find, flapjax!
posted by halonine at 8:16 AM on July 15, 2008


I didn't know boll weevils were that big.
posted by binturong at 8:17 AM on July 15, 2008


(although the lady originally held a fountain, not a bug).

My favorite part of the article. Because it suggests to me that someone was sitting there, looking at the statue one day and thought, "Something just isn't right. The whole thing just lacks a certain... bugginess; I must have this corrected at once!"

And I like the idea of living in a world where things like that happen.
posted by quin at 8:57 AM on July 15, 2008


I'm surprized no one has mentioned the other story about Enterprise, the name. Back in the reconstruction days it was popular around the "New South" to rename things with "progressive" names (see also Commerce, GA). Drake Eye, AL sadly gave way to the new and excitingly named housing development built a few miles to the north that had become the headquarters of a new rail line that happened to be owned by the same developer, John Carmichael. Surprize! Since the mail train only stopped at the "Enterprise" housing development depot the post office chose to build a spanking new post office there. Drake Eye languished and died, later swallowed by the growing new town and Carmichael's actie campaign to grow his development that included the motto, "Pull for Enterprise or pull out!"

Yes, I did do my 4th grade Alabama history report on Coffee County, why do you ask? Why yes, I am from LA, South Central as a matter of fact. Another mint julep, muthafucka?
posted by Pollomacho at 9:57 AM on July 15, 2008


"A boll weevil! That's a Democrat that acts like a Republican!"

Ambush Bug, Ambush Bug #1
posted by Shepherd at 10:07 AM on July 15, 2008


Whereas the boll weevil statue has a meaning, it's just unfamiliar. To the people of the time and place, the meaning was (and is) clear.

Breton's Mad Love has a lot about the surreality of objects divorced from their context. Intention doesn't necessarily enter into it. I'd say this statue counts to anybody not from Enterprise or familiar with the back story.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:20 AM on July 15, 2008


Oh, duh I totally jumped over Burhanistan's comment which already made this point. Never mind.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:22 AM on July 15, 2008


The Presidents of the Unites States of America pay homage to the boll weevil.
posted by sophist at 10:37 AM on July 15, 2008


isn't it also a term for a liberal?
posted by joelf at 10:57 AM on July 15, 2008


I think the Three Wise Monkeys would make a better statue. See no weevil...
posted by raygirvan at 12:39 PM on July 15, 2008


Why yes, I am from LA.

Lower Alabama? Couldn't have been too far from Enterprise, then. Still got family back that way?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:19 PM on July 15, 2008


My wife is from Enterprise, and I've spent time admiring the Boll Weevil. Had ice cream at Smooochie's Homemade Ice Cream while doing so, in fact. However conservative Alabama may be in general, I've been pleasantly surprised by the variety of people I've met there.

My fave Enterprise Moment came when we went down to the gas station one Sunday morning to get cat head biscuits. The place was full of locals picking up this and that, and when I, in my stentorian Northern dialect, proclaimed that I wanted one with ham and cheese, there was a decided lull in the conversation. Lots of waves, smiles, and howyadoons tipped my way, and everyone seemed friendly, but it was definitely an Outsider kind of moment.

In any event, the Boll Weevil is even better in person than in photos. Go to Enterprise! Eat their tasty peanuts! Ya gotta have guts to get close to the Boll Weevil, as it's in the middle of an intersection, but it's worth it to bask in its insectile glory.

Note that Enterprise is collocated with Fort Rucker, home of U.S. Army aviation.
posted by cupcakeninja at 5:31 PM on July 15, 2008


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