By Brenda Huettner | STC Fellow
Magic Carpet Golf in Tucson, Arizona, was a local landmark for over 40 years. There were two 18-hole courses, each dotted with an amazing variety of concrete sculptures, including a giant bull, a Buddha, a serpent, an ostrich, some aliens, and a tyrannosaurus. There was a 9,000-pound alien named Goop, a concrete outhouse, and lots of gossip about shenanigans that might have gone on inside the two-story-tall tiki head. When the property was purchased by a car dealership, the sculptures were auctioned off with the condition that the new owners had to move them pronto to make room for a parking lot.
But the piece that caught my eye—the first sculpture visible from the street—was the giant monkey hanging from a concrete palm tree. Approximately 14 feet to the top of the tree, this monkey has eyes that light up and a tail that swings back and forth, designed to knock your golf ball off track. So I placed a very low-ball bid, and to my horror, had actually entered the highest bid. The monkey was mine!
The challenge was in moving him. It turns out, a sculpture that big, one that had been sculpted in place, is not easy to move. Not only did we have to dig him out of the ground (requiring a special giant concrete saw), we also had to cut him into pieces. We had a whole team of people with straps and boards and other supports, a huge crane, people from traffic control, media, and lots of onlookers.
But moving him wasn’t the hard part. Once the pieces were safely in my yard (right near downtown Tucson), we still had to dig footings into the hard-packed caliche, get the crane back to lift the pieces, and then convince someone to get up on a ladder and weld everything back together. It required a lot of coffee and pastries.
Once the statue was standing up, a plasterer came to make repairs, and we sandblasted all the old paint off of him. A neighborhood artist painted him to look as natural as possible in his new home.
At one point, a woman I didn’t know came up to me and poked me with her finger. “Is that your monkey?” she asked. I couldn’t quite tell if she was pleased with this incoming neighbor or not, but I confessed that it was, indeed, my monkey. She gave me a big hug and said, “Thank you so much for saving a piece of Tucson history.”
I didn’t start out having a “thing” for monkeys, the way some people really like penguins or alligators or cats. But now I’m proud to be known as “the monkey lady.”