City unveils Veteran sculpture on Monday

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

The dust has settled in sculptor Bob Ragan’s shop, and the finishing piece of the Liberty Hill Veterans Park has a short final journey from Florence before reaching its final resting place.

That journey will be complete by Monday, when Liberty Hill celebrates Veterans Day at the park with an unveiling ceremony at 11 a.m. Nov. 12.

The piece – a kneeling soldier – will stand about seven feet tall on its base, greeting visitors as they enter the park.

It has taken three months, as Ragan worked on the sculpture along with other scheduled work. This one has been a labor of love and a special project, though, because of what it’s about and the emphasis the community has put on art.

“I really appreciate what they are doing in Liberty Hill with the restoration of the older stuff and looking into the future,” he said. “Being a veteran makes this special and I really appreciate this commission.”

When it arrived, the stone block was about 12,000 pounds, nearly too big for his equipment to manage.

“There’s always anxiety,” Ragan said of starting the project. “When we brought it in here, the thing was so heavy that it crushed the palette.”

From there, the project began to take shape, first in big chunks.

“We just sawed it down and took everything on the outside of the drawing and got rid of a lot of that stuff,” Ragan said. “When I got it into the shop it was still too heavy and I was pushing the limit of my tuff. But we got it in and I took 15 wheelbarrows off of it by hand.”

The process is tedious, shifting from the very physical work of sawing off the larger pieces, to the very tedious process of the finishing touches.

“It starts with big chunks, then gets to be smaller and smaller chunks, then it gets down to the point where all it is is dust coming off of it,” he said. “You can’t go in there and just get it. You’ve got to work the whole thing constantly, always moving around. It was quite a challenge to cut everything away and keep that rifle straight.”

Ragan is careful to never take too much at one time, which is why it took three months to carve it.

“The hard work is cutting the big stuff off,” he said. “The detail is not a problem physically, but it is more tedious. It takes concentration because you can’t just take off daydreaming. And there are times you just can’t make a decision. You think you need to do something, but you don’t want to decide, so you just move on to something else.”

The facial features and hands are where Ragan said he can draw the most emotion, and those are also some of the most challenging parts to get right.

“Statuary is a totally different thing,” he said. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to learn. I didn’t have any training. It just takes a while.”

In this particular project, the rifle positioning also posed a significant challenge.

“The rifle was a big one. I had a choice of bringing it into a slant and putting it up against the helmet for support, but it just didn’t look right. I played around with it, and decided to just do it free.”

It is in his nature to second guess his work and wonder what if, but Ragan is pleased with how this piece looks and what it means, and is eager to see the community reaction and share in the moment at Monday’s unveiling.

“You’re never satisfied, you know?” he said. “You’re always thinking you could have done this or that, but I’m happy with it and it is what I was going for.”

Mike@LHIndependent.com

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