ND farmer sets up steel statue of the Virgin Mary
GLEN ULLIN, N.D. -- Before he departs this old world, Kevin Opp hoped to leave something good. His chance came when he went to one of those vendors who show up at gas stations selling goods from Mexico and bought himself a piece of statuary made ...
GLEN ULLIN, N.D. -- Before he departs this old world, Kevin Opp hoped to leave something good.
His chance came when he went to one of those vendors who show up at gas stations selling goods from Mexico and bought himself a piece of statuary made from crushed automobiles.
He could have purchased a spread-winged eagle, or an elk with a proud rack of antlers.
But what spoke to him in that hot concrete parking lot was a statue of the Virgin Mary, painted a luminous charcoal gray, her gaze lowered, her hands spread in a gesture of loving beneficence.
Opp, 51, a Glen Ullin farmer, owns a few rocky-topped buttes. He had just the place for her.
"It's a perfect spot actually," he said.
He set her up on one of the highest hills he has and anchored her to earth with 800 pounds of concrete and rebar.
There she stands, his Mary of the prairie, with a view to the hills that stretches unendingly and the long glow of sunrise warming her face.
Her aerie suggests a new rhythm to the ancient Catholic prayer: "Hail Mary, full of grace, grant me peace in this windswept place."
She is set with her back to the prevailing winter winds and a year of rain, snow and lightning have left her gentle features unperturbed.
Visitors are welcome.
Opp leaves the gate open on the west side of N.D. Highway 49 about two miles north of Interstate 94.
The two-track trail through the field and up to the base of the hill is not so long, but it is very bumpy. That's its own metaphor, Opp says.
So is life.
Many have already discovered Mary of the prairie, though given the height she stands above the prairie and the setback from the highway, she appears in daylight as an unusual dark shape, perhaps a small well-formed juniper.
"If they know what it is, they know exactly. If they don't know, I don't know how they find out," Opp says. "I don't mind if people drive out there. It's a peaceful thing. I can't believe how often I see people up there. Someone was there with Texas (license) plates not long ago," he said.
He finds flowers, bits of jewelry, rocks left by those who leave their cars and hike the final steep 50 yards to Mary's perch. Perhaps they pray for intercessions to Mary's son, Jesus. Perhaps they simply sit for a few moments in private contemplation, admiring her view.
Opp added a solar lighting system to the statue base this summer. He's pleased with how the lights cause Mary to emerge from the darkness, to shine like a beacon up there on her lonely hilltop.
"It's up to the individual to get something out of it. If it gives someone a minute or two of thought, that's something good," Opp said. "It's up to them."