Although there really aren’t words to describe the world’s only memorial to an insect, I’ll give it a try.
While driving through a quaint downtown that seems to be quintessential Main Street U.S.A., one comes to an intersection and a fountain.
At the center of the fountain stands a statue of a woman who looks suspiciously like a Greek goddess. Above her head she holds a pedestal, on which is sitting a giant bug.
The inscription at the base of the statue reads, “In profound appreciation of the Boll Weevil and what it has done as the Herald of Prosperity, this monument was erected by the Citizens of Enterprise, Coffee County, Alabama.”
At first, I thought this was early 20th century sarcasm. Isn’t the boll weevil that little beetle that ate its way through the South about a century ago, destroying cotton fields as it went?
Indeed it is, but what I had forgotten from my fourth grade Alabama History class was that the bug turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it forced farmers to diversify their crops.
In 1917, just one year after the boll weevil stripped Enterprise of its cotton, Coffee County had the largest peanut harvest in the nation.
In 1919, Enterprise city councilman Roscoe Owen “Bon” Fleming suggested that the boll weevil should be properly thanked for its role in bringing new money into the local coffers.
The original statue was dedicated in December of that year. It consisted only of the fountain and the female figure. At that time, she held a smaller fountain above her head instead of the boll weevil.
If there is anything stranger than constructing a monument to a pest, it might be not including an image of the pest in said monument. Someone eventually realized this, and a larger-than-life boll weevil made its debut in 1949.
Even then, it was two legs short. A more accurate six-legged model was added in 1953 after the original was stolen.
Vandalism has been a problem at the Boll Weevil Monument over the years. (Who could have foreseen that coming?)
Apparently some of the local kids have gotten their kicks by dressing up the statue and throwing soap suds and even an alligator or two into the fountain.
Some joker left a ransom note after taking the grand lady and her bug in 1974. They were later recovered at Fort Rucker.
When the 79-year-old statue was permanently damaged in July 1998, city officials announced that they had had enough.
The monument that Zac and I visited was actually a polymer-resin replica. The original is now under tight security at a nearby depot museum.
Someone at Comedy Central got wind of the missing monument that summer, and the citizens of Enterprise unhappily found themselves the butt of Jon Stewart’s jokes in an episode of “The Daily Show.”
The segment rubbed people the wrong way by insinuating that only Alabamians would celebrate a bug instead of a man like George Washington Carver, the African American scientist who had been preaching crop diversity long before the boll weevil came to town.
The official website of Enterprise describes the monument simply as “a symbol of man's willingness and ability to adjust to adversity.”
Today marks the start of the Daily Mountain Eagle’s third annual Alabama travel series.
I know most people are creatures of habit and can’t imagine going anywhere except Gulf Shores or Gatlinburg when they have enough spare change to finance a vacation.
However, Zac, Wyatt and I can testify that there are plenty of cool things to do right here in Alabama.
Our annual family vacation usually consists of a series of day trips. Last fall, one of our stops was American Village, which is being featured today.
Although a visit to Washington, D.C., is still on my bucket list, Montevallo was the next best thing. I even got to sit behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, which I am pretty sure I won’t get to do whenever I make it to D.C.
Even if you don’t want to give up your vacation at the beach, there are plenty of interesting sights to see along the way. For example, there is a little town in south Alabama that has a great statue of a bug.