Originally created 06/03/04

Controversial horse finds right pasture



The Iron Horse stands quietly in a pastoral setting that has been its home for more than 40 years.

Standing tall, strong and silent in a Greene County field overlooking Georgia Highway 15, about 18 miles south of its original Athens home, the massive metal sculpture hardly seems like an instigator of controversy.

But that wasn't the case in 1954.

The horse, created by artist-in-residence Abbott Pattison, originally stood on a small patch of grass fronting the University of Georgia's Reed Hall dormitory.

It lasted about 48 hours.

For reasons lost in the mist of time, Georgia students responded to the artwork like villagers chasing Frankenstein's monster.

Within hours of placement, bales of hay were stacked around the horse and set afire. The word 'front' was painted on its front - presumably dispelling any directional confusion.

In the interest of public, and metal equine, safety, the horse was quickly removed and hidden behind the barn of a university maintenance worker.

After a tornado destroyed the barn, the horse was moved into the woods. In 1959, L.C. Curtis, a member of Georgia's horticulture faculty, asked to have the horse relocated to land he owned overlooking the highway, where it remains.

In 1999, Mr. Curtis' son told the Athens Banner-Herald that the horse has come to serve a more than aesthetic purpose.

"We always judge the corn crops on whether or not we can see the horse," he said.

ANOTHER ROADSIDE ATTRACTION

WHAT: The Iron Horse

WHERE: Georgia Highway 15. From Augusta, take I-20 to Greensboro, Ga. Proceed north. Once downtown, take Georgia Highway 15 north. Cross the Oconee River and look in the field to your right. If you cross into Oconee County, you've gone too far.

SIDE TRIP: Skull Shoals: Remains of an 1800s settlement along the Oconee River that was the site of Georgia's first paper mill. Stop at the Oconee River Recreation area just south of the Iron Horse and follow the 1-mile trail along the river to the site.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.