Dodge City Field Report

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IMG_9244American Giants just got back from an awesome weekend in Dodge City Kansas to cover the Dennis Hopper Muffler men at the 3I event held at the new expo center. We were invited to come out by the Carnegie Center for the Arts who have recently received the Dennis Hopper Muffler Men from the Dennis Hopper Art Trust in California. Travel is nothing new for the Dennis Hopper M Men and they aren’t done yet! They were cast in 2000 and since then at least one of them has traveled the world. They were both cast from a muffler man in LA named Tony who is one of the rare bow tie versions. They were each made to resemble popular LA muffler men, the La Salsa man made by Bob Wade in Malibu and the Mobile muffler man that appeared in life magazine back in the day. IMG_9186After being cast it is believed that the only time Mobile man was publicly shown (other then this venue) was in June of 2010 just shortly after the death of Dennis Hopper. The La Salsa Man however was no rookie to public display and was first displayed in Amsterdam in 2001 and then Paris, Vienna, Melbourne and even rumored to have been on display in St Petersburg Russia at one point. You can tell one has traveled more then the other, the La Salsa Man has it’s share of scuffs and scratches while the Mobile Man is brand new and in almost perfect condition. IMG_3205I’ll save a bunch of the details of how it was shipped and ended up at the expo center for the future AG episode but by the time we got there they were all set up and on display. Summer Bates who is the executive director for the Carnegie Center for the Arts is basically the mother of these two boys and she has found temporary housing for them at the expo center where the 40ft high ceilings accommodate the muffler men’s vertical challenges. With the 3i show coming up she got permission to keep them there during the event and invited us out for the occasion. Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 10.34.16 PMSo myself, Bo, Neto and Sam piled into the tiniest car we could find (32mpg) and after work Thursday traveled the 10 hours to Dodge City Kansas. Although promises had been made by each member to equally share the driving some of us arrived at the 3i show the following morning more worn out then others. We were immediately welcomed to Dodge by Melissa McCoy who is the project development coordinator for the city and she promptly took us to see the muffler men. In a building that size it makes them look a bit smaller then they actually are but these guys were definitely getting attention. Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 10.27.18 PMAfter years in a warehouse they were making up for lost time and at their feet stood interested 3i attendees as well as tables with information about their history as well as a looping video of the Shipping Wars episode. Summer, Melissa and many others are excited about the arrival of the muffler men to Dodge City and welcome the many muffler men followers out there to make Dodge City a stop on their muffler men check list. IMG_9193The expo center that is currently housing the muffler men in a temporary solution and Summer is working hard on permanent housing for these guys. After a very full day of not only covering the muffler men but also the 3i convention we left with hours of B-roll and interviews for me to sort out in editing. We also left with a pretty good appetite that Summer took care of by taking us all to Boot Hill Museum Inc for a dinner and gun fight which we enjoyed thoroughly. Interestingly a muffler man named Big Matt once stood at Boot Hill many years ago and was finally taken down after his head kept blowing off in the Kansas wind. Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 10.48.16 PMI was able to track down his story and history and will post a blog about him soon. From there we headed to Wichita where we visited the muffler man at Browns Tire (which is apparently worth getting up in the middle of the night for) and also caught up with Greg Holmes (The Lope) the proud owner of a muffler man head, both to appear in future episodes. We came home with allot of new content and information and I just want to sincerely thank Summer Bates, Melissa McCoy, Eddie Estes, Jeff Thorpe and Greg Holmes for making this trip possible and for taking such good care of us. The American Giants episodes are currently taking us up route 66 to Chicago but after they are complete I am planning to bump this Dodge City trip into the next episode. It’s not often two fresh muffler men get added to the charts and maps so make sure to stop by and pay them a visit on your next trip through the midwest.

If your interested, check out this behind the scenes clip taken while the American Giants Crew was filming Greg Holmes and his muffler man head. 

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#30 St Louis, MO M Man

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My #30 sighting landed me in the St Louis area which has a few muffler men in the surrounding area. There used to be a Bunyan south down I-44 in Sullivan and a bunyan also stood downtown at a tire shop at one point. Today that bunyan is to the west of St Louis and there also is the shorter m man version up along old route 66 in Livingston, not to far away. IMG_20130110_113757 IMG_20130110_113320 IMG_6705 IMG_6679 IMG_6728This cowboy is located at Croft Trailer just south of St Louis off I-44 and used to be visible from the interstate. His history is a bit hazy but I do know before arriving at his current location he stood at a used car lot across the border in Illinois at a gas station in Belleville. Trying to find a picture of him there has proved impossible and at this point I haven’t even been able to find out the name of it or where it was located. In the late 90’s he was purchased by the guys at croft and moved to their business. Sadly this guy is a bit unsteady on his feet and he has had a few falls since his move. The first one happened sometime around 2005 and left him with smashed fingers on his right hand. So the guys at croft patched him up and mended his hand and set him back up on his platform which is attached to the edge of the roof of one of their workshops. All was well until 2009 when another storm came along and this time he ended up in pieces. His head broke off and both of his arms and today he lays pretty much where he fell over 3 years ago. The folks at croft are a busy bunch of guys so repairing the cowboy and getting him back up has taken much longer then expected although it’s still in the plans. People have offered to buy him the way he sits (or lays) but the owners are firm on keeping him and will get him up again one day. This is true with almost all muffler men owners, they don’t let their m men go easily. Muffler men rarely appear on e-bay and if one would want to own an m-man it’s not an easy task to get your hands on one. Today this one is mostly forgotten and hard to see with all the weeds and storage equipment surrounding him. He lays on his back with his head tilted at an odd angle from the body and his cowboy hat is partly smashed with pieces of it scattered around. The arms lay in a truck bed liner and the rest of him is stretched out in the weeds waiting to be remembered and one day restored. I also found the name “Tom” spray painted on the inside of his left foot, as I often say these guys have their secrets. Special thanks to Debra Jane Seltzer for the picture of the cowboy when he stood on his platform overlooking I-44 back in the day. http://www.agilitynut.com/giants/momm.html  If your interested in Roadside America’s reports on this guy he is listed under Valley Park Muffler Man.