One of the Dawson Gang’s favorite winter Sunday motorcycle rides was the short hop over to Lucama to visit Vollis Simpson. We required no map or GPS to find the field of towering wind catchers. Instead we chose to wander the NC back roads seeking a glimpse of enormous whirligigs peeking above the trees.
Running late one sunny afternoon, we asked a local convenience store patron for directions. He offered these instructions: “go down the road across the highway and turn right at the grazing Charolais cows.” Though clearly lacking in bovine expertise, we found Mr. Simpson that time in spite of those directions. In his 80s then, he still fashioned amazing whirligigs from old machine parts, tractor pieces or whatever scrap metal was handy.
Storm and I last spoke to Mr. Simpson not long before he passed away in 2013. He greeted us and other admirers at the Whirligig Festival in Wilson. By then people all over the world recognized his captivating creations. The process of moving the massive art objects from the beaver dam plagued lot beside his shop to a Town of Wilson park created to showcase his rejuvenated whirligigs had just begun. Disassembled faded pieces of metal long rusted into silent immobility awaited rejuvenation. They would face thousands of hours of labor before once again transforming a breeze into a sight and sound spectacle. At that time, I could not imagine the finished park they were destined to grace.
When Storm and I accidentally wonder though Wilson on our way home Sunday I am astounded to spot the chromatic, twirling beacons downtown. Sure, I’ve seen the occasional lone Simpson sentinel displayed at a museum or along I-95 in a rest area. But to see them as a group dizzily dancing on a strong wind as they are meant to be is breath-taking
A Whirligig Symphony for Sunny