The April 1 Column
On April 1, 2002, a day that will live in incredulity in Huntsville, Texas, a proposal was made to the city of Huntsville that our 87-foot tall statue of Sam Houston be painted green. Not a bright green but a mottled, rather nondescript brownish green. A company called Ebronze.com made the proposal. The company makes bronze stuff like weather vanes and statues to go in your yard or garden and markets them via the Internet. In the pitch made to the City Manager, Bob Hart, and select members of the City Council, Ebronze pointed out that during the daytime the huge stark white statue of Big Sam is the symbolic antithesis of the colorful character of old Sam Houston himself and at night the statue glows like some giant radio-active waste dump. Ebronze also pointed out that the proposed color would make the statue match the famous Sam-on-a-stick statue on the campus of Sam Houston State University.
Ebronze proposed to provide the City of Huntsville the green paint at cost if the city would either find volunteers or hire laborers to apply the paint. Ebronze estimated that 2 coats of paint would be required to adequately cover the white concrete. It would take approximately 7,643 gallons of paint to do the 87-foot tall statue. The paint would be made available at a wholesale cost of $12.74 per gallon, or a total of $93,371.82.
The proposal mightily impressed our city manager and the attending council members. There will be a full discussion of the proposal and final vote taken on the proposal at the next meeting of the City Council.
You and I, as members of the general public, might wonder why Ebronze, a company with headquarters in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, a very small place just outside of Los Angeles, has any interest in Big Sam’s color. Actually, I don’t wonder because I spent an entire day talking to Hans Schnieder, the head honcho at Ebronze, about his reasons for making such a strange proposal. I will tell you what I learned then you won’t wonder either.
As I said, Ebronze makes lawn and garden statuary out of bronze, a metal that has been around since—well—the Bronze Age. One of the most interesting characteristics of bronze is that it turns green after being exposed to the elements for a while. It actually forms a patina, which is a green encrustation caused by the oxidation of the surface layer of bronze. A patina-encrusted old bronze statue is highly esteemed for its ornamental value. Ebronze chemically induces the beginnings of a patina on the statues they sell. So all the Ebronze offerings are a mottled greenish color, the same color proposed for Big Sam.
Hans had heard about Big Sam from a long time (3 to 10 years) resident of Huntsville who took a job in Margaritaville, as the residents of Rancho Santa Margarita call their town. Hans was so impressed by the description of Big Sam that he flew to Texas to check out this phenomenon himself. As he drove up I-45 in its perpetual rush hour traffic a brilliant idea occurred to him. If Big Sam had a green patina, it could be a huge but free advertisement for Ebronze statuary. Hans spent the day and part of the night sitting in front of Big Sam with one of those little electronic counters, counting the number of cars that passed the statue. In a single 24-hour day Hans estimated that more than 120,000 cars passed the statue. If each car had only two people, and if this were a typical day then 87,600,000 people would pass the statue in a single year. Hans found the advertising value irresistible. Hans plans to feature a picture of a huge green Sam on all of his advertising literature if his proposal is adopted. After telling me all of this Hans provided a never-ending supply of margaritas in an effort to validate the name of his town.
Back to Huntsville—the city manager hired a student from Sam Houston State University to do a brief opinion poll to assess the attitudes of the citizens of Huntsville about a huge green statue on the outskirts of town.
The student asked 5 people the same question—“Do you think we should paint the statue of Sam Houston green?”
Their answers were as follows:
Person #1—“What? Are you drunk? Get away from me.”
Person #2—“You mean the big statue out on I-45?”
Person #3—“Are you a student at Sam Houston?”
Person #4—“That is the stupidest question I’ve ever heard. I’m a faculty member at the university, hence one of the intellectuals in this county and I think that question is even dumber than some of the hiring decisions they make at the university.”
Person #5—“Aw man, I dunno. I’ve been trying out for the binge drinkers club and I’m not sure I understand the question. Do you think green elephants are native to Huntsville or did that one escape from a circus?”
The City Manager, after considering the favorable results of the opinion poll, decided to recommend to the full city council that the proposal be accepted and That Big Sam be painted green as soon as possible. Mayor Green supports that decision. Both the City Manager and Mayor Green stressed that all parties concerned should refrain from calling the proposal The Jolly Green Giant Proposal.
It you have an opinion on Green Sam, be sure to voice it at the next city council meeting.
Happy April Fool’s Day.