Giant turkey, church steeple back up in Perry County
Coming from Cape Girardeau to Perryville on Thursday, I detoured through Altenburg to return a photo I had borrowed from the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum.
The photo was of the toppled steeple of the 1867 Trinity Church. The steeple blew over in the devastating May 8 windstorm and was recently replaced.
Carla Jordan, the museum’s delightful director, told me I should go over and see Bob Schmidt, a mainstay of the Perry County Lutheran Historical Society which administers the museum and associated historical sites. I had gotten to know Bob a couple of years ago on my first visit to east Perry County. Carla mentioned that Bob had created a huge metal sculpture of a turkey, so I was hooked.
Bob comes from a long line of blacksmiths, going back to the original Saxon Lutheran arrival in Perry County in 1839. His farm just outside of Altenburg is decorated with metal art, included red-painted iron farm wagon wheels.
He met me at his shop in a four-wheeler and we drove into the field across the road where his seven-foot-tall turkey sculpture is stationed. The turkey’s body is a big pulley like you you used to see on the side of steam-powered threshing machines. Bob fashioned a tail out of sheet iron and a base from a piece of I-beam.
The May 8 wind had ripped up the trees behind the turkey and pushed it over. The weight of the sheet iron had bent the tail forward when the turkey fell. It was now standing upright but with its tail feathers a little more vertical than Bob would have liked.
There’s always something interesting to see in east Perry County. The heritage center and museum are worth a visit, as is the Saxon Lutheran Museum in nearby Frohna, the bright red iron bridge in Old Appleton and Tower Rock jutting out of the Mississippi River.
To see Bob Schmidt’s metal turkey, turn south on County Road 454 at the east edge of Altenburg, go to the first house and look to your right.