MEET OUT VETREANS: Ed Pickett ( Air Force, Canton, Tx.)
Ed Pickett was born on April 17, 1943 in Chicago Illinois. He is 75 years old. He had four brothers and sisters, Bonnie, Jimmy, Pat and Tamaran. His brother was in Annapolis and his dad was a machinist and his mother was a housewife. “We lived about 20 miles from school so we couldn’t get involved in too much school activities. I was usually off playing in the woods. My brothers and sisters thought they had a bad childhood, I had a fantastic childhood. They said I was in my own world was the happy child. I don’t fish or hunt just like being outdoors. I always hiked a lot. I was very inquisitive, liked making things. I enjoyed working with my dad. Me and my dad-built boats and house trailers. my dad was also a glass blower. He was a wood carver and played musical instruments. If my dad could see something he could build it. He was quite a mentor to have. He died at 43 years old of a massive heart attack. He taught me to just jump in and learn something whether you knew how to do it or not. Kids today are afraid to start. They feel like they don’t know all the facts. They are afraid something may go wrong.”
Ed volunteered for military service straight out of high school. He went into the Air Force. “I don’t know why I chose the Air Force,” said Ed, “but I liked airplanes. I had a high mechanical skill when I applied. I got that from my dad. It was in June of 1961 when I went to San Antonio for boot camp. I was an old farm boy, so all the exercise didn’t bother me. Boot camp was a breeze.”
Ed was a jet engine mechanic and worked on all type jet engines. He worked on B-52’s with the J47 engines. The Air Force trained him on the engines as a mechanic.
“I remember the first time I went into a B-52. They brought me from test cell to the flight lines to troubleshoot the engines. They were shorthanded on the night shifts. I had never been in any plane before, especially one this big. They sat me down with those Twelve million switches up there, and they said you push this one, and this one and this one. You prep this one over here and the engine starts. OK, bye, you are on your own. I went from a test cell so I knew when the engine was running and how to troubleshoot the engine. I flipped all the switches I thought I was supposed to do and it didn’t start. I looked over and saw the ignition switch was not turned on. The fuel was pouring out the back end of it. I hit the ignition switch. There was a huge explosion. A big fireball out the back. Didn’t hurt anything. I knew I should have turned the fuel off and let it run for a while, but I didn’t. I got a lot of laughs over that.”
Pickett served four years in the military. He did not go overseas. “Let me ask you this,” Ed asked, “you are laying in a ditch and somebody is trying to take your life. The enemy is shooting at you constantly, you can’t go home at 5:00. You may be there for days or weeks. How does that effect you emotionally? You are asking boys to go over and do that. I was very lucky and not have to do that. I was never in danger. To figure out what they are going thru on a daily basis, they are being shot at and can’t even take a shower. You have to really appreciate what they go thru, they don’t pay for it just the four or five years they are in. They pay for it the rest of their lives.”
Ed was transferred to Roswell, New Mexico with all the aliens and had two kids there. “Do you believe in aliens?” I asked. “Why not,” Ed said emphatically. “I never saw an alien. I was always doing something in the Air Force. I learned to be consistent in the military. I lived off base most of the time.”
“We were at Walker Air Force Base in Roswell, New Mexico from July 9, 1961 to July 9, 1965,” said Beth Pickett, his former wife. “It was a Strategic Air Command (SAC) base. I loved the military life; both of our boys were born in Roswell. It was where Ed learned to be a jet engine mechanic and set him off to a good career path,” Beth told me in an email.
After the Military
After being discharged from the Air Force Ed travelled to Tulsa, Oklahoma where he worked for American Airlines. The year was 1965. “I worked in their engine shop. They had the same type engines that I worked on in the military with the B-52’s. I also worked on the 707’s and the KC-135’s, which was the military version. I worked for twenty years for American Airlines and retired from there. I eventually worked on the 747’s. Never flew much but worked on a lot of engines.”
From Oklahoma Ed moved to California where he worked on a high-profile job with Continental Airlines. His kids were living in Arlington, Texas when his first granddaughter was born. Soon Ed moved back to Texas. “My granddaughter was going to be born so they wanted me back. So, I flew back on Continental to Arlington, Tx. I was living in a motel for three years in Arlington looking for a place to live. I came to Canton, and was looking for a studio. I ended up renting a place on the Mountain across from Canton Trade Days.” Ed was working on sculptures of all kinds and was looking for an art studio.
“I’ve always done some type of clay work and I was doing live castings up on the mountain. Dana Kirk commissioned me to do five life sized statues for Ross Perot, and she needed help. I went there, as a helper, not as an artist. I stacked about 5,700 pounds of clay for those statues.”
The statue of the “Kneeling Soldier,” on the Veterans Memorial was sculptured by Ed Pickett. “It is double life-size. I have done miniatures from inch and a half to double life size. I have also done books where they want to bring characters to life out of a book,” said Ed.
The Veterans Memorial
(The Kneeling soldier Statue)
“Red Montgomery asked me to come to a meeting they were having at the courthouse, about statues. Red and 25 members of his family were at the courthouse. They were interested in getting a veteran’s memorial started in Canton. They wanted to pay homage to our soldiers. I designed the kneeling soldier. I am not sure who came up with the idea. I used a human form only to get measurements and not of the actual person. I use the live person as the model for the statue. We wanted a veteran. Steve White was a soldier we lost and his wife graciously donated $10,000 up front. For a waitress, that is a lot of money. Her son wanted to be the model. He was about 15-or-16 at the time but was too small for the model. I asked around and someone told me about Juan Herrera, a veteran, and he agreed to pose for the monument. He also had the military equipment. I am very detail oriented so I wanted to make sure every button matched. “
From a model to a Bronze Statue
“We start with a framework that we have to put the clay onto. On a double life-size, like the Kneeling Soldier, we started with a big chunk of foam. We sculpted it to a certain point and then we put clay on it. Here, we start the details in the clay. I used a lot of kids to help me with the details on the statue. We had a lot of fun with them on this statue. Once we got all the clay on and got it right, we next put rubber over that. Then we put plaster over that to make a mold. Then we take the wax inside the mold. We take the wax and put it into plaster, and melt the wax out and pour the bronze in. It is then cut into about 150 pieces, and welded all back together. We heat it all to put the coloring on it. It is very time consuming. From the initial posing to the finished bronze statue it took about 10 years. We started the statue and we ran out of money. That is the reason it initially took so long. Getting it to the bronze stage requires a lot of money. The statue cost roughly $80,000. We couldn’t get to the clay stage until we had the money because the clay kept coming apart or drying up. I first built it in carucate clay which dried out. We did it twice. Once I got the money to proceed it was less than six months to do the actual clay work and got it to the bronze stage. We got the money from everybody in town. We begged and begged. But we had some great people to help us out.” For Ed the “Kneeling Soldier” was a passion of love for the military.
“You got to let it go, and live for today, “said Ed looking me in the eye. “There are always do-overs when you get smarter. You do what you think is right at the time, with the information you have at that time.” Ed Pickett continues working in his small studio located next to his house near downtown Canton.
We thank Ed Picket for his service to our country and the many hours he devoted in kind for the Veterans Memorial.
God Bless our Veterans and God Bless America.
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