Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Some more Texas roadside trivia...

Yesterday we went to Pittsburg, Texas to do some video shooting for an upcoming edition of 'Connections'. (View the latest edition HERE) We shot at the Prayer Tower and Witness Garden. A gift to the city from businessman Bo Pilgrim (of Pilgrims Pride chicken fame), the tower features four Paccard bells from France and a chapel that never closes. The 75-foot tower's chapel offers a quiet refuge for visitors. In the park is a gurgling fountain and a life-size bronze that shows Jesus washing the disciple Peter's feet. Very serene and beautiful.

Okay, now about something else Pittsburg is famed for... Lonnie "Bo" Pilgrim, along with his brother Aubrey, founded Pilgrim's Pride in 1946 with a humble feed store in Pittsburg. Bo expanded his successful poultry company to eventually distribute food products around the world. Bo capitalized on his last name with the signature hat, a successful marketing gimmick which he famously wore to all events and functions.

Pittsburg is still Bo's town as far as we could tell; a good portion of the citizenry are gainfully employed at the many Pilgrim's Pride operations in the area, including Pilgrim's bank.

And who wouldn't be proud to work in the facility behind the giant fiberglass likeness of the Founder's head? The head is painted with rich detail, but Bo's expression is humorless, the stoic farmer. It was sculpted to match the dimensions of the hat, which once graced the roof of the company's restaurant in Pittsburg, called "The Hat." When "The Hat" closed, the giant prop ended up here in 2002, part of the 37-ft. tall tribute.

Under the head in the pavilion is another sculpture. This bronze depicts a younger, more lifelike Bo Pilgrim, seated on a bench reading his Bible. On one end of the bench are strewn "Good News For Modern Man" pamphlets in many languages, which the devoutly Christian poultry magnate has distributed since 1982. Bo holds his Bible -- personally annotated, modeled after his actual Bible -- and reads from the Book of Luke (the five loaves and the two fishes story).

On the other end of the bench is Bo's chicken, Henrietta. Henrietta was "a regular feature in early company advertising," according to a plaque. Bo may not be exactly reading Scripture to his chicken, but the connection is clear: they are partners in feeding the people. Henrietta shows no fear, and could well be clucking loudly: "Multiply ME!"

It's the Holy Spirit reimagined, not as a dove, but a chicken.

If not quite on the in-your-brand-face scale of a Colonel Sanders or Frank Perdue, Bo Pilgrim has achieved regional notoriety best appreciated by exploring Pilgrim's Pride TV commercials, available online at "Bo's World". In one spot, nutty Bo, wearing his black buckle hat, jumps from a plane on a mission with a squadron of chickens, executing skydiving formations as they plummet to earth. "Delivered fresh from the farm."

The volunteer at the Pittsburg museum's Ezekiel Airship exhibit told us Bo is still alive, spry, and living in a mansion on the edge of town, called "Cluckingham Palace" by the locals. Bo is occasionally spotted on the streets -- though mostly without the hat.

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