Above: Big Bird stands at the Scenic Overlook rest area on I-10, three miles east of the Las Cruces airport. Access is by the eastbound lanes. Photograph by Dan Monaghan.
FROM THE PARKING LOT of an I-10 rest stop overlooking Las Cruces, this roadrunner statue impresses with its size alone. Weighing an estimated ton, its welded-rebar frame stretches 20 feet high and 40 feet wide. Its creator, artist and blacksmith Olin Calk, hangs out occasionally and watches as people walk closer. He loves to see the smiles that accompany their realization that rubbish provides its plumage—worn-out running shoes, computer keyboards, toys, trophies, and crutches. For eyes, it peers from a pair of Volkswagen headlights. Born in 1993 at a city landfill, Big Bird was intended to be a short-lived lesson in consumer waste for local schoolkids. Then residents fell in love with it. When the landfill closed, this homage to New Mexico’s state bird flew to its West Mesa roost, with two refurbishments along the way. Over the years, visitors tucked money into it, placed geocaches within it, scrawled their names upon it. “That says this work was successful,” Calk says. “They’re expressing public ownership of it. When people heard it was leaving, they said, ‘No, no, no, it has to stay. It’s our bird.’ ”