IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME
Photos and story by JJ Kaplan
If you take a drive on Highway 32 east of Michigan Road, you can’t help but notice a field on the south side filled with unique metal artwork, including 15‘ dinosaurs, various animals and even a rotating wind sculpture with hearts gyrating in every direction. You want to slow down to take in the sights and appreciate the creativity that is on display. As you stare in amazement, you can’t help but think, “How did they think of that?”
Welcome to the farm of Ernie and Dottie Taylor, owners of the largest privately owned collection in the state of Indiana. Visitors come from all around the country and even abroad to enjoy the clever way that Ernie welds things together. From the Red Hat Ladies and buses of second graders to FFA and motorcycle clubs, people have come from far and wide to experience unique sculptures that bring a smile to your face.
Everything here is made from recycled machinery and is welded into something new and treasured. The Taylors are proud to say, ”Everything we do is for others’ enjoyment.” Ernie and Dottie are adamant that nothing is for sale. There is no admission fee. Their source of pleasure is derived from the people that they meet. “If you make a product to sell, it isn’t fun anymore,” Ernie explains. “It becomes work.”
The dinosaurs are some of the largest and most attention grabbing artwork in his field. Using oil pans for the heads, cycle bars for the teeth, pipes for the spines, disc blades for the humps on the back, vehicle frames for the legs and then customizing the claws and ribs by hand, the pieces are carefully welded together and become something bigger than each individual part.
This charming couple has been married almost 57 years, and their relationship still glows with love, support and a great sense of humor. It is truly a Romeo and Juliet story of how true love really should be. Through many years, both thick and thin, they were and still are best friends. The twinkle in their eyes illustrates their support and enjoyment of one another.
The young Taylor family started from humble beginnings. Ernie supported the family working for a mechanical contractor as a pipe welder. He was employed at various power plants, including Rock Island Refinery on West 86th Street in Indianapolis and the old Harding Street Powerhouse. Welding was his life and livelihood.
Dottie ran the household and kept a small jar for excess money. If there was any money after the bills were paid, they determined if they could use it to go out to eat or do a bit of shopping. Life was of modest means, and they worked together for the good of the family. They worked hard. They appreciated what they had.
Ernie has always been an optimistic and creative individual who loved his craft. Even after spending a full day at work welding, he would come home to tinker in his barn and put things together in a whole new way. When he gets the “blues,” he goes to the shop. Dottie knows the value of giving him some space. Occasionally she is asked to draw something for Ernie, such as the angel that supports their mailbox.
The Taylor family is one of great faith. The years have been good to the Taylors, although Ernie suffered a heart attack 12 years ago, and Dottie almost lost him three times. Ernie’s symptoms seemed to indicate heartburn. However, he was admitted to the emergency room and received life-saving treatments after a heart attack.
During the last episode, Ernie confides in me, “I heard a strong booming voice very clearly and distinctly tell me that I was going to be alright.” And so he was. Ernie and Dottie also embrace the phrase, “We won’t slow up, back up, slack up, look up or give up until we are taken up.” It was primarily after his retirement and heart attack that he was able to spend more time adding to his ‘field of dreams.’
Ernie’s devotion to his charming wife is endearing to this day. One year for her birthday, Ernie asked her what color of jewelry she preferred. When she mentioned “gold,” he went to the shop and created a 2’ diamond ring sculpture. She hasn’t worn it too many times though. It just may break her finger or perhaps her arm! But she beams with joy of this thoughtfulness.
Ernie is now the proud creator of a can-jo that he plays with great talent. Using an empty spinach can, piece of wood and metal string, he created a musical instrument similar to a banjo. However, there is only one string. Ernie has mastered “Red River Valley” on his homemade can-jo, and to be honest, it sounded pretty good!
Today the Taylors exude internal happiness and contentment. They don’t carry cell phones, own a computer or even have air conditioning in their home. A lot of things are nice to have, but they are not really necessary. They do not believe that they are missing out in their lives. Their motto is “keep it simple.”
Letters of appreciation abound from the countless people that have visited. Volumes of notebooks illustrate the appreciation and enjoyment of others. This brings immense enjoyment to the Taylors.
If you wish to visit their farm at 10985 E. State Road 32 and witness one couple doing what they love to do, why not leave a note in their mailbox? Dottie can then contact you with their availability and convenience. You will come away with a sense of wonder and appreciation for simple things. In leaving their driveway, a posted sign encapsulates the Taylors’ philosophy of simplicity and humbleness:
“It’s Just Stuff.
Stuff Can’t Make You Happy.
It’s Joy You Bring To Others
That Brings Peace To Your Heart.
Dot and Ernie Taylor”
And so the creativity, welding and building continues. Their gift of building is so that you will come…and they will enjoy YOUR company!