By Ralph Trenary
Several times in the past year I’ve been compelled to debunk and deflate several outlandish and deliberately misleading viral e-mails. Last month I started to work on another one that hit my in-box only to find that while it was inaccurate, the truth, the rest of the story, was legitimate.
If the picture on this page hasn’t given it away, I’m referring to the “Freedom Rock.” Although you may only be able to vaguely recognize the shape if not the artwork.
That’s because the viral e-mail is now filled with a stereotypical mix of myth and exaggeration. I pealed back some of the distortion by simply searching the Internet for “Freedom Rock.” Consistently, the top recommendation that you’ll receive takes you to Ray “Bubba” Sorensen, II, of Greenfield, Iowa. The benefits of research and verification are amazing.
The somewhat preachy and authoritarian e-mail claims the rock was given a patriotic paint job in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. A cursory inspection of the true story of the Freedom Rock reveals that this is a tilted description of a distinguished piece of artwork that had its origins in 1999.
Another indisputable e-mail claim is that since its 9-11commemorative it has never been touched. Actually, it’s pretty clear that every year the rock gets a new memorial depiction. This week’s Berthoud Recorder was given permission to publish one view of the 2006 edition of the Freedom Rock.
After an exchange of e-mails, Bubba and I talked on Saturday, Sept. 5. “I wish I could update [sic] that e-mail. I actually started in 1999. Now I’m turning 30, that original project was when I was 19,” was Bubba’s response to his take on the e-mail I saw.
“I was just gonna’ paint a ‘thank you’ to veterans,” was how Bubba described the first painting. “I was inspired by ‘Saving Private Ryan’ in 1999,” he continued, “This was around Memorial Day. The next year I went around the rock.”
Yet even Bubba’s original inspiration was not intended as the path to national and international recognition that has become attached to the Freedom Rock. “[I] went at it as a one-time deal. I had never tackled a painting project,” he offered. ”This was my first painting. I had only thought about taking a painting class.”
People from far and wide are showing great appreciation for the Freedom Rock. Bubba admitted that he has received letters from China, Sweden and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Other news reports have recounted how Bubba’s inspiration has become a noticeable tourist attraction for his central Iowa hometown, as well as forming the foundation of a diversified painting, photography and artist’s studio business.
Still, making the commitment to keep the images on the Freedom Rock fresh and inspiring each year has not been without challenges. “I had the thought of quitting in 2003, but I was encouraged by the vets and a lot of others to continue,” was Bubba’s recounting of the hardest time. “It takes the whole month of May to get good days for painting. The wind and weather can really get in the way,” he explained towards the end of our talk. “I have to fight Mother Nature.”
After 10 years of successfully overcoming the elements it’s clear that Ray “Bubba” Sorensen, II is on the verge of joining distinguished company. Murals have played a unique role in human history for recording great events and inspiring the masses. Just remember that and consider the impact of a young man from a small town who wanted to say “Thank you.”
<p>The Freedom Rock, 2006 edition. The rock is located in Iowa.</p>