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Whistling warrior: Statue visually and audibly honors Indians

Staff writer

Treasure lies hidden in the remote hills that rise and swell near the northwestern border of Marion County.

Although there is no “X” that marks the spot, you’d definitely know it if you saw it or heard its song.

Standing about 15 feet tall, a statue dubbed “The Whistling Warrior” may just be the county’s newest and most unique monument, especially when the wind picks up and gives it a voice.

Durham High School alumnus Steve Wedel welded the abstract rendering of a Native American warrior out of metal pipes about 18 months ago.

“I used metal pipes that were all open on the end,” Wedel said. “When the wind gets to blowing across the pipes fast enough the Warrior starts to moan.”

He likened the sound to blowing across an open glass bottle.

His sister-in-law and fellow artist Joy Waldbauer was awestruck by the imaginative nature of the statute, and its size.

“It’s just massive,” she said. “I just didn’t expect to see this type of creativity. It’s like wow — it’s just amazing.”

Wedel, who was an industrial design teacher at Abilene High School before he retired to sell real estate, said the idea came to him one windy day about two years ago when as he passed through an old scrap metal gate that had holes in it.

“The wind was blowing across the holes and it just created this sound,” he said. “It made me want to make an object that incorporated the wind as a point of interest.”

Wedel has always had an affinity for Native American artifacts and culture, and it was that respect that ultimately led him to make “The Whistling Warrior.”

“They had a perfect society that lived in complete harmony with the land,” he said. “Now we have a culture where bees can’t survive.”

After doing a few sketches, Wedel married the whistling wind with his passion for Native American culture to realize the warrior’s final form.

“He’s a proud Indian,” Wedel said. “He’s strong and muscular and kind of just watches over the pasture there.”

Wedel said, however, that the moaning sound doesn’t keep wildlife away. He keeps horses and cattle; turkey, beaver, and deer frequent the area.

His brother Larry said they used to play “Cowboys and Indians,” camp, and have all sorts of adventures in the undulant hills and creek carved valleys the warrior now watches over.

“Steve was always a creative guy,” Larry said. “We used to ride all over these hills.”

Larry farms wheat and soybeans nearby. He said the warrior gets its voice when the wind blows about 15 to 20 mph.

A jack of all industrial traits, Wedel also erected a genuine log cabin nearby. He modeled it after the Heritage House in Abilene, and said it took 40 cottonwood trees harvested from a creek in his pasture to build.

The cabin is as a getaway for friends and family. Inside the cabin, he keeps more a collection artwork, including a pair of chairs he bound together out of long skinny branches.

Not far from the cabin sits Wedel’s “Yucca Gate,” a functional sculpture that serves as one entryway to the warrior’s pasture, and celebrates yucca plants that bloom there.

Wedel has built several other smaller statues, but currently, he is working on a 12-foot metal basketball player to express his love for the game.

“My sculptures tend to have a reason,” he said. “It’s usually to symbolize and honor something.”

Last modified March 26, 2015

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