LINDEN, Alta. — Compelling evidence of a retired rancher’s powerful addiction is creeping across his yard.
It all started innocently enough.
About 17 years ago, realizing that their children had no interest in taking over, Ron and Karin Arm-strong sold their family ranch near Youngstown, Alta., and moved to a quarter section north of Linden.
Not one to sit idly on the sidelines after leaving the ranch, Ron took a job at the John Deere dealership in Drumheller and, in his spare time, started tinkering with used and discarded parts.
Every week, he would bring home the metal bits in the back of his pick-up truck, setting his fertile imagination on fire.
He began creating a metal menagerie, starting with a mythical bird made from old leaf rakes. He made a set of faces out of old spades.
Horseshoes, chains, nuts and bolts were welded on to make moustaches, noses, eyeballs and hair. Railway spikes, slices of rail and cultivator springs were reborn as a herd of longhorn cattle.
Metal worker Ron Armstrong built his largest project so far, the Harvestasaurus, from about four tonnes of discarded John Deere combine parts. | Brenda Kossowan photo
Discarded dinner forks were twisted into stainless steel snails, and fieldstones the size of lounging chairs were planted in a garden of gravel.
“We farmed forever and ever out there and we hated rocks. But we came over here and we found all these and we dragged them home and pressure washed them,” said Ron.
Karin said Ron was so embarrassed to be seen washing rocks that he asked her to warn him if anyone was coming into the yard.
Ron started collecting the most colourful stones out of the gravel in his yard and now has five tumblers installed and working in his shop polishing them.
Dominating the yard is his largest and most extravagant piece yet.
At 3.4 tonnes and roughly four metres high, the Harvestasaurus was built in the spring of 2015 from discarded combine parts over a six-week period.
You can always make a new friend when you have an old spade. | Brenda Kossowan photo
Excluding a piece of pipe, a couple of reflectors and two plastic coffee cups, the Harvestasaurus is all Deere from its skids and wheels to its yellow hat and yellow bow tie.
Even its creator is uncertain of its species. Its arching proboscis suggests that it may belong to the mastodon or elephant family, while its eyes and antennae are more insectile, like those of a menacing wasp or hungry locust.
People driving into the yard after dark cannot escape the glow from its bright red eyes, reflected from their headlights.
Now that the Harvestasaurus is complete, Ron has a few more projects in mind for his growing stash.
He hasn’t settled on anything yet, but thinks his next project may start with the corpse of an old Cessna Skymaster airplane that’s perched on the pile. It is missing wings and propellers, but that will change soon enough.