Sunday, April 16, 2017

Over the Top

Over the Top, a World War I memorial sculpture at the Llano County Courthouse.
Image from the Austin Chronicle website.
I have long admired the World War I memorial statue on the southeast corner of the Llano County courthouse square.
It's a striking statue of a young soldier storming up from the trenches of France. The soldier's right arm is raised, with his hand in a fist; the other carries a rifle with fixed bayonette. He wears a helmet and backpack, along with a canteen, bag for a gas mask, and a cartridge belt. The statue is on a base made of Llano granite.
"In grateful memory of the men of Llano County who made the supreme sacrifice in the World War 1917-1918," a plaque beneath the charging soldier reads. Seventeen men's names are listed, and then the words "If ye break faith with us we will not sleep," a rephrasing of lines from "In Flanders Fields," by John McCrae.
The statue in Llano was erected by the Shakespeare Club of Llano in the early 1920s.
I think I first noticed it as a high school student while traveling through Llano on a school bus. Later, driving my car through Llano, I often stopped to admire the sculpture. I thought it was a fine piece of public art, and a touching remembrance of those young men from Llano who gave their lives to make the world safe for democracy.
The Charles H. Noyes memorial statue in Ballinger.
Image from TexasEscapes.
I don't know why I thought the statue was unique to Llano. I suppose I was comparing it to the statue of Charles H. Noyes in Ballinger, Texas, which was created by Pompeo Coppini. Our route to visit my maternal grandparents took us through Ballinger, and we often stopped to look at the statue of the young man and his horse.
The Noyes statue commemorates the short life of a young cowboy who died after a fall from his horse. It was commissioned by his parents, and was initially meant to be erected at the spot where young Noyes died, on the Noyes Ranch out in Concho county. Out there it is unlikely anyone would have seen the statue. Ballinger was fortunate to have the statue placed on its courthouse lawn.
The young cowboy's saddle, boots, bridle and gear were sent to the sculptor, and the resulting statue is wonderfully executed. It's a memorial not only to young Noyes, but to Texas cowboys. The title of the sculpture is "The Spirit of the Texas Cowboy."
It turns out the statue in Llano, of the brave World War I soldier, also has a title: "Over the Top," and it was sculpted by John Paulding. But the statue is not unique to Llano.
In fact, there are over 34 sites around the country that have a copy of "Over the Top" erected in memory of fallen soldiers. There are two in Texas: the one in Llano and another in Amarillo.
Paulding made numerous castings of "Over the Top," and there were four versions of the sculpture; Llano has version 2043-A.
I suppose I was surprised to learn there were so many of the statues around the country, but not disappointed. Remembering the fallen was not unique to Llano, and while the statue appears in many places, I continue to admire its sentiment.
That war was 100 years ago, and the sacrifices made here and abroad have slipped from memory. Thanks, however, to organizations like Llano's Shakespeare Club, we be reminded of those hard years.  I'm not sure that club still exists, but I'm thankful for the contribution they made to Llano.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who often stops to take a closer look at interesting things.   This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times April 15, 2017.

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