Few things are as heartwarming as watching Wile E. Coyote attempt to capture the roadrunner by painting a fake landscape. The aggravatingly fast bird foils his plan every time by stepping through the painting as though it were real. It’s inevitable that Wile will get hit by a semi that was inside of the painting shortly after. It’s a lovely dance, and sometimes you find yourself rooting for the coyote.
Las Cruces, New Mexico, is clearly Team Roadrunner. Just off of Interstate 10 between mileposts 134 and 135 stands a 20-foot tall and 40-foot long roadrunner made out of materials scavenged from a landfill. In fact, if you visit the sculpture today, you can see its belly made of old shoes.
The sculpture was built by artist Olin Calk in 1993 and has remained a local icon. The piece is meant to draw attention to our consumption and recycling habits, AKA, y’all need to recycle.
In 2001, Calk took the material out of the statue, replaced it with newer garbage, and then moved the big ol’ bird to a rest stop along I-10. The giant roadrunner could be seen for miles and it reinvigorated public interest. It helped that the bird stood at a point with a great view of Las Cruces.
Ten years later, though, the sculpture suffered damage from visitors messing with the bird (some people thought it would be a good idea to climb on top of the bird and/or steal trash from it) along with the desert weather. To protect it, Calk took it down and hauled it back to his home. There it sat for three years before the city allowed it to be placed back at the rest area.
At that point, though, it was time to get new trash. The landfill had closed by 2014, so the artist used material from thrift stores and scrap metal from the Las Cruces recycling center instead. The best new addition is the eyes, which are made of Volkswagen headlights.
If you do happen to cross paths with the infamous roadrunner, beware: rattlesnakes are known to roam that area. It is, after all, the desert.
These days, the statue is mounted on a fake rock to protect it from humans. We can’t even leave a garbage bird statue alone. This is why we can’t have nice things.