Richard Pollard's home is on busy Highway 37, and the traffic that drives past can't help seeing the airplane crashed in his yard. He makes sure of that. He shines a floodlight on it at night.
Richard runs a used car business: Pollard Motor Sales. He's lived in the house next to it for over 50 years, and for most of that time he's used his yard as a kind of outdoor museum. Before he had the plane he had a World War I cannon, 22 feet long. It had to be hauled away, he said, when a passing state trooper learned that Richard didn't have a permit for battlefield artillery.
In the late 1990s Richard's family began transforming his collection into art. "He dreams it up and I usually have to build it," said Richard's son, Reed, working at the car lot. The two-seater plane was buried nose-first in the ground, anchored in a block of cement. Richard said he wanted it that way to show both his fascination and fear of airplanes.
"People ask me, 'What's your wife think of that plane the side yard?'" said Richard. "I say, 'She wanted it in the front yard!'"
Supportive wife, supportive children; even the neighbors are helpful to Richard. His sister lives on the other side of his house from the car lot, and behind the back yard is acreage filled with hundreds of rusting automobiles: raw material for Richard's imagination. He welcomes visitors, and only asks that they sign the guest book in the yard when they stop by.
The Pollards' first major yard art project, "Bumper Crop," is a garden of 337 chrome car bumpers planted halfway in the ground, upright, along the tree line. Richard said he knew about Cadillac Ranch in Texas but wanted to do something different with his Cadillacs (a sign in the garden notes that the 1996 Cadillac was the last U.S. car with chrome bumpers). Nestled among the crop is a red 1957 Chevy Bel Air -- a classic vintage car -- crushed into a cube and sealed in a clear-sided sarcophagus. Towering above it all is a 15-foot-tall suit of armor: "Bumper Guard."
Richard's yard has both a shoe tree and a credit card tree, and a skeletal dinosaur with drive shafts for bones and oil pans for a head. "Lady Bug" is Volkswagen Beetle on metal legs, "Pot Rod" is a riding lawn tractor with a toilet for a seat and a bathtub for a sidecar. It spits fire from its exhaust pipes. "I got flamethrowers on just about everything," said Richard, listing vehicles in his garage and outbuildings. He drives them in local parades.
Richard had one of his legs torn off in an accident years ago. Not one to waste the opportunity, he turned his lawn into a graveyard every Halloween with a leg sticking out of the ground. Richard doesn't do that any more -- he said he's too old -- but his yard keeps inspiring other art projects, such as a "Real Ant Farm" (a sign pointing to an anthill), and a jet ski up in a tree that Richard said represents the high water mark of a local flood.
At the back of Richard's property, beyond the auto graveyard, stands a pole topped with a large satellite dish painted as a Smiley Face. Richard said that the Smiley Face was his personal symbol long before it was co-opted by Wal-Mart. For years, he's stamped every piece of paper money he's ever spent with a Smiley Face. In a sense, anyone in southern Illinois with a dollar in their pocket probably already knows Richard Pollard, even if they've never met the man or seen the plane in his yard.
About that plane: we asked Richard if people driving past might panic and think that an airplane really had crashed into his yard. Had he ever considered that? Richard laughed. Of course he had.