Golden Driller: Titanic Oil Man
In a long-ago and more bountiful time, Tulsa, Oklahoma, sat atop the world's largest known pool of oil. Drilling derricks were everywhere -- even on the lawn of the state capitol -- and the city called itself "Oil Capital of the World."
To celebrate this good fortune, a giant roustabout was built on the Tulsa Fairgrounds in 1953. Dubbed "The Golden Driller," he resembled an oversized brass statuette, with a big grin on his face, his tin hat tipped back in a rakish skew, and his gloved right hand raised in a kind of limp-wristed OK sign. The statue proved so popular that it returned permanently to the Fairgrounds in 1966 -- only in a new version that was very different from the original: ballet-slender, muscles ripped under skin-tight clothing, and a face that was a chiseled mask of Teutonic invincibility. Still, it was big and it was gold (well, mustard-yellow), and Tulsa embraced it as its own.
The Golden Driller is reportedly the largest free-standing statue in the world. He is 76 feet tall, so high that he rests his right hand atop an actual production oil derrick. Built of iron and concrete, he weighs nearly 22 tons and is expected to survive 200 mph tornadoes. He was declared Oklahoma's official state monument in 1979, and the plaque at his base dedicates him "to the men of the petroleum industry who by their vision and daring have created from God's abundance a better life for mankind."
There is surprisingly little room between the Golden Driller and the parking lot, and standing near his base provides a steep and somewhat saucy angle. Every few years some official talks of moving him deeper into the Fairgrounds, where he would be less likely to alarm passing motorists. But The Golden Driller remains where he has been for over 40 years, guarding the entrance to the International Petroleum Exhibition Building, which showcases trucks with three-story-tall tires and the latest models in back yard derricks.
The Driller has a more recent, diminutive sidekick -- the Roustabird, a filthy oil-drilling penguin in overalls and a hard hat (the penguin was reported gone in 2008, though Tulsa has been overtaken by a community art project involving fiberglass penguins all over town).