Perry, Oklahoma: Folk Art Protest SignsHand-made signs erected in the early 1990s express farmer David Nemechek's anger at those who did him wrong. In 2012, signs were down during highway widening; a few still up, in disrepair, reported in 2015.
- US Hwy 64, Perry, OK
- I-35 exit 186. Drive east around six miles on US 64, through Perry. North side, between CR 140 and CR 160.
- Private property, visible from road.
Visitor Tips and News About Folk Art Protest Signs
The hand-made signs that once dotted about 15 acres of pasture between two trailer homes and Hwy 64 claimed that the German-Americans in Perry had harassed the sign-painter's family for years and killed his son, all because he was a Croatian American (I think). Given how crazy communities can be, and given that the harassment dated to World War II, I didn't doubt his story.
In 2004 I took my dogs for a walk in the grassy field to get a closer look at the crazy signs. He came outside, put a shotgun on his porch, and we talked for a few minutes. Inside his yard he had put up barbed wire fences around his two trailers, with about ten feet of walking distance around them. It was as though he had put a cage around himself; craziest home I've ever seen.
When he asked where I was driving to, I told him that I was driving to Washington, DC, where I had landed a good job working for the government. He asked me to leave because he was sure that the government had sent me to spy on him. He made it clear that I shouldn't worry, because he wasn't going to shoot no family dogs like mine.
Driving into Perry afterward I stopped at the general store/gas station downtown. I asked the cashier, the manager, and two customers if they knew anything about the murder of the man's son. No one would say a word, confirming my suspicion that this man had a story to tell that was as true as the people of Perry are silent.[Sharkey, 05/16/2015]
Note to travelers: don't tell paranoid landowners with shotguns that you work for the federal government.
Those signs have been there for a long while. Everyone refers to the man who owns them as the crazy sign guy. I haven't had the chance to read all of the signs. Most of them aren't legible. I personally don't feel need to read all of them -- the first sign explains most of it. 70 years ago this guy's cattle were poisoned and a member of his family was killed. He curses the town and then goes on a twenty-thirty sign rant.
I wouldn't stop in Perry for the signs. The Cherokee Strip Museum, maybe. If you want to see what Perry is really about, come to a wrestling match sometime. We love it and rock at it. Everything else pretty much sucks, so if you don't like wrestling, museums, or folk art protest signs, I would stay away.[Ella, 01/30/2007]
Don't know that only a few of these signs are still standing, but there are several of them in serious disrepair (peeling paint, etc). However, many of them are still completely readable.
I agree with the poster who felt like he was being watched from the house. I wouldn't quite describe it as a compound or whatever term he put on it, but I did feel a little uncomfortable walking in the ditch and taking pictures of this display (The whole time I couldn't help but think, "Wow! This is one P.O.'d dude!"). I don't know the whole story from reading the signs -- cause I didn't stay in one place out there very long if you get my drift -- but got the jist that this gentleman feels put upon racially, legally and so forth.
As for the harsh, zero tolerance road signs, they didn't seem that harsh etc to me, but given the speed of the 2-lane road, I can see why they don't want cars parked just over the crest of the small hill where cars could come over the top and smash into 'em. However, I parked just east a bit at a crossroads and an OHP trooper passed by while I was walking around and he just waved so must not've had a problem with doin' it that way.[Pablo Tanglewood, 11/25/2006]
Being a Perry, Oklahoma native, I've seen these signs my entire life. However, the signs have fallen into disrepair. I don't know why. There's not really much to see anymore as only a few signs are still standing.[BH, 08/24/2006]
Saw the signs and looked it up in the archives of The Oklahoman. Apparently in 1993, the sheriff, accused in the signs of wrongdoing, won a libel lawsuit against the Nemecheks and the next year had their property seized to satisfy the judgment. According to the signs, Mildred Nemechek was murdered, but I could find no obituary.[T. Pemberton, 09/06/2004]