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Big Jim: Giant Gunslinger

Field review by the editors.

Bentleyville, Pennsylvania

James C. Krutz owned a welding shop in the little town of Speers, Pennsylvania. Although he had never traveled far from home, Krutz was obsessed with the Wild West -- so obsessed that he spent over a year welding together a 20-foot-tall, 70,000-pound metal gunslinger, "Big Jim." He used his son, James Jr., as a model. The statue went up outside the welding shop on September 19, 1978.

Gunslinger Jim.
Gunslinger Jim.

A few years later James died, and Junior followed not long after that. But Big Jim continued to stand outside the shop for almost three decades.

Krutz's granddaughters eventually sold the long-closed business and put the statue up for sale on eBay. The mayor of nearby Charleroi wanted to buy Big Jim as a community tourist attraction, but the town couldn't afford the liability insurance.

The statue was instead purchased by motel owner Kamlesh Gosai, who trucked Big Jim eight miles west to stand outside the Bentleyville Best Western. The motel chain originally had locations only west of the Mississippi River -- hence its name -- which made the gunslinger a good fit. The statue was rededicated at its new home on June 9, 2007.

Big Jim faces west, a deliberate positioning tribute by Gosai to Krutz. He's painted a uniform, rust-preventative orange, and holds a cocked six-shooter in his right hand and a Pennsylvania long rifle in his left. To give some sense of his scale, Big Jim's tiny horseshoe belt buckle is in fact a real horseshoe, which James C. Krutz originally had hung over the door to his welding shop. The eagle that hangs from a chain on Big Jim's buckskin vest was part of an antique stove. Krutz had to buy the entire stove just to get the eagle for his statue.

Even though Krutz put a lot of work into the details of Big Jim's fringed vest, he told people that the hardest part of the sculpture to get right were the gunslinger's fingers. The limitations of welded steel as a sculptural medium make Big Jim look angular, like a robot, although not like an almost-human 1970s Westworld or Stepford Wives robot.

Big Jim has a chiseled jaw and glass eyes that bug out of his head. As a final touch, a plaque between the statue's legs spells out "Big Jim" in letters that mimic bullet holes.

Big Jim: Giant Gunslinger

101 Gosai Drive, Bentleyville, PA
Outside the Best Western. I-70 exit 32-B, drive south, then make a quick left onto Gosai Drive.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Madonna of the TrailMadonna of the Trail, Beallsville, PA - 5 mi.
Castle BloodCastle Blood, Monessen, PA - 7 mi.
Andy Warhol's GraveAndy Warhol's Grave, Bethel Park, PA - 16 mi.
In the region:
Stephen Foster's Horse Jawbone, Pittsburgh, PA - 22 mi.

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