WALWORTH — In the outskirts of the Village of Walworth, an enormous steel statue with an retro McDonald’s Officer Big Mac head looms over acres of corn and soybean fields.
Its rusted steel frame sits roadside, giving a solitary salute to passersby and serving as a roughly 45-foot tall landmark for many.
The robot, or transformer as he calls it, was commissioned by Robert Stewart, a Village of Walworth resident and owner of Robert Stewart Excavating Inc. in Fontana.
Stewart, who had plenty of spare parts to work with from his ever-growing collection of Caterpillar equipment, said he had the idea to put the statue together after acquiring the former playground fixture depicting an Officer Big Mac head.
“I acquired that piece up in Milwaukee,” he said. “I was on a salvage mission and the guy had it sitting behind a building and it ended up on the trailer after some negotiations. That was basically the beginning.”
Stewart is not a stranger to the world of public art installations. In addition to the sculptures he’s made on his property depicting minions from the “Despicable Me” movie series, he also commissioned to have a tree stump near his excavating business carved into chair, which later came to resemble a toilet.
To make his dream of constructing something larger than life, Stewart called on the service of Shane Pope, at Pope Machine and Welding in Walworth.
Stewart was charged with moving materials, like steel bars, former water tanks and defunct crane parts, into position while Pope took the lead in welding all of the components together.
“It was almost two years in the making, we did it mostly on Sundays,” Stewart said.
Pope said Stewart is a long-time family friend and he was happy to assist him with the statue. While Pope said he works on heavy machinery every day, the project was a unique task for the life-long welder.
“I don’t know anyone else who’s ever wanted something like that,” Pope said.
Construction of the mammoth, 33,000 pound sculpture did not always come easily, according to Stewart.
He said the first time they tried to stand it up, its right arm was too heavy and began to kink the water tank torso. To correct the issue an I-beam was installed in the middle of the water tank to provide more support.
Stewart said he is thankful for Pope’s help with the project and that he was pleased to have someone with such skill work with him. Stewart said he remembers Pope welding and cutting at just six-years-old when Stewart was doing business with Pope’s father.
“He’s the best as far as welded fabrication,” he said.
Stewart said visitors stop by the statue frequently to take pictures or marvel at the creation.
He said he’s still planning on adding more décor to the statue and to paint the concrete counterweight it holds onto to look like a giant box of dynamite.
Pope said he jokes with Stewart, saying he never wants to see the statue again, he said he’s glad to know some families have enjoyed seeing the sculpture.
“It is a really cool thing for kids and stuff,” he said. “There isn’t any kid who wouldn’t think that thing is cool.”
Stewart requested the exact location of the robot not be disclosed to prevent against the potential of anyone tampering with the statue.