You walk down a dirt road lined with piles of salvage rubble--a battered wheelchair, an old wringer washer. You're in the midst of a pack rat's paradise called Delaney Surplus on Route 12 a few miles north of Sauk City, Wisconsin.
You come to a dirt crossroads and look left. There, at the end of another dirt road with potholes full of murky rainwater, is a welded-up pile of apparently disparate objects about three stories high. It looks like a parody of the Emerald City. It looks like an amusement park. It looks like a Rube Goldberg mousetrap. It looks like a spaceship. It looks like the Kremlin.
What it is is Tom Every's Forevertron, a 600,000-pound sculpture he made out of salvage. Every, 54, of Merrimac, is a great round man with bloodhound eyes. When he talks about how he "discovered" this spaceship back here in the corner of the salvage yard, the ship that the fabulous Dr. Evermore used to propel himself into the heavens in the 19th century, he says it with such a straight face and matter-of-fact tone you almost believe him.
He points to a huge silvery disk that looks like a giant stainless-steel tortellini. "That's the magnetic holding chamber for the force." Actually it was the decontamination chamber used by NASA for the first astronauts who came back from the moon. "When the doctor was ready to go, he climbed the stairs and went across the bridges and got inside the glass ball inside the copper egg." The copper egg is the pinnacle of the Forevertron. The glass ball inside used to belong to the billboard of a local hamburger stand.
"And at the right moment the ground people turned on all the switches and they shot him into the heavens on a magnetic force field. He cranked that ball up and he took a highball up to heaven."
To the left of the Forevertron is a gazebo atop a spiral staircase, from which Every says the royalty of the time watched the launch. To the right is a platform with a huge telescope that Every says Dr. Evermore built so nonbelievers could watch with their own eyes as he hurtled through the heavens in his glass ball.
That black sculpture farther down the road that looks like a cartoon electric chair is the graviton. You sit in it and it reduces your weight to the proper level for space travel. Every's never tried it. He got in it once and got stuck. "I'm not ready to go yet. I've got more to do here." Still under construction, way out in the field, is the Overlord Master Control, the control center intended to guide Dr. Evermore's vessel. It will look like a 47-foot-high candy jar.
Behind the Forevertron is a concrete patio crowded with smaller sculptures made by Every and his 14-year-old son, Troy. They are for sale. There's a lizardlike thing made out of a huge three-foot wrench. A grasshopper with a square of glass on its back makes an amusing coffee table. A flamingo with gold doorknob eyes looks at you with a laughing face.
Every's wife of 30 years, Eleanor, paints their sculptures and rounds up the parts. Taking a break from painting, she heads up the road toward Delaney. Then something in the rubble catches her eye and she fishes out a gear that looks like a star. "That's a fine piece," she says.
Standing in her paint-splattered rain slicker, she tells a browser how Every was inspired to do all this. "He was real depressed," she says. He'd spent nearly 30 years running an industrial wrecking business in Stoughton. "He got depressed because when you take things apart, nobody knows you've done something. It's gone."
"They think it's a problem, so they have you get rid of it and it's no longer a problem" is how Every puts it. So he turned the business over to a son, the eldest of his four kids, in 1984 and began his sculpture park on his friend Delaney's property. Any salvage jobs he got involved in after that were for artistic rather than monetary gain. From a wrecking job at a university he got the decontamination chamber and the shells of the mobile-home trailers that form the base of the Forevertron. He got in on the demolition of a brewery because he wanted copper vats.
The Forevertron and control tower are protected by silver cylinders called love cannons. One zap renders intruders helpless by making them goofy with love. "Nothing violent here," Every says. "Nothing say-distic. Only happiness. Only peace."
Delaney Surplus is seven miles north of Sauk City (or seven miles south of Baraboo) on Route 12. It's open Thursday through Saturday and Monday 9-6, Sunday noon-6, and closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Call 608-643-8009 for information.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Yael Routtenberg.