|Clementine and Mark Cline's Tiger, July 2011|
|Clementine and Mark Cline's Yogi (Natural Bridge), July 2011|
We returned a few months later to celebrate Charleigh's first birthday with family and friends. We had a ball! (You can see photos from that weekend, here.) On our way out of town, we stopped to eat at this place called Pink Cadillac Diner: mostly because of the giant King Kong in the parking lot and Humpty Dumpty on the porch. When I asked our server about the statues, she told us Mark Cline had made them.
|Clementine and Mark Cline's King Kong, July 2011|
|Cade's Friend Andrew and Mark Cline's Humpty Dumpty, July 2011|
After we got home, I Googled Mark Cline's name. I learned he'd made the tiger and Yogi statues, and--upon seeing photos of some of his other creations--I came to appreciate his work even more. I read articles about and interviews with him, and he just kept saying he wants to make people happy. What could be more admirable? I believed him and still do.
So for over two years, as I can, I've been visiting and photographing Mark Cline's work. In addition to Natural Bridge, I've checked it out in Bedford, Thaxton, and Glasgow, Virginia, also in Ellicot City, Maryland. With the children, of course. I can honestly say: it's made me happy.
|Cade and Mark Cline's Snake, Natural Bridge Zoo, August 2013|
|Charleigh, Clementine, Cade, and Cade's Friend Sam, Natural Bridge Zoo, August 2013|
|Mark Cline's Dino in Glasgow, August 2013|
|Charleigh at Mark Cline's Foamhenge, August 2013|
|My Parents and the Girls at Mark Cline's Foamhenge, August 2013|
Before Jim and I returned to Natural Bridge for Charleigh's third birthday, I e-mailed Mark Cline and told him I'd like to meet him. His wife Sherry returned my e-mail and invited me on a ghost tour in Lexington Friday or Saturday night. She said, too: Mark would be riding his unicycle blindfolded in Rockbridge Baths on Monday. That seemed like a much better option with the children (although I took one of the ghost tours many years ago: awesome!), and we arrived just in time.
I was so happy. I didn't expect the opportunity to talk to him. Jim, the kids, and I wandered around the festival until Jim said: "They're saying something over the loudspeaker about Mark Cline and something's being for sale. Maybe we should check it out." Sure enough, we stepped inside a building, and there he was: waving a yellow t-shirt he'd designed.
"I'll buy your t-shirt," I told him, "if you'll have your photo taken with me," and he ended up walking with us to buy a t-shirt in my size (which he signed) and talking to me for a good little while. He was super friendly, down-to-earth, easygoing with the kids.
I told him I'd love to help write his story but understand him to be a great writer, himself. "I had a column once," he said, "but mostly I just pretended to write like I pretended to be a stuntman, today." Then Jim took our photo, and it's a terrible photo of me (It was crazy-hot, and I'd been camping, okay?), but I have to share it, anyway, because it was a happy moment for me.
Walking toward the car, Cade asked: "So, was that, like, a dream come true for you?"
"Yeah, pretty much, I said, "and I want you to take something from it. Because--if there's someone you want to meet--ask the question. If I hadn't e-mailed, I wouldn't have been in Rockbridge Baths, today."
My one regret is that I didn't say to Mark Cline what I wanted to say which was just: thank you. Thank you so much. It's been a season of many small children and little money, and your work has made me happy.