Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

R.G. Box and his metal roadrunner


Though Raymond George Box — known as R. G. to friends — grew up in Lubbock, lives in Lubbock and attended university in Lubbock, he’s a Roadrunner at heart.

Box, 79, created the new 6-foot-tall, 11-foot-long “Rowdy” sculpture that stands in the center of the Sombrilla Plaza, a project that he refers to as “a high point of my life, especially when it comes to making things.” Considering his depth as an artist, the statement carries considerable weight — Box has been creating his entire life.

The gallery on his website is filled with pictures of projects from every stage of his life: a 1927 Ford Roadster he worked on in high school, an oil drilling rig he worked when employed by an oil company, a house he built for his family in Del Norte, Colo. and of course, all of his blacksmith projects. However, his blacksmithing work is surprisingly recent.

In fact, Box didn’t start blacksmithing until 2000, a few years after he had retired. “I always liked that old ‘Village Blacksmith’ poem by Longfellow,” Box said of his inspiration to become a blacksmith.

In 2006, Box decided to take his craft further. Reading online about The Forgery School of Blacksmithing in New Mexico, and with Longfellow’s poem in mind, Box made the decision to commit entirely to blacksmithing.

Since the school wasn’t currently offering classes, Box first focused on buying his equipment, some of which was over 100 years old.

“That’s what happens when you buy used,” Box joked. He admitted he wanted older equipment so his smithy would feel “more like a blacksmith shop.”

By the time he was able to attend blacksmith school in Moriarty, New Mexico, he had already finished his first few blacksmith projects. Not long long after his time in blacksmith school, he was featured in an episode of the Texas Country Reporter, which is where UTSA’s Associate Athletics Director Jim Goodman heard that Box wanted to create a roadrunner statue.

Box had no promise of pay for his work when Goodman first contacted him about making “Rowdy,” but he explained that is usually how commissioned work goes.

“I pay endless money for this stuff,” Box said, “but that’s okay. It’s fun to make it.”

Box does all his work by commission nowadays, but he explained that the extra expense is worth it to have the freedom to design his work.

“He just draws and figures and dreams about it at night,” said his wife, Janie. “He wakes up during the night and figures it out as he goes.”

Planning “Rowdy” required just a little bit more work than usual. Before starting the sculpture, Box studied many pictures of roadrunners, including ones that he took of roadrunners living on his property, and visited Dr. Nancy McIntyre, the Curator of Birds at Texas Tech University, to learn more about roadrunners.

Box was able to create “Rowdy” by displaying a picture of a roadrunner at six times it’s actual size on the wall of his smithy using an overhead projector. He then drew it onto cardboard, and from there, he made steel ribs “just like you’ve got.”

Afterwards, he covered “Rowdy” with a steel skin and attached 1,000 feathers, each of them meticulously textured. Finally, he switched to brass for the eyes to achieve the yellow color of the eyes of a roadrunner.

After he finished the statue, Box delivered it to San Antonio where he attended UTSA’s pep rally and football game.

“All of those students and football players. They all went by and petted ‘Rowdy’,” Box said, describing his favorite memory from the trip. “Most of them said something. I have no idea what they said, but that was really neat.”

After Box’s experiences with UTSA, he and his wife have become Roadrunners. “It feels like we’re UTSA people,” Janie explained. “We live in Lubbock and I graduated from Tech, but our loyalty is for UTSA.”

Currently, Box is working on a plaque to go with “Rowdy.” He hasn’t decided what it should say yet, but that’s understandable, considering his wish for “Rowdy.”

“I hope he’s there forever,” he said. “I think he will be.”

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