- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2016

HARRISVILLE, Mich. (AP) - Although the “man” hard at work on property north of Harrisville along US-23 looks like Harrisville resident Russ Champagne, looks are the only similarity.

Russ’ alter ego, “Rusty,” is a tin man of sorts constructed from junk collected over the years by Russ, a former farmer and artist who loves to weld and collect junk, The Alpena News (http://bit.ly/294uoqy ) reported.

Several years ago Russ welded “Rusty” — which is modeled to be an older version of himself — after several discarded No. 2 shovels, a flat shovel, a cream can a friend dug out of the earth, as well as a number of ball bearings, lengths of chain, old shock absorbers for arms, and a few other items scrounged from junk piles.

Russ took an old oxygen tank and using welders and angle grinders, made a likeness of himself out of metal.

“I have always loved art and that, and a friend of mine helped me take measurements and I took my face and projected it and a friend did an outline,” he said. “After that I welded him up and made the other parts.”

Perched atop an antique tractor, Rusty does weekly activities on the small section of land in front of Russ’ home. It’s everything from moving around gravel, clearing land to plant wheat, and even hauling trees he cut down off the property.

If Russ is doing work in the yard, so is Rusty. He said he tries to change the diorama at least once a week to give drivers a different view of what Rusty is up to in the yard.

The work is a living art project that Russ will change on a week to week basis. He uses a small Honda motor and a gear reduction system to actually move Rusty’s tractor from place to place.

He said he has had a lot of positive feedback from people in the community who drive by and see what Rusty is doing that given day. Russ said he gets a kick out of it.

“It’s just fun for me,” he said. “I have one friend who drives through to Oscoda and she just likes to see the different things that he does.”

Russ said he was told by a couple who had to travel to Alpena for cancer treatments that seeing what Rusty was doing was a highlight of a trip.

He also volunteers his time with the Alcona Community Schools FFA program. He said he likes showing the kids different welding techniques and manufacturing and said Rusty has served as a way to inspire local children to work on their own art projects.

In fact, some of the FAA students are helping with the next chapter of Rusty’s adventures, which involve the rusted out body of a Ford Model T.

Russ said it took a few pizzas and cans of pop to get the FFA students to haul the rusted body from a secluded piece of woods on private property to his home. He said with some welding and work he’s going to build Rusty a Model T to sit in during the winter months and more winter scenes and adventures.

“It’s for my wife, Linda,” Russ said. “She doesn’t like to see Rusty sitting out in the cold and with the Model T he can sit out there all winter.”

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Information from: The Alpena News, http://www.thealpenanews.com

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