All information excerpted from a 1999 letter written by Mark Solomon to the Idaho Department of Transportation.Mark Solomon founded Idaho Forge and Fabrication in 1977 in the old Moscow scrap metal yard off the Troy Highway. In 1980, after completing a major architectural contract, Solomon
threw out all his paying customers and locked himself and his flatbed truck in the shop and started the truck’s conversion into a dragon.
Five months later, on the day when Mount St. Helens exploded, the dragon truck made its first public debut. At 13-feet, the dragon had headlights in the nostrils, windshield eyeballs, turn signals in its teeth, purple and green neon eyebrows and a fire-breathing mechanism for slow traffic.
A few years later, Solomon was in the process of dismantling and salvaging the old Potlatch Lumber Mill. Upon returning to Moscow after work with his crew, Solomon learned that Robert Crumb, an American cartoonist, was at Bookpeople for a book signing. Having been a Crumb fan for decades, he fired up the dragon truck, loaded his crew on the back and went downtown. Leaving the dragon idling in the alley, they went into the bookstore and approached Crumb.
“Crumb, come with us,” Solomon said. “It is time for you to ride the Dragon.”
Solomon said Crumb had once penned a cartoon of Dragon Machines crawling across the Mojave Desert in a post-Apocalyptic world.
“I ain’t going to ride no chopper,” said Crumb in response, who after being assured by the Bookpeople owner that Solomon and his crew were trustworthy, hopped aboard the dragon.
Solomon said they proceeded to drive around town and then went down to the Idaho Forge building. Knowing that Crumb was a member of the infamous northern California string band, the Cheap Suits, Solomon had placed “The Best of Richard and Mimi Farina” on the record player before leaving to abduct Crumb. Solomon said it was one of Crumb’s favorite records.
Solomon placed a log of charcoal in Crumb’s hands, steered him onto a pallet, ran him 10 feet into the air with a forklift, placed him in front of a bare sheetrock wall and said “Draw!”
Starting in the center of the wall and drawing in ever-expanding circles, Crumb drew a self-portrait of himself screaming “YEEEAAA!!,” an accurate portrayal of the current moment, Solomon said.
Solomon then lowered him down, thanked him and drove him — in the dragon — back to the bookstore.
“And there you have it … how (to my knowledge) the only mural, in fact the only piece larger than a sketch, ever done by Crumb came to be on the wall of a blacksmith shop in north Idaho,” Solomon wrote.
The R. Crumb mural had been moved to Boise, but is now back for Moscow Artwalk. It will be on display from 4-7 p.m. Friday at Friendship Square.
-Lindsey Treffry, Inland360.com
-If you go:
WHAT: R. Crumb mural display
WHEN: 4-7 p.m.
WHERE: Friendship Square