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Rural soldiers remembered

Missouri Mile slideshow: Celebrating America’s freedom with a few hay bales.

Patriotism in rural America. There is really nothing like it. Sure, we have parades and fireworks July 4 to celebrate our independence, but Bill McClain takes devotion to his country to new heights, thanks to a few hay bales.

Travel Missouri State Highway 19 north of Montgomery City, Mo., and you may just run off the road right before making it to the small town of Wellsville. There are stacks of painted hay bales sitting in a field. It causes many to do a double take. And, according to McClain, his hay bales bring a lot of notoriety to the small Montgomery county town with a population of more than 1,100 people.

This is the 12th display McClain has created. Over the past years, he has transformed hay bales into airplanes, teddy bears and even angry birds. But none has had quite the impact of his latest creation.

“Of all the displays I’ve done,” McClain says, “this one gets a lot of attention. A lot of people stop on the road to take photos.”

Red, white and blue paint adorn 30 large round bales stacked, tied and secured together to create a tribute to America and its veterans. While three displays are stacked bales with words honoring fallen servicemen and women, the third pays homage to those who came from a rural community.

McClain designed a tractor out of hay bales. He owned a rock quarry and was a part-time cattleman. “I would come home from work, grab a beer, sit under the shade tree and talk to the cows,” he says. Now he is retired, the cattle are gone and he rents out his land. But farming is the backbone of the rural community and rural America. So, McClain thought it was important to include it in his patriotic tribute.

McClain also has a distinct fondness for his country and those who serve to protect its freedoms. A former Army man, he fought in the Korean War. He also took part in the 25th Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. on Oct. 15, 2013. The Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit organization that transports former military personnel to Washington, D.C., to visit and reflect at the military memorials there. However, McClain finds that it doesn’t take a trip to D.C. to remember the cost of freedom. His hay bales bring attention to those who fought and died in war.

He believes it is important that individuals remember those who served their country — not just on holidays, but every day. McClain’s display offers all travelers a chance to pause and pay tribute.

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