All Hail the Mighty Boll Weevil!
Not only does Enterprise, Alabama, boast the only monument in the world dedicated to an insect, the town may also have the most pilfered statue ever. From its perch in the town square, the huge black boll weevil that is hoisted in the air by a cement goddess in a flowing gown has been stolen four times in 83 years. The goddess was once stolen as well. Only in Alabama do you find a community worshipping an insect, but there’s some history behind this odd scenario.
The boll weevil (anthonomus grandis) burrowed its way into the hearts of Coffee County residents in 1915, devastating cotton fields as it migrated from Mexico through Mobile. Farmers were forced to diversify their crops, inadvertently revitalizing the Enterprise area and thus the boll weevil was subsequently revered as a savior of sorts .
Coincidentally, Dr. George Washington Carver arrived in Alabama to take over the agricultural department at Tuskegee University around the same time that the boll weevil invaded the state. Carver preached crop diversification to save Alabama’s soil, its nutrients having been depleted by the planting of cotton year after year. He stressed crop rotation, mainly sweet potatoes, pecans, and peanuts. (Cotton farming had left the dirt rich in phosphates, ideal for growing peanuts.)
The original bug shrine did not include an insect. The woman held only a fountain over her head until 1949, when a black metal boll weevil was added. Five years later the bug was stolen. Even the Saturday Evening Post covered the theft. Enterprise City Hall received a series of cryptic telephone messages that whispered, “You’ll find him in a cotton field!” but despite the tips, the boll weevil was never recovered. A larger bug replaced the original, but this time with the anatomically-correct six legs instead of four. In the early 1970s, the boll weevil and the woman holding it were stolen, only to be found two days later in a patch of weeds along a rural highway. The bug was again stolen in 1981 and 1998. The most recent theft left the goddess with shattered arms and a crack down her spine. Fortunately a mold had been cast several years earlier at the request of the Atlanta History Museum, and the replica of the original statue was unveiled during the 1998 Enterprise Christmas parade.
Enterprise hosts the Boll Weevil Festival every autumn, with arts and crafts, food, and live music on Main Street at the town square. This year’s event will be October 26, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Call 334-347-0581 for details.