Recently Ray Preston of KMOV, channel 4, did a story,
which can still be viewed on line; “St Louis Proud: The Story Behind Merferd.”
Ray spent an entire morning with my art and Arborculture
Apprentices, Christopher Smith, Nehemiah Stone, and myself.
THIS story begins with the DRIVE NICE sign on highway 70.
One night a man in a tinted widow car road raged one of my daughters on the lawless strip of 70 between the Arch and our city of Ferguson.
So I painted Merferd saying
This sign lasted for three years …
… until Merferd’s old enemies the LOW DOWNS, a graffiti gang, found a way up and tagged over him.
Two homeless friends got up on the roof and painted it white again. St Louis’ homeless love Merferd, and Merferd loves them.
My apprentices, 15 years old Nehemiah (from the south side), and 14 year old Christopher of Berkley, hung around with me for several days …
WHAT was Merferd going to say? He initially was going to say “Welcome to Missouri.”
After discussion with Alderman Bandon Frazier-Bosely, (who is sick at heart with all the crime and murder in north St. Louis), and consulting with a couple other friends …
… He is presently saying “FATHER” along with “Malachi 4:6”.
The West side of the Billboard plugs a St Louis band of a friend of mine.
Christopher Smith and Nehemiah Stone have been a huge help, wether it has been art, or arboriculture events or helping a homeless friend of ours move to another place. Bebe' McBride's belongings are in plastic bins, protected
on all sides with a few remaining Merferds.
To build a Homeless Treetoon friend a home....
North St Louis lumber, who donates Merferd making wood, also donated the lumber for the building of the teensy house for Bebe'.
Dave never would tell me his last name, or else you would know it. Dave and his gal Bonnie, (now deceased) were featured in the documentary film "Living in Tents" by film maker Paul Crane. I had met Dave at the St Louis International film festival where Josh Herum's "The Man Behind the Merferds" was shown alongside "Living in Tents". The days spent with Dave were full of
laughter. I learned to be very careful about what I said or what I
asked him, because he had an uncanny ability to roast me.
The pallet yard had come
to an end, and Bebe's
hood had become
dangerous. It seemed a
good fit to move her and
the Merfs to safe camp
on the edge of some
woods in East St Louis.
I hired homeless carpenter
Dave, who moved in
with his warm red tent.
The old cast iron fire
pit burning day and
night, cooking and
camp cooking fare.
On the days we did
not do tree work, we spent carving
and painting our
art on a long sturdy
work bench station.
During the stay at camp,
Christopher, Bebe' and me
created over thirty
"Merfmass Trees". Our
friends Don and Barb
Moore sold them, without
any consignment fee,
from their shop on
Cherokee St in St Louis,
Treetoons products will
continue to be made
We are a little weary playing musical Merferds. All loaded up with no where to go. Trees are calling for them, but our tree customers are calling for us to trim. So many Treetoons and
so little time.
I visited with with Rob Gibson, the first and original 'founder of
the camp. His cozy, tent was home sweet home to him.
On the wall in the background a certificate of his baptism.Channel Four's Ray Preston and his Camera man Steve interviewed Rob the next morning.
The next thing I knew they were over by our truck. Rob asked them if they ever had heard about the Man behind the Merferds. Ray had been wanting to interview me some day and do a story.
He hasn't been released to do it yet. But he and Steve DID
both get a drawing.
Created at “Treetoon Town” and sold at Riverside Antiques on 'Antique Row' on Cherokee street ($50 )
Phil personally creates each unique Merferd climbing up to the star. Merferd can be easily removed from the star and placed on a larger Christmas tree as an ornament if so desired.
Pictured left to right, Christopher, my apprentice, (when not in school), Bebe’, pallett tree, star maker, and tree care helper and myself.. The photo is taken at “Treetoon Town”, part homeless camp.
We are grateful to Riverside Antiques, who is not charging a consignment fee.
We are also thankful that the mayor in East St Louis does not give orders to bulldozer camps to make the homeless go away, as in St Louis.
Josh Herum's Documentary, "The Man Behind the Merferds" has been awarded the MIDRASH award at the 2018 At Louis International Film Festival. This is a high honor. Thank you to all entries, film makers and subjects who participated. And thanks to St Louis
“The Man Behind the Merferds” is screening with Paul Crane’s “Living in Tents" at the St Louis International Film Festival
How cool, that, (Sunday, Nov 4, 1:00 at the Zack theater,) out of the multitude of entries, for Josh Herum and I to be teamed up with "Living in Tents". I'm still so disappointed with mayors Krewson and Slay, having shut down our city's only 24 emergency homeless shelter, at the behest of a large political donor. Merferd art continues at a homeless camp, across the river, where the East St Louis' mayor visits. She has even cut the grass. On the St Louis side, the mayors send the bulldozers. Instead of the Forestry division saving trees, they are ordered to dismantle tents, and even cut down the trees that shade them.
“The Man Behind the Merferds”
by Josh Herum
7 Short Documentaries Including The Man Behind The Merferds at the St. Louis International Film Festival
After having spent a long day preparing for the “Pickin on Picknic” fest in St Clair, Phil and Merferd arrived and slept in the bed of Phil's tree crane truck on a comfortable kick back lawn chair. The next day Phil was somewhat overwhelmed. He wondered "if it took so long to prepare and pull the Merferds out of their St Louis trees, how was I going to think I was going to be able to reinstall at the festival by dark?! It dawned on me that I needed a ROAD CREW."
When Tim stuck his head above that tailgate and asked if he could help if I hadn’t had a ride on his tricycle I would have thunk him an angel sent by God!
“Big Mike” joins me and Piglet, and the Merferds are in the buddy rigging system now!
... then Phil went off to ride on a bicycle and listen to the music of The Mighty Pines.