Farm Horizons, Aug. 2006

Fuel barrel art: tanks for the memories

By Kristen Miller

What many may see as junk, Lee Titrud sees as potential pieces of art by turning old fuel barrels and milk cans into farm animals.

Titrud lives on his grandparents’ farm in Stockholm Township south of Cokato where he and his wife, Rebecca, raised their three daughters.

Titrud has always farmed like his grandfather and father. “I’ve never been employed outside my own farm,” he said.

He has milked cows and raised hogs, but as he gets older he does less and less.

“I can’t work like I used to,” Titrud said.

In his free time, Titrud enjoys turning old farm equipment into a work of art.

Passing by his farm on Wright County Road 30, a person will see tin horses and cows pulling old farm equipment like his grandfather had worked with on the farm as a child.

Titrud’s first project was a cow made of old milk cans and a fuel tank. He had seen a picture of one and thought he could make it better.

The udders were made from old milkers. Even the real calves have mistaken this for a real cow but “finding out there wasn’t much there,” Titrud said.

Then, after selling the families’ horses, Titrud built “fake ones because I missed the real ones,” he said.

Now, the four horses stand as if they were pulling a trailer of hay.

Passersby would see his artwork and drop off their old fuel oil barrels. “I guess they thought I needed more to do,” he joked.

Some of the equipment is bought at auctions, but most of it Titrud has found around the farm.

He has made a steam engine out of a fuel oil barrel and now uses it as a wood furnace to burn trash. Smoke can be seen streaming out of the stack resembling the real thing.

Titrud had also constructed a brown pig out of a milk can including a curly tail. Beverly Rokala of Dassel had spoken to Titrud about purchasing the pig in remembrance of her son-in-law, Torey Miller. Miller passed away last March and he raised pigs.

Because Titrud no longer had a pig, he quickly made another. It takes him about a half-a-day to make any one animal, he explained. After welding the necessary parts, the animal is ready for painting. “You can find cheap paint at auctions usually,” he said.

Other artwork includes a renovated John Deere tractor and a blue tractor painted on a shed with real tractor tires for a 3D effect.

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