Born February 28 1934 in Witchita Kansas
Died January 7, 2004 in Baker
During his recovery after a severe stroke Doc was out walking one day and found a glove by the side of the road. After reflection he sprayed it full of insulating foam, popped it onto a fencepost and proclaimed the Permanent Wave Society.
Doc was born in Witchita Kansas in 1934 and raised on a small wheat farm. During his senior year he ran moonshine from Oklahoma to Kansas in a ’32 Ford roadster when Kansas was a dry state. He brags that he never got caught because he hauled the booze in a row boat with a fishing pole sticking out.
In 1953 he enlisted in the Army and was trained as a mechanic. He met his wife Miyo Kinjo (Mickey) while he was stationed in Okinawa. Doc later served as a helicopter crew chief in the Korean War, and he stayed in the service until 1962.
After the war he became a construction worker and then a locksmith in Las Vegas. When he moved to Baker, he worked as a cowboy and a gold miner. He went to Montana to build roads for the Forest Service, then back to Las Vegas to work for a concrete pumping business until 1985. He was working at a swap meet when the stroke struck.
Then Doc and Mickey moved back to Baker and he began the long, slow process of rehabilitation. “There ain’t nothing wrong with the body physically, see. It just popped all the circuit breakers,” Doc explained.
Through sheer determination, Doc regained most of the use of his body. “To get the fingers to work, you just think.” Doc said. “You look at them and get them to move. Pretty soon you get one movin’. Then exercise just by touching your fingers — one, two, three.”
When he was able to walk and move his arms he set to work building an addition on their mobile home, “to see if everything’s workin’,” he laughed. “I bent a lot of nails though. Hey, I wouldn’t even get the right wall, much less the right nail. That wasn’t a very speedy project, but I got it done.”
It was about then he created The Permanent Wave and launched an art movement. His inspired transmutation of a lost glove into an icon inspired others in the neighborhood to bring their own inspirations.
Doc is best known for the art movement he godfathered on the way up to the Park, but he made smaller, more collectible pieces too. One day he began researching copper plating techniques. He said the idea came from the same place pygmy owls come from — “out of the blue.”
“It took about a year and a half of trial and error to get the process anywhere near perfection,” Doc said. Then he went on to plate seashells, ceramic figures, a duck head, a cowboy boot, feathers, cow skulls, pieces of wood, and anything else he could get his hands on. “That was a fun time.”
Even though we call Doc an artist, he never did. “I’m a mechanic,” he insisted. “I assemble parts supplied by Mother Nature. She’s the artist, see, I just assemble parts that she supplies.”
Doc sold his “critters” in the various venues in Baker, issuing legal guardianship papers for each piece to provide a record of where each of “his children” went.
He didn’t want to become too busy. “If I have to work harder, that would interfere with my nap. There’s not enough hours in the day – you’ve got to reserve a spot for nap time.”
Doc doesn’t try to explain or interpret his sculptures. “I always thought if you did something – whether a painting or a sculpture – it didn’t need any explanation, “ he said. “it should just be for enjoyment.”
Doc says he hopes his creations will continue to bring enjoyment long after he’s gone.
“Really the only thing they’re going to remember you by is what enjoyment you brought, see?”
[Text by Kristi Fillman, photos by Kathy Rountree and Kristi Fillman]