This twelve-foot cement stucco raven is the work of Bill Johnson of Ravenden. It stands along the north easement of highway 63 at the edge of town. This is the third raven sculpture to be built on this spot. The first two, both constructed of fiberglass, were burned by vandals.
In 1991, Bob Clements started an initiative to build the bird, collected donations and hired a local vo-tech student, who was studying auto body repair, to fabricate the statue. After that statue was burned, Clements had the bird rebuilt and shortly thereafter it was burned again. Clements began to suspect, for reasons that he did not explain to me, that the destruction of the bird might be a personal attack against him, so he got one of the other citizens, Jack Dale, to carry the ball in the fundraising attempt to build the third bird.
Jack Dale hired mason Bill Johnson for the job, which took about a month's worth of after-work and weekend time. Completed in 1996, and still intact, the third bird is coated with fire-retardant paint.
The inscriptions on the base read as follows (emphasis theirs):
Front--Ravenden, Ark. Est. 1883, First known as Ravenden Junction
Rear--The Raven was first built by donations in 1991, Reconstructed in 1996
Left--The RAVEN was the first bird sent from the ark in search of land
Right--The RAVEN has the reputation for DIVINE or MAGICAL powers
It finally occurred to me to research the natural range of the raven. It turns out there are two species of raven in North America. The Chihuahuan raven's range extends from Mexico and covers the western half of Texas, but doesn't come within five hundred miles of Arkansas. The natural range of the common raven lies hundreds of miles to the north and east and reaches toward Arkansas only about as far south as the thumb of Michigan. Common ravens also share some range with the Chihuahuan raven.
So there are no ravens here. Not even close. Still, I myself have occasionally seen some really enormous crows. Once below the spillway of Lake Maumelle I saw a pair of crows so big that as soon as I got home I called up the Game and Fish Commission and asked them if they were absolutely positively one-hundred-percent sure there were no ravens in Arkansas.
And of course the modern extent of the raven's range doesn't rule out the possibility that there might have been ravens here when the town was named. And of course the people of Ravenden could have named their town Coelocanth even in the absence of actual coelocanths.