Christ of the Ohio
Christ of the Ohio: A Narrative
Christ of the Ohio,
high on a hill near Troy.
I remember the many lonely nights I spent lying in a cold, damp cell where the stench of my own body odor mixed with urine was almost more that I could stand. The horrible coughing echoed through the halls serving as a dim reminder that tomorrow our lungs would again be filled with coal dust.
I had been captured as a prisoner. The U.S. Army was most displeased that a German, like myself, was free and alone traveling through North America, especially when Americans were dying every day in a war with my country. Honestly, I meant no harm. I was an artist, a sculptor who longed to see the world, but war changes everything.
I was sent to a camp and made to do hard labor in the underground coal mines somewhere in Kentucky. We were given little to eat and our clothes were always filthy. Believe it or not, that wasn't my biggest worry. The men that worked at the camp were as mean as the prisoners, so tempers flared and fights were constant.
The bells on the horse drawn ambulance had the same ring as the ones on the hearse...the nighly fear was paralyzing.
As my head rested on a damp rag against the cold concrete blocks of the cell, I prayed. Every night I prayed. I prayed "Please, God, if you'll let me out of this hell hole alive, I promise I'll do something for you someday."
Night after night my lips muttered the same prayer. The priest on guard, Father Paul, would visit occasionally to ask how I was doing. My reply was always the same. "I'm still promising God I'll do something for him if I live long enough to get out of here." He would chuckle as he walked away.
After the war ended, I was shipped to another prison in England. One day -- out of the blue -- I received a long distance call from Father Paul. He was at an Archabbey somewhere in the states called St. Meinrad. "Are you Herb Jogurst, the prisoner who is an artist?" Of course, I said yes.
He told me of a wealthy doctor and his mother who lived in a place called Tell City, Indiana. The doctor lived on a high hill overlooking the Ohio River and wanted something sculpted that would give travelers inspiration on their journeys on the river. I saw this not only a challenge, but also a chance to keep my promise. "Yes! Yes!" I screamed into the receiver. I heard the words of my prayer crying out in my mind. "I will do something for you Lord." This statue IS my "something".
I struggled for several years trying to find a material that would endure harsh weather. Finally, the combination of terrazzatine dust and concrete worked. I completed my project in 1956. May it long serve as a silent messenger for peace to all who share its beauty.