Scrounging local garage sales... near ten years past... I had found a flat, welded iron, rusty seahorse... 3 feet high... with a good seahorse shape and poise... edges welded and cut... after the haggle... twenty-five dollars..... perfectly added to my estate... covered rust in gold sheen... mounted upon a tree... to greet all comers... with a seahorse kiss!
Seller said it was made by the same artist... of the turtle lady statue... to be found in Corpus Christi! Asked if I had seen it... my reply... No, but I liked the seahorse piece! He expounded... the artist... only had one leg... but was a surfer... well known for this trait... in Corpus Christi!
After I had mounted the seahorse... upon its tree...I did an internet search... looking for anything about the one-legged surfer artist of Corpus Christi! Found... nothing!
End of May, 2019... visiting my sister, Donna... we were wandering Corpus Christi! She guided us to the surf museum... not knowing the story... of the one-legged surfer artist... creator of my mounted seahorse!
Girl at the front desk... Kyla... real nice and friendly... told her about the seahorse and questioned her... she didn’t know... she never heard of a surfer with one leg or the turtle lady statue! Looking at us just a bit strangely... one legged surfer???
Anyhow... Donna and I... started our stroll through the small museum! Along the right side... stood a long row of surfboards... I’ve never surfed... but I was imagining trying it with just one leg!
Anyhow... I didn’t really stop to read or look in any detail at any of the exhibits until I reached the back... there was a glass case... which had a piece of simple letter paper... 8.5x11... taped to the front of the glass cabinet! I started in reading the last paragraph...
“Welch, 53, and his wife, Chelsea Louise, 23, died September 15, 2001, when their car plunged off the edge of South Padre Island’s Queen Isabella Causeway, which partially collapsed after a string of barges crashed into the bridge’s support pilings!
Thought to myself... Wow... Who is this guy??? I jumped up to the middle paragraph...
“Welch lost one of his lower legs in an auto accident in the 1970s, but he kept surfing with a prosthesis. He wore a peg-like prosthesis at first, then got one with a foot. He won the prosthesis division of the United States Surfing Championships on South Padre Island in 1998.”
In the glass case was a welded metal sculpture of a beach scene... with waves, palm trees, and all! The piece did have some resemblance in style to my seahorse sculpture! Also, there was a picture on top of the case of Harpoon Barry... striking a muscular, no shirt pose... in his tattoo shop... his torso covered in tattoos!
It is said... he was on the verge of suicide after losing his leg. In one interview with the San Antonio Express News in 1992 he said; "I may not make it to heaven, but you can be sure I made no deals with the devil to get where I'm at now, " Looking down at his false leg stretched out in front of him, Welch said quietly: "It is a real empty feeling when you put one of these on for the first time, especially if you are an adult on your own. And your mama'a not there and your daddy's not there, and the people in the hospital tell you, 'This is the best it's going to get. I made my first leg myself, out of Hi-C cans. I couldn't wait for my leg to get finished. I wanted to walk. I guess I got the idea from the Tin Woodsman in 'The Wizard of Oz.' That leg actually worked pretty well!”
I had found my one-legged surfer artist! I walked towards Donna... who was already half-way leaving the museum... I hollered to her... she just had to come see this ... “I think I found the one-legged surfer!” She had recently had partial knee replacement... and was hobbling! She said if I was fooling her... she better not walk back all that way for nothing!! She came back to the glass case... we read through the letter in it’s entirety!
Then we went... and told Kyla at the front desk... she again looked at us again a bit strange... but then reluctantly left her post to go with us to take a look... she was then astounded! Said she never knew about the one-leg... although she had worked at the museum for several years! Said there were also a couple metal sculptures... at the front of the museum... she thought were also done... by Harpoon Barry! We took pictures of those also!
In the letter we also read...
“Welch had numerous tattoos and body piercings. He wore a tiny 14 carrot gold harpoon through one ******. That is how he got his nick name according to a friend, Scott Gangel.”
"I am a unique, self-made sensation!” he said matter-of-factly... in the interview with the Express News!
..... It's been 18 years since eight people died when South Padre Island's Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway collapsed... sending 11 people into the water below... four days after the 9/11 attacks! A string of tow barges had struck the supporting pilings! A section of the roadway had collapsed...
I promised Kyla... I would donate my seahorse piece to the museum upon my death! I only hope my death... is as grand as Harpoon Barry’s plunge into the Gulf of Mexico with his young wife! Wonder what they were doing during the plunge... what was Barry doing... yelling Yippee Ki Yay... or Surf’s up... Dude!!!... maybe???
Surfed waves on one leg
Young wife... crazy life... grand death
Harpooned by Barry
© 2019 Jim Davis
I doubt I could ever match his life! ! Though... someday... I might get a tattoo... or two... or a harpoon piercing... perhaps in a ******! Also... still looking for the turtle lady statue!