TALCOTT, W.Va. -- His eight-foot frame has been pierced by at least nine gunshots and dented by a dozen more.
He lost a limb and later had it reattached after being chained to a truck and dragged down W.Va. 3 -- an incident that nearly cost him his head.
He has suffered the indignity of being whitewashed and repainted more times than his caretakers care to remember.
Even as a statue, John Henry, the legendary steel-driving man, has faced more than his share of adversity. But now, after 40 years of standing sentinel atop Talcott's Great Bend Tunnel, the statue is getting some long-overdue restoration work, after which he will move to a more secure, vandal-unfriendly home.
By July 13, when Talcott begins its annual John Henry Days celebration, the refurbished statue should be standing watch, nine-pound hammer in hand, on a new pedestal at a new site -- the entrance to the Great Bend Tunnel in the town's new 26-acre John Henry Historical Park.
Welder Larry Moorman, vice president of the John Henry Historical Park Association, will restore the statue in his shop.
"I'll be glad to have the statue off the mountain and in the park, where it's safer," said Bill Dillon, a Talcott native, local historian, and member of the park's development committee. "Up there, unprotected and right next to the road, he was in a perfect place for vandals to pull over and be mischievous."
"The mean kids would whitewash the statue, and the good kids would clean it up," said Steve Trail of the Summers County Historic Landmarks Commission.
The Hillsdale-Talcott Ruritan Club was responsible for raising funds to place the eight-foot-tall, three-eighths-inch thick bronze statue of John Henry in a small roadside park atop the tunnel. Among those donating to the monument was singer Johnny Cash, the man who wrote and recorded "The Legend of John Henry's Hammer." Cash chipped in $500 to get the statue placed in the roadside park.
In December of 1972, the statue, produced by Michigan sculptor Charles O. Cooper, arrived at the tunnel standing atop a flatcar to which it was secured with binding straps.
Dillon said the statue was the product of Cooper's imagination, and was not modeled after a particular person or drawing.
"He's got such a determined face," Dillon said. "I hope we won't be able to see any sign of the bullet holes, after Larry covers them."