Whimsical Work Gets New Home In Johnston

A tricycle, angel wings, no clothes: There’s nothing quite like “UpDown,” who spent years at Merle Hay Mall and then in a private backyard on Des Moines’ east side.  

We always enjoy hearing from readers about the stories they like. For us at dsm, the response to this one stands out above all others—on a level as unusual as the notion of a naked, slack-jawed angel riding a tricycle.

We have poured our editorial hearts into stories of more significance. We have agonized over details that should matter. We hope somebody cared. But here’s what we know: You readers loved, loved learning the fate of the peculiar figure who pedaled earnestly but motionless for decades at Merle Hay Mall. With wings. Without clothes.

Called “UpDown,” the guy with his mouth agape was popular with most shoppers and a source of fascination for their kids—until new management booted his naked booty out 20 years ago. Renamed “Merle” by his new owner and one-shot art collector Jerri Scott, he landed in her east-side backyard, poised just a pedal or two from her driveway.

And now he’s on the move again. The 72-year-old Scott recently told us that she has donated him to the city of Johnston. Although she says she loved meeting the countless number of people who stopped by to see Merle over the past two decades, she decided it was time to downsize and find him a new home.

Specifically, he’ll be winging his way to the east side of Johnston’s City Hall, at the head of the new recreational trail. The whimsical work will be unveiled this Saturday during the Mayor’s Annual Bike Ride. (Appropriate, no?) The ceremony begins at 11:45 a.m.

Scott plans to be there, of course. It’s “the perfect time to send him flying off to a new home in a new outdoor public venue, accessible to all,” she told us. “He’ll be secure for decades, gaining new admirers … while I get to play along with everyone else. All in all, I am grateful and joyful.”

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