CROOKSVILLE – Rick Crooks of Crooksville lost his eyesight in a pistol accident when he was just 16, but he never lost his vision for the world around him.
Since 2000, he has been creating sculptures out of metal scraps he finds at flea markets and auctions.
“A lot of times I go to auction or a flea market and buy just a bucket or a box of stuff,” he said. “Sometimes I know what I’m looking for, I’m looking for one particular thing, but a lot of times you just buy a junk box or a box and go through it and decide what you’re going to make out of what you ended up with.”
The scraps typically turn into heads and limbs for his sculptures.
“I got a whole garage full of what I call body parts,” Crooks said.
It started out with just welding some springs together into a dog that he called a spring spaniel.
“A lot of people seen it and loved it,” Crooks said.
It earned him a gallery spot in Columbus, which only encouraged him to do more.
Now Crooks makes all kinds of creatures, some are small like his spark plug bugs and some are as big as his 17-foot gorilla.
His favorite is an alligator that came out so perfect that he’ll never attempt to make one again.
Crooks might not be able to see his creations with his own eyes, but using his memory from having 16 years of sight and some imagination he is able to put together easily recognizable sculptures.
“I come up with ideas, and I cut and bend and get everything ready,” he said.
For the alligator, he used a friend who used to hunt the giant reptile to learn about its shape and size.
“I knew what a praying mantis’ head looked like,” Crooks said. “I was digging through stuff and found a tricycle seat at the time, and it made the perfect, perfect praying mantis head.”
Crooks finds the parts and uses a saw cut them down. He only needs help when it comes to welding the parts together.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m bullheaded and I already know what I want,” Crooks said.
His father’s job allowed for him to travel the country and visit many landmarks before he went blind.
“Got to see the highlights – the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Disney World, deserts,” Crooks said.
He lived on a farm and enjoyed riding mini-bikes, motorcycles and horses to get him from point a to point b.
“We had farm work to do as well, but we had a great life growing up,” Crooks said. “Just had a lot of fun. Everyday was an adventure.”
Then came Nov. 24, 1974.
Crooks and his friends were loading shotgun shells to shoot clay pigeons.
“One of the friends was looking at my brother’s pistol, which him and I both used, so one of us had evidently left a shell in it and it went off,” Crooks said.
It landed him in Children’s Hospital for a week and left him totally blind.
But being blind has never stopped Crooks from living his life.
“My motto is, all days are good, just some are better than others,” he said.
Crooks has a son and daughter who make him proud and six grandchildren.
He’s been featured in a documentary by Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations.
And he has two fans that always stand by his side – his mother, Alma Mae Hoopes and his fiancé, Rosa Jones.
One of Crooks’ many pieces is on display outside the Pioneer School in Zanesville.