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'Mater' finds home in Joliet


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JOLIET, Mont. -

If you've traveled down Highway 212 you may have noticed a truck watching you from the side of the road.

Have you ever wondered how the 'Mater' in Joliet cam to be?

Artist Charles Ringer and his wife moved to Joliet in 1971 and have been a staple in the community ever since.

Charles created 'Mater" more than 10 years ago.

Charles is a self-taught artist that made and sold his first sculpture when he was just 16 years old and he says he's been hooked ever since.

Ringer and his wife moved to Joliet after enduring a long winter in Red Lodge, living out of their truck in 1970.

He said, "When we first bought this place it was a junkyard like this {a picture of the property} and the only good thing about it was there was this wrecker sitting there."

That wrecker would later come to be 'Mater'.

Yes, that fun-loving character from the popular children's film "Cars".

But before the truck was transformed into that loveable children's character he was a working wrecker.

Charles used the truck to clean up the junkyard, there was a caveat though.

"I could never get the breaks to work. But with all the junk around I just drove backwards and hit things to stop." Charles laughed.

After about 20 years of crashing and cleaning the 1946 ford was retired and placed out for all to see.

"The town of Joliet passed an ordinance about junk vehicles and they were going to make me move him," explained Charles, "so I turned him into 'Mater' and they can't touch him."

Charles built Mater's eyes and teeth and wired them to the truck so he wouldn't mess with the truck's integrity.

Many people have asked Charles if they could buy 'Mater' but he says 'Mater' isn't going anywhere.

Charles said sometimes there will be six cars in line waiting to have their pictures taken with 'Mater'.

People also throw change out their windows for Charles' sculptures so Charles said when you come and take pictures with 'Mater' you can help him fix Mater's tire and put money in his tire repair fund.

Though the creation of 'Mater' was to get around a town ordinance Charles said 'Mater' has become so much more.

Charles explained, "Mostly it's about the humor. This world is so serious and ugly at times that a little humor goes a long way and makes people relax a little bit and smile. It erodes boundaries, classes, and colors and that kind of thing. Everybody enjoys it."

Montana's own little piece of Radiator Springs can be seen outside of Charles Ringer's art gallery year round. 



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