WASKOM - "The Great American Mural," seen prominently on Hwy. 80 at the entrance to Waskom from the Louisiana border, isn't just filled with bright colors and flat pictures.
Each officer, vehicle and place depicted is real - from the soldiers of Iwo Jima to the color guard of Barksdale Air Force base, to the local Waskom first responders like Waskom Police Chief Westy Meisenheimer and Fire Chief Murph King - is visceral and tangible, both owner of the mural building and real estate office We Buy Houses 123, Bill Ledger and artist Chris Opp said.
"(This mural) is about bringing all of our military service together," Ledger said. "And every one of them these days are in as much danger as the other. I'm a veteran, I served nine years in the Army National Guard, but when I get up in the morning the first thing I'm thinking of is all the police officers and firefighters I (know)."
Ledger said the mural came about after he changed the location of his All About Trees business and moved his real estate office in. But instead of just painting a white coat over the All About Trees logo, he said he wanted to go a step further.
"It was an absolute match made in heaven," Ledger said about meeting with Opp to paint the mural. "I went searching (on Facebook) for the right person. I had a couple of names, but Chris' name popped to the top. When I talked to him and told him what I was doing, I could see the passion written all over him - it's made this project so much easier."
Opp said Ledger's vision is what attracted him to the project.
"I'm into making America great again; bringing back our morals, convictions and work ethic that we haven't had for years, so this (mural) is in my line of thinking," Opp said. "(Ledger) wanted to change the image (of his building), being a former veteran.
"I believe God brought us together for a reason because we think alike," Opp said. "He asked if I could create him a mural. I always go above and beyond the call of duty. I gave him something pretty big."
Opp believes he delivered, painting the 112x25 ft. building front in bright red, white and blue. Opp said the design went through several iterations before landing on the specific elements that make up "The Great American Mural."
"We changed this about five times," Opp said.
"And then we changed it four more," Ledger said. "We started with a concept then we'd change it a little bit more and change it a little bit more."
"The mural evolved like a child," Opp said. "It had to grow up and come of age (before) it was ready to be painted."
Ledger said "The Great American Mural," set to be completed this weekend, is just the start of what he hopes will be several murals and projects to come in Waskom.
"I own a few buildings (in Waskom). (Opp) will be coming back in a month to paint Poor Boys Auto to make it look like an old gas station with a 1957 truck coming out of it," Ledger said. "The one after this will be on my All About Trees, building, located at 125 W. Texas. We're going to build an actual tree coming out of the corner and it will look really cool. That should happen in May.
"The next mural (after that) will be on 200 N Lake," Ledger said. "I'm not sure exactly what we'll put on it. It is going to look cool, though. We haven't gotten to it, but it is on the itinerary.
"I have a lot of ambitions and a lot of thoughts about what we can do," Ledger said. "But after I've changed those few buildings, I really feel like it will catch on. Once we get to a point I think we'll develop enough synergy and get enough support a lot of (others will join in)."