Freedom rock

The Drakesville Oval is home to Davis County’s Freedom Rock, a poignant memorial honoring the men and women of Davis County who served in the armed forces.

The huge boulder, donated by the Swaim family, was painted by Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II of Greenfield, who is making it his goal to paint a Freedom Rock in each county of Iowa.

Sorensen displays a passion for his work and says the rocks tell stories that might otherwise be forgotten. His motto for the project is “Thanking our Veterans, one painting at a time.” He compares his rocks to puzzle pieces. Put together, they tell the stories of veterans all across Iowa from all branches of the armed services.

Drakesville’s Freedom Rock tells the stories of Ted Sprouse and General James B. Weaver. Sorensen spent time studying the background of both men before beginning the rock. He learned about Sprouse’s time spent as a prisoner of war during the Korean War as he read Sprouse’s biography, “Limbo on the Yalu…and Beyond!” He learned that Sprouse was a very good baseball player, who, while playing in the military, was scouted by the San Francisco Giants. He also learned that Sprouse was in charge of the Howitzers in his division. Sorensen used his paintbrush to tell this story on Drakesville’s Freedom Rock.

The other side of the rock tells the story of Gen. James B. Weaver, presidential candidate whose home is a Historic Landmark on the north edge of Bloomfield. Weaver is portrayed as a soldier in the Civil War and as a congressman. Sorensen also painted the ship named after Weaver.

A painted flag adorns the top of the rock—“I love to paint flags,” Sorensen said—and an eagle commands the onlooker’s attention at the end of the rock.

Sorensen says he usually paints flags on the tops of Freedom Rocks with the shape of the rock determining how the flag is draped. His images are painted with a silicate paint that he says should last a hundred years.

When Sorensen finally finishes the years-long project he hopes to publish a book with each chapter representing a year’s worth of work. He will include photos, the stories of the rocks, and the history of the subjects. He also plans to share his painting techniques with other artists.

The Drakesville Betterment Committee raised the funds for the Freedom Rock project. The rock was donated and moved to its present location by members of the Charles (Toad) Swaim family.

The Betterment Committee is currently in the process of installing a brick Walk of Honor around the Freedom Rock. More than 300 bricks have been ordered; half of them with veterans’ names.