F.M. Light: Who Painted all those Yellow Signs?

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How many are there? What are the stories behind them? What is the history? Who paints them? How old are they?

You have so many questions. And it’s about time we started answering. Today, we’re going to tackle one of the top queries:

Who paints the signs?

Chris and Lindsay (the great-great-granddaughter of F.M. Light), are responsible for the upkeep. The process of caring for the signs is rather long, actually.

Preparation includes loading up the truck with supplies; hammers,  sledgehammer, jack, saws, levels,  tape measures,  nails of all sizes, ladders, crow bar, shovels, concrete, water, 2×6’s, 2×4’s, stakes, black paint, and lastly,  the quintessential yellow paint. Then, depending on the weather (and where the bulls have been turned out), they head down the road to begin annual repairs!

First, the signs must be bolstered after a lengthy, difficult winter.

The state of the support beams is sometimes quite compromised. This is because livestock enjoy rubbing up against the rough beams. This wreaks havoc, and oftentimes the repair requires new lumber, rebuilding of the sign frame, and re-erecting the sign. In a high wind, it’s always a bit “touch and go.”

Secondly, the yellow background of the sign must be reapplied.

Unfortunately, the black lettering is in the way. So, it is covered by a layer of yellow, giving the sign a fresh glow.

Thirdly, the lettering must be repainted.

Even thought it’s straight forward, it’s labor-intensive. We have figured that it takes approximately 30 minutes per sign f there’s a bucking horse on the sign, and two people lettering; 20 minutes per sign if there are three people lettering. All of this depends on the wind velocity – it’s not unusual for the paint to not make it from the paint can to the sign! The old lettering shows through the freshly applied yellow paint, so it’s sort of like paint-by-number or tracing.This is the final step of sign painting, and it’s the most rewarding. The most difficult part of the lettering is the repainting of the historic F.M. Light bucking bronco (our unofficial logo). After many repairs, the bronco becomes a bit vague. Thus, the repairers have to be quite skilled at re-drawing the horse. Sometimes there has been major damage to a sign. There are also many signs where people have decided to use them for target practice; there are bullet and shotgun pellet holes dotting many. Most of these bullet holes are over 70 years old, and only add to the tradition and historical significance of the signs.

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