|Ted Pelkey's middle finger lights up the|
skyline of Westford, Vermont
For the most part, anyway. One exception is in Westford, Vermont, where a giant wooden middle finger on a 16-foot pole greets travelers passing through this pleasant northwestern Vermont town.
As Boston.com and numerous other media outlets have noted, the middle finger along Route 128 in Westford is not meant for you. Unless you are on the town's Selectboard or Development Review Board or a few of the other town's leaders.
The owner of the property with the middle finger, Ted Pelkey, says he put up the 700-pound wooden middle finger because he's fought a ten-year battle to get permits so he can build a garage on his property. He wants to move his truck repair and monofilament recycling business from Swanton to his Westford property.
The town says no. He can't do that. Westford officials say he hasn't give them enough detail on what he plans to do with the garage, how big it will be, and other details. Pelkey says some town officials have a vendetta against him. He apparently has a pretty negative history with at least one member of Westford's Development Review Board.
"I've been put through the wringer by all these people, and it's just not right....I haven't been treated fairly at all," Pelkey said.
Fed up, Pelkey and his wife commiserated in a bar one night. He said, "Hey, I want to get a statue made of a middle finger, and I'm going to put it up on the lawn," he told Boston.com
And so he did. The whole thing cost Pelkey about $4,000, but he thinks it's worth it.
There's not much anyone can legally do to make Pelkey take the middle finger down. There's a strict billboard law in Vermont, which seeks to get rid of visual clutter along highways by banning businesses from putting up billboards along highways to advertise their services.
But Pelkey's middle finger is not advertising a business, which means it does not fall under the billboard law. Towns like Westford can enact sign laws more stringent than state law, but Westford has nothing like that. On top of all that, Pelkey's middle finger is political speech, which falls under First Amendment protections.
So the big middle finger remains up in Westford, glowing in the nighttime floodlights along Route 128.
If you ever drive through Westford, just remember it's notbing personal toward you. It's just somebody in town really has an axe to grind.