Just off of the main strip in downtown Saranac Lake there lives a rare creature of impressive proportions. First spotted in the spring of 2018, a lawn serpent still thrives on Woodruff Street, where its enormous form threads the waves of grass, much to the delight of the cryptozoologists and curious onlookers alike.
Despite the serpent’s ferocious appearance, it’s quite tame. Once you’ve spotted it, the key is to approach slowly from the front so it can see you. Avoid sudden movements and work your way behind it, where a lever and foot pedal can be used to manipulate the creature’s large, toothy head. This will tame the beast, making further observation that much easier.
A product of imagination
The lawn serpent is the handiwork of 16 seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-grade students from North Country School in nearby Keene. Larry Robjent, who teaches eighth-grade earth science at the school and also does the weekend program, outdoor program, and sculpture classes, got the idea when the owners of the monster’s future home approached the school asking to do something with the class. They offered up their property, and Larry and the kids got to work.
The result is the uniquely beautiful creation named Tessie, a nod to the famous Loch Ness Monster, nicknamed Nessie, and tetanus, a playful nod to working with reclaimed metal.
“It’s almost 100 percent metal,” Larry said. “The plastic chest was a drainage tube and the eyeballs are antique doorknobs. Those are the only things that aren’t metal.”
Larry said he’d never made a lawn serpent before, but his students made things easy. First they settled on the theme, then they used images of dragons and other similar beasts to design and construct the whole thing.
The building materials are all reclaimed from stuff on campus. The finished product is an intricate mishmash of sheet metal roofing, steel lattice from the gym, old filing cabinets, aluminum from canoes, parts from an old hoop greenhouse, Edison plates, and copper from a heating element.
The students used shop tools to twist, cut, and bend all of the parts — the scales were cut with a plasma cutter. Larry noted that the project was just as practical as it was artistic.
“They got the fundamental principles of how to work with metal, but the collaborative process of creation is just awesome,” Larry said.
There aren’t any other Saranac Lake-based creatures in the works, but Larry is open to the idea of creating more unique sculptures with his students, even if it isn’t a mythical beast.
“One of the things we wanted is to have a central piece to kind of continue the ongoing progressive and artistic nature of Saranac Lake,” Larry said. “It’s good to have things out there that continue to make Saranac Lake an interesting place to be.”
Viewing the lawn serpent
Unlike other creatures of lore, Tessie is easy to spot. Just head away from Route 3 on Main Street and take the first right after Berkeley Green onto Woodruff Street. You can't miss Tessie — her big toothy grin is on the right, about halfway down the block. For other interesting attractions, check out the Adirondack Carousel, the Walk of Fame, and Saranac Lake's many art galleries.