“This separates the boys from the men,” laughed Roy Lovik, dangling on a swing nearly 100 feet in the air as he slapped paint on the West Prairie Lutheran church steeple recently. Lovik, 50, yelled “lower me down a little” to Henning Hill on the ground, and the 70-year-old Hill promptly jumped into a nearby pickup truck and moved it a few feet forward. The cable by which Lovik was suspended was attached through pulleys to the truck’s bumper, and the painter was dropped a notch or two to begin painting at a new level. Hill, John Brown and Christian Charlson, all members of the rural Leland church’s congregation, lowered and raised Lovik, ran errands and kept him in paint during the steeple painting. Re-shingling the bad spots as he painted, Lovik claimed that it was about 40 years ago that the tower was last painted. The Forest City man, an auctioneer by trade and a painter in his free time, said he remembered working on the church balcony some 20 years ago. For Lovik, painting by swing is “the fastest way” to get this type of job done. “I’ve been doing this kind of work all my life,” he said, obsiously quite at home high above the historic church’s front steps. Steeple painting may not exactly be considered a “lost art,” but it’s a cinch there are few painters around who relish the thought of this breezy activity, high on a hilltop rural church.
Henning Hill’s job during the steeple painting at West Prairie Lutheran church recently was fascinating to two rural Leland boys – Terry Ambroson (left) and Kim Haugen – who rode out to see what was happening. Hill, 70, moved the pickup in foreground up or back, thereby raising or lowering the steeple painter by means of the attached cable.