By Brent Davis
Deep in the tunnels of a dark Kentucky coal mine in 1917, a man of 19 years was pinned between a loaded coal car and the cold rock wall. Fearing death would take him, Henry Harrison Mayes prayed to God to save his life. In exchange, Mayes would commit the rest of his life to spreading the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. His life was spared. It was now time to keep the promise he had made.
For the next 43 years, Mayes saved the money he made as a free-lance painter as a means to support his ministry. In his backyard, Mayes created crosses by building homemade wooden molds and pouring hand mixed concrete into them. During this time, Mayes continued to work full time for the Fork Ridge Coal Company in the mined of Mingo Hollow in Kentucky.
After a sufficient supply had been made, Mayes loaded up his truck with his crosses, each near 8 feet high, and headed out on the roads of America. There were no super highways in those years. Hayes had no specific plan about where each cross should be placed. He simply drove until he found what he considered to be the perfect spot along the roadside and, without permission and usually under the cover of darkness, planted the cross for passing motorists to see. Painted on each cross was a message. These messages included "Made Right With God," or "Jesus is Coming Soon."
Mayes also felt that in the future, mankind would be exploring the universe. On the side of the cross he would leave instructions to erect the crosses on various planets.
In the years that followed, Mayes had placed his concrete crosses in forty-four states. One of his placements occurred sometime during the 1940s right here in Saline County.
Many of your remember the cross located on the corner of North Reynolds Road and Highway 5 in Bryant at a location currently occupied by Arvest Bank.
I first wrote a column about this cross back in 2008. The whereabouts of the cross were not known to me at the time. After several comments, emails and phone calls from readers who had seen the cross and were curious about what had happened to it, I was able to locate the cross and the current owner. This could not have been done without the help of several amateur detectives assisting me in the search.
I met with the current owner and was told how the cross came to be where it is now. When Highway 5 was being expanded many years ago, the cross had to be removed. Highway workers were set to destroy the cross, but a local resident intervened and agreed to move the cross to its current location on behalf of the new owner.
During the interview with the current owner, I was told of the cross and how the owner felt it had protected the family property against severe weather and other things that, if described on this page, might lead readers to the exact location of the cross. I was granted the interview with the caveat that I not reveal the location of the cross.
Following the interview, I asked if the owner would mind if I took pictures of the cross. The owner was agreeable.
I have received several requests during the last few weeks from readers who were curious about the cross, but had not read my original columns on the subject.
I have not heard from the owner for about a year or so now. I would like to make contact again and, if the owner is reading this, please give me a call. I can still be reached with the information I gave you long ago.
Mayes died in 1986 and kept his commitment to his maker. A simple man of faith who made a difference in many lives, more than he ever realized.
How cool is that!