Evangelism or eyesore? Alabama man turns his yard into a Christian shrine

Posted: Friday, April 19, 2002

PRATTVILLE, Ala. (AP) -- American flags, cozy homes and freshly blooming flowers dot the rural landscape along County Road 86. But it's the crosses -- hundreds of them -- that draw a steady stream of the curious to the otherwise tranquil neighborhood.

William Carlton Rice has spent 26 years turning his dusty yard and modest ranch house into a unique religious shrine of discarded appliances, cars and crosses, all bearing messages such as ''Hell is hot hot hot.'' Many are splattered with red paint symbolizing the blood of Christ.

Rice's cross garden has attracted plenty of attention, landing him in several folk art books and drawing visitors from across the South -- and even overseas.

In a neighborhood with pricey housing developments sprouting up just down the road, some neighbors consider Rice's icons an eyesore, especially with the frequent sightseers.

''There ain't another place like this in the world,'' says Rice, 72, a plainspoken retired construction worker unbowed by diabetes and back problems.

''I ain't a well-educated person, but what I know I got from God.''

Gutted appliances and rusting cars scrawled with religious messages are interspersed among crosses that adorn Rice's property on both sides of the road.

''A lot of people call this art, but I'm not in the art business. I'm in the Jesus business,'' says Rice.

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