Alden District, Iowa, Midwest Division

There are many Martin Marietta operations where the following words are almost never uttered:

“We’re pretty much out of boulders right now. We’ve got zero.”

Yet, District Sales Manager Steve Juhl expertly delivers those brief sentences as a renowned Shakespearean actor might a soliloquy.

Juhl makes his home in the American Heartland – specifically, the Midwest Division’s Alden District – and in his neck of the woods, boulders are something of a rare commodity.

“We’ve had a few over the years,” he says, “and we’ve been able to donate them to a good cause.”

That a single boulder in rural Menlo, Iowa, could draw visitors from across the state may seem odd, but stop at the intersection of state Route 25 and 120th Street and there, on an unassuming parcel of land between two ponds, you’ll find The Freedom Rock.

The 60-ton boulder is a canvas for Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II, who first painted it in 1999 and has returned each year since to create a fresh, patriotic scene.

Bubba Sorensen paints a Freedom Rock in Wright County, Iowa.
Bubba Sorensen paints a Freedom Rock in Wright County, Iowa.

Initially, Sorensen believed he’d paint a similar rock in all 50 states. The project became more localized later, when he shifted his focus to painting one for each of Iowa’s 99 counties.

“I just thought that if I could create a unique piece of art for each county, it could be a neat tourism draw … and a unique way to say thank you to our servicemen and women,” Sorensen says.

He’s completed 39 rocks to date and is continually taking applications from counties wishing to book his services. Those communities must provide their own boulders, however, which is where Juhl, along with colleagues Steve Sorenson and Rick McKenna, comes into play.

Through their coordination, the Company has donated or made plans to donate boulders for sites in Hardin, Franklin and Humboldt counties, providing base product for the surrounding landscapes when necessary.

The Hardin County Freedom Rock.
Freedom Rocks, such as this one in Hardin County, Iowa, depict patriotic scenes designed to honor the sacrifices of soldiers and their families.

“The boulders we’ve donated are in areas where we do sell a fair amount of rock,” says Sorenson, an Alden District sales representative with no relation to the artist. “The local residents realize that we’re participating in the program and I think that helps us quite a bit.”

Echoing that sentiment, McKenna, also an Alden District sales representative, added that he’s experienced a great sense of pride knowing that Company stone has been involved in the Freedom Rock project.

“It’s a worthwhile endeavor that involves local communities and shows support for our veterans and their sacrifices,” he says. “I’m honored to be a part of it and I know Martin Marietta is honored to be a part of it, too.”

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