From the proper vantage point it materializes unmistakably: A gigantic peace sign, cut into roughly 3 acres of forest next to the Nashville International Airport.
It can appear to anyone browsing satellite photography, and to air travelers like Nashville attorney Kelsey Bridges. She was the first person (of four) to ask Curious Nashville about what she’d seen.
There’s a giant peace sign, visible only from an aerial view, carved out of a wooded area near the airport. Who’s responsible for it?
She tells WPLN she first noticed it about five years ago.
“I think I told everybody I knew about it, but nobody had a clue what I was talking about,” she said.
Its mysterious origins have spawned glib theories online — see Reddit — but not much in the way of answers.
Some deeper web searching led to an important realization: the peace sign is not simply adjacent to an airport runway. It is actually on one of the airport’s parcels.
“I wonder why they’ve kept it so quiet,” Bridges said. “It seems like a pretty neat thing that a lot of people would want to look for as they’re departing.”
An airport spokeswoman said no reporters had ever asked about it. But the answers were within reach, and are being presented here for the first time as part of an in-depth Curious Nashville podcast episode:
The Short Version
The peace sign — the last survivor of what initially was three such designs — has been methodically growing for 14 years under the watchful eye of airport employee Earl Tuggle.
The self-described “old hippie” from Wilson County said he never told anybody as he worked on it.
“It’s nothing I ever asked permission for, and nothing I ever figured would stir much interest,” he said. “I didn’t know from day to day, when I started it, whether it would be there the next week.”
Eventually, the peace sign became a guidepost for the airport’s air traffic controllers. For a few months, they would guide Army National Guard helicopters into their landing routes by occasionally requesting that they “hold over the peace sign.”
But why would Tuggle take on such a project?
For that answer, it’s best to hear it in his own words, with the podcast audio above. Suffice it to say, Tuggle did intend for air travelers to receive his peaceful message.
And while he plans to retire this year, Tuggle hopes it will be a lasting memorial to his personal philosophy and the credo of peace.
Curious Nashville is produced by Nashville Public Radio. This episode was edited by Emily Siner, Anita Bugg and Mack Linebaugh. The audio was mastered by Carl Pedersen.
The music is by Podington Bear, Andy Cohen and Chris Zabriskie.