Fed Up with Farming and Its Chores, Willie Kotan Tries a New Field: Earth-to-Sky Adverti-Sign

updated 11/21/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/21/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

On the bleak desert near Nazca, Peru, there are mysterious lines and fantastic figures inscribed in the earth and plainly visible from orbiting space vehicles. They have puzzled scientists for decades. What do they mean? Who put them there? In Scio, Ore., there is also a sign, visible from any airplane. It was put there by Willie Kotan, and despite a typo—the work of vandals—its meaning is plain. It reads: PLEASE BUY UOR FARM 503-258-8765.

The sign, whose 16-foot-tall letters Willie made from fence posts, lies flat in a field next to her farmhouse. It is just one more attempt by the 65-year-old widow to sell the 316 acres she can no longer look after. Kotan, who took over the sheep-and-cattle farm when her husband, Emil, died in 1975, lay down the sign hoping that some jet-setting moneybags would see it.

Willie has been trying to sell the farm since 1984. Two years of newspaper ads failed to get an offer—farming in the area is no longer profitable. She wrote to country singer Kenny Rogers, who belongs to the same cattle-raising association she does, but learned he was trying to sell his own farm. She even advertised in a Hong Kong paper. "I figured that since Hong Kong's going back to China pretty soon," she says, "somebody over there might want to buy a farm here." To get her message out, Willie has now taken to wearing a sweatshirt that advertises the farm. She wants cash, about $425,000, for the property, which includes two barns, a three-bedroom house, two creeks and a great view.

This is a frustrating state of affairs for Kotan, who has always done everything well. The Illinois native joined the Navy in World War II, earned her pilot's license, worked as a disc jockey in Alaska and served as principal of a grade school in nearby Lacomb before she married in 1969. While success in real estate still eludes her, she is undaunted. Willie wore her sweatshirt at a recent Oktoberfest celebration, and when the polka started, she danced alone. "I didn't want to dance with a man," she explains, "because his arm would have covered up some of the words."

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