Tinker Town and the vast New Mexico sky

Driving through the panhandle today. Lots of this:

And this:

And the sun is HOT. I got sunburned just sitting in the car driving. But the wind is cold, sweeping over the plains in giant gusts that make picture taking almost impossible because I can’t hold the camera steady. I’m forever pulling over to the side of the road and waiting interminable minutes while trucks pass so I can photograph the horizon and remember what everything looks like.

Today the terrain changed a lot. I left Amarillo early and then gained an hour once I got over the New Mexico border; so, although I had a lot of driving, the day felt relaxed. As I drove through northern New Mexico, it got more mountainous with a giant sky and clouds but still the same cold wind and hot sun.

Disconcerting combination as I’d get hot driving in the car and need a jacket when I get out of it. I drove up into the Sandia Mountains on my way north of Albuquerque and arrived here about noon:

I didn’t know what to expect, and rarely do, but this place blew my little mind. TinkerTown houses the collection of all collections by collector and artist, Ross Ward:

It seems the Ross Ward’s collecting habits and his wood carving grew up together and this little town is an outgrowth of his collection. Creatively, the most impressive section is the world he created which is incredibly difficult to capture on film when it’s behind glass so here are some crappy pictures:

And an enlarged example of one of the figures.

This town is a fantastical version of the Old West with all the requisite establishments – saloon, candy store, general store, blacksmith, Chinese laundry etc. – all peopled with figures carved by Ross Ward, painted by him and dressed in clothes made by him doing things with accessories made by him on top of platforms and inside buildings created by him. He built this entire world from the bottom to the top from recycled wood, fabrics scraps and discarded items. Some of the pieces are animated and when you press buttons they move up and down or jump or fly or whatever. It’s literally thousands of little figures.

And that’s just the beginning of Tinker Town! The museum portion is an indoor/outdoor place with wooden pathways lined with cement walls inset with bottles that look this way on one side:

And this way on the other.

But each twist and turn of the pathways holds stuff. If you name it he collected it and then he painted it or plastered it or attached it to something else to create a mobile.

Around each corner is a shrine:

Or a sign:

Emphasizing a live free or die attitude that shines from every corner of this place. I love some of the quotes he chose to display, namely:

If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.

And my favorite:

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely…broad, wholesome, charitable views cannot be acquired by vegetating in one’s little corner of the world. – Mark Twain

I met Ross’s sister-in-law Mary and his wife Carla:

Who now run the place as Ross died of Alzheimer’s a couple years ago. They were delightful and told me stories of his early collecting and his time traveling with the carnival. He sounds like a fascinating man and I wish I’d met him. I’m glad this place lives on in his memory.

Tonight I’m here:

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch up in Abiquiu visiting my friend Greta and it’s magical.

I have a million pictures and I’ll take more tomorrow and post them. But here’s the moonrise from tonight:

I don’t want to live up here but I can see why she did.

More tomorrow.