Of all of the oddball relics of strange roadside Americana, the Cadillac Ranch stands tall. I’m looking at a row of 10 rusted cars half-buried nose down in the Texas dirt,
and I have a grin on my face, because it’s just one of those things you look at and ask, “why?”, when you know the answer is simply, “why not?”, whether you’re gawking at the metal skeleton of a brontosaurus in South Dakota, a “witch’s hat” house in Utah, or a Corn Palace in Iowa. They’re not modern “art”, in the sense that no innocent tax dollars were destroyed in order to create them: They’re not designed to make you think, or make a politically correct statement, or to insult the right groups (meaning white male Christians). They’re just there…because: because, someone just wanted to have some fun and invited everyone to join in.
The Ranch is the brainchild of Stan Marsh, who comes from a long line of colorful eccentrics (ever notice that if you’re rich from wildcatting oil like these guys did and you’re also weird, then you’re considered eccentric, but if you’re poor and weird people say you’re just plain crazy?). Besides Cadillac Ranch, The Marsh’s are known for bringing elephants into residential neighborhoods, locking up errant teenagers, and painting mesas “pool table green” to make them look like giant billiards games.
You can see this particular project from I-40, but you have to go down a paved access road to get to it. The property is surrounded by a wire fence, but there’s a gate (spray painted with graffiti), which allows you admission-free entrance to this attraction. To my amazement, there are 8 people out in the field when we arrive, and they’re gazing at this…sculpture?…and I’m told that there is always someone there, seeking out this bizarre creation like pilgrims coming to Mecca, and come they do, from far and wide. The Cadillacs are at about a 45 degree angle and range from 1950’s to 60’s models. The rumor has it that they actually ran when they were buried by Mr. Marsh decades ago, but of course today they’re just hulks held together by rust and spray paint.
So the drill is this: you come prepared with a can of spray paint and, after the obligatory photo shoot, you spray the car with your own custom message. There is a team of Dos Lunas tequila employees here representing three states, and they’ve painted the company logo on the hood of a car in two colors. They ask me to take their pictures before picking up some trash around the site, which is nice, and needed, because there’s unfortunately a TON of refuse littering the ground (mostly discarded spray cans). Then when they leave Jonathan and I paint over their logo field, because that way we have a clean palette to work with, and of course in turn our message (“Snatch the Pebble”) will soon disappear under hundreds of others.
Having completed our tour of the Cadillac Ranch, we do a few other errands before heading back to Jill’s place and just chilling out catching up on some bills, which are numerous and past due in most cases.
We head back over to Uncle Jim’s and Aunt Dorothy’s for dinner, which is once again a huge spread, including ham, fresh sliced vegetables, squash, black-eyed peas, cornbread in the shape of Texas, and the best fried okra I’ve ever eaten, made with potatoes and served with a heaping helping of love and washed down with an excellent Italian Zinfandel, courtesy of moi. Then, just to make sure that I can’t waddle through a door without turning sideways, we have a dump cake for dessert.
After, we have a photo session, more catching up and tales from past reunions, and then it’s time to go. When I hug them, I don’t know if I’m ever going to see them again. We are so spread out, and we’re all getting so old. You never know. It’s a bittersweet feeling.
Back at Jill’s, we once again uncork some more wine (and Kelly instructs me in the art of making the perfect Martini). The talk ranges from relationships, men, and women, to pet peeves, movies, and family, and once again we’re up until midnight. We note with some distress that we’re a very small and dwindling clan, but I’m heartened and amazed that Jonathan uncharacteristically comes out of his shell long enough to say he’d like to have two boys, but of course that’s a long way off, since that would probably require a wife, or at least a woman, in his life. But here again I’m surprised, because he tells me he IS in fact dating a girl named Jessica, which is a name I like a lot. Jessica Haley. A good daughter-in-law…I’d like that! Kelly says she also wants children but wants to skip the messy pregnancy phase where Mom has to vomit frequently and carry a bowling ball in her belly for nine months and go straight to the good part where the little Tykes can walk and talk, so she plans to adopt when the (as yet unspecified) time comes, but I know she’s serious because she already has the names picked out and she’s been saying this since the last reunion, which was three years ago in Colorado Springs.
I guess you can tell I love my family. They’re easy to love. I just hope that as usual I didn’t drink so much that I made a fool of myself. It was incredibly sweet of my cousin Jill to put me up at her place when she’d only recently moved in herself, and of course Kelly had to live with two men in the spare bedroom for a couple of days as well, and everyone knows that men are hard to housebreak properly because we are not, strictly speaking, domesticated animals, though with proper training using bullwhips and riding crops we can be taught to lower the toilet seat after each use. So thank you!
Tomorrow I visit more relatives in Dallas. See ya’!