|My age:||I am 51|
There are many unusual sights in the vast emptiness along I east of Reno.
Steam belching from the hot spring vents near Nightingale. Miles of white gypsum sand with hundreds of messages scripted in stones and bottles.
And near the exit to Imlay, a tiny town that used to be a stop for the first transcontinental railroad, an edifice of human oddness. Thunder Mountain Monument looks as if the contents of a landfill popped to the surface and fell into a pattern over five acres that is part sculpture garden, part backyard fort, part Death Valley theme park.
I discovered the monument five years ago on a road trip and have visited it every year since. Inside the fence, a smaller fence bristles with No Trespassing s and surrounds a rambling three-story structure made of concrete, stone and bottles, with old typewriters, televisions, helmets, even a bunch of plastic grapes worked into the walls.
Dozens of sculptures with Thunder mountain nv faces encircle the structure and dozens more are part of the structure itself. On my first visit to Thunder Mountain, the desert wind played a tune over the outward-facing bottles in the concrete. Some of the tumbled-down stones near the fence were within reach—big chunks of quartz and copper ore and agate, a temptation to rockhounds like me.
But there was a declaring Thunder Mountain Monument a state of Nevada historic site and another asking visitors to refrain from vandalism.
All I took was pictures. But that stop made me curious. What were the origins of this strange outpost?
The story began 40 years ago, when a World War II vet reinvented himself on this site. He had been called Frank Van Zant most of his life and had worked, at various times, as a forest ranger, sheriff, assistant Methodist pastor and museum director.
He had eight children, then his wife died and, later, one of his sons committed suicide. He was headed east, he told Dan, and was going to build an Indian monument. Van Zant had always been interested in Native American history and artifacts; gradually, that interest had become an obsession. One of his first pieces was a large, somber statue of the son who killed himself, dressed in a blue button-down shirt.
Others were his Native American heroes: Sarah Winnemucca, the Paiute peacemaker; the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl; Standing Bear, a peaceful chief Thunder mountain nv the Ponca tribe who was imprisoned for leaving Indian territory without permission.
Still others were of Thunder himself: one as a mighty chief wielding a lightning bolt to warn away intruders, another as a bent, humbled figure with a downcast face. This was the heart of the monument, an inside-out museum with the artwork and messages on the exterior and the Thunders living within. There were other buildings, too, Thunder mountain nv Thunder was the architect, the contractor and the supplier of materials. He scavenged a mile area around the monument, picking up refuse and stripping wood from tumbled down buildings in ghost towns.
But in the s, fewer people lingered at Thunder Mountain and bleakness descended upon its creator. Increasingly destitute, he sold his prized collection of Native artifacts. Then an act of arson destroyed all the buildings except the monument itself, and inhis wife and new passel of children moved away.
At the end of that year, he wrote a goodbye letter to Dan and shot himself. Thunder was unknowingly working in Thunder mountain nv tradition, welcoming tourists to see the art and hear the lecture.
Leslie Umberger, curator at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, an institution interested in preserving such sites, says that hundreds of them have disappeared before people realized they were worth saving. Years ago, Dan asked his father why he built the white loops and arches on top of the monument.
But vandals and the desert might get it first. Sculptures disappear.
The fences keep out the cows—this is open range country—but other animals gnaw and burrow their way in. Dan tries to come once a month to work on the place and has a local man look in on it several days a week, but presevation is a tough job.
For now, Thunder Mountain still stands. The sculptures are as fierce as ever, the messages fainter but not subdued. Continue or Give a Gift. SmartNews History. History Archaeology. World History. Science Age of Humans. Future of Space Exploration. Human Behavior. Our Planet. Earth Optimism Summit. Ingenuity Ingenuity Awards. Innovation for Good.
An odd and affecting monument stands off a nevada highway as a testament to one man’s passions
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The three-story monument began as a travel trailer, which Chief Rolling Thunder Mountain covered with concrete and stone. The family lived inside. Kristin Ohlson. One of the many bottle-house constructions at Thunder Mountain monument. A concrete sculpture—one of dozens at Thunder Mountain Monument-- juts up from a wall made of rusted cars.
There, he taught himself to sculpt wet concrete as well as de and build stone structures. Dan Van Zant tries to keep the monument in good repair. Like this article? Comment on this Story. Last Name. First Name. Address 1. Address 2.