April 20, 2016

Photo Essay: The Mysteries of Jack-o-Landia

I've never seen such an obvious landmark that nobody on the internet seems to know what it is, where it came from, or how long it's been there.

It looks like an abandoned amusement park on the side of the road in Lucerne Valley, CA...

...but it is very much in use by the Avila family—specifically, by Jack Avila, Jr., whose grandfather owns (owned?) the property (at least as of 2012).

In recent memory, it's been used as an event space for swap meets (2015), political fundraisers (2013), and, sadly, memorial services (2011).

But what it really seems to be... a delightfully organized storage yard for one man's eclectic collection of Western-themed amusements, ornaments, statues, and larger-than-life collectibles.

Some locals just call it "stuff."

I walked in because I could, and because I thought it was abandoned...

...but it turns out I was trespassing...

...and I was doing it on some kind of hallowed ground.

There was a solemnness there, amidst the horses made of painted logs and the bright yellow wagon wheels.

It felt like a ghost town, but that someone had been preserving it.

There wasn't any vandalism in sight...

...though some of the statuary have weathered the elements out there in the high desert.

Members of the Avila family are ever-present, both in name and in spirit...

...but Jack-o-Landia is also devoted to the memory of a friend of the family... singer Freddy Fender, who died in 2006.

As a member of the Texas Tornados, Fender is normally associated with his home, the Lone Star state; but it was the time he spent in the U.S. Marine Corps in his early years with Jack Jr.'s grandfather that earned him a place in the hearts of those in Lucerne Valley.

Even without knowing the specific history, Jack-o-Landia feels a bit...tragic.

It's lonely there, the teepees empty...

...the Indian chiefs staring vacantly out into the desert abyss.

Since Jack-o-Landia isn't, indeed, abandoned—and yet not exactly open, either—who is it for?

Maybe there are enough passers-by like myself who might be encouraged by the lack of "No Trespassing" signs enough to take a step in, pay their respects, snap a few pics, and leave it, untouched.

The only things you should ever take from a place like this is photographs—and memories.

There used to be two horses rearing, though now there's only one. I wonder what happened to the second one.

Everything at Jack-o-Landia seems to be waiting for something...or someone.

Time hasn't stopped, but the action has.

And while my path started with a cemetery (and a hearse) at the western end of this miniature ghost town... ended with the gallows.

Google Street View circa 2007

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Calico Ghost Town
Photo Essay: Old Trapper's Lodge Statues

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