Sunday, June 12, 2016

"I did this all while you were watching TV." Ross Ward ~ Tinkertown, New Mexico

Two crazy wonderful special places we went to see in Texas and New Mexico deserve their own space. Actually, I could write about Tinkertown for a long time, mainly because there is so much to think about there. The place and the man that made it a reality continue to boggle my mind. This article, short and succinct, and one of so very many, about Tinkertown and its creator Ross Ward does one of the better jobs at the intertwining relationship between the man and his work; a combination that can't be escaped when experiencing the place. 

He is right on his first point. The expectation is of something unusual but maybe disappointing - a schlocky collection of some eccentric type easily seen and leaveable. Instead, it is the complete opposite. Well, except maybe the eccentric part. 

First look, sucking us in like a visual vacuum 

You mean there is more INSIDE??

One of those 'really look at what you are seeing' moments

A door I wanted to enter so very much.
But didn't.
Oh, how I'd have loved to have met Ross Ward. Alzheimer's took him way too early, after a life of painting for carnivals, along with his own paintings, most of which are in his private residence, where his wife still lives. A quote from the above article about one of the paintings that he got to see (and we didn't - insert stomping of foot) - She points to a piece called “White Shoes.” It depicts a young waitress writing down an order. “Because he traveled so much, painting carnival rides, we would eat in diners. And if the waitress was wearing white shoes, whether she was 16 or 60, he figured that she would be a waitress for life. So here she is, crucified on a Breakfast Special: cross of bacon, crown of forks and the halo of a fried egg.”

And that, after finally dragging ourselves through the last bit of Tinkertown, sounds exactly like something that would come from the hand and mind of Ross Ward.

On with the show.

There are a lot of horse shoes to be found around this part of New Mexico.
I'm guessing these are some of them.

ALL of the walls are made with bottles. Something like 55,000 of them. 

But not just pretty bottles. Indeed, not just bottles.

All of this was within the first 10 feet of entering the museum.
There are 22 'themed' rooms here, long ones, narrow ones, tall ones. Every surface, including the ceiling, holds something to see. It is overwhelming, mesmerizing and brilliant. 

Each scene had a button on the wall that could be pushed to make one or another
figure move, like a card player raising a hand, or a dancer dance.
Often it would be a figure up behind something else.
Looking was not always seeing, but I got better at it.

The photos make this look small but each window was probably 8 x 8 or more
with a depth of 6 or 8 feet or more. Filled.

While throughout the whole place the circus theme showed up, there was also a nautical and spiritual thing happening.

I liked the photo of the snake charmer.

This was a huge piece of a whole circus. was all in one 'room' surrounded by glass on two sides. 

Ross gave lots of nods to native people who obviously are a big part of New Mexico (and Western) history, past and present. 

This whole building was the Tinkertown 'marina'. His wife's brother, who had sailed his boat around the world (there's a huge map noting the journey on one of the walls) donated his boat to Tinkertown. It is a classic wooden boat, with the interior lit up but only to peek through the ports. 

Lots of wisdom bits scattered around.

Part of the doll collection. Many of these were donated to the museum by fans and supporters of the museum and Ross Ward.

Probably one of my favorites

These are teeny tiny bottles

Random insets

This was his studio but we couldn't go inside.
Except by magic.

A cool machine in the tools section

Well, of course they don't!!

We'd spoken with the lady who sold us our tickets (for the whopping price of 3 dollars). She was 82, lively and funny, and had worked there for 20 plus years. She knew Mr. Ross well. "I miss him so much," she said, with that tone of voice any of us who miss someone very special in our lives know too well. She told us that when his Alzheimer's had stopped him in some of his work, his wife pointed him in the direction of his vehicle. That worked. Smart lady.

Even the old washing machine got his touch
It seemed like we were done, but there was still a lot to see on the other side of the exit. A whole mini western town was there to wander through.

And one of my first crushes was there!

Another door I want to go through.
And didn't. 
Finally we got back to the parking area where I noticed (like I could miss it) this sign. Maybe this is a life lesson and maybe it's all we need. Do things with common sense, not crazy, thoughtless stuff. Uh huh.

I think I'll leave Whoopee Bowl Antiques for another day. Going through Tinkertown again was happily mind tiring, almost like the first time. Okay, not really like the first time but my mind is swirling. A man who, as a hobby, began this work and then continued it for 40 years out of love and passion and humor can be a life changer, whether he still is around to enjoy the enjoyment or not. Salud to Ross Ward, his family and friends who made magic and keep it going!

His daughter Tanya wrote a book called Leaving Tinkertown, if you are interested (and I am) about her father. 

Have a sagaciously silly Sunday. Do something shiningly simple.


  1. Wow! Great post. Tinkertown is on my list for our 'out west' road trip, delayed from last September for reasons beyond my control. I've traveled Route 66 many times and never heard of Tinkertown. After a little research I know why, it was built in 1983, 10 years after my last trip on the Mother Road. As I've told you, I'm loving your road trip. Only reason I don't comment on every post is because most times my phone won't let me, but I'm right there with you, quietly sitting in the backseat. Roll on!

    1. Always glad to know you're along for the ride! Yes, you and Debbie would truly enjoy Tinkertown. I don't know when or if I'll pass that way again but I could go there a few more times easily. Pssst, today we are going to Truckhenge!

    2. Hey, MJ, Lost your email address. Chris and I are going to our place in Mexico. What are your USA dates? Send me a private email . We fly to Orlando from Cancun on July 6