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From Author/Photographer

Cary Wolinsky



In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.
 

image: ticket
In Quartzsite, Arizona

Field Notes From Author/Photographer
Cary Wolinsky
Watching the artistic creation of Gerry Berg was like watching a man possessed. Gerry, with the help of his son, Gerry, was building a 60-foot-long (18-meter-long) metal sculpture titled “Vandal 2000.” Over the years he’s had several commissions for public art. Then in 1993, while bowling, Gerry had a vision: He would create an enormous work for the millennium. More recently, another vision compelled him to build it in Quartzsite, a place he had heard of but never seen.
He sold or hocked everything he owned to buy materials and equipment. Then he recruited his son and made a deal with an oil company to trade his welding skills for the use of its heavy equipment. Once the pieces of the sculpture were cut out, the two Gerrys loaded the whole thing into a panel van and onto a trailer and left Louisiana headed for Arizona. They got 13 flat tires on the way.
Gerry’s vision inspired the community. A fellow with a backhoe showed up to help lift the huge iron pieces into place. Others brought wood for the campfires that burned late into the night while Gerry and Gerry worked. The piece, a reclining half man/half beast, was finally unveiled on New Year’s Eve with a bonfire and a good party.

In a word: Traffic. Getting around during the day by car meant sitting in a steaming line of idling vehicles. I wanted to see Quartzsite at its busiest, so I scheduled my visit for late January to coincide with the biggest shows that keep RVers entertained. Six months in advance I found every hotel room around this remote Arizona town already booked. I finally found space in Blythe, California, 20 miles (32 kilometers) away. Each day I got up well before dawn, drove to Quartzsite, and found a place to park near the Chamber of Commerce. From there I moved on foot. One morning I walked up the hill to the rodeo arena to see T.C. Thorstenson. He was shoveling a small mountain of dung, but he wasted no time finding me a copy of his biography, which dubbed him “the world’s foremost trainer of performance buffalo.”
On the other side of a fence stood Harvey Wallbanger, Jr., a 3,000-pound (1,360-kilogram) buffalo placidly chewing his breakfast while eyeing me.
By late morning Quartzsite was a sea of visitors looking for bargains. T.C. rode Harvey down the hill straight into the crowd. He promised them that if they didn’t like his show, he would give them a full refund.
Pink balloons exploded as cowboys and cowgirls competed in riding and shooting. Buckaroo Beau, a movie stunt man, scared the living daylights out of volunteers as he snapped cigarettes from their lips using a bullwhip. T.C. appeared on Harvey, who ran through his routine of standing on a barrel and bowing to the audience. For a finale T.C. rode Harvey through a ring of fire and onto the roof of a pink horse trailer. What a show! I was not about to ask for my money back.


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