When the summer winds begin to blow, Jerry Hall's front yard becomes a scrap-metal orchestra. Characters fashioned from water heaters and coffee cans rattle and sway to generate a tumult of dinks and clangs. It's a metallic symphony. Up above, a stick figure pedals a bicycle. Over there, what may or may not be a police officer swings from a tree. Around the corner, a turbine-vent robot lugs a golf bag full of flowers while a 7-foot monster inadvertently falls over and devours a child in a school desk.
Jerry calls it his World of Imagination. It's a land of propane-tank caterpillars, chrome-bumper dog beasts and muffler-proboscis ... whatevers. It started with just a few simple gunfighters, fabricated using Jerry's experience as a heavy-equipment welder, but soon grew into a motley cast that took up the whole lawn, as well as the trees and part of the roof.
These days, Jerry runs a landscaping business, a logical career choice given his outdoor decorating skills, though he admits he doesn't pull this kind of job with his clients.
"No," he laughs, "I can't get this carried away with the people I deal with."
He does, however, do the odd commission for the right person. In the past, he's sold his work through various galleries, but gave up the organized art scene when it stopped being fun.
"They jack up the prices so high and you never even get to meet the people," he says. "One gallery was telling me what color to paint them, and all this, where it took away the fun part — the imagination part of it."
Anymore, he mostly creates for himself.
He's had only a modest amount of trouble with his menagerie over the years. Jerry's first mailbox, a cowboy, kept getting run over. More awkward was when somebody kept coming by to pants him. (The cowboy, not Jerry.)
The cowpoke has since been replaced with something less vulnerable and more naked. A couple of times the city complained about the characters' proximity to the curb, insisting Jerry clear the 3-foot right-of-way, but eventually eased off and just told him to free the corner. He complied, but over the course of a year, he gradually moved things back. The neighbors love the place. The artist's only real enemy is rust.
Eventually, Jerry's creativity flooded in through the front door and started taking over his living room.
"I just don't like plain walls," he says, referring to the more than 40,000 multicolored marbles and glass pebbles that cover nearly every vertical surface.
He buys Liquid Nails by the can, which he uses to painstakingly glue the beads on one by one and create detailed patterns and characters. Unfortunately, the display isn't viewable by the public, but Jerry says he soon might move into a rear extension and open the front of the house as a gallery. "I like to make people happy and smile," he says. That would certainly do it.
One gets the feeling that if Jerry had his way, everybody would express the same sort of creativity and individuality. With just a hint of frustration in his voice, he says, "I try to explain to people they all have imaginations, but people are scared to use their imaginations."
In an age of increasingly homogeneous neighborhoods and despotic homeowners' associations, maybe it's time we all took Jerry's advice.