Monday, May 22, 2006

Travelogue: Thunder Mountain

In Winnemucca, Susan tells me, the story about Frank Van Zandt is that he hung a dead horse from his property near Imlay for 10 years. He hated the government, and the horse was a symbolic gesture to show it.

It's hard to separate fact from fiction about Van Zandt—"Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder," as he called himself—and I won't attempt to do so. Suffice to say that each source is choosing a story; and what remains of his life's work is Thunder Mountain, now a Nevada State Park.

It's an attraction, of sorts, especially along the emptiness of Interstate 80. Thunder Mountain is more of a compound—a "monument," in Van Zandt's eyes—than a single work of art. Much of the material concerns Native Americans, and often is about their suffering at the hands of a white nation.

Perhaps best of all, Thunder Mountain is largely fashioned from scraps, rusted metal, old cars, bottles, concrete. It's the rendering, perhaps, of the country's profligacy into a monument that, to Van Zandt, is all about the government's failings.

For more information, on Frank Van Zandt:

  • "Chief Thunder Speaks"
  • Roadside America

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