I had barely stepped out of the truck when . . . "GOOD MORNING!"
The voice filled me with warmth on that damp morning when I'd stopped for a better look at an unusual roadside assemblage along New Mexico's Turquoise Trail, between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
"Come on in! Take all the pictures you want." The man with the welcoming voice emerged from behind a rustic fence of planks and crooked tree limbs, decorated with railroad spikes, old tires, metal barrels, cast-off toys and colorful bottles and jars.
From there, he hustled me over to the "gold mine," a mirror-backed tunnel that Leroy winkingly told me extends all the way to the Ortiz Mountains in the distance. Then a stop at the cantina, another trompe l'oeil façade of corrugated metal and cow skulls.
When he invited me to step inside a small structure behind the cantina, I didn't hesitate, even before he assured me, "Don't worry, it's perfectly safe." Inside, the walls were covered with tacked-up notes that previous visitors had left in the spiral-bound guestbook Leroy keeps on a table out front. I read a few, then he showed me a plastic storage tub filled with more notes and letters and a collection of photos visitors have taken of him and his surroundings.
"Stay as long as you want," Leroy said as he headed off to tend to his creations. "Just let me know when you're leaving."
By the time we said goodbye—me with a bunch of photos in my camera, Leroy with a few bucks I left in the tip jar, along with my promise to send him some pictures—I was in high spirits.
In just a short visit, this man whose main mission in life seems to be welcoming people into his world, had cast a colorful light on my day. I hope I carried some of that color and sparkle away with me.
10/18/2017 07:07:05 am
A perfect road trip side trip! Love all the pix and Leroy's colorful creations and his spirit. Thanks for letting me take a nice little side trip of my own from my living room in Michigan.
10/18/2017 07:51:34 am
Good to have you along!
10/18/2017 07:42:13 am
oh i love this place and Leroy's creations. would love to visit there sometime! Thanks for posting!
10/18/2017 07:53:39 am
Definitely your kind of place, Valerie. If you're ever down that way, be sure to stop by. You would also love Mountainair and Madrid, NM. (More on those places to come in future blog posts.)
10/18/2017 01:06:44 pm
Thanks for bringing Leroy's cheery outlook and sparkle to us. What fun!
10/20/2017 06:33:22 am
A highlight of the trip!
10/19/2017 06:05:28 pm
How wonderful to find his treasures on your trip. Quite a character and intriguing person. You captured his personality so well!
10/24/2017 07:03:42 am
10/21/2017 12:59:52 pm
I'll bet you've met plenty in your travels.
12/6/2017 06:44:32 am
This is SO cool. What a great, off-the-path find.
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Written from the heart,
from the heart of the woods
Read the introduction to HeartWood here.
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.