Jerry Lotz owns a corner house on Louisville's east side. It's a great location. It offers views into both its side and back yards -- and Jerry wants people to look.
The property is packed with crazy junk: aerial bombs, oversized skulls, a hog with eyeglasses and an "I love you" ear tag. There's a chimpanzee wearing a saddle, a 12-foot-tall tire, and a metal statue of a dog about to poop with the word "No!" on it. King Kong holds an oversized soft serve ice cream cone and a cooking whisk. A pole is topped with a miniature biplane -- one of six that Jerry salvaged from Disneyland -- its cockpit manned by a black lawn jockey and Barney the dinosaur.
We were snapping pictures of the yards -- lots of people do -- when Jerry pulled up in his 1951 Studebaker. He said he'd been out since 5 AM, visiting flea markets.
Jerry told us he started collecting in 1946 when he was eight. A retired machinist, he bought the house in 1975. He owns four others in the neighborhood. All five houses, Jerry said, are packed with his stuff.
Jerry calls his collection "Jerry's Junk." It's an obsession only mildly disguised as an occupation. Although his business card reads "Buy/Sell/Trade," Jerry admitted that he's mostly buy and not much sell. "I can't sell it," he said. "I wouldn't know where to get more."
That's true: how often can you find fake elephant heads to hang from your 80-ton New York Central caboose?
Jerry pulled out a giant ring of keys and unlocked the gate into his side yard, walking a "Yellow Brick Road," thousands of bricks, which he laid himself in 2010.
The yard's centerpiece is Jerry's millennium project: a reduced-scale Statue of Liberty, perched atop a towering water main pipe, its face replaced with President Richard Nixon's. "He was no different than the rest of them," said Jerry of Nixon. "He just got caught." Jerry at first had Nixon's left middle finger thrust skyward in defiance. Jerry changed it to a V-for-victory sign, he said, when the church across the street complained.
Paths have been cleared through the yards to allow Jerry access. He rearranges his displays or adds more whenever he likes. He knows every item, where to find it, and how much he paid for it. "It's gotta be ornery, unusual, or different," he said, "or I don't want it."
Jerry said that he once owned 80,000 unopened cans of Billy Beer, but gave them all away as gifts. When we visited, Jerry had just acquired 300 used horseshoes from the Kentucky Derby, "with the dirt still in 'em," he said with reverence. He gave us one as a lucky keepsake.
Peeking into the windows into Jerry's home revealed even more treasures: a midget race car with Popeye in the driver's seat, a showroom dummy in a hockey mask with a bloody machete, a stuffed albino raccoon. No one is ever allowed inside, Jerry said. If they were, "I'd never get nothin' done."
We asked Jerry if he worried that his totem pole or giant rooster might fall on him one day, sending him to his heavenly junkyard. He laughed. "I got one foot in the grave and one on a banana peel," Jerry said. "I told my kids the only way they'll know I'm dead is when they smell me."