Teako's Giants of Hatch
Hatch, New Mexico
Regardless of what you think of the 1960s, it did have a rich visual legacy: men on the moon, JFK in Dallas, Vietnam, Woodstock. Teako Nunn came of age during those years, but the image that burrowed into his skull was of a giant woman in a short skirt and bikini top, outside a go-go bar near a freeway in San Diego. "She looked very cool to a 12-year-old kid," Teako said. "It's sounds dorky, but ever since I've just loved bigger-than-life figures."
Teako's passion lay dormant until early 2006. He was living in the small town of Hatch, New Mexico, running an RV dealership. And then -- he saw a Muffler Man for sale on eBay. "I just said to myself, 'Wow. I can own that?'" he recalled.
Teako bought the giant, put a tiny RV in his hand, and went back online to buy more statues.
Next, he opened a restaurant in town and named it Sparky's after a robot that his wife, Josie, had built out of old tractor parts.
Teako and Josie wanted Sparky's to be the kind of place that they'd always craved to find when stopping in a small town -- so they added a moose head, neon clocks, and a mural of Teako, carving knife and fork in hand, chasing a pickup truck filled with happy animals into Sparky's kitchen.
It also became a showcase for Teako's growing statue menagerie.
Within months of its opening, Sparky's offered A&W Mama and Papa Burger statues on its roof, a giant pig and chicken in its parking lot, fiberglass replicas of Colonel Sanders and Ronald McDonald on its sidewalk, and, off to one side, an Uncle Sam towering 30 feet tall.
A modest Statue of Liberty stood next to Sparky's namesake robot in its patio garden -- Teako's silent protest against the state, which tried to censure him for moving his big pig. "Give me some freedom here to express myself!" Teako said in mock exasperation, then added that most people in town had been generously supportive of his statues.
We can think of two other such varied collections of fiberglass giants - in Gainesville, TX and Unger, WV - both well distanced from town so their owners have minimal if any neighbor conflicts or zoning issues. Teako's restaurant happens to be next to Hatch's municipal offices (but it was hard for them to find much fault with the patriotic Uncle Sam he erected between the two properties).
The giants -- and Teako himself -- have received far more press than the food at Sparky's (a menu of ice cream, espresso, bar-b-que, and New Mexico green chili cheeseburgers), which Teako sometimes finds frustrating. But he also understands that his statues were originally built to draw attention.
"They're fun," he told us over and over. "The tourists really enjoy them, and I love them. That's obvious. I've got enough, but I'm still getting more."
With Spaceport America opening only a few miles away, Teako said that he may add rockets to his roadside mix. But even without a space layer, the visual legacy of Hatch for future travelers will be his unique gathering of giant figures.