7 Wonders of God Creatures
Jerry Cardone has adorned his seven-acre property with likenesses of Bigfoot and Santa, as well as flying saucers, totem poles, and dinosaurs. He's been abducted by aliens many times. He says he's building a park for children; good luck with that. Most parents would run screaming from Jerry's place.
"The kids call me 'Dinosaur Man,'" Jerry says, standing in front of a yard that's probably been called many things, not all of them flattering. The name Jerry likes best is the 7 Wonders of God Creatures, which is written above a large wooden gate that Jerry says was inspired by Jurassic Park.
According to Jerry, he was an average, middle-aged guy when he moved here in 1984. Then Jerry died. He went through a tunnel of light and met God, and God ordered Jerry back to Earth so that he could start making art. That was around 1995. That's when the town started hating him, and the aliens started abducting him.
Jerry's cluttered acreage is what is known as "visionary art" and it's in situ, not the deloused examples you'd find in urbane museums and art galleries. No Sundance filmmakers or latte-drinking art-rockers hang out with Jerry. In fact, no one does; he won't let anyone onto the property. The neighbors are just waiting for the day when they can bring in the bulldozers.
Jerry is pleased when tourists stop and take pictures of what he's created. It stretches several hundred yards along US 2, a piled mass of boards, stumps, signs, and artwork, which includes everything from fake palm trees to a giant Indian head with tires for eyes to a portrait of Jesus from memory (Jerry met Jesus, too).
"I have to make it look like junk," Jerry said, "because if I put everything nice and neat, people will steal it."
Jerry pointed out his first piece of art, a towering Bigfoot with rubber teeth, wrapped in moose skins. Jerry says that he doesn't believe in Bigfoot, and he doesn't believe in Santa or dinosaurs either, although they're among his most frequent subjects.
Aliens are a different matter. Jerry has made lots of aliens over the years, and the roof of his house is topped with a home-built flying saucer gazebo that he once used as an observatory. According to Jerry, aliens came down to look at his saucer and then took him with them. "I thought they was gonna eat me," Jerry recalled. Instead, he and his abductors developed a long-term on-again off-again kidnapping relationship. The aliens eventually grew so fond of Jerry that they asked him to live with them forever, but he declined.
Jerry's relations on Earth have been less cordial. As Jerry explained it to us, all he wants to do is complete God's work and then die, but the town won't let him finish. "They made me tear it apart, so I started all over again and did it twice as bad," he said with a laugh. "They come here and they say, 'Look what he's doing, destroying the town!' I tell them, 'You don't like it, look the other way. I don't go to your house and bother you.'"
Jerry grabs a large foam rubber snake from a dinosaur's mouth and thrusts its fangs into his neck. "Aggggh! The dinosaur man dies! He's dead, don't bother him no more!"
Jerry understands the town's frustration. Looking around his property -- it resembles a debris field after a hurricane -- he laments the clutter. "God says, 'You need that piece of wood,' or 'You might need that,'" Jerry explained. "I say, 'I don't want to lug that s--t around.'" But when your orders come from God, you'd better listen. "I'm just doing my job, and if they bulldoze it like they say they want to, God will get even. He could change the moon a little bit, change the sun. They won't think it's funny."
None of us want that, so we hope that Jerry and his neighbors can somehow patch up their differences. It's not every town that has a citizen who can whip out a set of Ten Commandments tablets or a Chupacabra cut-out on orders from the Almighty. Jerry is hopeful. "Maybe they'll say, 'Well, he's not that bad after all. Maybe he is nice.'"