Frank Van Zant doesn’t sound like the name of a famous Native American.
That’s because he wasn’t really a Native American. In reality, he was just a hippie. Living in the western US and taking road trips across the country like many Americans of his generation did.
Zant was a WW2 veteran from Oklahoma and his gift to the world amounts to an array of wild sculptures off a Highway in Nevada. Many people drive past the artwork off Nevada’s highway unknowingly.
Between Winnemucca and Lovelock off I-80, about 120 miles east of Reno. Very close to the exit for a tiny town named Imlay with a pop. 200 lies Thunder Mountain.
Why not, considering that I am 5 hours northeast of the junk Mecca.
Intended to be a shelter for the apocalypse after Frank Van Zant, aka Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder, had an epiphany. It was constructed from concrete, old cars, typewriters, bottles, recycled metals and miscellaneous junk.
It was originally a series of homes created together on five acres off of Interstate 80 in Nevada.
What it looked like in its prime I can only imagine. The monument suffered for years as vandalism, arson, and abuse have worn it out. Then, in 1992 it was declared a historic site in Nevada and finally provided protection.
Thunder Mountain Suicide
In 1989, Frank Van Zant shot himself in the head. His legacy lives in the garden and fascinating “junk castle” dedicated to the life and abuse of Native Americans well into 2018.