Frank Van Zant doesn’t sound like the name of a famous Native American
In reality, he was probably just a hippie living on the western US, taking road trips across the country like many Americans of his generation did. He was a WW2 veteran from Oklahoma, and his gift to the world amounts to an array of wild sculptures many drive past through Nevada’s vast nothingness unknowingly. Located between Winnemucca and Lovelock off I-80, about 120 miles east of Reno and very close to the exit for a tiny town named Imlay with a population of less than 200 lies Thunder Mountain.
Somehow, through a late night click-fest on wikipedia, I learned of Thunder Mountain. The idea of it reminded me of a film I’ve loved for years called the Holy Mountain, so I wanted to check it out, being only a rough 5 hours northeast of the junk Mecca.
It was intended to be a shelter for the impending apocalypse after Frank Van Zant, aka Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder had an epiphany in the late 1960s. Made from concrete, old cars, typewriters, bottles, recycled metals and other miscellaneous junk, the monument was originally a series of homes which were created together on five acres off of Interstate 80 in Nevada.
What it looked like in its prime, I can only imagine as years of vandalism, arson, and abuse have tried to shred the beauty of this place away from it until in 1992 it was declared a historic site in Nevada and provided protection.
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.