Things In Yards

What ever became of Things in Yards? Not Stuff in Yards, but Things in Yards. Stuff in Yards includes boats, cars, plumbing fixtures, parts of agricultural equipment, tractor tires, and so on. But growing up in the late 1970s-1980s, I remember that almost everyone seemed to have something in their yard, a statue or figure or something. There were the (in)famous pink flamingos, jockeys with one arm extended and either of black or white complexion (for some reason most of them had green and white racing silks), a kissing couple (usually Dutch), Mexican farmers napping under a big sombrero, and concrete lions of varying styles.

Perhaps it is a Midwestern thing, because I don’t recall seeing nearly as many down here in Texas as I did elsewhere. Here a few people had miniature western-style windmills in the back yard, and the very rare lions on either side of the front steps. Now, this is not to say that there aren’t eccentrics, free-spirits, or “how can I cheese off the anal-retentive guy who keeps moaning about property values” folks who make giant flowers out of hay spreaders, who have moldboard plows in the front grass, who have a giant concrete Sugaro cactus (painted or glazed brilliant green), bottletrees, and other works of what is sometimes called “folk art” or “found art.” There’s a house like that in the subdivision around Redquarters that has a never-ending and always changing array of metal critters and flowers and such-like in the cheerfully cluttered flowerbeds and yard. It seems to be a happy house, and I enjoy walking past and seeing what’s new.

But it wasn’t until I moved back to the Midwest, to Really Flat State, that I saw a concentration of Yard Things. In this case it was Dutch windmills. Half the houses in the little town had pastel windmills in the yard, all about three-feet tall, all pastel and white. The one outlier, who had served in the military (very unusual) and had come back because of family, sported a replica of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. The neighbors never quite forgave him, according to what little local gossip I could pick up. This was also where I learned that flamingo is a verb. A flock of flamingos would appear overnight in someone’s yard, requiring a payment to the flamingo removal service (church youth group) to get rid of them. One could purchase flaming insurance, but it was also possible to be outbid, as happened to a town official the night before some out-of-town business interests were due to arrive. I’m certain that no malice was involved in that little episode, noooooo, none at all.

Oh, and there were the concrete deer. Someone on the outskirts of a city just across the state line had three life-size concrete deer in their front yard. Every autumn they put blaze orange hats, vests, and leggings on them. Why? Because big-city hunters with buck fever can’t tell live deer from concrete deer, lamas, or elk, or other four-footed critters.

Now that I’m back in Amarillo, there’s one most impressive Thing in Yard that I see on a regular basis. it is another lighthouse, this one in a front yard. Perched on an “island,” it is landscaped as if surrounded by water and stands five feet tall. It is a working lighthouse. No, I’m not joking. It has a Fresnel lens and a rotating light. The owner runs it for a few hours every evening. I’m not certain if he’s from the coast originally, or was in the Navy or Coast Guard, or just really likes lighthouses. it has a white and red tower with a red “roof” and a little walkway around the light. A small rowboat is tied up at the dock at the base.

I wanted a lawn Nessie, but I’ve been out-voted.

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6 thoughts on “Things In Yards

  1. I still like the top-half-crocodile I saw once, sculpted out of concrete; so when you put it on the lawn, it looked like it was “swimming” under the grass…. How’s that for keeping the unwary awake?

    • I’ve been told that a certain eccentricity is required to join the Coast Guard, and that it grows stronger with every year in the service.

  2. In my personal experience, Yard Things can be seen in great profusion throughout New England, the Middle Atlantic, and the Midwest, but in lesser density elsewhere in America. Exception: Florida communities populated by retirees from above-mentioned places may also have high density. Every home improvement and garden center I can think of in those regions seems well-stocked with options: fountains, benches, half-barrel planters, statuary, and the occasional light house, pagoda, or other structure. Concrete, wood, and plastic all seem popular choices. Locally, I’ve seen a few nice adaptations of tree stumps into Yard Things.

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