Muffler Man: Don Parks
Our second stop on our recent trip out West (after fueling up at a soda fountain) was Don Parks's house. We don't know Don Parks, and we didn't meet him, but his yard in Phoenix is full of fiberglass statues, road signs and other kitschy collectables. Parks, a Vietnam Vet, began collecting treasures in the late '60s, after he bought his first house.
His first acquisition—and in my opinion, his best— was the Paul Bunyan Muffler Man. He purchased the 23-foot-tall giant from a San Francisco gas station, and later sold it to a shoe store in the '80s. When the shoe store went out of business, the Bunyan moved to a lumber company, which also eventually closed. Parks bought the Bunyan back, but in the process his right eye was damaged by a shotgun blast.
Parks will reportedly give tours if you call in advance, but you can see most of his collection from the sidewalk. He finds treasures at auctions, swap meets, garage sales and thrift stores. When a local amusement park closed down, he was able to purchase several mannequins, statues, bumper cars and bits and pieces of other rides and attractions.
Parks's collection grew so large that in 2012, when the house across the street was in foreclosure, he purchased it and began filling its yard with stuff as well. He claims that the neighbors (almost) never complain about his collection—everything technically qualifies as lawn art and therefore doesn't violate city code.
Don Parks is literally living my Pee-Wee's Big Adventure-inspired dream life with his whimsical collection, and I couldn't love people like him more. Life is painfully short and can be full of disappointments and dark days—but imagine driving through a boring residential street and coming across a yard like Don Parks's and not smiling, if only for a second.
8009 West Weldon Ave