I’ve just made my second trip to Cadillac Ranch in the past three days, taking members of my family out there — on the south side of Interstate 40 just west of Amarillo — to see this unique roadside attraction for the first time.
My cousin asked me today as we drove out of Palo Duro Canyon, “What is Cadillac Ranch, precisely?”
My answer: “It’s art.”
Those of you who’ve seen it know of what I speak. For those who don’t: It is 10 Cadillacs stuck nose-first into a pasture. They’re lined up perfectly and they purportedly are angled to face the Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt … or so legend has it.
The trip today was fascinating for another reason: the number of motorists who had pulled off the highway to take a gander at this place.
The site was strewn with spray-paint cans on this glorious, sunny day on the High Plains. And many visitors were partaking of the chance to leave their mark on the Caddies.
Whenever I bring visitors to the place, I am compelled to tell them of the ranch’s origin. I tell them it was the creation of the late Stanley Marsh 3, the eccentric/weird Amarillo “art patron” who thought it would be cool, I guess, to stick the Caddies in the ground.
Marsh’s died not long ago. His legacy is — to say it charitably — a mixed bag. His eccentricity is legendary in West Texas. So is his philanthropy, as he and his wife have given a lot of money to fund higher education, as well as the arts, in Amarillo and elsewhere.
But there’s a darker side to Marsh’s history: the allegations of sexual misconduct. Given that such acts are in the news these days as they involve a certain Republican Party presidential nominee, I find it timely to mention here today.
Marsh had been charged with crimes involving young males. Even as he battled the cancer that eventually would take his life, Marsh was forced to defend himself against some serious allegations of misconduct. He ended up paying a lot of settlement money to those who had filed criminal complaints against him.
Then he died.
In the period immediately after his death, some of Marsh’s more strident critics called for the demolition of Cadillac Ranch. They want it removed from alongside the highway, believing the Cadillacs remind the community of the illegal acts for which Marsh had been accused.
My own thought is that the Cadillacs ought to remain for as long as they can withstand the sometimes-harsh High Plains elements.
The many motorists who pull of the highway to gawk at the cars, take “selfies” with them in the background or engage in some spray-painting fun likely don’t know — nor perhaps care about — the complete history of the Man Behind the Cadillacs.
Let’s keep them there. Cadillac Ranch remains to this very day a major attraction for those who choose to learn just a little about the quirky nature of this part of Texas.
The large number of cars and people I saw today illustrates the interest the Cadillacs create in those who are passing through.