“If I had a dollar for every person who stopped by to take a picture of the Gardnerville Dragon out front, I’d have enough money to buy the whole Valley,” says Terry Jacobsen, the man behind that 16 foot-tall dragon everyone in Carson Valley just can’t stop talking about. Even though that one-in-a-million reptilian waves to everybody from area locals who’ve seen and done it all to curious out-of-towners through the gate and onto Jacobsen’s Rusty Rancho alike, the Gardnerville Dragon is really just the welcoming committee when it comes to the marvelous metalworking empire within.
A Metalworking Mecca is Born
Terry Jacobsen and his wife Linda have lived in Carson Valley all their lives, and for most of it together, on their 400-acre ranch in Gardnerville, NV. He spent his life working and ranching in the sheep business, and later the hay business before hanging it up to celebrate retirement a few years back. Today, he leases the grounds to a “cowboy fence builder”, as he puts it, who helps keep the place in shape. So how on earth did a retired sheepherder and hay farmer end up with a giant dragon sculpture at the entrance of their ranch, you might be wondering?
“When you’re in ranching, you’ve gotta be able to do everything,” describes Jacobsen. For years and years of running one of those successful, stately ranches Carson Valley prides itself of, Jacobsen says he had quite the pile of scrap iron. “I kept putting it away to use for something sometime, and then the fence guy also had a big pile of scrap. If someone says take it, it’s going to get used,” says Jacobsen. And just like that, a Carson Valley rancher set to work in his retirement years, using scrap wood for scroll saw work and whipping up everything from wooden dinosaurs and dragons to ornate crosses, and even jigsaw puzzles.
Next on the agenda? A whole pasture full of perfectly peculiar metal sculptures that he invites any and everyone to come have a look at for themselves.
Meet Jacobsen’s Rusty Rancho
Even though Jacobsen had always been putting scrap to use throughout his multi-decade ranching career, his newfound quest of repurposing wood and metal scrap into art became a whole new fulfilling frontier, and the Dragon was just the start of it. “We wanted something to put at the end of our driveway to invite people to come take a look at all the other things we’ve made, and now the Dragon has become a point of interest in the Valley… a beacon,” says Jacobsen.
And once you’ve stopped and posed for a selfie with that unmistakable 16-foot dragon, so long as the gate is open, visitors are more than welcome to enter Jacobsen’s Rusty Rancho. If you’re in luck, Terry may just be there to personally guide you through all the larger-than-life wood and metal installations he’s created through the years, too.
Here, you’ll find repurposed ranching materials made into a cage with a rock in it, or as Terry likes to call it, Elvis Presley’s House of Rock. Or the pink flying pig made from a 7-gallon propane tank, or “Engineasaurous”—a dinosaur made from an old Volkswagen engine and transmission. Visitors will also find Red Fred—a 7.5 foot-tall sculpture made of a big old wheelbarrow and a flat tire, and of course your time at Jacobsen’s Rusty Rancho is far from over without checking out the Chessboard, complete with life-size, John Deer green and yellow alien chess pieces—an art installation that first debuted at Burning Man’s Black Rock City.
Then there’s all kinds of other smaller pieces to be on the lookout for throughout the property, like giant metal ants, scorpions, and even a steel iguana or two. In other words, there is no ceiling for open-air creativity at Jacobsen’s Rusty Rancho, so be sure you’ve got your camera (and sense of adventure!) along for the ride. But how to describe the whole experience? In Jacobsen’s words, it’s nothing short of an “interestingly good time.”
Take all the pictures you want, and if you plan your visit on Saturday or Sunday, be sure to stop in to browse through the Rusty Rancho’s on-site gift shop where you can buy one-of-a-kind jigsaw puzzles and other wonderful woodworks made by Jacobsen himself. Better yet, there’s no better place to celebrate spooky season than Jacobsen’s Rusty Rancho, where he and the whole crew decorate the property with all kinds of pumpkins and other autumnal accouterments to usher in Halloween. And later on in December, don’t miss a wonderfully weird holiday display at Jacobson’s Rusty Rancho, with plenty of Christmas trees, decorations, and of course a twinkling, 16-foot steel dragon out front.
For more info on Jacobsen’s Rusty Rancho and to make an appointment ahead of your visit, be sure to get in touch with them directly at (775) 720-6904. We kindly remind you that this only-in-Carson-Valley open air gallery is open to the public, but is also at their home—please plan your visit accordingly and respectfully.
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Jacobsen’s Rusty Rancho
1525 Toler Avenue
Gardnerville, NV 89410