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Opinion: One man’s avocation, another’s novel attraction

They come down my street. I’m the new resident, so maybe they’re curious. After all, I simply invited myself into their neighborhood. To them, I’m the outsider, the encroacher, the uninvited guest who seems to stay on.

But, I don’t think that explains the phenomenon that I‘ve observed. Cars pass my house, stop, back up, and hesitate for a few moments before proceeding. People who are on their morning or evening walks, stop, turn to face my house, and comment to one another before continuing their stroll. Kids on bicycles apply the brakes, sometimes laugh, and then pedal away.

My house, which is new to me but has been part of the neighborhood since its inception, is not unusual. In fact, although it’s not a cookie-cutter copy, it’s not significantly unlike the other houses around me. The house is part of a development that was once known as “Home Ranch.”

And, I’m not unusual (or so Mom told me), although I haven’t had a haircut in six months. Perhaps that makes me look a bit freakish, but I generally watch the parade from inside my house, where I’m not visible to the outside world.

So, why all the attention?

The Koi and the Mermaid

When escrow closed on my new abode, I needed to have the backyard pool (which actually is a bit unusual) put in good condition. Of course, the pool can’t be seen from the street or sidewalk. But, by the time that the previous residents had moved out and I had moved in, the water looked a bit like pea soup.

I contacted Butch at Pools by Ricketts, and his workman quickly had the swimmin’ hole clean and the water properly adjusted with the correct chemicals. Now it glistens on the rare occasions when the sun peeks through the layers of smoke from our annual conflagration. While Butch was on the premises, I spoke to him about my wish to have a koi pond placed in an area near the house entrance. During the previous 21 years that I lived in Madera, I enjoyed watching koi swim in ponds, first in a side yard and later in my backyard. Some of the fish grew to be more than two feet long. And they were all beautiful.

Koi are also intelligent. Well, at least as intelligent as fish can be. And they’re friendly. They quickly come to recognize the person who feeds them, will eat out of her or his hand, and will allow themselves to be petted, kind of like a cat but without claws or the attitude. So, Butch is designing a koi pond, which I hope will soon be in place and home to some appreciative carp.

To make the fish feel at home, I had my sculpture of a mermaid placed so that it is fronting the future location of the pond. If she were measured like a box, she’d be about 5 1/2 feet high and 8 feet long, but measured from the top of her head to the end of her tail, she’s nearly 13 feet of sea nymph. Therefore, she catches the attention of passersby, whether they be in cars, afoot, or on bicycles.

An artist with a torch

I came into possession of the metal sculpture some years ago when I met Jose Guadalupe Garcia, a local artist. Jose is a welder by trade and a sculptor by avocation. At the time, my friend Rochelle and I drove to Jose’s home and were astounded by the collection of beautiful sculptures displayed on his lawn. We suggested that he show his work at the local gallery, and his pieces sold almost as they arrived on the premises.

Because I had a koi pond at my home in those days, I purchased the mermaid, and Rochelle bought the griffin, a large mythological bird that now sits atop her steep driveway. Local donors (who prefer to remain anonymous) grabbed up his dire wolf and saber-toothed cat, images of creatures that roamed this area during the Pleistocene Epoch, and donated them to the San Joaquin Valley Paleontology Foundation.

Another local person commissioned him to produce two egrets. That inspired him to create a heron, which will also adorn my future koi pond. A person from Madera Ranchos purchased his dragon, and Jose has also produced a minotaur, a mythological monster with the head of a bull and the body of a man which stands more than 8 feet tall. Additionally, he has fashioned a statue of Atlas, holding Earth on his shoulders.

Among his more domestic works are a momma stork feeding her hatchling, a baby giraffe, an elephant calf, and a pig, suitable for any barnyard. His two “goony birds,” not albatrosses, just silly-looking creatures who look like escapees from an aviary asylum, stand watch over the lawn in my backyard.

Jose’s imagination is limitless, and his work is truly exceptional. Readers who may be interested in seeing his work or commissioning pieces may contact his agent, Rochelle Noblett, at 645-2453. And, if you score one of his works of art, be prepared for the chorus of “oohs” and “aahs” from those who observe it. Maybe you’ll even have a stop-and-go parade outside your home.

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Jim Glynn is a retired professor of sociology. He may be contacted at

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