Without Equal Or Parallel On The Face Of The Earth

The end is in sight! I finished out the Personalized Properties chapter today, and I don't think I could've chosen a better attraction to end it with. Gus Brethauer's Somewhere Over the Rainbow has to be among the top five most fascinating sights I encountered in Arizona. Here's a taste of my description:

Somewhere Over the Rainbow has everything under the sun. To its creator and curator, Gus Brethauer, nothing isn't worth saving. He's got rocks of every kind, some on prominent display, some in piles. He's got artifacts salvaged from ill-fated buildings. He has what he claims to be the world's largest collection of petrified wood. There are also dinosaurs, UFOs, tuberculosis shacks and hieroglyphs. And it's all lined up for thorough perusal.

Basically, it's a theme park without a theme. It's the manifestation of Gus's knowledge, interests and imagination, coarsely blended and sun-baked for half a century. A tour of it all, afforded by a disorienting pathway a half a mile long, can take as much as 2 hours. And mother if every yard isn't mind-bogglingly fascinating. As the sign says, the exhibit stands "without equal or parallel on the face of the earth."

"I suffer illusions," Gus begins his tour, "all kind of illusions and fantasies here. I'm under the impression that I'm a maintenance man at a flying-saucer rest stop. And the stonework — the stonework is awesome."

Initially, my visit with Gus was a shocking and disorienting experience. I'm glad I waited this long to write about it, because relistening to my tape of the interview has given me a fresh perspective. I was originally so distracted by the peculiarity of it all, I didn't realize just how knowledgeable Gus really is about all the stuff he's collected. And a lot of what he's salvaged are pieces of forgotten Arizona history. I'm half tempted to spend a week with him cataloging everything and producing a feature documentary on the place.


Oct. 17, 2013 | 5:22 pm
wogun1 wrote:

I just learned that Gus passed away recently. We were a neighbor of his for 11 years. I appreciate your description of him--as it accurately describes both his eccentricity and his very specific knowledge and point of view. I believe Gus was also without equal or parallel on the earth. Rest in Peace, Gus.

Oct. 17, 2013 | 6:47 pm
Wesley Treat replied:

I'm so sorry to hear that. I always wanted to go back and chat with Gus a bit more. He was a real character. And, sadly, I neglected to get a portrait of him on my visit.

Feb. 2, 2014 | 8:20 pm
Luetta wrote:

Hi Wesley, It is with sadness that I must confirm Gus' passing. I would love it if you could stop by for a last visit to the property. Unfortunately, it is being sold very soon and much of the beauty will be gone forever.
I have been tasked with this very difficult job, yet life altering adventure. My life will never be the same.
Thanks for your lovely article about a very unique man.

Feb. 6, 2014 | 1:02 am
Wesley Treat replied:

I really wish I could visit it one last time. Unfortunately, I live in Dallas and wouldn't be able to make the trip out there anytime soon. I hope you're enjoying your adventure through Gus's strange world.

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