In September of 2017, I paid a visit to a place I had not seen since I was about six years old…the Land of Oz. I remember bits and pieces of the trip. My parents took me in 1972 and two of my strongest memories are of riding on the balloon ride (a converted ski-lift) in a blinding mountain rainstorm and the wet ride in a bus, with no windows, down the mountain, leaving. For years, I wondered what had become of that park.
Originally opening on June 15, 1970, it was a grand place to visit and managed to stay open for a decade, even after a fire in 1975, before falling into disrepair and abandonment. Many things were stolen, vandalized or left to nature.
Appalachian State University had a cultural museum, at one time, that showcased saved pieces from the park including the yellow bricks, some munchkin houses, costumes, parts of the witch’s castle and other assorted props. All artifacts were eventually returned to the park.
In 1991, the park was included in a celebration for Independence Day for Beech Mountain. Watauga High School students dressed in costume. Emerald Mountain, Inc., purchased the property in 1994 and a slow restoration began. An “Autumn at Oz” was started as a reunion for former employees and became a yearly event. By 2010, the park drew 8,000 people.
Land of Oz (Official Website)
As a companion piece to the Fort Sumner post, my ex-Marine and I headed north, still on our way to Liar’s Lodge. We headed into snow and landed in Walsenburg, Colorado, in Huerfano County, a town smaller than the one I am living in and, as of 2019, continues to hemorrhage people from a peak of 5,855 in 1940. We arrived after dark and stopped to eat. There’s not much there, back then or now. ~Vic
I lived in Texas for nearly a decade. My ex-Marine and I did some traveling through the west when we had opportunities. I’ve been digging around in some old stuff and found some photos from a visit to the Old Fort Sumner Museum in New Mexico in December of 2008. We were on our way to Liar’s Lodge. The museum closed in 2017. ~Vic
BTKOG (Billy the Kid Outlaw Gang Site)
Whiskey and the Devil: Taiban, New Mexico (City of Dust Blogspot January 10, 2012)
Billy the Kid’s Two Graves (Roadside America August 15, 2020)
Caught With His Pants Down: Billy the Kid vs Pat Garrett (True West Magazine August 1, 2010)
Brushy Bill Roberts (Wikipedia)
In November of 2015, Patrick Dougherty of Stickwork was commissioned by the Hillsborough Arts Council to craft a sculpture for our Riverwalk. The saplings were sustainably harvested from the Ayr Mount Historic Site. In December of last year, the heavy snowfall damaged the original piece and it was finally taken down. I’m glad I got some photos of it. ~Vic