News: When liberty calls: local Bottle Tree Ranch makes for good sightseeing and photos
Story by Cpl. Thomas Bricker
MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE BARSTOW, Calif. - California’s High Desert may seem like an oversized, vacant lot to some, but to the watchful eye, it holds much more.
Route 66 is one of the oldest paved highways in America and has a number of famous attractions including right here in the High Desert. Elmer Long’s Bottle Tree Ranch in Oro Grande, Calif., offers a sight to behold for all who pass it.
For more than a decade, Long has slowly collected and then displayed, brightly colored bottles slipped over pipes welded together resembling trees placed across his property along the Mother Road.
The bottle tree ranch’s genesis took place in 2000 when Long neared the end of his 31-year career at a local cement factory. He decided to take up a new line of work to pass the time.
“When I retired in 2002, I had already begun working on the bottle trees,” Long said.
He explained his inspiration came from another local resident who had a few trees on his property. After building a few tree structures out of wood, Long began using spare metal he had collected throughout the years.
Along with his collection of bottles and antiques, Long created his own unique world forged of steel and glass.
After years of collecting glass bottles with his father, Long found an artistic use for them by beautifully displaying a folk art forest filled with wind chimes made of glass and trinkets of the past.
Long said he and his father would go camping in the High Desert and would find unique treasures left for trash.
“We’d find a lot of stuff in old, abandon shacks prospectors used back in the day,” he said.
The proverb "one man’s trash is another man’s treasure" came to light in 2000 when Long displayed his first metal sculpture and soon after, his creation began catching the attention of passersby.
“I had been working on my first ones (trees) and it was only 20 minutes before people stopped to see what was going on,” Long explained.
Over the past decade, thousands of people traveling down Route 66 have made an impromptu stop to view what was going on within the fence line of Elmer Long’s Bottle Tree Ranch.
“I’ve seen a lot of different bottle trees but I think the antique toppers are what set mine apart,” Long said.
“I’ve got plenty of things on them, from moonshine drums to antique wheels,” he added.
Building the ranch has brought many visitors to Long’s doorstep and has allowed him to share his passion and stories with others, including the finer details.
“I love every part of building it: doing the concrete, welding the poles, finding the stuff to put on them, and now, talking to people who come by to see it,” Long explained.
While the 66-year old can’t pinpoint which part of building the ranch he enjoyed most, he can attest to which pieces are his favorites. Long explained the bottles displayed in horizontal lines above the trees belonged to his father and those are the ones he likes the most.
When Long is out looking for more treasures to add to the ranch, he sometimes comes across ones that remind him of the time he spent with his father and it brings back memories.
“It’s almost like he’s there again with me, this time in spirit,” Long added.
So whether it’s your next trip down the Main Street of America or you’re looking to do some sightseeing, be sure to explore what Elmer Long’s Bottle Ranch has to offer.
This work, When liberty calls: local Bottle Tree Ranch makes for good sightseeing and photos, by Cpl Thomas Bricker, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.