Desert Cowboy Man
The story below appears in our book Curiosities of the California Desert. However, we drove by the cowboy man site a few weeks ago and the Cowboy man had disappeared. No one around to ask what happened. If anyone knows, we’d love an update
The Cowboy Man of Mecca near the Salton Sea must be lonely, having been placed far from most of his family. As he stands in a small strip mall parking lot, his fate is unknown, as is the case with everything near the Salton Sea which ebbs and flows in the natural and political winds.
During the heyday of Route 66, a series of these fiberglass figures sprang up as roadside attractions. With growing traffic along the Mother Road from Santa Monica to Chicago, businesses were creative in luring travelers to their stores or restaurants or gas stations. The statues were there to lure business and they were changed to meet the local theme. There is the muffler man, the hot dog man and even the green astronaut man in Wilmington, Illinois which is also known as the Gemini Giant. The first of these oddities to appear was dubbed “Tall Paul” who popped up in 1940s in the suburbs of Chicago.
Another favorite is arguably a younger version called the Chicken Boy. Standing proudly in Highland Park, California, the 22 foot statue first appeared in Los Angeles atop a fried chicken restaurant between 4th and 5th Streets. When the restaurant owner died in 1984, the Chicken Boy was put into storage. At last in about 2007 the fiberglass boy found a new home at 5558 Figueroa Avenue in Highland Park. Today he towers above the buildings to the joy of passersby.
These iconic statues were born at the International Fiberglass Company in Venice, California for use in outdoor advertising. Chicken Boy was altered from a Chicken Man that was originally created to be a Muffler Man or Paul Bunyan Man. His head was altered to resemble a chicken and a bucket was fashioned to replace the hot dog or muffler.
These statues are familiar sights especially along Route 66, but the bearded Cowboy Man near Mecca seems lost and he has suffered much abuse. He was reportedly decapitated around 2001 and then went missing altogether. But he now stands proudly in front of the El Tompa Mini Mart, enjoying visitors who come to take his photo. His address is 93243 California 111, Mecca. ~ Alan & Claudia Heller