One of the many trucks “picked up” at Truckhenge
As the weather heats up, take a drive onto Kincaid Road in Topeka, Kan., and don’t stop until you see a headless fish mailbox. Pull into the driveway and leave your expectations in the backseat because here comes Ron Lessman, the owner and creator of Truckhenge.
Created in 2000, Truckhenge is a collection of broken trucks and buses tilted up in the air. These trucks are from Ron Lessman’s lawn service that fed the hogs he raised on his family’s farm. When the trucks from the lawn service broke down, he couldn’t get anyone to repair them so he parked them in the pigpen.
“They [Shawnee County] said I had to pick my trucks up, so I picked them up,” said Ron. He took what the county said word for word and lifted the trucks into the air creating what is now known as Truckhenge.
This wall, in the Lessman home, is made of 1,200 recycled glass bottles. The bottles were collected from the Lessman’s themselves, their friends and from dumpster diving.
Ron and his wife, Linda, decorated their land with recycled art including glass bottles and old license plates along with rustic trucks and graffiti boats.
“I tell everybody that Ronnie Tom Sawyers his way through life,” said Linda. “To get things accomplished that he wants done he finds a way to make it pay to get it done. So, he started the lawn service to be able to feed the pigs. He built Truckhenge and then leased the land to the sand company to get the fish pond that we wanted.”
A variety of people visit Truckhenge each year to fish in their 30-acre pond or explore Truckhenge and Boathenge. Ron tells each visitor: “I’m not looking for the Wally Cleaver; I’m not looking for the Kardashians. I’m looking for the Adams Family. I want the Three Stooges and Beverly Hillbillies crowd out here. I want the one percenters. So that’s the whole idea- have a little fun out here.”
Shayln Murphy, communications and marketing director of Visit Topeka, first came to Truckhenge on a work trip. “The tour started in his house,” she said. “I remember we walked into the garage” as Ron explained the meanings of his artwork.
The environment surprised Murphy. She expected to see a field of trucks but was instead entering Lessman’s home. From the cemented ground to the arching ceilings, there was art everywhere.
“It’s the kind of place you look around and think of all the things you’ve thrown away,” said Murphy. “He’s taken and repurposed them. It makes you look at what we do with materials in another way.”
Throughout the visit, guests hear many stories about the history of the farm along with what has been found on the property.
“He’s a character,” said Murphy. “There’s no one else like Ron Lessman.”
However, Murphy did suggest that guests “take some stories with a grain of salt.”
Once guests begin to walk through Truckhenge, their eyes are drawn to the writing on the trucks. The state told Ron Lessman that the trucks were not agriculture so he took it upon himself to write on them. The county said by writing “buy tomatoes” or “go fish” on the trucks they were considered advertisements and agriculture. This meant they could remain on his property.
“I can’t fight the county but I sure can make fun of them,” said Ron.
A few times during the summer, Truckhenge becomes a nighttime concert venue. Mark Weber, owner for Wichers Photography, has been to two concerts at Truckhenge. The first concert he attended had six to eight local, heavy rock ‘n’ roll bands playing.
Photo by Mark Weber
In the summer, Truckhenge hosts many concerts. At this concert there is a man breathing fire. Behind him is a large bon fire.
At the concerts, Ron allows people to dump piles of tree branches on his property. These branches are then piled together to create a large fire pit.
It was incredible and surreal, said Weber. “There were flames 100 to 150 feet in the air.”
Weber tells visitors to have a sense of humor and not be prim and proper. “You’re going to leave with some stories,” said Weber. “You’re going to have a good time.”
Truckhenge is an experience and an adventure, said Ron. “Truckhenge was born of conflict but raised with humor and creativity. That’s the whole point.”