The first thing you notice are the horseshoes. They’re everywhere.
Welded into a tapered, cylindrical tower, hundreds of them make up the flagpole. The patio furniture is nothing but horseshoes, as are the front gate, the back steps and the foot-high sculptures of guitar-playing cowboys.
Welcome to the Cactus Corral. One part cactus farm and one part western museum, the corral is where old metal comes to be reborn.
Located on the site of one of Sylmar’s early olive groves, the one-acre corral is the home, workshop and work-in-progress of Ambrose Meyer, a retired Sylmar contractor and collector who has packed the place with an incredible assortment of sculptures, furniture, weather vanes, tool racks, chimes and other items that he has fashioned from discarded metal.
“It’s just a hobby more or less. I take the junk people throw away and I make something of it,” said Meyer, who is “working on 80.” “Sometimes it comes out all right and sometimes not.”
Born in South Dakota, Meyer moved to Sylmar after World War II, in which he had served as a member of an Army trucking crew. After retiring from his contractor business, he put his energy into his love of collecting and tinkering with metal.
A cactus farm run by his nephew, Jim Nelson, now shares space with Meyer’s creations, which include a Christmas tree made from glass insulators, buzzards made from an old shovel and deer from railroad spikes.
Meyer doesn’t sell too many of his works--although he will if you offer him a fair price--but he does give them away and trade them for materials. Other materials he finds, gets from friends or picks up at swap meets.
“He was into recycling way ahead of his time,” said Ken Johnson, a family friend.
Dressed in green work clothes, his head capped at the peak by a patch of white hair, the low-key Meyer said he wasn’t sure if his work was art.
“It’s something I mostly do for myself, to take nothing and make into something.”
“It really is a lot of fun seeing all this stuff,” said Nelson. “I’ve been out here countless times but every time I come I see something different.”