Gary Isett, our neighborhood’s King of Yard Art, recently posted on social media that Code Compliance came knocking at his door. Friendly Code Guy left without issuing a citation and told Isett his own son is a big fan of Big Boy, Magilla Gorilla and the various 10-foot-tall dinosaurs dotting the yard.
In a modern-day version of villagers brandishing torches and pitchforks, an astonishing 387 comments flooded Isett’s post and the repost on another site. Likes on these posts totaled 1,434.
“Gary must be protected at all costs,” one person commented, assuming, along with everyone else, that Isett’s funny and entertaining choices of lawn embellishment were under fire.
Every last comment expressed support for the large corner lot on Abrams, between Mockingbird and Lovers Lane, and many had choice words for the person who called in the complaint. “Bless their heart” was one of the kinder remarks, albeit some significant Southern shade.
Calm down, everyone. Big Boy, Tony the T-Rex and the others are not under attack.
It turns out the complaint had nothing to do with the art after all. It was a quibble regarding a sign in Isett’s yard.
“I was dumbfounded,” Isett says. “It wasn’t there on purpose.”
Isett rents his yard art for children’s birthday parties, class reunions and other events, a practice which began a couple of years ago after a stranger asked him about borrowing Deano the Velociraptor for his kid’s party. At every event using his art, he places a sign nearby about rentals. He says he never places the sign in his yard.
Except for the one time he forgot about the sign and left it leaning against the giant live oak tree shading his art. You guessed it: Code shows up after receiving a complaint alleging Isett was running a business from his residence.
For those new to the area, it all began 11 years ago when Isett moved onto the large property. He saw it as the perfect stage for elaborate holiday lights. But yard art fever overtook him when he stumbled upon Big Boy, the original piece from the long-gone Kip’s Big Boy restaurant at Hillcrest and Northwest Highway.
The neighborhood went nuts for it, and Gary has added to his collection ever since. Along with the burger boy, T-Rex and the Velociraptor, his yard currently displays other large dinos: Tracy the Triceratops and Sinclair the Brontosaurus. Magilla Gorilla rounds out the rowdy bunch.
Smaller pieces, such as a Stonehenge and a cannibalistic French Fry man, cluster near the front door of Isett’s house. The popular Peggy the Unicorn Pegasus is taking some time off for repairs and painting at the studio of artist Preston Pannek, who also added color to several of Isett’s pieces and painted the Matthew McConaughey mural leaning against his house.
Some neighbors use the lawn display as a mood-lifter.
“It has always made me smile. I often drive over here just to lift my spirits,” one admitted. Another had this story: “Gary’s yard has been the highlight of my many trips through that area, especially when I used to be a delivery bicyclist in downtown. Some days were absolutely terrible, but that yard always made me smile. I would be thinking, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to pay my light bill … OH, THERE’S A NEW DINOSAUR!’ Seriously, it’s the small things (or oversized statues and lights) that make the difference.”
“Everyone loves your yard,” said one commenter. “You’re part of what makes the ’hood special and unique. You bring more joy than you could possibly know.”
And that’s all Isett really wants to do: Make a difference or perhaps add a little levity to the drive down Abrams.
“I appreciate the support from everyone,” he says. “It motivates me to keep doing what I’m doing. If I can put a smile on your face, then why not?”