Book describes the weird, wonderful world of Tinkertown

Created: 06/26/2014 6:02 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A woman who grew up in one of New Mexico's strangest and best-loved places has written a book about the wild genius who created it – her dad.

"Leaving Tinkertown" is about the life and death of Ross Ward, woodcarver, sculptor, painter and builder. It's also about Tanya Ward Goodman's girlhood in Tinkertown, which is a truly eccentric and truly rewarding tourist destination on the road to Sandia Crest.

Tinkertown itself is a staggering, astonishing creation, a weird world of smaller and smaller creations packed into a rambling Wild West cabin/mineshaft/maze that will remind you of childhood dreams and a lost legendary past. Or maybe not. Ward's widow, Carla, cheerfully concedes, "it's not for everybody!"

Tanya begins her book at the beginning.

"I was conceived in a pickup camper on the New Mexico State Fair Grounds when my parents were on the road with the carnival," she writes. "They were carting around a freak show called World of the Weird along with a miniature wood-carved western town my father had made, known then as Folk Arts Village."

The book is published by University of New Mexico Press. Ross Ward died in 2002 from Alzheimer's. "Leaving Tinkertown" is all about that, too.

"Being in the house and sort of seeing the light change as he built, it made me think a lot about how his brain was changing from the Alzheimer's," Tanya said, sitting in the art-cluttered, book-stuffed living room in the residential portion of Tinkertown. "He was shifting down. Parts of the brain sort of shut off and closed and the house felt like that, too. We used to be able to see out these windows."

Tanya's book is a window into the weird and wonderful world of Tinkertown and the wild artistic genius who built it all in 40 years on the slopes of the Sandia Mountains. Of course you want to go – but maybe you've heard that rangers will close the National Forest starting next Monday because of the high danger of forest fires. Tinkertown is just outside the boundary. Carla plans to keep it open, every day until Nov. 1, when she will close it for the winter season.

Tanya will read from "Leaving Tinkertown" and sign books this Saturday night at the Albuquerque Center for Spiritual Living, 2801 Louisiana NE. Her brother, Jason Ward, a well-known New Mexico musician, will perform original songs. Donations will help the Alzheimer's Association. It's all about celebrating the life of Ross Ward.

Tickets are available for $10.00 at the door or online at

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