A Texas rancher who raises Cadillacs

(CBS News) AMARILLO, Texas - CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman has been revisiting some of the folks Charles Kuralt met a few decades back when he brought us "On the Road." This time, Steve catches up with an unusual rancher. He doesn't raise cattle -- he raises Cadillacs.

Tourists have been flocking to this wheat field pretty much every day since Kuralt's original story.

"Yes! I remember seeing the original story," said a tourist. "Oh my God, I gave my age away!"

It was 37 years ago -- and it was that memorable.

Kuralt (from archival footage): "We were just coming over this little rise on Route 66 west of Amarillo," and I said, 'Will you look over there? That looks for all the world like 10 Cadillacs nose down in a wheat field. That's how we met Stanley Marsh III."

Stanley was and still is the owner of this spectacle, which has come to be known as Cadillac Ranch. Stanley has a few years on him -- and his cars have a few layers of graffiti. But for the reporter who must interview Stanley, one thing hasn't changed a bit.

Kuralt: "When people say to you, 'What are those Cadillacs doing out there in your wheat field?' What do you answer?"

Stanley (in his younger self): "I tell them whatever strikes my fancy."

It's still hard to get a straight answer about these crooked cars.

"Any reason why they're tilted?" Steve asked Stanley today.

"That's the angle of the great pyramid of Giza."

"You're making that up."

Watch Charles Kuralt's original report from April 23, 1975, on Stanley Marsh III below:

"I am not."

"Yes, you are."

"Yes, I am."

For Stanley, keeping the mystery is much of the joy. He told these people pancakes told him to build it. "You know pancakes talk if you pay attention to their sizzle," he said.

He's never really given a good reason why, other than, "Why not?" It's art." It's art that has since inspired some equally-baffling imitators. Today, America's roadsides are up to their shoulders in vehicles buried up to their belts.

The absolute weirdest one is in Alliance, Nebraska.

"It looks like Stonehenge," Steve commented about Carhenge, a group of  tilted cards, to Becci Thomas, the board member of "Friends of Carhenge"

"It looks like Stonehenge and it's supposed to look like Stonehenge," she said.

Built by a Cadillac Ranch admirer, it belongs to the city of Alliance, Nebraska, although they're now trying to sell it -- for a quarter of a million dollars.

"Is there $10,000 in the trunk of each car?" Steve asked Thomas.

"No, but where else are you going to buy a tourist attraction for that?" she said.

Not in Amarillo, that's for sure.

"I have never made a penny from the Cadillac Ranch," said Stanley.

Stanley is a purist. In fact, once when a Cadillac dealer tried to build near his ranch, Stanley dug up the cars and moved them a mile down the road. Stanley says you don't plant cars for profit. So why do you?

That's a secret he'll take to his auto graveyard.

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.

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