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How the West Was Fun

July 28, 2002|MICHAEL T. JARVIS

When Bob and Lucy Severson of La Verne decided to add a little excitement to their manicured suburban world, the happy result was Kactus Kountry ('Est. 1991'), the authentic three-quarter-scale frontier town they built in their backyard.

The couple had considered installing a swing set for their granddaughter. But when Bob fashioned a toolshed with an outhouse-inspired crescent moon on the door, Lucy was inspired. 'I said, 'We can make a town out of the Old West," she recalls. Bob sketched the plans and used surplus material to build a hamlet complete with a church, a bank, a saloon, a barn, a blacksmith shop, a jail and 'Lucy's General Store.'

Kactus Kountry might give the designers at Disney a run for their money. St. Gregory Church (named for the Seversons' son) features a steeple, a belfry and a bell. The stained-glass windows and altar within are complemented by a spectacular chandelier, which Bob bought for 5 cents at a yard sale. At the saloon, the dance hall girl behind the swinging doors is a life-sized doll of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. High above the rusty barbed wire and the dusty wooden boardwalk, a string of Christmas tree lights and lanterns give Kactus Kountry an eerie glow at night.

The town sign lists an ever-growing 'Kritter Population' of faux animals arrayed near a real tortoise living in a doghouse on the premises. 'This is what a silly old man can do with time on his hands,' says Bob, 68. Kactus Kountry has hosted one school field trip, but generally the Seversons use the town only to entertain. 'It's a party house,' Bob says, pointing to 'Bob's Whiskey Wagon,' a miniature Conestoga wagon with a giant tub for ice and drinks.

Kactus Kountry may be the last refuge for the Seversons, who say they were banned from the local Christmas decorating contest after their house took first place three years in a row in the '70s. But Kactus Kountry won't succumb to excess, they promise. 'We're already too cluttered,' says Bob. 'Kmart just loved us for years,' Lucy says. 'But we're real selective now.'

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