Spontaneous Shrines

"We who build shrines and construct public altars or parade with photographs of the deceased will not allow you to write off victims as regrettable statistics…They are, I believe, the voice of the people." –Jack Santino

Hesperia and Apple Valley, California

I’m writing an article right now that’s taken me into a number of small communities in the southern CA desert.  A few days ago, a friend and I drove out to the towns of Hesperia and Apple Valley.  Although they are quite a few miles apart, they are connected by a main thoroughfare that had a few spontaneous shrines along it.  The first shrine we passed in Hesperia was for Kimberly:

We drove about a mile down the road before I saw this nearly hidden shrine out of the corner of my eye.  The memorial for Bryan is a white cross that’s decorated with flowers and tacked onto a telephone pole:

A few miles away, in Apple Valley, we passed a very visible shrine.  It surprised me that such an eye-catching shrine had no name or information on it.

This shrine is particularly interesting, because I can’t tell what kind of a person it is for.  The color of the cross and the presence of multiple stuffed animals are common in shrines for children.  The American flag is often present in shrines for veterans or active military.  I’m not sure what to make of the pail filled with stones.  Stones are often left on Jewish gravesites, and I’ve seen pails filled with votive candles at shrines (presumably for passers-by to light if they so choose), but I’ve never seen a pail filled with stones.  Of course, there is also the possibility that the stones are in the pail to keep the pail itself at the memorial.  Any ideas?


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4 thoughts on “Hesperia and Apple Valley, California

  1. Shady,
    I have no idea. I’m trying to decipher the object hanging along the vertical part of the cross. At the bottom of that object are two leather looking pouches with snaps. Next to that is a locket with a picture of what looks like a small girl’s face. I don’t know if this is a little girl’s homage to her father (American flag) or if it’s a shrine to the little girl.
    I’m sending it on to my brother – maybe he’ll have an idea.

  2. Pam Sakala on said:

    Yes it really is a puzzle, isn’t it? I’m sort of inclined to think it’s for an adult. I think if it were for a child, the cross would be “softer”, if you know what I mean. My thought is that it’s for an adult, a veteran, and a very special child in his/her life left the stuffed animals, since those are what give the child comfort, and maybe they have a special meaning between the two of them. I guess we’ll never know for sure. But it sure is a lonely spot where they put it. No grass even, which in my mind is why they attached it to a water utility spot – in order to anchor it there. I’m also inclined to agree that the bucket is just to hold onto the rocks. Don’t know what the rocks are for either, unless the adult and child together did a lot of rock collecting. Such a sad memorial.

  3. Curious. the toys suggest a child, but the rest… Stones are often put in piles on the top of mountains when pilgrims have climbed. I think it’s something about recording how many visitors the site has had. But why no name or details? Is there something embarassing about the death, or do they fear it will be vandalised? Could the dead person be gay, or some other group which might attract hatred?

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