Corner Stories

Rolling Art: Don Burro and Gauchito

John Lea had a choice after his recent back surgery: Either go back to Mexico and lay around feeling sorry for himself in San Miguel de Allende where he lives part-time or go vagabond and drive around in his rolling art, meeting people, having conversations, finding things to distract him from the pain.

John Lea with his Rolling Art Don Burro and Gauchito

John made the right choice.

He chose to hit the road. John has traveled all over the world. He’s had ups, he’s had downs. Been successful, been broke. Had seven children. Raised Burros. Was even a professional baseball scout. He has lived a full life and understands how to make the most of different situations, something his vehicle reflects.

“We make art. We write. We take photographs. We travel. When we’re done, we repeat the above.”

From John’s Facebook Intro

Rolling Art: Don Burro

A few years ago, John grew tired of looking at the dent he put in his F150 after bumping into a log, so came up with an idea to spruce up the truck. He shared the plan with his friend, artist Miguel Orduña, and they set out to make the pictures in John’s head a reality. Over a three-week period, they transformed his simple white F150 pickup into Don Burro.

Don Burro F150 Truck

The vehicle is definitely a conversation starter.

“The art attracts people of like mind and opens all kinds of doors that otherwise would not happen. Not everyone sees art.”

John Lea

On this steel canvas, you’ll find Michoacán Butterflies, angels and demons, and replications of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s work.

You’ll find an all-seeing eye and the solar system on the roof.

There are Día de los Muertos images and a fat man riding a horse. Fascinating images cover every inch of this vehicle.

Rolling Art: Gauchito

Don Burro doesn’t travel the roads alone. The truck tows a 1969 Serro Scotty Gaucho trailer dubbed Gauchito. While the truck pays homage to the Mexican Art he loves, the canvas of Gauchito wears all things Texas. Willie Nelson. President and Lady Bird Johnson. Blue Bell Ice Cream.

There’s a version of the “Here it Is” Jackrabbit–but in Burro form, along with the famous Texas dancehall, the Broken Spoke, plus an old Texas ad.

A giant vintage postcard from his home state greets those traveling behind.

More than Art

But the driver’s side of the trailer holds the most personal art–an entire panel dedicated to moments from John’s life.

side view of art on 69 trailer

On this panel, John’s father still rides his Indian motorcycle.

art of man on an indian motorcycle

On another, John sits astride a horse next to his best friend Bob Peterson who is pointing to an armadillo coming out of tornado–classic Texas icons.

At eleven-years-old, John and Bob hopped a train from Orange, Texas to Houston to go ice-skating, so of course, the train found a home on the panel.

Trailer art

Even the interior has character, and I’m not just talking about John. He and his dashboard companions love to travel, especially along the kitschy wonderfulness of Route 66–a place he and his rolling work of art fit right in.

I’ve traversed the Route one entire time in 2016 as well as bits and pieces on many occasions. It keeps reminding me of the westward expansion of the U.S. I love the period buildings, the neon, the signs in general, and especially the people who make a living off of it. Everyone has a story (or two or three) to tell.

John giving peace sign from truck

Don Burro Rolls Through Winslow

John doesn’t have a particular destination in mind, but he did want to stop in Winslow Arizona.

“The early 20th-century architecture is very appealing and the fact it’s on the railroad. I also like the big Bulldog that stands near the high school. But, once again, the best thing about Winslow are its people. By far, the greatest asset. They seem to get it as to why people are coming there.”

John Lea
john standing on a corner in winslow arizona

He had another reason he wanted to stand on the corner. Years ago, when he was at Stephen F. Austin State University, there was a “regular guy” on their dorm floor, a guy who played the drums sometimes. Mr. Don Henley.

John with Jackson Browne statue

Words of Wisdom from John

“Anyone who travels and/or reads is light years ahead of the person who doesn’t. I always encourage people to travel. Get a passport and fly abroad or just get in the car and drive somewhere out of your comfort zone. Travel dispels fear and reinforces the fact we are all the same. Isolation divides us.”

John Lea

To those who have the privilege of seeing this rolling art in person, John hopes…

“…they come and go with a smile, but more importantly, I wish for them that they could each see the world, that they should know the origin of their familial roots, and they could encourage their progeny or friends to travel. Travel is the ultimate equalizer. And travel on a budget even more so. Peace.”

John Lea

Thanks for brightening our day with Don Burro y Gauchito. Keep on spreading Paz en el Mundo. (Peace in the world.)

Don Burro Rolling Art

Until next time…

Take it Easy

Don in rearview mirro

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One Comment

  • Neal

    John, I’ll never forget meeting you at the North rim of the Grand Canyon. Not only did you leave an impression on me, you inspire me and others to be as forth coming as you. You indeed have lead a life that is truly inspiring. My hat is off to you good man!

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