It all started with the rose garden. Carol Barbee turned a few old bowling balls into gazing globes, the kind you see in traditional English gardens, usually made out of reflective or colored glass. Her husband Chris had no idea it would eventually turn into a full-fledged passion of his own. After more than a decade of collecting, Chris’ sculptural yard art now encompasses over 3,000 bowling balls.
Carol passed away in 1997, and it was nine years later, when Chris retired, that he was puttering around the yard looking for projects and noticed those bowling balls in the rose garden. He decided that making a fence with more balls would be a good idea. That project gained so much momentum, Barbee hasn’t stopped decorating since, all in memory of his beloved gardening wife.
Chris’s yard, open to the public, now features dozens of bowling ball art projects: from an American flag to a mini-museum, to a functioning billiard table complete with oversized cue sticks. He welcomes visitors, especially those who bring him bowling balls to add to the art. He keeps a special collection of one-of-a-kind balls and pins inside, including donations from different states. So far he’s up to 20 and would love to end up with all 50.
Update as of October 2020: Some of the sculptures pictured are no longer visible.
Know Before You Go
Nowata is in northeast Oklahoma, about 50 miles northeast of Tulsa. From the center of town, head north on US-169 for about a mile, and turn right (heading east) onto E021 Road. Just past the intersection with N4150 Road, look for Bowling Ball Lane on the left.