Standing over Route 66 in Tulsa is a 21-foot tall space cowboy roadside attraction. The giant cowboy welcomes visitors to Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios on 66, a gift shop selling a variety of souvenirs, clothing, neon signs, and other memorabilia dedicated to the mystique of America’s Mother Road.
Buck Atom is a unique twist on the legacy of “muffler men” that dot the Route 66 landscape. In the days before the US Interstate Highway System was built, Route 66 was one of the primary roads for taking American travelers across the Southwest. The route passed directly through the main streets of cities and towns, and restaurants, motels, drive-ins, and shops often placed large neon signs or roadside attractions outside their businesses to draw in motorists. Even gas stations and autobody shops needed to stand out — which led to the creation of “muffler men,” giant statues of, oftentimes, burly men dressed as lumberjacks and cowboys. Thousands of “muffler men” statues were produced in the 1960s and 1970s.
Store owner Mary Beth Babcock worked with Virginia-based fiberglass artist Mark Cline to create a new “muffler man” based on a character she created for her store, the traveling space cowboy Buck Atom. The rocket was crafted by local Tulsa artist, Chris Wollard.
The Atlas Obscura Podcast is a short, daily celebration of all the world’s strange and wondrous places. Check out this episode about Buck Atom.
Know Before You Go
Buck Atom's Cosmic Curios is open daily. The shop's owner, Mary Beth Babcock, also operates a Route-66-themed Airbnb behind the store, if you need a place to park your spaceship in Tulsa for a few days.