The Jones family Halloween skeleton project on Kalispell’s west side began simply enough.
Cody Jones, the dad, needed to mow the lawn under the spot where he normally parks his boat. So the boat got moved out front and center during the last week of September. Then the thought came: wouldn’t it be fun if we put a few skeletons up on the boat? After all, Halloween is just around the corner.
And with that simple idea, the project took off in ways none of the family members could have predicted.
Cars began to slow down to take a look. People honked horns or gave friendly shouts, and within a few days the family had gotten so much positive feedback, they decided to do more. More skeletons got added to the boat, along with a few empty beer cans. Then the boat was replaced with a big truck and a scene with skeletons all working on the engine, including one guy with his head under the hood, effectively mooning all the passersby.
And every four or five days, the scene changes. The previous incarnation was skeletons in the snow.
“My wife, Renee, got home, looked at the snow, looked at me and said, ‘You know what we’re doing with this, right?,’” Cody said. He said it was fun, but also a pain doing the display in the cold.
When the snow melted, the scene changed again, this time to a hunting panorama including a tent, campfire, a skeleton roasting marshmallows, and two skeletons shouldering a deer they killed and are bringing back to camp. As Cody and his daughter Clara, 14, and son Joel, 12, worked for about an hour in the evening light, no less than six voices of encouragement arrived with well wishes.
A woman who lives down the next street over stopped by and got out of her van to say how much she enjoys coming by to see the changes. Multiple cars passed and many gave shouts and waves that were clearly joyful.
“There’s a group of guys who live around here,” Cody said. “I think they’re all in construction because they often arrive home in the same big truck. I swear, they love this more than the kids do.”
For Cody, the tipping point actually came with some of the younger viewers. One day a couple of young girls stopped by with a batch of cookies and large poster card they had decorated themselves. He remembers smiling at the card and thinking to himself, “Oh yeah. Now we’re doing this!”
More incarnations are planned.
“We’ve got enough ideas and enough crap for at least a few more,” Cody said. The best part of the project for him is that there is almost no money invested in it. They spent between $40 to $50 for each one of the skeletons, but the rest of the stuff has all been items they have. Cody works as an independent contractor, so he had access to rebar and scrap pieces of wood. And gear from the families’ favorite activities have all made an appearance.
“The secret to this whole thing — Costco zip ties,” Cody shared. His daughter Clara nods enthusiastically and said, “Yeah, you could make a commercial for those.”
The changes are random and unpredictable. “It all depends on when the bug bites me, or when I have a good idea,” Cody added.
For the Jones family it comes down to a chance to create some random joy.
“If you’ve got a good opportunity to laugh, and it’s easy, then go for it,” Cody said. “We’ve had so much enjoyment just out of watching people react to the skeletons doing something stupid. We see them laughing, taking pictures, and we realize so many people are loving it. That means we need to step our game and keep people laughing.”
The yard can be seen at the southeast intersection of 11th Street West and Seventh Avenue West in Kalispell. In preparation for Friday’s crosstown football game the display took on a very pro-Flathead High School scenario (after all, these guys are third generation Flathead), but it’s anyone’s guess what the next display will include. Cody promises something special and “British” to wrap up the project at Halloween.
Incidentally, he also has plans for Christmas. Last year he built an 8-foot Grinch for the rooftop of their home.
Brenda Ahearn may be reached at 758-4435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.