Rainbow’s End Christmas House marks 19th year
Reprinted with permission from Rural Missouri. (Local information added.)
Outside the Christmas House at Rainbow’s End is a sign that owner and artist Jerry Ann Lash says describes her perfectly: “When someone told me I live in a fantasy land, I nearly fell off my unicorn.” It’s easy to see why. A visit to the store Jerry Ann and her husband, Jerry, own in Tecumseh is quite like stepping into the pages of a fairy tale. And what better place for an artist to shape her fantasies than at the end of a rainbow?
“There were two rainbows out here,” Jerry Ann says, remembering a rainy day not long after the couple moved from Pine, Arizona, to their Ozark County home in 1994. “I thought, ‘Well, that’s it. This is Rainbow’s End.’ ”
To mark the occasion, Jerry Ann wanted a year-round rainbow in the yard. For that, she turned to her husband, who restored their more than 100-year-old farmhouse and also helped bring the Christmas House to life.
“She said, ‘We’ve got to have a rainbow,’ and I said, ‘There’s only two people who can make a rainbow — one of them’s God and the other one’s Nature,’ ” the retired heavy equipment operator recalls. Still, he was able to accommodate Jerry Ann’s wish with a little bit of PVC pipe, cloth and resin. “Like she says, this is supposed to be fun.”
This fall marks the 19th year the Lashes have celebrated Christmas at their store in the hills of eastern Ozark County. Although the unique sculptures such as the permanent rainbow appeal to Jerry Ann’s whimsical side, from mid-October to mid-December their focus is on the holiday season. The Christmas House is a throwback to the couple’s days living in Arizona, where Jerry Ann ran a seasonal craft store. The Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative members say it only took a few years for the tradition to follow them.
“I’d go down there on opening day to build a fire and warm it up some, and people would be waiting in line,” says Jerry of the Arizona business. On chilly days, he still stokes the wood stove in the 60-foot doublewide trailer that holds the Christmas House. A few steps inside, and shoppers are welcomed into a warm wonderland of autumnal decor and gifts. Every nook and cranny is packed with crafts made by Jerry Ann and around 20 other crafters from south central Missouri and northern Arkansas. As the Christmas House caught on with local crafters, the mobile home expanded into four other additions and buildings, including a nearby barn.
Handmade jewelry, stuffed snowmen and clay Santa Clauses festoon Amish-built cabinets. Christmas trees dotted with ornaments sit alongside other pieces of art and antique furniture. One rustic-themed room houses a large wooden rocking horse sporting a hand-tooled leather saddle. On one wall next to a shelf full of kachina dolls is an intricate piece of intarsia — a mosaic painting made from different pieces of carved wood.
“At first it was just going to be crafts but we’ve had a lot of luck with antiques and collectables,” Jerry Ann says, adding recent customers have sought out older furnishings such as mantelpieces and potbelly stoves in addition to push lawnmowers and farriers’ carts. “It just depends on who comes in. The people that aren’t afraid to come off the road have kept us going.”
Amid grinning jack-o’-lanterns and grapevine wreaths lurk some of the more fantastical denizens of Rainbow’s End: fairies, elves and “laafs” — portly creatures who wouldn’t look out of place serving tea at the Mad Hatter’s table. Outside the Christmas House, other creations from Jerry Ann’s imagination abound. Plaster gnomes appear to bustle about a human-sized teapot house made from native stone under the watchful eye of “Boo-La Duke,” a 6-foot-tall troll. Tiana, a mermaid adorned with mossy hair and dress made from seashells, reclines by the frog pond. Humpty Dumpty sits high on a plaster wall.
From Tole painting to concrete mixing to metal cutting — sometimes with her husband’s help — Jerry Ann likes to try her hand at something new at least once a year. What doesn’t show up for sale in the shop usually finds a place in the outdoor gallery. In the face of weather and time, keeping the collection of colorful characters looking bright and cheery every year means near constant maintenance, but it’s a labor of love for Jerry and Jerry Ann.
“He’s been a real encouragement to me,” Jerry Ann says of her husband’s resourceful nature, especially when it comes to taking care of the Christmas House and keeping up with her imagination. Joking, she adds, “A friend will start to say, ‘Jerry Ann, I’ve got an…’ and he’ll say, ‘Don’t give her any ideas!’ ”
And where did she arrive at the inspiration for all these projects?
“Don’t ask me,” the self-taught sculptress says with a bright smile and a shake of her head. “I don’t have any idea, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
For more information on the Christmas House at Rainbow’s End, call Jerry Ann at 417-284-3727 or visit Rainbow’s End online at www.facebook.com/rainbowsendlash