By Jim Predmore
Niland Ca. It was 1984 when Leonard Knight set foot in Niland for the first time. His original intention was to get his homemade hot air balloon off the ground. He had worked for years on this balloon that would fly and share the message of Salvation with all who saw it.
Discouraged by his balloon’s inability to fly, he decided to stay a week at Slab City and build a small monument that would convey the same message as what he had tried so hard to share via the balloon. He started out with a half bag of cement and a burning desire to get the message of God’s love out to the world. That week turned in to months, which turned into years. In 1996 Leonard was quoted as saying, “I was just going to stay one week. It’s been a very good week.”
Leonard’s “mountain” has become a landmark and he has become a legend. Visitors to the mountain are greeted with the bold words “God is love”. Below that is the Sinner’s Prayer and a red heart. It is Leonard’s hope that his message of LOVE will be seen all over the world and that all people everywhere will show more love and compassion for their fellow man. He truly believes that love is the answer to a peaceful and harmonious existence.
Leonard had to leave the mountain a couple of years back due to age and declining health. He has since had a leg amputated and is awaiting cataract surgery. To commemorate his 81st birthday, he was brought back to the mountain on Sunday to visit with friends and followers. As crowds gathered around Leonard, seated in his wheelchair, he enjoyed having everyone’s attention. Leonard loves to share stories, and this day was no different. With a smile on his aged face, he talked of how he wanted to share the land with everyone. “I wanted to give everyone a piece of land. But things got complicated, people came by and I just couldn’t do it.” In anticipation of Sundays visit Leonard stated “I have been waiting for days and days just wondering if anyone would show up, all of you have just blessed my heart.”
There are many who are committed to keeping Leonard’s dream and life’s work alive at Salvation Mountain. But the upkeep is exhausting. Plans are being made for a Volunteer Weekend on November 10th and 11th. Volunteer are encouraged to come for a day or for the entire weekend! The list of projects includes sweeping, garbage clean up, grounds pick up, patching adobe in several areas, and painting. Some items that are needed are paint, paintbrushes, a generator, shopvac, brooms, shovel, wheelbarrow, empty 5 gallon buckets, a small dumpster, rubber gloves, and a porta potty. Anyone who can provide any of these materials or would like to volunteer is encouraged to RSVP on the Salvation Mountain Facebook page.