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Perhaps understandably, the former pacemaker maker does not exactly dig archaeologists.
"We're talking about a crew of guys and gals who just overcame the fear of the mouse on their computer," sniffs Tindell, "and they spend their summers scraping the lichen off of rock art in the Amazon and whacking the mosquitoes."
"So they think you're crazy?" I venture.
"And what is your response?"
"Thank you," Tindell says deliberately. He knits his brow, pauses for a second. "It's very difficult for me to understand this too, exactly. The manifestations, what's going on here."
Les Tindell's house at the end of a cul-de-sac in Tempe is an immaculate showroom of tasteful Arizona living. A large pool glows quietly into the evening out back. The living room is awash with pastels. Desert-related art adorns the walls. You can see the fresh vacuum swathes in the aquamarine shag carpet.
Somewhere in the house, a radio is tuned to an oldies station. As I ask Les where Big Jake is, the Raspberries sing "Go All the Way."
"He's right there sitting next to you," says Tindell. Jake lives in a dark blue, fingerless oven mitt. "Pull it out, he's meant to be held in your right hand," instructs Tindell. "I think it fits."
He's right. You can palm Big Jake easily. He looks a bit like a mini-Half Dome, with a noticeable glyph on the side that Tindell refers to as "the little peanut man."
Big Jake has his own Web site, bigjake.com. Tindell calls it up on his coffee-table computer and points out remarkable details in a few photos.
"If you look at this perspective, here you get a temple. Including a gent with an indented beard [that would be King Sargon], and a rock-art image of a guy in a pointed hat with starlight protrusions. And there's a woman walking right here, people leaning over. There's passageways, and the way the light shines on this structure you could imagine possibly snow on the ground."
Sure enough. It looks like the set of Lost Horizon.
Every 90 degrees the image changes. Les shows me this.
"As you turn the rock, you get into a very curious place halfway around the world where the Inca lived called Machu Picchu. If you look, there's walkways, stairwells, rock images everywhere.
"Twenty miles down the road was a place called Ollantaytambo, which was a fortress, but it was an agricultural center. It utilized a very sophisticated network of channels and aqueducts and that's what we have here. I'm not anthropomorphizing and reading things in, there is, in fact, a waterway and splashing water and an aqueduct there and passageways in and out to check water flow," Tindell states.
"I like this place, this temple here, this is my favorite," he says, smiling. "I really get off on the way they've done these faces. For me, I'm not a real religious guy, but I can see where the cradle of civilization just might be photographically depicted within the negative of this rock."
But who--or what--could have masterminded such a thing?
"I think Big Jake is alien arts and crafts, and I don't mean the Nogales type," Tindell says. "I think that the people that fashioned that rock were also a part of our heritage, I really do. I think it came from here, good old terra firma. But who did it? I really couldn't venture to say."
But what if--with all due respect--these images are coming not from Big Jake, but from the mind of the beholder? Tindell barely loses a beat.
"This rock generates image patterns in people's minds," he shoots back. "You see things and I see things. You will see very many things because what you're looking at is a single frame in what is, in fact, a message system. What is very nicely disguised as a rock is, in fact, an ark of communication."
For Tindell, Big Jake is up there with the Rosetta Stone, the Ten Commandments, the hieroglyphics of the pharaohs. The world of science may mock him, the public at large may shake its head in astonishment, he may be piloting the ark himself.
So what. Tindell lifts Big Jake from the coffee table and places him carefully in the glow of a lamp, near the safety of the dark-blue fingerless oven mitt. He has plans for his discovery.
"People in this Valley are very skeptical of anything that occurs in reality," Tindell offers cryptically. "I think there are places where people will be able to define what this is. California for one." He pauses as Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" moves through the room, but Tindell has thoughts only for rock of a different kind.
"Big Jake is an absolute phenomenon.