Cowboys, Indians and all that art

Trip Start Sep 27, 2010
Trip End Mar 23, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Oklahoma
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We couldn't stay so close to a place that has a "Cowboy Museum" and not go, could we? Especially as I heard that there was a bit of John Wayne “stuff” there :) We had read various reviews of the museum, some saying it is just an art gallery and others calling it the best thing since sliced bread. I will tend to agree with the latter even though I prefer to slice my bread myself. (Bets... I have to add some bits to this blog – firstly it is being written by someone who is travelling with a selection of John Wayne movies on DVD all be it that most are so 'vintage’ they are in B&W!)

The museum leaflet explains how to make the most of your visit by laying out a suggested route through, firstly if you have an hour then if you have 2 or more hours, I recommend you make sure you have at least half a day to spare before travelling to the museum. The layout and exhibits are so varied and interesting be prepared to take your time to soak it all in and if you can’t then put aside time for a second or third visit to do it all justice.

On entering, the centrepiece is the statue of a white horse and rider – The End of the Trail – dramatic at 18 feet tall this is a plaster original that has never been cast in bronze (as originally intended) as it was salvaged and repaired after being found in poor and deteriorating condition. ( I found this statue very moving, as we have travelled we have been very moved by the plight of the native American race, this statue alone seems to me to depict the despair that must have enveloped many of the braves...B) There are only certain parts of the museum where photography is allowed and this being one of them, we had to… Others, usually the changing exhibits, cannot be photographed so you will just have to imagine the incredible artwork and sculptures depicting either the cowboy or Native American way/culture that we walked through as we went from hallway into the first gallery. Here were saddles and leatherwear with incredibly intricate decoration and silverwork of horse bits (bits for a horse not bits of a horse). Many of these items have been made as a commission or were actually for sale, so if you are in the market for a saddle in the region of $60,000 or more, now you know where to come. The fine tooling on the leather and blend of steelwork combined with fine engraved silver and gold inlays was just breathtaking – even if I didn’t know what many of the pieces were for. ( In the absence of photo documentation I noted down some of the more spectacular pieces- a bit for example, filigreed steel with 14K gold inlays for $26.000. A hat band, braided leather & silver for $1475, a leather and walnut saddle for $37,500. Some items showcase the artists skills but are not directly horse related, the set of 12 silver napkin rings for example, with twist rope edges and steer head detail at $30,000)

Yes, following on from this were galleries of picture artwork and sculptures but many depicting great stories evoking a harsh way of life with both opportunities taken and freedoms won and lost. A thought provoking picture I liked showed a small cabin part built into the hillside, covered in snow so that almost all that was visible is a small chimney with an Indian, who had just walked over the hill onto the roof, warming his hands in the rising smoke.

As we all know, you can’t have cowboys without indians so, on into the Native American Gallery, where we find their world view through designs on clothing, tools and utensils. Beautiful beaded craftwork with incredible but somehow familiar motifs.

From these galleries we wandered into my favourite bit, the Western Performers Gallery, this is all about the cowboys and western characters we all know and love from both TV and the silver screen – including John Wayne. Here there is memorabilia from films stage shows and TV as well as many personal items from the actors themselves, check out the pictures. Loads of props but many items are real working artefacts, the guns, saddles, boots, costumes, knives, posters and more, it would take a week of visits if you were to read every little snippet of information so I am sure I missed more than I took in but it didn’t matter, it’s like a hungry man at a buffet for 100 – you can’t eat it all but what you do eat sure fills you up :)

There is a small theatre within this exhibition showing film excerpts of “the wild west” that I remember from my childhood – thank you, the Lone Ranger, Tonto, Maverick, Rawhide, Bonanza and the like…

Continuing on there are guns and a diorama of buffalo hunting during those pioneering days, luckily we didn’t quite wipe out these magnificent beasts. There is a tribute area to the true cowboy, history and culture of the evolution of ranching. A rodeo exhibition almost makes you feel part of an actual rodeo (been there) more saddles, trophies photographs and graphics explaining the lives of these performers. Another area has a full size replica of a circa 1900 cattle town at dusk. A garden with many bronzes, a hands on children’s cowboy corral were just some parts that we didn’t seem to spend much time though we did end up watching another short movie in the lecture theatre – the museum’s orientation film (should we have looked in here first?)

Considering that we also partook of a great lunch in the Persimmon Hill restaurant that is part of the museum, I think we did well to take in what we did, coming to the end, just as they were closing and then to call in at the obligatory gift shop on the way out (I do apologise for any parts I have missed out – maybe I have to come back). – Well, I enjoyed it, hope you did too. If you didn’t, then get on over there and see it all for yourselves.

Just a footnote; hey cuz, Alan – do you remember us playing Cowboys and Indians? Couldn’t have been that long ago could it?
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Derbyfred on

Yeehah pardner you do git around! You may or may not have heard but we old folks in lil ole England have bin havin a hard ole time with snow up to our bumpits.The postmen have not been able to get the mail through; another of our long cherished traditions brought down by the latest Elf an Safety Act. Posties have not been allowed out with mail sacks in case they slip, break somethin and claim Compo !! In the meantime, local Xmas mail is being delivered by the Scouts as usual! Come home soon Malc, Britain needs it's sons to fight off the burden of Europe yet again. On second thoughts, better to stay where you are and enjoy a good laugh. I gather from this latest epistle you've paced out your plot for the motor Teepee and will be wintering or rather Christmassing in those funny speaking lands of the Comonwealth so will wish you both a warm, peaceful and healthful holiday,success go with you into the New year.Our very best wishes and Godbless. Fred &Theo

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