Another thanks to all who have supported Footprints in the Dew! I am excited to announce that the book is going into a second printing and I will be starting a new round of book signings in December!
Welcome back. “End of the Trail” is a phrase that is widely used by many people, including myself. The sculpture entitled “End of the Trail” is also very well known, depicting an Indian with a spear under his arm, head down and apparently about to give out sitting on an equally exhausted horse. I have seen many reproductions of this image in photographs and on printed materials and I have wondered where this very symbolic piece of American art came from. I discovered that the answer is sitting right here in Oklahoma at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. This exhibit will be ending soon and it is well worth a trip to Oklahoma City so let me give you a preview.
The original sculpture was created by artist James Earl Fraser (1876-1953) to depict the suffering of American Indians as they were pushed off their homelands and moved westward. The sculpture was first exhibited at the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco and today it is dramatically displayed in the entryway of the Western Heritage Museum. James Earl Fraser won several prizes for his creation including first prize at an art show in Paris, France in 1898 and “End of the Trail” was prominently displayed outside the main entrance to the “Hall of Flowers” where thousands of people came to see the famous Indian astride his horse.
In its 100 year history, “End of the Trail” has not always been so well cared for. After the 1915 exposition, the sculpture was purchased by the city of Visalia, California and moved to a public park there where it was mostly forgotten for 50 years. The sculpture suffered from exposure to the weather and was painted over several times before finally being sold for scrap to a graveyard for old statues.
By1968 the sculpture had been cut into three pieces and it looked like the end of the trail for the “End of the Trail.” Beat up by the weather, with holes throughout and broken legs, the sculpture was saved at the 11th hour by a group of visionaries from the Cowboy Hall of Fame (now The Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum) who purchased and restored it.
The story of this restoration is told in detail with photos and films in the exhibit. Then you have a chance to sit in the entryway and gaze at the sculpture itself. It’s an Oklahoma story for sure. If you happen to look through the enormous floor to ceiling glass windows in the room, you may notice a courtyard with several bronze statues outside. This my friends is the gateway to a graveyard like none other where the deceased have names like Steamboat, Baby Doll, Poker Chip and Midnight. One of the most famous is Tornado and you may have heard his story. At 1500 pounds, half Brahma, half Hereford with a red and white face, Tornado was a super star in the rodeo world. This bull threw off 220 professional riders before Freckles Brown finally rode him at the 1967 National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City. It has been written that no one who was there will ever forget it.
Tornado died of natural causes in 1972 at owner Jim Shoulders’ ranch. Shoulders, who was a rodeo legend in his own right, brought the bull to the museum where it was buried with the other legends in one of the most unusual cemeteries you will ever visit.
This past week I also got the chance to visit Pryor, Oklahoma where just like in the old days there is still a mom and pop bookstore called the Bible Book Store and Book Exchange. Pryor is another town that is rich in Oklahoma history and I am sure a return trip is in my future.
Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road…..