You can’t judge a green broke gelding on first impressions.
I emailed a few friends about their thoughts on why the image of Wyoming’s cowboy on a bucking bronc stirs up such emotion. Around the world, confronted by this instantly recognizable symbol, bosoms heave great sighs. Daydreams kick in. Thoughts about what one might be missing in life bubble up, and personal pacts are made to find a riding ring somewhere.
Maybe your personal stallion is an RV, and you start shopping for Harleys and Airstreams. Man, if I had .50 for every Airstream parked in Jackson I could retire. Don’t look now, but the Boomers are coming of age, and that means we’re all going to be falling off horses or crashing our transits.
One brave pard wants to remain anonymous because he doesn’t want to be accused of “grandstanding.” The gentleman is a cowboy and an accomplished sculptor working in bronze.
You AREN’T grandstanding, mystery man, you’re telling your story, and I thank you for it. It’s timely, and here it is:
“In the early 1970’s, shortly after I was home from Vietnam, I was working on a ranch in central Montana. I was riding in a pasture; what they called the “Suncreek” pasture. [While I was riding] a big, tall, green broke gelding…..
Now wait. What is a green broke gelding? I, the blogger, have no idea. So I look it up.
“A green broke horse is one who has recently learned to accept a rider on his back, or to be “under saddle.” But “green broke” has various shades of meaning. The only way to know what a horse knows is to spend some time with him so you can map a training path.”
Now, wait again. This quote comes from a page featuring a person riding ENGLISH style. I hope I haven’t ruined the tale.
On with our hero’s story: “…through a gate with the tall posts with the twisted wire, and a stick used to tighten the wire overhead! This big gelding was a bit spooky, and when the shadow of the stick crossed over his eyes he spooked and started bucking.
After the dust had cleared I felt like I was on top of the world! No one saw it, there was no applause. Just a cowboy doing his job. The big bay colt turned out to be one of the best horses I ever put a saddle on.”
Moral: You can’t judge a green broke gelding on first impressions.
From cowgirl – plein air painter Kathy Wipfler:
“We could all gain from learning about the cowboy’s outlook on life, which is that one never knows how things will work out, but you need to be ready to jump on it. Sometimes the old time cowboy had a job (and a little money), and sometimes there was no work, so no money. They got by those times by hanging out as frugally as they could, and jumping at the next chance for a job. They knew they could survive the lean times, but were always ready for some cowboy fun, and the next job; no so different from my life as an artist.
You just have to believe that job will come along. Also, every time I step up to the easel, I wonder if this one will buck me off……. But I am always willing to take that chance. Cowboy fun……
I have been lucky enough to ride and hang out with the real deal cowboys of western Wyoming for many years, and I am also a Western history buff, reading every first person writing I can find. I have seen AND read about their unique outlook on life. Living it to the fullest. I can only hope that same spirit might one day show through in my work.”
I think everyone would love to have a story of their own, just like our two heroes. That is why we sigh at the sight of that cowboy above the Cowboy Bar, why Western movies are so romantic and addictive. Horses are a symbol of freedom. You can go anywhere, experience anything. You are free as a bird, and letting loose. You’re a little bit wild. You’re tough, you’re fearless, you work hard. You take risks and are proud. You possess a certain knowledge. You have self-esteem.
Cowboys and Indians and tales of the West are on the agenda at Altamira Fine Art. The legendary historian-artist Thom Ross and Jackson wonder Travis Walker team up for a two-man show “So Many Roads,” opening to the public on October 9th, and serving up an ARTIST’S RECEPTION on October 19th, 5-8 pm, at the Center Street gallery.
Walker’s characters wander place to place, just as he wanders and wonders. Walker’s paintings have a certain mirage-like quality. We could be walking inside the artist’s dreams. The world is big, wide and full of people, but in Walker’s world, people often walk alone.
Alternately, they observe nature or architecture foreign to them, gathered in small groups, and we see these people from the back. We cannot read their emotions, we cannot tell if they’re happy to find themselves where they’ve landed. A car careens off a cliff; are the drivers in there? Are they juiced or filled with terror? In fact, Walker’s figures could be from other planets, disguised as humans, taking stock of our earth.
What does it all mean?
For Ross, history and the true stories behind Western myths and personalities is fodder for in-your-face, black-eyed pop-art portraits.
“As an artist, I look deeply into myths,” writes Ross. “Why does Custer’s Last Stand matter? Why are they still making movies about the Alamo and Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp? We project our emotions through these figures, and there’s something really wonderful about that.”
Why, indeed? Why Mount Rushmore? Crazy Horse? Why all the physical monuments to U.S. soldiers, politicians and spiritual leaders?
We need to draw something from their spirits into ourselves. We are chock full of hero worship, and Ross’ portraits bring Western figures brilliantly alive. They are animated; some are toy-like, with appendages you want to pull and tug. Seeing these larger-than-life figures before us, we can believe what they stood for remains, that their courage and and intense roles in history are immortal.