Monday, May 30, 2016

Roadboy Visits the Cowboy Hall of Fame

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

When I was maybe 9 or 10 my family passed through Oklahoma City one summer on our way to visit some of my father's relatives. While there we stopped for a visit to (what was then called) the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.  

The End of The Trail

On that first visit I was dazzled by the larger than life "End of the Trail" sculpture perfectly showcased in a striking building composed of dramatic intersecting concrete folded plate roofs.

I enjoyed listening to my father revel in the chance to explain the nuances of "Rodeo!" to his city kid son. I was also pretty impressed to find out we were related to a few of those rodeo stars.


 Canyon Princess

 Detail Canyon Princess

Now, some 50 years later, I had another chance to return and visit (what is now) the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.  I am delighted to report it is bigger and better than ever.

There are now large (and very well curated) sections of western themed art (featuring works by Frederic Remington and Charles M Russell, mixed in with some idyllic dreamlike paintings depicting the western expansion by artists like Bierstadt).

I found myself completely delighted by the exhibit hall dedicated to exquisite Native American arts and crafts.

 A Woman's Wedding Uniform

Spectacular Native Arts and Crafts
Even A Few Depictions Modern Life

Perhaps my favorite exhibit was the one dedicated to Hollywood Westerns. Displays included Robert Redford's jacket from The Electric Horseman (he is kinda short!) along with props from Bonanza, The Big Valley and Gunsmoke. There was a tribute to the music of singing cowboys like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.

They even had Paladin's gun and holster from the 1957 - 1963 television show "Have Gun Will Travel" (featuring its iconic platinum "Knight" medallion).  I saw the show in re-runs, but loved it. After reading a bit about the show, I was impressed to realize 24 of its 225 episodes were written by Gene Roddenberry.  Episodes of HGWT featured a long list of amazing co-stars including: James Coburn, Jack Lord, June Lockhart, Angie Dickinson, Harve Presnell and George Kennedy.

 Have Gun, Will Travel
Wire Paladin
San Francisco

 Oklahoma's Cowboy Genius
Will Rogers Was Well Profiled

Of course, the museum has a section devoted to Oklahoma's own Will Rogers. Roger's was the master showman who could ride and rope and yet "Never Met A Man He Didn't Like".

He dispensed with humor that made an America, in the midst of the Great Depression, laugh. His humor was honest and timeless. And it cut to the quick. Examples that seem appropriate today might be:  

"A fool and his money are soon elected"  
"Ten men in our country can buy the whole world 
and ten million can't buy enough to eat".

There are also galleries dedicated to American firearms, detailed exhibits showcasing daily cowboy life and all the rodeo memorabilia I remember so well from so long ago.

This is Oklahoma's Celebration of The Iconic West

Roadboy's Travels © 2016

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