The Bell Cross Ranch
Cascade, Montana was the gathering place for the Cowboy Artists of America’s 46th annual trail ride. Just south of Great Falls, in Charlie Russell’s Big Sky country along the Missouri River, owners Mike and Sheila Ingram graciously hosted 20 active CA members, their wives and special guests. For five days of Montana hospitality, the artists returned to the roots of the cowboy and Indian cultures from which they draw inspiration for their historically accurate paintings and sculptures, while renewing old friendships and making new ones with the ranch owners and cowboys.
The artists set up their tent campsite in Frances Park, a valley near an 1800’s historic settlers’ cabin, on the 10,000 acre ranch, surrounded by Montana’s green hills and timberlands. As the artists rode horses, drove cattle, shot replica Sharps Buffalo Gun and Remington Rolling Block rifles, listened to old cowboy songs around the campfire, and spent many long hours in business meetings, their wives and lady guests were hosted to gourmet meals, massages, games and relaxing morning walks. The Bell Cross Ranch Lodge with its 15,000 sq. ft. of chic cowboy décor provided a beautiful, serene atmosphere for fun and friendship. On the last day of the trail ride, everyone had the opportunity to participate in mounted shooting, a new event for the CAs; and then enjoyed a wonderful evening of fellowship, prime rib, fine wine, western music and dancing.
The CA’s would like to thank Drs. Scott and Karen Robertson, Western Horseman Editor Ross Hecox, CAA Honorary Members Red Steagall, Ruth Kaspar and Greg Brown, Publisher of Cowboys & Indians for their longtime friendship and generous gifts.
A special thanks to first time guests JoDahl Creech, Leslie Baker and Craig Clemons, from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, for their extraordinary work ethic; their enthusiasm in welcoming the CAs back home to the site of the 1st Cowboy Artists of America Sale & Exhibition was and is greatly appreciated. The CAs look forward with great anticipation to celebrating this historic reunion with the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City at the CAA 46th Annual Sale & Exhibition, which will be made all the more special by their tireless efforts and amazing talents.
The ultimate appreciation goes to Mike and Sheila Ingram, the Bell Cross Ranch Managers Danny and Leilani Essenberg, Bar 7 Ranch Manager Ty and wife Jaymie Dunlap, and trail ride organizers Dean and Shawn Cameron for providing a well-coordinated, fun and restful setting for this most important annual tradition of the Cowboy Artists. Thanks also to the camp cooks and lodge chefs, who lavishly fed the artists and guests.
Connecting the CA history, traditions and art to the past and future of the American West was an integral part of this year’s trail ride. Surrounded by cattle grazing on lush hills, saddled horses, tents, campfires, chaps & spurs, historic firearms and spinning yarns about artists, cowboys and Indians of a hundred years ago, their passion for the culture and legacy left by greats who walked this trail before was reaffirmed. From Charlie Russell to Joe Beeler, Frank Polk and John Clymer to the newest members, an unbreakable bond flows and the trailride is the fertile ground where this brotherhood of like-mindedness blossoms. Moving forward to new heights of unity and success in their artistic creativity of museum quality works, they will never forget or forsake the CA Founders’ mission, to perpetuate Western art in the tradition of Russell & Remington.
~Written by Merry Nebeker
Photos courtesy of: CAA Member, Ron Riddick; Ross Hecox, Editor, Western Horseman Magazine; Great Falls Tribune.