Returning to the 6666 Ranch-Dixon Creek Division, in the rolling grasslands of the Panhandle of Texas was a bit melancholy for the Cowboy Artists of America on the 2012 Trail Ride. Memories of the late Tom Ryan (1922-2011) and Grant Speed (1930-2011) — longtime members, friends and fellow artists — hovered over the entire camp and filled each member with gratitude for having been able to share their special CAA journey with such giants in the world of Western art. Ryan made the 6666 cowboys famous with his iconic painting, Sharing An Apple, and Speed eloquently sculpted his native Texas cowboys in many award-winning bronzes, while seldom missing a trail ride since 1968. Three new members, Jason Scull, John Jarvis and Jason Rich, began to understand and become part of the unique bond which comes with membership while participating in their first CAA trail ride.
CA members and guests awoke to the ranch cowboys stirring in the quiet, pre-dawn mornings of purple-gray skies over the historic 6666, while the smell of coffee, bacon and biscuits coming from the campfire, brought artists out of their tents. The sounds, smells and sights of having this opportunity to ride the renowned 6666 horses along side the “real-deal” working cowboys, gather calves into the pens, rope and drag them to the fire, and get down in the dirt to help apply that historic brand, was etched in their minds.
The images will no doubt come alive again on canvas and in bronze. Each day ended by sitting around the campfire listening to Red Steagall and Bill Nebeker play guitars and sing cowboy songs like those that have been rafting through the night air over Texas for generations.
A sincere thanks to the ranch owner, and Honorary member of the Cowboy Artists, Anne Marion and her husband, John, who again generously hosted the artists for their 47th annual CA trail ride. Since 1991, when their trail ride was on the famous Guthrie, Texas 6666 Burnett Ranch, Anne Marion has hosted the group five other times, on 3 other individual ranches throughout Texas and Montana. General Manager Joe Leathers, Dixon Creek manager John “Bubba” Smith, Boots O’Neil, and all the other ranch hands who worked to give the CA family another memorable trail ride also deserve our gratitude.
CA active members attending this year’s ride were; Wayne Baize, Tom Browning, John Coleman, Tim Cox, Bruce Greene, Martin Grelle, John Jarvis, T.D. Kelsey, Paul Moore, Bill Nebeker, Gary Niblett, Bill Owen, Dave Powell, Jason Rich, Ron Riddick and Jason Scull. Emeritus members Harley Brown and Fred Fellows attended, as well as Honorary members Griff Carnes, Ruth Kaspar, Red Steagall and Greg Brown, Cowboys & Indians magazine publisher attended. Special guests Drs. Karen and Scott Robertson, 2011 trail ride hosts Sheila and Mike Ingram and Dean Cameron, and Western Horseman magazine editors Ross Hecox and Jennifer Denison all shared in the family relationships which exist and are developed during a CA Trail ride. In addition, the ride welcomed from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum: Chuck Schroeder, president; Leslie Baker, director of marketing and editor-in-chief; and Gerrianne Schaad and Laura Heller, representing the Museum’s Dickinson Research Center. S chaad and Heller were on hand to initiate a new archives project involving the CA s by recording memories about the organization’s early days. Some of the CA widows, wives and Honorary members told in interviews how their work and their husbands’ art became part of the new and developing world of Western art. The Museum archivists filmed interviews with Mary Ellen Boren, Jo Marks, Merry Nebeker, Ellen Baize, Janie Greene and Ruth Kaspar.
In the near future they hope to film all the CA members to collect stories about deceased, Emeritus and active members, to preserve the CAA history. These historically important films will be housed in the Museum’s Dickinson Research Center. In the years ahead, students, artists, collectors, museums professionals, writers and all who appreciate Western art, will be able to hear, see and study the amazing significance of the Cowboy Artists of America. CA Founders Charlie, George, Johnny and Joe, as well as all CA artists and friends who are now gone, would love the idea of their stories, art, experiences on trail rides and art shows being enjoyed forever.
~Written by Merry Nebeker
~Photo credits R. S. Riddick
Photos courtesy of: CAA Member, Ron Riddick; Ross Hecox, Editor, Western Horseman Magazine; Great Falls Tribune.