The 6666 Ranch
The 6666 Ranch in Guthrie, Texas was the perfect place for the Cowboy Artists of America to have their 48th annual trail ride. The ranch is all about great horses, cattle, cowboys, Indian chiefs, history, tradition, and hard work to make a dream come true. Owner, Anne Marion has carried on the dream and greatness which her great-grand father, Samuel Burnett started over 150 years ago. She has been a strong supporter and honorary member of the CAA for many years, a collector of western art, and the gracious host of six previous CAA trail rides on two other divisions of the great 6666.
Each morning before dawn, fourteen active members, three emeritus members, as well as Red Steagall, Dr. Scott Robertson, Cowboys & Indians Publisher, Greg Brown and Ross Hecox, Editor of Western Horseman Magazine began the day with cowboy coffee and great food by the camp cook. They joined Manager, Joe Leathers and his ranch hands the first day, filled with riding the great 6666 horses across dry red rolling hills, covered with grass and mesquite, telling stories about the old days of the great historic Texas cattle drives, Indian battle, buffalo and how the “cowboy” began. The second day they became some of the elite few allowed to tour the horse barns with the veterinary, Dr. Glenn Blodgett explaining how the breeding program has developed so many award winning horses, and then the artists set up easels to do sketches, plein air paintings, and rough clay models of the horses.
The last day of the ride is always the day long business meeting with the full membership of CAA. It was a very stormy, windy day of almost tornado looking skies. There is always important decision to be discussed and voted on about the next exhibition, recommending possible new members, other issues of importance to the future and progress of the CAA, and their continued mission to further the very best in western art and keeping the cowboy ethics and traditions laid down for them by their founders. At the end of the day CAA wives arrived from Lubbock telling wild stories of being caught in the dangerous storm and taking refuge in the sheriff’s jail at Dickens, Texas. There were glad reunions, laughter, great food, fun stories and tired but happy wives, cowboys and artists.
In so many ways this year’s trail ride was an unknown renewal for the future of the Cowboy Artists of America. Like the historic 6666, which has endured years of drought, devastating and destructive storms, hard unproductive ground, bitter freezing winds, disease and death in the Burnett family and the herds, so has the Cowboy Artists of America. In the long history of the 6666 there has also been many years where the ranch flourished in its production, had great financial gains, highly acclaimed recognition and awards, received nourishing rain from Heaven, rich productive grasses, cool flowing water, the addition of healthy young foals and calves, and were able to mend the broken fences and heal the sickness in the herd with the right medicine and a kind word and touch, like the CAA.
Just a short three weeks after the Cowboy Artists of America broke camp and went their separate ways, to paint and sculpt the masterpieces which were inspired by this great historic 6666 ranch, the horses, land, cattle, cowboys, dust, sunsets and friendships strengthened and renewed; our brother, mentor and friend, Bill Owen, master painter and historian of the contemporary American cowboy, left us and rode over the sunset trail to his eternal home. The loss of Owen paintings and personality is beyond description. Words cannot express the personal and professional hole the death of Bill Owen has left in the Cowboy Artists of America organization and the entire western art world. Our love and support go to his wife, Valerie, and we will never forget her or Bill. Our only hope is that Bill is roping and dragging calves with Joe Beeler and the rest of the great ones gone on ahead of us all.
~Merry Nebeker July 2013
~Photo credits R. S. Riddick