An 1878 book encased in acrylic shows a portrait illustration of an American Bison, another case features bison products such as jerky and socks, and bison toys and furs give children and adult guests a chance to touch and explore. Those are only a few of the many pieces in the exhibit, Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild., open through July 29.
Working together, dedicated board members and staff succeeded in opening the exhibit three days ahead of the official May 24 date.
“It is our largest exhibit to have here at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center,” said Executive Director Stacy Cramer Moore. “It comes from the Kaufmann Museum in Kansas and the National Buffalo Foundation.”
Did You Know?
The American bison has been here for at least 500,000 years. The largest, Bison latifrons, an Ice Age giant, stood more than 8 feet tall, with horns that spanned more than 7 feet.
Exhibit Bison dominates the large multipurpose room and spills out into many areas of the museum. It really becomes an attraction on its own merit. Additionally, the classroom off the main lobby has bison-related items curated from the Heritage Center’s collection for guests to explore. Art in the Garis Gallery of the American West and on loan from Oklahoma artists can be found throughout the gallery and the museum.
“This is such a wonderful exhibit, with so many elements. It really portrays just how important bison were to the indigenous people of our area,” Moore said. And while many Oklahoma residents know where to see bison in person, they may not realize its important role from early history to modern day herd management.
Developed in 2009 as part of a National Endowment for the Humanities program, “NEH on the Road” the exhibit was based on a C.M. Russell Museum’s permanent exhibition.
For centuries, bison was a source of food, shelter, clothing, and tools. Indigenous people resourced every part of a bison leaving nothing to waste. They didn’t need to rely on government assistance. Unfortunately, Euroamericans and Europeans saw the animal as an unlimited natural resource and harvested them without such regard.
Imagine, in 1909, the bison was worth around $4,000 a head. By the late 1800s, the bison population was reduced from tens of millions to only a few hundred.
It wasn’t just because of hunting and over sourcing.
Many natural factors also contributed to the demise of the American Bison. Elements of the exhibit reveal those pioneers who were concerned with the extinction of the American Bison, and it offers shocking numbers of the decline, through the use of interactive displays.
Today, that pioneering spirit that William Hornaday and others had, continues as bison ranchers and groups like the National Buffalo Foundation work together, with a successful repopulation in states like Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Kansas South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. Herd management goes beyond just breeding. It involves making sure the bison have natural grazing ranges, with Blue grama, buffalograss, and sources of water.
The stream was six feet wide and about six inches deep, with swiftly running water.
A buffalo herd came to the creek above our camp and drank it dry. For four hours, the creek bed was dry until the great herd passed on.”
– Bison Hunter Jeff Durfey, 1911, recalling earlier days.
Award winning basket weaver to demonstrate at Duncan’s original National Day of the Cowboy Celebration
After 35 years of teaching sign language to deaf students in the public school system, Pauline Asbury knew two things – one was she needed something to fulfill her time after retirement, and two, it had to be something she could be good at and was passionate about doing.
An invitation from her cousin to attend a basket weaving class at the Kingfisher Museum was just what she needed. That was in 1999. She made a Cherokee double-walled basket.
Asbury will be one of the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center’s featured demonstrators on its National Day of the Cowboy Celebration, Saturday, July 27. She will be doing basket weaving demonstrations and visiting with guests on the free admission day.
“The rest is history. I fell in love with basket weaving and started making and giving as gifts. One can only give friends so many baskets, so I started doing craft shows and built a small business so that when I retired I would have something to keep me busy. I watched too many teachers retire and having nothing to do, go back to substitute teach.”
Using her hands to teach deaf students all those years increased her dexterity, allowing her to quickly complete a task.
“Habasketry came about because I am a very fast weaver – having taught deaf children my fingers were use to moving. When I joined the Oklahoma Basket Weavers Guild there was a gentleman that had been weaving for years. When I finished my basket well before him, he made the comment, ‘It’s the quality not the quantity that counts.”
She didn’t let that comment bother her.
“A Yankee doesn’t get mad, we get even. I won Best in Show at the Oklahoma City State Fair and then the Tulsa State Fair and that’s when I decided that my maiden name is Hogan and married is Asbury so I could be Habasketry.”
Basket weaving can be traced back to the early Egyptians.
“No matter who you are or where you came from, your ancestors made baskets,” said Asbury. She has taken what many find to be a hobby and has woven it into a successful business.
Asbury said the idea of our ancestors using baskets is simple. “They had to have something to store and carry their stuff.” And that principle holds true today in 2019.
“That being said, any basket you buy that is made with natural materials has been hand woven somewhere. It’s just not cost effective to weave by machines with worm holes, growth rings, etc. They would spend more time threading the machine than the machine weaving.”
Asbury credits her mother for her interest in handcrafts. When she was about 10 years old, she recalls her mother discovered plaster craft.
“She started out making and teaching that craft while raising 12 children to adulthood (one having died in infancy) and helping my Dad run a farm and selling produce in the farm stand,” Asbury said. Her mother also dabbled in other crafts, including tole painting, from the basement in their home in New Hampshire.
“That is where the seed was planted for me. I tried several different activities including pottery but nothing scratched the itch completely.”
She’s learned quite a bit about the craft of weaving.
“There is no right or wrong way to weave, it’s whatever works for you. This is most definitely my thoughts as a former Special Education teacher. I will show students the way I do it, but if you can achieve the same results using a different approach, by all means go for it.”
Some might think basket weaving boring, but for those who really are passionate about the historic craft, humor happens.
“You are the boss of your basket. You tell it what you want, you show it, and then you repeat this as much as needed. It’s like a child you are constantly talking to him/her and showing him/her. My female students have heard me say “If the basket is being nice to you and weaving the way you want it is a SHE, if it is fighting you, it is a HE.”
Basket weaving is also therapeutic. “You concentrate on the weave and how the materials react in your hands. You forget about the rest of the world and recharge the batteries.”
Asbury has tried many patterns and created many patterns.
“There is not much that you can do to one of my baskets patterns that I haven’t already done. The year after I retired from public school teaching, I decided if there was ever going to be a year that was it and I made 365 different baskets. That didn’t count my duplicates.”
She was selling year-round at Saturday markets and in the summer also during the week. She estimates she created more than 500 baskets in that year.
“I learned so much about the differences in the reed and how it reacts in different situations.”
Asbury doesn’t mind using processed materials to create her baskets.
“I was raised on a farm and I don’t like being “chiggers bait.” I admire anyone that can go out and harvest their own materials. It’s just not for me. God gives us all different talents. Life would not go on if we all had the same talent. We would starve if everyone was a weaver.”
And she realizes not everyone loves baskets, admitting she’s given some people a basket as a gift. “They will not receive another.”
For those who do enjoy basket weaving or like to own handcrafted baskets, visit the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center on Duncan’s original National Day of the Cowboy Celebration, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 27, to meet Asbury. She will demonstrate and visit, and have baskets available to purchase. There is no admission charge to the museum on National Day of the Cowboy.
Imagine living in a dugout under a cottonwood tree – for 10 years! Larkin Patrick Williams (1851-1930) did that in the 1860s and his sole job was to see that the Waggoner cattle didn’t slip into the herds of cattle crossing the Red River during the Chisholm Trail drives. Lark, a Texan, worked for the Waggoner Ranch at Doan’s Crossing, according to Doyle W. Williams of Fort Worth, Texas, who shared this story with us in 2015.
Doyle saw our request for the Real Cowboys exhibit in the Daily Ardmoreite. He had already published the story in a family history book, “My Father’s Branch: The Lineage, Lore, and Life of Larkin Eugene Williams.” Larkin was Doyle William’s great uncle on his father’s side.
“Lark” as he was called, was born in Cherokee County, Texas, and moved with his family to Coleman County, Texas in 1864. As a young man, he went to work for Dan Waggoner on his ranch near Vernon, Texas.
With the growth of that ranch, Waggoner stationed Lark at Doan’s Crossing, which was a popular place to move cattle herds across the Red River on the way to Kansas.
Williams said, “Lark’s job was to ensure that the many herds crossing the Red River did not accidentally or ‘otherwise’ pick up any of Waggoner’s cattle along the way. If Lark found Waggoner’s cattle in a herd, he separated them out so others could return them to the ranch.
It was not a job without risks.
The drovers bringing their herds up the Trail did not always want Lark going through their herds. He is reported to have had many near shooting scrapes in the execution of his job,” Williams wrote us.
Williams said that Lark had a ‘working’ relationship with the Indians on the north side of the Red River. An uncle, Arthur Williams (1889-1969) shared with Doyle a story about Lark dealing with the drovers that didn’t want their herds inspected.
Arthur’s story was that Lark would ride out just across the Salt Fork where it dumps into the Red River, and wave to the Native Americans when drovers balked at the inspections. “And brother, they’d cross that river and those fellows would let him look through that herd riqht quick.”
Global journalist Kristi Eaton to visit Duncan’s original National Day of the Cowboy Celebration in July
Veteran journalist and published author Kristi Eaton has cartwheeled in China, stared down bison in South Dakota and was lost in Samoa. That’s how she grabs your attention – with tidbits of adventure.
Described by international organizations as a “global journalist” Eaton will be the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center’s featured author at Duncan’s original National Day of the Cowboy Celebration on Saturday, July 27.
Kristi Eaton with her book, The Main Streets of Oklahoma” will be at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, Saturday, July 27, 2019.
Eaton’s first book, “The Main Streets of Oklahoma: Okie Stories from every County” published in 2014, was only possible by visiting at least one Main Street in each county in the state – including Duncan.
The idea resulted from her childhood – of weekend trips out of Tulsa with her parents to a small community in Kansas.
“I had an amazing time learning about Oklahoma through its Main Streets. I criss-crossed the state visiting every corner and learning about the state’s unique history. I tried to focus on the people, places and events that showcased the unique way Main Street shapes a community.”
Eaton’s introduction in the book should make anyone who has spent time in Oklahoma smile.
“In Oklahoma, Main Street is also where people can see hulking horse statues pieced together from leftover metal parts or memorabilia from the movie Twister or watch an old-time bank robbery come to life.”
But, these days, the Tulsa Artist Fellowship writer is targeting stories in Oklahoma that draw attention to the incarceration of women, and men – and the impact that has on their families. She writes about programs like Girl Scouts Beyond Bars and social enterprise and as of May 2019, has eight published stories in The Tulsa Voice.
Eaton’s Oklahoma “Main Streets” adventure could have been the impetus for her current writing projects. “Yes, writing about the people in Oklahoma – after being away for a little bit – helped me gain insight into the state.”
“I know we’ve held the distinction for incarcerating more women than any other state for a while, and I wanted to share the women’s stories so they aren’t forgotten.”
Eaton also knows firsthand the importance of shaping a writer. She started writing when she was 7, and claims her first books published were picture books about her puppies. In 2018, she wrote about the looming teacher walkout, interviewing teachers and the struggles they faced. She posted on her Instagram, “I’ve been around the teaching profession my entire life. At one point I thought I wanted to become one. Talking to teachers about the struggles they currently face was eye opening.” That article was published in Rewire.News.
She’s also written for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Silcon66; and she’s an editor for Alive and Thrive, an initiative to promote positive nutrition practices around the world.
“I’m passionate about the issues facing women and girls, global poverty, social entrepreneurship and historic preservation,” she said.
The Chisholm Trail Heritage Center’s National Day of the Cowboy Celebration is in its 9thyear and is one of its most popular events. Many activities are planned to interest everyone – from families to single folks, cowboys, music lovers, art lovers, senior citizens and even international visitors.
Having published authors available at the Heritage Center has been one of the popular activities as guests get a chance to actually visit with the author, whereas at book signings in big stores, that often doesn’t happen. In the past, authors have included children’s writers such as Una Belle Townsend, cowboy cartoonists, rodeo stars like Fred Whitfield, and more. Having a writer of Eaton’s caliber join this year’s National Day of the Cowboy Celebration is exciting and we believe she will have some great stories to share with guests.
We hope you’ll visit us on National Day of the Cowboy and meet Kristi. She’ll share her stories of those wild adventures and we can’t wait to hear more about her stare-down with a bison!
Be sure to mark July 27 on your calendar. The entire day is planned so that no matter what time you visit, you’ll get to experience the National Day of the Cowboy Celebration. Doors open at 10 a.m. and close at 5.
Each week leading up to Duncan’s original National Day of the Cowboy Celebration we will highlight our special guests and activities.
Next week – Pauline Asbury, basket weaver and owner of Habasketry out of Oklahoma City.
Author George Rhoades newest book, “Musings from Cowboy Country” is more than just a poetry book
George Rhoades has been writing professionally for a long time – yes, a really long time. With “Musings from Cowboy Country” – his third poetry book, Rhoades’ pens reflections that are more than just random thoughts.
Reading his newest book is like peeking into the journal of someone who has more stories to share than there are days to write them. Imbued with humor, some serious contemplations, Rhoades, already a seasoned award-winning writer, continues to produce work worth mentioning.
A favorite is “May of 1945” and shares the story, with great details, of a family memory.
Here’s an excerpt:
“I found the old newspaper
In the jar, crumbling,
Where my Dad left it
In May of 1945.
I was 9 years old then,
We lived on a ranch
In southern Oklahoma
Back in May of 1945.”
There’s 14 more stanzas.
Rhoades’ poem “May of 1945” is a solemn reminder of the fact that no matter who you are, cowboy or not, or where you live – certain events in history impact you.
Not everyone knows how to tell their story, but thanks to Rhoades and his writing, the stories live to tell us.
Rhoades is author of Along the Chisholm Trail and Other Poems, and After the Chisholm. He is winner of the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award, Will Rogers Gold and Bronze Medallions, and finalist in contests like the Western Music Association Poetry Book. He was born on a farm in Cotton County, Oklahoma. Work titles over the years: rancher, reporter/editor for UPI and
Oklahoma newspapers; and college journalism professor. He says this may be his last book.
Autographed copies of
Musings from Cowboy Country, and his other two books are all available in our gift shop.
‘Real Cowboys’ exhibit retires
May 17, 2019
In January 2015, the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center generated a call requesting stories and photos of “Real Cowboys on the Chisholm Trail.” That exhibit was scheduled to close at the end of 2018, but many visitors enjoyed reading the stories and looking at the photos. We finally retired the exhibit May 16, 2019, but, those stories and images will be permanently exhibited through our blog here on the website.
An advantage is we can now share the full stories that were edited for the physical display because of space. Edited versions of the stories and photos were displayed on the wall outside the Campfire Theater.
Real Cowboys came about when Don Brower visited us to share his story about his father, Bobby Wayne Brower of Duncan, who died in 2014. Don had an old undated black and white picture of his dad calf roping at a small rodeo. Don wasn’t sure but thought it was probably from the 1950s. His dad was born in Duncan in 1930 and other than service time in the United States Navy, he had lived in Duncan his entire life.
“He worked on a lot of the area ranches and while he was never a champion in the rodeo arena, he loved being a cowboy,” Don said. “He loved bull riding, bareback and calf roping.”
Executive Director Stacy Cramer Moore listened to Don’s story which sparked an idea to create an exhibit for guests to see as the Chisholm Trail 150th anniversary was approaching in 2017. She said at that time, “We are looking for people who are doing the job, living that life or lived that life. These people probably didn’t win buckles at a rodeo because they are out there working, living the cowboy life.”
Expanding upon the idea of honoring those men and women, press releases were issued to newspapers throughout Oklahoma and to those along the Chisholm Trail from Texas to Kansas. A few reporters visited to help spread the word. Eventually the stories and photos came in – most were hand delivered by individuals who had relatives that had indeed, worked along the Chisholm Trail. A few came in by email. Enough stories were generated that the exhibit was on the wall weeks ahead of its deadline – the National Day of Cowboy celebration in July 2015. More images and stories were added over the next two years.
We hope you enjoy these stories and others as we make use of this blog. Please share the blog with others and help us as we continue our mission: “To celebrate and perpetuate the history, art and culture of the Chisholm Trail, the American Cowboy and the American West.”
We will share the stories of Mike Smith, Claude Sparks, John Carlos Fisher, John Maurice Fisher, Henry B. Tussy, Larkin P. Williams, Joe Dexter Diffie and others, including Bob Klemme, in the coming weeks.
April 2019 – We are seeking regional artists to continue this special spotlight.
Local photographer shares visual story of cowboy poet Jay Snider
DUNCAN, Okla. – Rancher and cowboy poet Jay Snider is featured in a trio of photographs on display until April 30 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in its Garis Gallery of the American West, in Duncan. The spotlight display opened in early March.
Images are by Stephens County photographer, Dee Dodson, who has embraced the cowboy way of life, capturing the personalities of ranchers, cowboy poets and rodeo competitors of all ages.
“Born and raised in Oklahoma, normal everyday life never interested me. I was always drawn to the cowboy way of life and all the work and pride it entails,” Dodson said.
Whether she’s shooting rodeo action, or getting to know her subjects by photographing them in their daily chores or activities, Dodson said she finds that all of her subjects possess strength, courage, determination and respect. Photographing Snider was a highlight, she said, adding that the Sniders have been extremely encouraging to her as she pursues her dreams. In addition to the images of Snider, Dodson also has three images in the lobby on display.
“Jay is a true definition of a cowboy, whom I admire very much. From the crease in his hat, to the spurs that jingle at his feet, his kind words and warm smile and loving heart epitomize the cowboy at its truest form.”
Featured with the photographs are copies of some of Snider’s poems. Snider and his wife, Sandi, are long-time members of the Heritage Center, which opened in 1998. Snider is a nationally known award-winning poet and performer. Born into a ranching and rodeo family, it’s Jay’s legacy. His dad was considered a top roper and rodeo cowboy, and his granddad was a brand inspector for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.
With his family legacy and his own experiences, Snider has plenty to write and began crafting cowboy poetry in 1996. He preserves the “old-timer” stories and has gained a fan following – even on popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Six images range in size from 14×18 to 27×40 inches. Those of Snider are “Tools of the Trade; A Cowboy’s Tale; Cowboy Legacy; Another three images are on display in the lobby, featuring Katy Simpkins of Texas. They are, Cowgirl, The Road Less Traveled, and The Ride. They are available to purchase through the Heritage Center, until April 30. Please call to inquire. Proceeds benefit the working artist.
Dodson’s work has been published in The Circle Ranch, an online magazine that covers women in agriculture. The regional artist spotlight at the Heritage Center is the first fine art feature solo show for Dodson. The regional artist spotlight is not a traditional exhibition, but a way to showcase for a limited duration, one to three pieces of fine art in the Garis Gallery of the American West.
This spotlight feature began in January 2017 and is designed to provide a professional presentation to working fine art artists and the work is available to purchase to help support the artist.
The Heritage Center is seeking area artists whose work must meet the criteria of its mission, “To celebrate and perpetuate the history, art and culture of the Chisholm Trail, the American Cowboy and the American West.” This also includes Native American art and traditional landscape work, with emphasis on Oklahoma and north Texas subject matter. Artists who are interested in being showcased or considered for a full-exhibition, should send high quality images of the artwork to email@example.com along with artist biography for consideration.
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center is open daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 1-5 p.m. Sunday. 1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway, Duncan, OK, 580-252-6692 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Group tours always welcome. It is an official “Best Heritage Attraction,” an Oklahoma Outstanding Attraction, a National Day of the Cowboy ‘Cowboy Keeper” and a Top Ten Western Museum – True West Magazine. Chisholm Trail Heritage Center Association is a 501c3 non-profit. www.onthechisholmtrail.com