20½” x 24″ x 10″
Limited Edition of 9 Bronze
Let Curt tell you about this piece!
There is a great book about the trail drive era. It gives a sense of what it was really like. Take the time to read “Ladder of Rivers” by Harry Chrisman. The idea for this piece came from this book. The book is the biography of a man named Print Olive. He was an interesting character. He grew up in Texas, fought for the Confederacy, and on his return began to gather the wild cattle that had come to populate the state during the four years of war. He took them north to ship to eastern markets. One of the important men in Print Olive’s life was a man named Jim Kelly. This is the man who captured my attention as I read the book. He was a son of former slaves that worked for Print Olive’s father. Jim grew up with Print Olive and his brothers. After Print returned from the war, he hired Jim to break horses for the family ranch. And there, began an adventure of a life time.
Jim Kelly was an exceptional hand with a horse, an expert cattleman and loyal to a fault. For innumerable trips north, Olive hired Kelly to wrangle horses, and nighthawk for him. He considered him indispensable. The stories in the book are many and tell of his character. His is an amazing story; I wish I could tell you all of them.
I chose to put him in this particular situation because it speaks to his abilities as a horseman and a cowboy. Many a times he was a part of wild cattle gathers, as the one you see in the piece. He’s roped a big ‘ole wily cow and a yearling heifer has run right into the rope between Kelly and the cow, jerking his saddle sideways. The horse has put on the brakes and is trying to stick with it. Kelly, sideways in the saddle, is making a gallant effort to cope with an exciting and sudden situation.
The saddle in the piece is Jim Kelley’s own saddle that today sits in the Dawson county Historical Society in Lexington, Nebraska. It is a typical early trail saddle, a slick fork with a Mochilla thrown over a saddle tree. A Mochilla is leather covering that goes over the rawhide tree with a slit for the horn and cantle to come through. It is also stitched together down the middle where it has split and been repaired. Don’t you know, that hurt after months of twenty hour days in the saddle!!! It is a rim fire saddle, meaning it has two cinches. Kelly wears the earliest style of shot gun leggin’s; you can see the lacing up the sides. These chaps were very popular during the time as were Kelly’s OK spurs. His horse has a plain bridle and low port grazer bit.
The mass and composition of the piece give it a lot of dynamism and something to see from every angle. I’m sure that at that moment, Jim Kelly would prefer to not be in a position where “Three’s a Crowd”.