The Cowboy and Indian Found Icon Art Project rides on.
Back in 1933 in my home town of Detroit, the Lone Ranger radio series was first broadcasted on WXYZ. Creators George Trendle, Fran Striker and James Jewel formulated the creed for their masked cowboy hero to live by. Little did they know that this cowboy, with his sidekick Native American companion, would become legendary American icons who battled evil to preserve justice in America’s way of life.
They devised a code of beliefs or creed for their cowboy hero. One portion of the creed read, “That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power of to make this a better world.” They also added to the creed, “That to have a friend, a man must be one.” and “That men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number.” The Lone Ranger’s character would be the epitome of everything that was good and pure about Americanism.
It’s been said that the birth of the Lone Ranger resulted from the fictional beginnings of a character born in 1850, John Reid, who was the sole survivor of a group of Texas Rangers who were ambushed by outlaws. John’s brother, Daniel, was among the dead. John was dying when Tonto found him. Tonto nursed him back to health and they became lifelong friends. John Reid made a black mask from the cloth of dead brother’s Daniel’s vest. The black mask became his heroic trademark as he went on to fight crime with Tonto.
There’s another folklore version of the birth of the Lone Ranger and accounts. This version is based on the experiences of a former slave, Bass Reeves, who was now making a living in law enforcement. Prior to becoming a U.S. Marshall, Bass was a fugitive slave who went into hiding in the territory where many of the Native American tribes resided. This gave him an advantage when Bass and a Native American sidekick went into Indian territory to arrest elusive fugitives.
Bass would bring these fugitives back alive. They were usually strapped down tight to the saddle on a chalky colored horse. The fugitives were processed and incarcerated at the federal penitentiary in Detroit. It was here that the inmates would talk about the black man on the chalky colored horse, his Indian associate and how they cleverly located the fugitive and brought him back in alive. Supposedly, a producer at a local radio station in Detroit, eventually heard the stories told by the inmates. The radio producer tweaked the characters and storyline. The rest is history or maybe urban myth.
The latest Lone Ranger film, starring Johnny Depp as Tonto, has a release date of 2013. The Lone Ranger and Tonto’s iconic adventures are still romping through the media and our imaginations long after its television debut in 1949. The Lone Ranger TV series along with cowboy and indian genre films such as The Last Round-up, Reprisal!, Stage Coach, The Comancheros, and The Indian Fighter.
As a kid, who lived through the 1967 Detroit race riots, I watched every cowboy and indian genre TV show and film that was shown. That didn’t even include the books and comics. In a strange way, the conflict between the cowboy and indian icons wasn’t a whole lot different from what was going on with race relations in the Detroit community – a combination of hate and misunderstanding. At least that’s how I perceived it as a kid.
Now as an adult, who is a multi-media artist and medical social worker for hospice, I live a cowgirl lifestyle in rural southeastern Arizona close to the heart of the original Apache and white man historical conflicts similar to what was depicted on the screen and written page while I was growing up. In the summer of 2009, I launched The Cowboy and Indian Icon Found Art Project. I purchased packs of plastic cowboy and indian action figures from the local Dollar Tree. Then, I glued on one cowboy and one indian figure to a rock with a sequenced number and my email address. These art pieces were placed in abandoned abodes, cemetery graves and other locations that had some significance to me.
As of September 2012, one hundred and fifty-seven cowboy and indian icon art pieces have been placed in off beat places in Graham, Greenlee and Cochise counties. Some have been found by folks who emailed me with a photo of the art piece’s location. Out of these folks, some kept the cowboy and indian icon art pieces for themselves and others placed the piece elsewhere. The last time I looked, at least 3 months ago, none were put up for sale on ebay.
Some of the places that I put cowboy and indian icon art pieces have since burned to the ground or been demolished. I’ve seen a few still in their original locations, however, the cowboy and/or indian figure was removed from its rock base. There’s one that I drive by whenever I’m coming or going to town. I see it but apparently no one else does.
This is the third version of this blog. The first two ceased because of blog and advertisement conflicts. As of today, the second version of this ongoing blog can still be read, however, at http://thecowboyandindianiconfoundartproject.blogspot.com/ When visiting the second version of the blog, I would strongly encourage the reader to scroll back and read The Launch before any of the entries. This entry gives folks more background information regarding the history of this art adventure. And adventure it has been. Giddy-up and sit deep in the saddle, folks.
“Hi-Yo, Silver, Away!”