On the Trail 9-27-10
The Pony Express rides again at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo., with the addition of a new monumental sculpture on the Center’s grounds.
On Friday, Sept. 24 at 4:30 p.m., along 8th Street in front of its building, the Center unveils Bill Cody – Hard and Fast All the Way, the latest sculpture by Cody-born sculptor Peter M. Fillerup, donated by Bill and Joanne Shiebler and Family of Park City, Utah. A smaller version of the sculpture is Fillerup’s entry into this year’s Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale to be sold at live auction that night.
The statue commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Pony Express, and according to a release from the BBHC, Fillerup calls it “a tribute to Buffalo Bill’s contributions to the Pony Express.” While many historians question whether William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody rode for the overland mail service at all, Cody always honored the riders of the Pony Express as part of his Wild West show, and “no one did more to keep the memory of the Pony Express alive than Buffalo Bill,” Fillerup says.
Orchestrated by the shipping company Russell, Majors and Waddell in 1860, the Pony Express boasted that it could get mail from coast-to-coast in just 10 days by passing the mail from rider to rider across America – far better than the month it took for delivery by boat. The company created relay stations every 10 to 15 miles where riders traded horses and home stations every 75 to 100 miles where new riders took up where the weary riders left off. The Pony Express lasted only 18 months – until telegraph service made it obsolete.
With his son James as a model, Fillerup’s 12- by 16-foot sculpture portrays a young rider in buckskin riding “full tilt” with a mochilla (Spanish for “knapsack”) full of mail tied to his saddle. Editions of the monument are scheduled for installation in Sidney, Neb., and Sandy, Utah, in 2011, and the National Pony Express Association – of which Fillerup is a member – plans to place relief plaques of the sculpture to mark various locations along the Pony Express route.
Pete Fillerup likes to do big sculptures of significant historical figures, and he’s done a big horse and a big rider before in his “Fanning a Twister” that stands near the Arena Auditorium at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. That sculpture, celebrating the great bucking horse Steamboat and the many cowboys who took a seat and did their best to ride, led to my first co-authored book, “Steamboat: Legendary Bucking Horse.”
Pete was already working on “Fanning a Twister” when he contacted my mother-in-law Flossie Moulton, about writing a booklet that would tell the story of the horse and the cowboys. She knew some about him since her grandfather, Guy Holt, had ridden the horse in 1903. A photo of the two of them – Guy Holt and Steamboat – was later used to design the University of Wyoming bucking horse emblem.
After Pete contacted Flossie, one thing led to another and ultimately I co-wrote the book (that quickly grew beyond the scope of a booklet). In our research that despite all of the opinions and arguments in Wyoming, the artist who created the Wyoming symbol that is on the license plate had no particular rider in mind when he did his artwork. (Sorry all you Guy Holt, Stub Farlow, Jake Maring, etc., fans out there.)
Creating “Fanning” was no doubt a dream for Fillerup who was reared in Wyoming and understands the deep-seated empathy folks in the cowboy state have with that particular image. And now he has taken another icon of the West – the Pony Express – and created an equally spectacular sculpture that is being placed in Pete’s hometown. No doubt that feels pretty good to him.
At one time he talked about recreating Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and taking it on the road in Europe. Hey Pete, if you still plan to do that and want to include the Pony Express reenactments as Buffalo Bill did, give me a call, I know a traveling woman from Montana who is ready at the drop of the hat to promote the Pony Express. I won’t tell you her name here, but her initials are Quackgrass Sally.
Learn more about the National Pony Express Association at http://www.XPHomeStation.com, the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale at http://www.BuffaloBillArtShow.com, and stay current with Historical Center news and activities at http://www.BBHC.org.