Life And Times Of Men Of Vision…
“Empty Saddles: Reflections of the West"
BHSS Foundation Original Art Sells At Auction for $5,200
In the fifth series of the Black Hills Stock Show Foundation’s Great American Cowboy, comes the stories of five men who left their place in the world better (and more interesting) than when they found it. “Empty Saddles: Reflections of the West” is a lasting tribute to the cowboy way of life, where a handshake meant your word and there was no job too small to be done.
The original commemorative art and limited edition prints, created by nationally known western artist Mick Harrison of Belle Fourche, SD, is presented by the Black Hills Stock Show Foundation each year as part of its mission to preserve the legacy of the those who in many ways, represent the cowboy way of life. Proceeds of the sale at auction of the series helps fund the Foundation’s scholarship programs and also reflects its mission of investing in the future.
The original 33” x 17 ½” gouache painting, (sponsored in part by Farm Credit Services of America) that sold for $5,200 at auction to Dave Strain, Rapid City, features contemporary visionaries who shaped communities, industry and the West.
“The painting shows the subjects with the sun going down and without their own reflections in the water, since they are all deceased,” explains Harrison. “Their reflections are instead the words, ‘The Great American Cowboy’, in honor of their contribution to the cowboy way of life. The horse with reverse boots symbolizes their passing but not forgotten accomplishments. Its reflection affirms that those accomplishments were real and appreciated.”
These ‘sons of the west’ detailed on canvas, include Korczak Ziolkowski, Crazy Horse; Everett “Ep” Howe, Rapid City; Jim Baldridge, North Platte, Neb.; Bill Hustead, Wall, SD; and Bruce Walker, Sturgis.
The No. 1 Limited Edition Print (of 25 offered for sale) sold for $1,500 to
Bob, Becky and Jake Tiedeman, North Platte, Neb. Another unframed collector’s
print sold for $700 to West River Electric, Rapid City.
…storyteller in stone
“If my dog and kids don’t like you, I don’t trust you.”
Long time friend of the sculptor, Dick Meyer, Sturgis, smiles remembering that comment as an example of the colorful speech Korczak Ziolkowski would use.
Speech befitting a colorful character, which he was – a carver of mountains – with a sense of humor.
Although he became most famous as a mountain carver, he was a noted studio sculptor before he came West. Crazy Horse represents only the second half of his life, and he would say it was the collective experience of the difficult first half of his life which prepared him for Crazy Horse.
Born in Boston of Polish descent, Korczak was orphaned at age one and grew up in a series of foster homes. Although he never took a lesson in art or sculpture, he studied the masters and began creating plaster and clay studies.
Establishing a successful studio career, he would later volunteer for service
in WWII. A pearl of wisdom from that time, led him to comment, “I rode a
motorcycle in the army. When it rained, I went under a bridge. There is always a
bridge when you need it. That’s life as I know it.”
Korczak would say, “This mountain comes first, my family second. May sound odd, but that’s the way things are.” His family, following detailed plans left by a man of legends, dreams and vision, continue to honor that selfless legacy and what he often referred to as, “the beauty and justice of the Crazy Horse dream.”
…home is where the heart is
“Everett, you haven’t earned this diploma. But it may help you down the line.” That’s what the Superintendent of Schools told a young “Ep” Howe who had dropped out to help his mother and family get through the Great Depression, the drought and the final blow of the death of his father.
It did. Help, that is. But it was a hard beginning for this son of South Dakota, born at McLaughlin on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Lean times didn’t stop his parents from instilling the philosophies that would shape his life where he would go on to become a leader in industry and in community and state policy developments.
As a young man, he’d been working right along but after graduation, he signed on with the Civilian Conservation Corps. That led to an application with the National Park Service, eventually qualifying for a park ranger position. A decision to begin a construction and contracting company in partnership with others, Ep’s business concerns grew to encompass a 250 mile radius around Rapid City where he and his family called home.
But not before he was called to duty as a US Marine – an experience that would stay with him throughout his lifetime and be reflected in his support of the South Dakota Army National Guard and service on various military affairs committees. He traveled with military units throughout the world, bringing to the public the story of the U.S. military – its goals, its people, its capabilities and its needs.
His daughter, Mary Beth Johnson of Hill City remembers the countless hours, “actually, the years Dad gave to helping rebuild Rapid City after the 1972 flood. I can still see him, with card tables set up in the first weeks and months after the devastating tragedy, sorting, sorting, sorting, making phone calls, organizing, listening and helping where he could.”
“Ep” would come to know a life that would allow him to travel and be anywhere he wanted to be. “But his favorite place was always here,” recalls Mary Beth. “ ‘Home is where the heart is…’ “that’s what he’d say about South Dakota. That’s how he lived. That’s what he believed.”
…a spice for life
Even among folks who have never gathered around a sale ring, Jim Baldrige’s name and face became familiar. In food stores across the country, his infectious grin beckoned grocery shoppers to the spice and condiment displays.
His was a colorful and multi-dimensional personality who at one time or another had careers in writing, ranching, auctioneering, catering and producer and marketer of a food product.
Born on a farm in Sullivan County, Mo., he would grow up to do a stint at the University of Missouri at Columbia. When the money got tight, he began working a number of jobs in the livestock industry where he began to polish his chant. In 1963, his work would land him in North Platte, Neb., where he established The Baldridge Place. With a sale management business, he concentrated on marketing purebred cattle. His own ranching endeavors were varied but Angus seedstock production was the primary focus. A love of hosting informal get-togethers and cooking led to catering requests and ultimately entry into food marketing. In earlier interviews, he would say, “Mom used to make me help her cook. She’d put in a dab of this, a shake of that, a handful of something else. That’s where Secret Seasoning got its start.”
True to form, he was going full force right up to the time of his passing. The cattleman, auctioneer and entrepreneur could be seen visiting the Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack every time his horse Why Wally raced, his Secret Seasoning was selling better than ever at supermarkets and he was busy breeding Angus cattle, the career by which Baldridge defined himself.
In short, says daughter Becky Tiedeman, he was “up to more of the same. Dad never did anything half-heartedly,” which may have come from his upbringing. In past interviews, he would share such insights as, “I was one of five kids from a poor family in north Missouri. I’m Irish and a fighter by nature, but I know what it means to be beaten down.”
He would point to key friendships in his life as the reason why he didn’t stay down. And extended the same loyalty and devotion to others.
…the prairie huckster
When four-year-old Bill Hustead asked his mother Dorothy why they had to ride in a drafty cattle truck, bumping along the barren South Dakota prairie on their way to Wall, SD, having left the comforts of home in Sioux Falls, she promptly replied, “Because your father is crazy, that’s why.”
So began the journey for Hustead who while following his father’s footsteps in the small town drug store business, would make his own path in envisioning something more than a pharmacy. In time, there would be an emporium known around the world, covering almost an entire city block, housing everything from western art collections to a church, to five dining rooms and a mall. Not to mention free ice water.
It’s Hustead who would call himself, “somewhat of a huckster. If I weren’t, I wouldn’t be much of an asset to the Wall Drug Store.”
Growing up in an era of poverty in the middle of the Great Depression, the need for tenacity and perseverance came early to him in a time when things like shoes were in short supply. By the time he joined the US Navy in 1944, his plans didn’t include ever returning to Wall Drug. He recalled with some embarrassment all the signs his Dad would put up and the hawking of wares, along with endless teasing from other kids. A future with Wall Drug would not be for him. But a call from his mother asking him to come back and help, changed that mindset.
Over the years, his ties to the South Dakota prairie only deepened and when he could get away from the store, he’d be on a ranch somewhere, helping work cattle. His image on the Foundation’s original art is taken from a picture one of his favorite horses, “Tex”.
Public service would also become important to Hustead and along with local community involvement, he served as a state House Representative and Senator. Asked to share his life philosophy, he answered, “To be an American businessman or woman is a very noble calling. Wall Drug helps keep alive one of the most wholesome institutions in America today – the rural, South Dakota small town.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
….a cowboy banker
A cowboy’s hat is his signature piece. One look at the sweat-stained, grey felt hat with a single veteran’s poppy in the band and you’d recognize Bruce Walker. Born and raised in the Rapid City / Sturgis, SD area, he would go on to earn a degree in animal husbandry from Colorado State University, join his Dad in the banking business and serve in the Korean conflict.
But it’s the country, the prairies and foothills, he would always return to.
And come to be known as the cowboy’s banker – that rare individual who lived it, worked it, sweated out the hard times and made good on the better ones – right along side of customers and friends. He was as adept at handling a hot iron as he was at punching numbers. In his 40 year career in banking, he is credited with giving many their first start in business and securing the livelihoods of many ranchers throughout Meade County.
“There wasn’t a job he wouldn’t do,” recalls youngest of three daughters Janeen Norstegaard, Sturgis. “You might see him clearing the sidewalk in front of the bank, or docking sheep or hauling manure – that was my Dad. “For him, the benchmark of living and doing business was a strong work ethic, integrity and determination.”
From behind the desk to behind a set of reins on the ranch north of Union Center, SD, those attributes could be seen first hand in his commitment to family and in his service to the community where he was involved for many years in numerous civic and church activities. Voters would put him in office for three, two-year terms in the South Dakota State Senate, where he served on the Appropriations Committee.
The depth of a person is measured not by words, but by their actions. After a lifetime of supporting family, community and business, in later years he would continue in helping others; home bound folks unable to get out for a meal could always count on Bruce Walker. Others who needed help keeping a yard up or the snow shoveled, knew a helping hand from him. Still others who simply needed some company, could count on the quick-wit and eloquent stories he would entertain them with.
But they weren’t ‘stories’ at all. They were the remembrances of one man’s life -that touched in so many ways - the lives of others.
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