Bob Coronato's Art
"Where does a cowboy go,... when there's no more range left to ride"
Bob Coronato was an invited Master Artist at 2009's 12th Annual Autry National Center Masters of the American West Fine Art Exhibition and Sale at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles. Below are two of the paintings included in the show, and his commentaries:
The area is southeast Montana and the northeast Wyoming border. The area is one of my favorite places because its wide open, rough and windy. It is relatively unchanged since the days of the old west and great cowboy country. The grass is good, the country goes from plains to badlands and the water is alkali in many places. If your searching for the "Old West" its still here! There is only a one room school house and a Saloon in hundreds of square miles of open country. There is just a handful of rugged people in this last holdout of frontier.
I wound up on a brand wagon crew, working for a couple weeks going from ranch to ranch gathering and branding in the spring of 2000. We had a 1880's chuck wagon, 1880's bed roll wagon, 10 or so hands and a remuda of horses. Gathering 10,000 acres at a time branding 300 cows a day for about two weeks. We covered two states and three counties. Camp moved every few days, from open plains to hill country to badlands. It was a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse into life on the trail and old time cow work.
I was driving to the Cowboy Back Bar in Belle Fourche South Dakota about 100 miles away on a round about way to the hospital. I was driving one of the hands who broke his arm to get "fixed." We had a moment to reflect on the brand crew and how few there are that still use a brand wagon. there is only a handful left in the whole country. The wagon was for economy, not for show. They had it figured that they saved 900 bucks a day by not tearing up everyone's outfits and tires and gas, by just using a crew that camped and moved camp from ranch to ranch. Casy said as we drove he was glad I got a chance to be part of the crew and see it, because he had a feeling it was going to be the last time. As the hands get old and the countryside changes, every year it gets less likely that a crew like this will be around. They said they were glad I was there to document it. As ranches get sold off, or the old timers just get to old to work the hard country, there are less and less that keep up the tradition. Its hard to keep the country open as the ranches one by one disappear. Lately, it seems it has been disappearing fast, and these folks up here realize it.
In the painting I put Jim Wilson, a cowboy's cowboy in the middle, a top hand Judd to his right and Cleve to the left. In both age and style of dress they represent a few generations of cowboy from this north country. Cleves rig has long cinches on both sides, fairly common in this rough north range. A tradition that stems from the Texas trail days, but is all but forgotten in other areas.
As we were gathering cattle just south of the Montana badlands, we sat up on a hillside overlooking the country. Sitting there with the wind whistling threw the mane of your horse, looking out over open frontier and getting the last bit of warmth from the sun before a storm rolls in. It is a feeling that imbeds cowboy into your blood. In the painting I used the storm looming over the country side coming from behind to heighten the uneasy feeling of the cowboys from this turn of the century. Year after year the open country gets smaller and as the country changes, there is a longing for the days of old. In this part of the world where nothing changed for nearly 100 years, the days of old, was just about a few years ago. I feel lucky to have been able to see it and share in the tradition the way it was meant to be,... wild, wide open and free.
© 2008, Bob Coronato, All rights reserved
Rodeo fans will probably recognize the horse, which is often seen on television in the ProRodeo, but I was fortunate enough to see this horse buck many times, from his very beginnings. I first saw the small blood bay
known as Blood Brother at a ranch rodeo on the border of Wyoming and Southeast Montana. I would drive 45 miles down the road from Hulett, Wyoming (pop 429) to Alzada, Montana (pop 15) and then 26 miles down a dirt road to a homemade arena, in an area known as "Ridge." The arena was on the Jim Wilson's ranch and the Wilson's would host the ranch rodeo every year. After ten years it was disbanded because of insurance, and "they dam near killed someone every year."
Max Burch supplied the rough stock, and his horses were locally known as some really rank outlaws. Max Burch's P.K. Ranch has hundreds of horses on his large ranch covering several hundred thousand acres. Max would gather up his four year olds that had never been ridden before, bring them to Ridge, and people would pull their trucks into a circle and have a rodeo. The horses had barley ever seen people before, being mostly wild, and the bronc
match became one of the wildest rodeos most had ever seen. Every June each year they bucked out over 50 head; the only hard part was finding enough cowboys to ride them all. It was like the early days of the West, but took place in the 1990s. There was not a house to the horizon in any direction, and with a cold wind blowing over the plains, wild horses and mostly local cowboys, it was like going back in time, to the earliest days of rodeo. The
horses that bucked wild became rodeo stock and those that did not buck as hard became ranch horses, or were just set back out on the range. Blood Brother's first qualified ride was made in that Ridge dirt, and he has gone
on to become a modern legend.
Blood Brother has a reputation among the cowboys as being a very rank and hard to ride horse. He's a horse feared and coveted by saddle bronc riders. They know he can buck them off without even knowing what they did wrong. They also know if they get tapped off on the horse, he will carry them to the pay window for first place money. The horse has been among the top three saddle bronc horses in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association several times. He's finished second in the Saddle Bronc of the Year voting twice, (2002-03) and has made eight trips to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The 2008 Saddle Bronc of the Year was a tie between Cool Alley of Kesler Championship Rodeo and Blood Brother of Burch Rodeo Company. But for all the great rides Blood Brother has carried bronc riders to, he's dashed as many dreams. Scott Johnston bucked off of the great horse in 2000 for the world title. Nonetheless, if he's ridden, it's usually a made-for-TV event. In the ninth round of the 2001 NFR, Billy Etbauer rode him for 89 points and the round win. Some remember that as Blood Brother's signature trip.
He carried Jesse Bail to a 90-point ride that earned him the crystal cup at the 2003 Pace Picante ProRodeo Tour Finale. Bail had his hat screwed down so tight for the ride that afterward, when he heard his score and pulled his
hat off to toss it in celebration, the sweatband stayed on his head while the rest of the hat came off. In 2006, Dan Mortensen won Cheyenne Frontier Days on Blood Brother after an 83-point score. "I have a lot of respect for
Blood Brother" said six-time World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider Dan Mortensen of Billings, Montana, "Blood Brother's a really good little horse, and there is really no timing with him because he's doing something different with every jump." The 2006 World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider Chad Ferley said. "He's dang sure earned his keep, he's one of the top three broncs there is."
Blood Brother is still owned by Burch Rodeo Company and as a 14-year-old, he has been hauled to every event Matt and Chad Burch had the contract for since they began in the 1990s. Matt Burch is proud of his fourteen-year-old gelding. This year is the horse's seventh trip to the national finals. "That horse has been an all-star all his life, and that kind of horse doesn't come around every corner. They come around once in a lifetime." After the 2008 rodeo season, he was retired to the Burch ranch near Rosette, Wyoming.
Now that he's beginning to show signs of aging, the brothers want to retire him while he can enjoy the remainder of his years as the herd elder on the ranch. "He's always been an outstanding horse, and we want him to go home
and enjoy some big Wyoming pastures. He doesn't owe us anything."
© 2008, Bob Coronato, All rights reserved
Bob Coronato often collaborates with with Maverick of www.maverickdesigngroup.com on rodeo and gathering posters. Below are two 2008 collaborations, the poster for 20th Annual Cowboy Christmas Poets Gathering in Wickenburg, Arizona and the poster for the 60th anniversary of Wickenburg's Gold Rush Days:
See other works, including "The Horse Wrangler Gather’d The Morning Mounts:
'One That Had’n Lived The Life ... Couldn’t Paint a Picture ...To Please The Eye, of One That Had!'"
The Greenwich Workshop
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© 2008, Bob Coronato, courtesy The Greenwich Workshop, Inc. www.greenwichworkshop.com
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