Many plains Indian tribes would depict the history of their tribe, as well as significant moments in their own life, on their tepee walls. Sometimes in charcoal ,and sometimes in paint, the scenes presented, and attempted to preserve, their history.
This custom was something that caught my attention and challenged my imagination. There were many historical moments and people that were important to me. Sometimes these people, or events, had come to mean something to me because of book reports that I had done in school, or perhaps it was an interest that I shared with my father. In some instances I wanted to depict episodes in history because I felt they were pivotal moments, either in the history of the American West or the history of the Jewish people.
Although I knew that I wanted these people and places to be part of my ranch, it was just a vague and unfocused thought.. In 2008 I was having dinner at the Ranch of Hope where we have had many interesting discussions over the years. We ended up talking about history and I mentioned Indians, tepee walls, and the need to have a more imaginative and expressive gate at the ranch entrance. Hope Taylor happens to be a very good listener, and didn’t say too much during our conversation. She was however, able to see how the project might come together, and provided the key to the entire project by mentioning the conversation to Lorna Perkins.
Lorna is a farmer,lives in Iowa,and is a very talented artist. Also a very spiritual person. Shortly after the dinner at the Ranch of Hope she called me ,and eventually at her own expense, flew to Colorado. We spent a week together talking history, ranch goals, etc. As days went on, ideas began to coalesce about the gate, murals, subjects, materials; and budget. Eventually Lorna would come to Jacksonville and spend another week discussing elements of the project, and refining her drawings, and design.
Ultimately, we had to narrow down the subjects and stories to be portrayed. If we had kept talking and drawing the murals could’ve been 50 yards long. As it is, I’m quite happy with 9 feet of murals on each side of the columns. Lorna selected the sculptor for the murals, as well as the gate designer, and builder. Her husband,Tom, was a huge help, and did much of the on-site preparation work and foundation.
After the sculptor had carved Lorna’s drawings into a wall of clay, the clay was cut, and fired into bricks. The bricks were numbered and shipped to Colorado for reassembly. A group of three union Masons from Iowa came to Colorado, and spent nearly a week constructing the mural. They were very committed to the project, did a great job, and I think enjoyed discussing the history that was being displayed.
With the gate and murals in place. There was still a lot of landscaping and design work to be done. This was handled by my landscaper from Jacksonville; Jamie Abbott,. Jamie is not only a hard-working landscaper, but a talented artisan in his own right, and a talented web designer. Also, a loyal friend with a similar passion for history. He is responsible for the landscaping, and also for designing this webpage, as well as other improvements around the ranch.
One of the most exciting aspects of seeing this gate and murals come to fruition, is that it was such a collaborative effort on the part of so many talented people. To see your own ideas and dreams not only taken up by others, but significantly expanded by their talents, is a very fulfilling experience.
I invite you to open the heading labeled artisans and gate construction at the top of the page to read more about the talented people that participated in this project. The construction pictures may also be of interest.