JERRY GOROSKI is the consultant appraisar to whom I refer inquiries about Scriver bronzes. He is formally trained and certified to do assessments and knew Bob Scriver as well as working for the CM Russell Museum in Great Falls. His gallery is called "Open Range Art."


Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Thad and Ellison Scriver had two sons, one for him and one for her, but the sons themselves either had no sons (Harold) or had a “lost” son (Robert). The solution in Bob’s case was to informally involve -- not quite adopt -- the sons of two other families: Evans and Cree Medicine.

The Joe Evans family, Catholic, had plenty of kids and they related to Bob and his wives because Joe helped to invent the Bighorn Foundry and kept the Scriver Studio in general up and running. Joe was one of those people who can do sheet metal, HVAC, plumbing, or any other mechanical puzzle that came along, aside from the building skills that many folks around here assume they have -- whether or not they do. Anyway, Joe built a big house on the road out to the dump and, with the steady help of his hard-working wife, raised a heap o’ kids who came and went through the studio.

The first funeral I ever attended in Browning was that of Lila Evans, a daughter and fearless horse-rider, who’d pitched off and hit her head on a big stone. It was in the stone Church of the Little Flower, a funeral mass for a child, the Mass of the Angels, and a choir of nuns sang in the balcony. Bob and I were sitting way in the back, so I didn’t even realize the loft was there. When the beautiful voices of the nuns first raised in song, I thought for a moment it was angels indeed.

When Bob sold the rodeo series to the Riverside Foundation and inherited his mother’s money, which made it possible for him to buy the Doane ranch, he hired Corky Evans to live out there for security and to finish off the cows by raising them to the point where they were saleable. Boyd Evans married Lila Walter, whose brother had dated Laurel, Harold’s daughter, who spent enough time with the Walter family to be a sort of honorary daughter in that family. In the 1930 Browning High School yearbook photo of Bob’s sophomore class, Lila’s mother is sitting next to him. According to the Browning newspaper, Bob and Hiram Upham once went out to visit Lila’s mother in the badlands east of the rez and came back with some nice rattlesnakes.

When Bob was commissioned to create a Lewis and Clark monument for Fort Benton, it was Boyd who wore a buckskin suit around on horseback for a few months of ranch chores so it would be authentically creased and greased. When the actual parade celebrating the unveiling came on July 4, 1976, it was Corky who had grown a beard, donned a fur cap, wore the buckskins and rode a horse so skittish that when he got it home it vamoosed, never to be seen again. (After being exposed to bagpipes, Uncle Sam on stilts, and other remarkable sights, it probably never wanted to be in another parade!)

Tony was mortally stricken with cancer. Bob made a sculpture of him on horseback: “Our Tony,” to help raise money to pay the bills. A quick 8”X10” painting Bob made of one of the boys feeding orphan calves -- green hooded sweatshirt with the hood up, tan and white calf, bright yellow straw -- disappeared when Bob died, but remains in all our minds one of the best paintings Bob ever made: simple, vivid, real.

When no one else was around to ride with Bob (usually meaning no female), he’d take an Evans boy with him. Boyd rode with him in the Indian Days Parade. Corky was riding with him, late in life, when he had some kind of episode that knocked him off his horse. Corky figured a heart attack, but Bob would admit nothing and would do nothing about it. Later he did make Boyd promise to bury him beside his horse, Gunsmoke, after Boyd came out with the backhoe and buried the old horse.

The Evans family was an archetypal High Line Montana small town and ranch family -- lank, droll, teasing, almost Ozarkian in their independence and free lance spirit, which occasionally got them into trouble. Think of the parts played by Lucas Black in movies like “Slingblade” or “All the Pretty Horses.”

The Cree Medicine family has no equivalent in movies. They are full-blood, not really traditional, but the old days are very close under the surface. Carl, by now the grandpa and patriarch, is about my age and was Bob’s best shop helper when I came. He did taxidermy, sculpture molds and castings, and building with equal attention and skill. He worked in the shop for all the years I was with Bob. After I left, Bob hired his sons. I don’t know what the circumstances were or the time-line, but I did see the certificates of achievement Bob had given Carl and that Carl kept on the wall of his little office when he was running a program to help street people. I know Carl and Carma managed to kick alcohol and find a home in the Catholic church. Sometimes now we meet at funerals.

David Cree Medicine became Bob’s foreman with Jody as dependable helper. This is a family with many deaths, tragedies and addictions. For people who live on a reservation, that’s the legacy of conquest. Many whites deny it, but others treat even the troubled as individuals deserving respect. In return, the Cree Medicine family never turned away from Bob, either in sickness or when he raged or as the women came and went. They managed the animals and fixed the fence and -- when necessary -- carried Bob in or out of the shop. Rumors went around the rez that they secretly did Bob’s sculpture for him and they did put clay on the armataures. It was David who broke the door down to get to Bob’s body. It was David who helped the Montana Historical Society crew who came suddenly to take everything away, needing to know how to crate bronzes.

The great irony is that these two families of near-sons have been completely invisible to the Montana Historical Society and the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton. They are not invited to openings or shows or even advised that there are such events. It was not Lorraine, Bob’s widow, who cut them off or left them out, but rather the officials, who cannot imagine that they exist. Neither do they think of Bob’s five grandchildren, who are nearly fifty now with children of their own.

I suppose a case could be made that Bob Scriver and his work belong to the ages and that these institutions are the guardians. But to the Evanses and the Cree Medicines, Bob’s work was a major part of their lives and they have many stories to tell. Instead, somehow, the lawyers and entrepreneurs have elbowed them aside. The result has been a paralysis, a void, an ignorance.

The Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton will be showing the sculpture of Bob Scriver all this summer, beginning June 8 and ending in November. Maybe some of Bob’s real friends and family will manage to go see the exhibit.

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