Wednesday, August 23, 2006
TWO HUGE MONUMENTS IN BABB
When I told Ray Djuff, author of many books about Glacier Park or rather Waterton Peace Park since he comes from the Canadian side, that I had a better library on the Blackfeet than some public libraries, he called my bluff by arriving to spend a couple of days at my work table going through what I had. As a sort of “hostess gift,” he sent me these photos he had taken of the Scriver sculptures now emplaced at the public schools in Babb.
These are fiberglass monuments that were in front of the Scriver Museum of Montana Wildlife and Hall of Bronze in Browning. When the Montana Historical Society arrived to take away all of Bob’s work, they were hard-pressed to know how to transport these monster statues or where to put them if they got them safely to Helena, so they loaned them to the Blackfeet Tribe. The Tribe has a lot of empty warehouse space up at the Industrial Park by the railroad depot, so they stashed them in there to save them from vandals. There is still enough animosity against Bob for renegades to feel justified in spray-painting or otherwise defacing his works. (Of course, there was a great outcry of protest when the statues were missing!)
In fact, the rumor went around that the big bull-rider statue was dropped at some point and was “busted.” However, Gordon Monroe was on the tribal council at that point and he was the person who had made the casting from the original mold in the first place, so he was perfectly capable of fixing it. Gordon has done all of Bob Scriver’s fiberglass casting as well as creating some major works of his own. For instance, his huge “corpus” of Jesus on the Cross is in the Church of the Little Flower in Browning.
These two huge works come out of the rodeo phase of Scriver’s work, which is all some people really think of when they reflect on his entire body of a thousand sculptures, partly because the rodeo sculptures are what he always sent to the Cowboy Artists of America shows. “An Honest Try,” which is a portrait of Bill Cochran on a Reg Kessler bull, became Bob’s trademark and motto, replacing the “Lone Cowboy” motif he used earlier. This one-and-a-half life-sized version was commissioned for the Inland Trade building in Kansas City in 1986.
The other big statue is a version of the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) figure on their official belt buckle. A bronze version of it is behind the Montana Historical Society building in Helena. They gave Bob one of these buckles and he may have been buried wearing it.
The tribe didn’t mess around with deliberations over where to put these statues. They just did it. The Montana Historical Society didn’t know until I told Arnold Olsen and I didn’t know until I was Googling School District #9 and came across the pictures on their website. I still haven’t seen them in person.
Bob had many connections to Babb, mostly from the days when he lived all summer in a cabin he’d built halfway between Babb and St. Mary. I had connections there myself, partly through some of the Blackfeet Sandwich Shop and Free School faculty who later taught at that school and probably had something to do with this, and partly through the year I was the Methodist minister for the Blackfeet Reservation and preached in Babb every Sunday. Because the St. Mary Valley opens to Canada rather than the reservation, the culture is a little different there. It’s more of a tourist town with white businesses that have been there since homesteader days, gradually becoming Indian businesses as the generations intermarry -- but with a strong strain of Metis.
Anyway, they look great in front of the new Babb school and I hope they have a long and happy life there.