"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

80 years ago today, America mourned for two Okies

Terrence Miller Clark's masterpiece portrait of Will Rogers
Two of the most famous Oklahomans died today, 80 years ago, when Will Rogers and Wiley Post died in a plane crash at Point Barrow Alaska. 
America mourned, but for Okies the loss was even greater-- they were everyone's heroes, idolized during the tough Depression years. 
The photo Dad used to draw from
We grew up with Will all around us in the Clark household, with books, sketches and our father's masterpiece portrait. My Dad's pencil portrait of Will, which took him a painstaking 14 months to draw when Will was still fresh in that generation's memory, is his best portrait work, showing all the famous people he knew. Damaged over the years, and aging, it hangs in my brother's house in Lubbock. Fortunately we have surviving 12" by 16" rotogravure prints  (About one fourth the size of the original). Dad had them made in the 1950s to try to sell. That didn't work, but they keep showing up in long forgotten friends' and relatives' houses--given as gifts--or even on ebay. One hangs in my office, and we have a few left.
As far as I'm concerned Dad, a relatively unknown poor Okie boy, set the example that Charles Banks Wilson years later followed or whatever for a much less detailed but famous color portrait of Will. You can see for yourself.
The memorial near Wiley Post's grave
And by coincidence, Wiley Post's grave is only about five miles from here in Memorial Park Cemetery on Memorial Road and Kelly.
Here are Dad's portrait, Wiley's grave memorial, and the key to all the people in Dad's portrait.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this, Clark. Like all other Okies worth their salt, I grew up with the wisdom of Will Rogers. He was my parents' favorite and my dad quoted him often. It's amazing how relevant his words are to the members of Congress today. I would love to hear what more he would say about the current crop of members.

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  2. I have one hanging in my den. Found it one day rolled up in a tube in a closet and had it framed. I've always been fascinated with my uncle Terry's talent.

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