Saddle Up: the story of cowboy artist
March 12, 2013
Last week left me standing at the door to Bob Moline’s backyard studio. Don welcomed me inside. I apologized for intruding, told him I knew his friend Don Edwards, and invited him to our conference.
A beautiful saddle almost exactly like the one I had seen being crafted in the magazine article sat on a wooden stand, surrounded by Native American artifacts including Bob’s personal medicine wheel and a white-faced buffalo head.
The studio was bright and immaculately clean. Many of Bob’s paintings hung on the walls, some just leaned against it in what might some might see as haphazard fashion, but I suspected an artist’s sense of order prevailed. One painting in progress seemed to take center stage.
I already knew that Bob was a Comanche-Pawnee, but I did not know he had been named official artist of the Texas Bicentennial Wagon Train (friends Charles Horchem, Larry Mitchell and Gene Casselberry were part of that train). He showed me some of the greeting cards he had designed and I asked him to sign a few for me. He also signed the magazines I had brought.
I knew that his work graced the walls of the Cowboy Hall of Fame because I had seen them there. But I did not know that his work had appeared on the covers of The Cattleman and Paint Horse Journal magazines. I saw awards on the wall naming him an outstanding artist from Texas Professional Artists, The American Indian and Cowboy Artist’s Society and the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame.
Moline worked for Ry0n’s Saddle Shop for twelve years and painted as a hobby. His Ryon saddles were purchased by folks like cutting horse legend Buster Welch, singer Loretta Lynn and movie cowboy Guy Madison. When he left there and turned to painting, his success as an artist surprised him.
Now, he said, he paints for a living and makes saddles as a hobby. He also does four or five sculptures a year.I was surprised when he said that making saddles was his first love. His trademark is a single eagle feather carved into each saddle, which symbolizes his personal vision of the West. In Indian culture, it stands for strength, wisdom and courage.
All the time we were talking, my eyes kept going back to the saddle on the stand. It had the type of stamping and tooling I prefer, oxbow stirrups, was the right color of leather and I loved the feather symbol. I guess nobody will be surprised when I say that I now own that saddle, along with a matching buffalo head nickel belt that Bob made for me. I wanted a sculpture of the saddle, but he seemed reluctant to take an order for a sculpture. I suppose a sculpture is best when inspired, not made to order.
Some of our reps were reluctant when we announced that Fort Worth was the site for our next conference (one said it was not a destination city), but their doubts quickly dissipated about five minutes into Don and Waddie’s exclusive performance at the Worthington for our company. I got to know them better and also got to meet Rich O’Brien, famous in his own right as a musician and producer.
Three years later, I left my old job and sold my interest in the financial services company (1st Global) to pursue a few of those cowboy dreams. One of the first was a trip across Texas from Ranger in Eastland County to Cooper in Delta County by covered wagon and horseback to retrace the journey my ancestors had made eighty years earlier. I rode Bob Moline’s saddle.The picture above was taken on our journey at Punk Carter’s Ranch the week after he was named president of the American Cutting Horse Association.
In Decatur, I left my horse outside and walked into an art gallery featuring the work of Buck Taylor. One of the employees mistook me for Buck. The same thing happened a few years later at a Fort Worth Stockyards restaurant.
Next week: the final installment. Don and Waddie come to Commerce and our Across the Creek arena and barn.