Photo Exhibit Shows How Blacks Won The West
Swaggering Nate "Deadeye Dick" Love could out-shoot just about anybody in Deadwood, S.D.
Bill Pickett learned how to subdue stubborn steers by biting their lower lips, bringing them to the ground and inventing the concept of "bulldogging."
Both were cowboys. Both were black. And they were among the thousands of often forgotten black cowboys, ranchers and outlaws -- and they weren't all men -- who forged the legends of the West.
To commemorate their lives and the lives of others who had prove their mettle more than the rest, the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center is showing an exhibit of 23 photos including Nate Love and Bill Pickett to commemorate Black History Month.
Retired oil company foreman Jimmy Simmons loaned the photos for the exhibit, which runs through Friday, Feb. 26.
Simmons' interest was piqued a few years ago when a Trails Center guide set up a small display of photos tacked on a wall for Black History month, he said. "I saw that, and I said, 'this guy needs some help.' And so we got together and talked a little bit."
Simmons was working in Colorado at the time and began to put together the collection, which will grow, he said.
He started with a photo of himself, given to him by a foreman of a ranch in Midwest. "He said, 'Jimmy, I've got something I want to show you.' And this is the only known photo of me riding a bull here in Wyoming."
With the help of family members and a researcher in Colorado, Simmons began to find photographs of black cowboys in the Rocky Mountain region and framed them, he said. "And it just kind of took off from there."
Besides the photos, he hung a diorama of the rope, bell and gloves he used when he rode his last bull in 1983, he said.
The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, 1501 N. Poplar St., is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $6 for age 16 and older, $5 for senior citizens age 62 and older, $4 for students 15 and older with a valid student identification, and free for youth 15 and under.
For more information, call the center at (307) 261-7700.