As manager and lifetime resident of the Rustic Ranch mobile home park, Andrea Cook has lived her whole life with a cowboy standing tall — 30 feet tall — in her driveway. She has feelings about him.
“He’s all right,” Cook said in her homey office at the park on the edge of Denver in unincorporated Adams County.
Denverite reader Jillene Easley also has feelings about him. She wrote us and asked, “What is the story of the three-story bow-legged cowboy at 5565 Federal Blvd.?”
Pueblo-born artist John Sutton sculpted the nameless cowboy in 1955. The inscription on his left leg says as much. And we know more thanks to Cook, internet historians and journalists including our very own Lindsay Fendt, who was fated to report on another one of Sutton’s concrete creatures earlier this week.
The cowboy, one of Sutton’s earlier works, was not supposed to welcome people into a trailer park.
According to an old Denver Post article, the cowboy was supposed to mark the entrance of an amusement park that never materialized. It stayed put anyway because, you know, it’s a 30-foot concrete statue.
Sutton was not a one-hit wonder. He started his career sculpting animals for the Pueblo Zoo before moving to Denver to do the same thing, according to History Colorado. As Denverite reported earlier this week, Sutton also created the beloved playground dragon, which everyone calls a dinosaur, in University Park.
The artist had an impressive career. He eventually moved to New York, where he designed and built animal exhibits for the Bronx Zoo and in the 1970s became a curator. He died in 1998.
The 65-year-old cowboy has endured attempted takedowns.
Because the he stands on Federal Boulevard, one of Denver’s deadliest streets, it’s no surprise that he’s been hit by drivers more than once.
“We’ve had a few people run into him,” Cook said. “They come in too fast when it’s slick and whatnot, or when they’re drunk or whatever, and they’ve almost taken him down a few times.”
The 30-foot concrete gunslinger won those battles. But he wouldn’t look as good as he does today without a paint job. Cook had him repainted after bringing swatches to the hardware store so they could mix the colors to match the original ones.
He even flirted with celebrity.
“American Pickers,” a show on the History Channel that seeks out Americana, approached the trailer park’s owner to buy the cowboy in order to do a show on him, according to Cook. The owner wouldn’t sell.
“They offered him like 10,000 and he’s like, ‘Nope. Nope.'”
And of course he’s been vandalized. And scandalized.
A little spray paint remains on the cowboy’s right pant leg from a somewhat recent attempt to deface him. But perhaps the most enthusiastic attempt to vandalize him had absolutely nothing to do with his face.
This person literally hit below the belt. The cowboy is as anatomically correct as a Ken doll and the vandal wanted to change that with the help of some Styrofoam and some paint.