It’s that time of year again – the Fort Worth Stock Show. Festivities begin tomorrow, and to gear up for the event we’re taking a look back at the roundup years of cowboy artist Charles M. Russell.
As a young boy, Charles Russell was fascinated by tales of the West – Indians, explorers, cowboys, and more. Young Charlie was an avid reader of dime novels and tales of the pioneering frontier. By the age of 16, his parents relented to their son’s request to work on a ranch in Montana Territory. Much to their chagrin, Russell became enamored with the Big Sky Country and resolved to make it his home.
In 1882, Russell began working as a night wrangler, or a nighthawk, for the Judith Basin roundup. His task was to tend to the herd of horses while the other cowboys slept. Despite not being a good roper or rider, he held his job and supported himself by working as wrangler for the next 11 years.
With his sense of humor, the young cowboy made friends effortlessly and kept his crew entertained with tales by the campfire. As he told a story, Charlie would work bits of wax in his hands to create figures and other small sculpture. Likewise, the self-taught cowboy artist would spend his free time drawing and sketching. By 1893, Russell left his work on the range and pursued a full-time career as an artist, producing scenes of the West he witnessed during his cowboy days.