Western Bronze Sculpture, " Rustler's Reward", by Jeff Wolf, Limited Edition 5 of 25, Ca 1991,#C 1554
Description: Western Bronze Sculpture, " Rustler's Reward", by Jeff Wolf, Limited Edition 5 of 25, Ca 1991, #C 1554
Condition: good for age
Dimensions: 16" x 18" approximately 35 pounds
Orphaned and Homeless, Billy Meeks stands in front of a San Francisco saloon begging for employment from anyone within shouting distance. A scrapping lad of fourteen years, Billy had learned to be tough in a world and time that had little tolerance for someone who could not take care of themself.
Two cowboys, one Mexican vaquero and one white came to a stop in front of the saloon in which Meeks was standing. The men wore the marks of desperados, unshaven, dusty, and raggidy with six guns hung low and tied to their thighs.
Evidence of men living on the borderlines of the law. Hey boy! The white man calls out to Meeks. A nickel if ya take these horses to the boarding stable, here's a quarter for the keep. Meeks hung around the stable till the two men came for their mounts late that night. The vaquero said something in Spanish then the white man said, hey kid, you looking for work? Yes sir, Meeks replied in a shy but stern voice. You got a horse n saddle, the white man asked. No, replied Meeks. Can you ride? the man asked. Since I was a baby, Meeks countered. Well then catch up the best looking horse here,grab a saddle and let's ride.
This wasn't the first criminal act Billy had ever committed, but it was the worst. Little did he know, it was not going to be his last. Dust rose as the three riders barreled down the street and into the darkness of the open land. They didn't come to a walk until they had put plenty of miles between themselves and town. Two days later they arrived at an old run down cabin on the east slope of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Five other men came from inside the cabin to greet the incoming riders.
The leader of the group was a tall muscular man who spoke first. What have you here he exclaimed in a gruff tone. An unfamiliar face the white rider said. The kid can ride like hell! And ain't scared of nothing. Well, put your horses up and come in, we have work to discuss, the tall man barked.
Once inside all the men either stood around the small one room shack or sat on the bunks or at the table. We need to send out a scout to look over the country and locate cattle that have drifted from their home range.
Kid you're elected, the tall man said. Starting in the morning before dawn I want you to head east till you come across some cattle, stay out till you do, then come back as fast as you can, we'll do the rest.
Until then Meeks had no idea of what was in store for him. He could either cut and run or he could ask what it pays. Knowing that he had nowhere to run, he asked, what's this little task pay? You're a cocky little shit ain't cha! One of the other men said who was standing in the shadows. It pays by the head, twenty five cents per cow, the tall man replied. Now get some rest and be ready to ride. Meeks was handed some blankets then turned and walked out the door.
Next morning. It's time kid! as Meeks was shaken awake. A skinny figure stood above Billy as he cleared the sleep from his eyes. His horse stood hobble and saddled just feet from his bed.
Here roll this grub up in your blankets and high tail it out of here. Within minutes Billy was riding off to the East in the dark of the pre dawn. He covered mile after mile, ridge after ridge till the sun showed almost directly overhead, then he heard the bawl of a cow, turning his horse back to the southwest he rode over a rise. Looking down the draw he spotted cattle grazing that were feeding and laying around a meadow with a spring at it's head. Slowly, Billy rode closer to get a good count.
Twenty cows, eleven calves, nine yearlings, and a big long horned bull, forty one head in all, what a find Billy exclaimed out loud. He looked at the sun then tried to calculate the distance he had traveled. Only about fifteen miles, not bad he thought. I'll be back to camp easily before dark without breaking a sweat.
Shortly before dusk fell on the little outlaw hideout Billy rode in. Several men were at the corral making it larger and repairing the original, another came packing a bucket full of water from the spring, and another set out to wrangle in the cavvy. The head honcho came from the cabin and asked, what the hell ya doing back so soon kid, ya get scerrd? Hell no Meeks countered. Forty one head just fifteen miles from here, all laid up at a spring just waiting to be gathered up. No shit the boss man hissed. No shit he said again. No shit! Billy mimicked back. Good work kid.
Turn your horse out and get some grub, you might make a hand at this after all. That night the men discussed their plans and where the cattle would be delivered. The closest mining diggs over the state line was Susanville California, a three days ride pushing a herd of cattle.
We will start before daylight, hit the cattle before they scatter out to much, drive em here, change addresses on em an hold em for a few days then head for ole Californi. All the men seemed to be in agreement as if this was a daily routine, as it was for this bunch of cow thieves. The only question that was asked was directed to Meeks. Do ya think ya kin find your way back to the cattle, kid? Boss man asked. Sure as rain Billy replied. With that the men went their separate ways to bed.
The cattle were there just as Meeks predicted. Only several more had drifted into the spring, and some had scattered out to feed on the distant hillside. Forty eight head in all once the cattle were thrown together and counted. Billy felt rich although he hadn't been paid a cent as yet. Which made him put the question to the ring leader. After delivery kid, was the reply. Figuring that he would be in on the payoff, he never gave it further consideration.
Cut that bull out, we don't need any problems, the boss man yelled to the gang. The bull was a big pretty animal of about four years, right in his prime, and if he wouldn't be such a problem by being a herd quitter, or getting tired and try to turn the whole herd back as tiered bulls often do, He would bring a handsome sum.
Cutting the bull back was easy at first, but not wanting to be left behind he soon ran back into the bunch. After several more attempts to cut him back, it was decided to sacrifice several of the poorer quality animals and leave them with the bull. It looked as though the problem had been solved and for several miles the cattle were pushed without incident.
The men however kept looking over their shoulder and riding very uneasy. The cattle strung out and were moving in a pace just short of running when Mr. Bull came again. This time he was damn sure determined to go along regardless of what mad attempts by the rustlers to discourage him..
Boss man finally said what the hell if that son of a bitch wants to go that bad let em. So on they went at a pace only rustlers could muster without killing off half the herd. It didn't take long however for the bull to show his colors. Hot, tired and on the fight, the bull soon made it evident that he was going to put a halt to this little scheme.
First he got in the lead and tried to stop the bunch. Several rustlers pushed him to the back, but soon he was at it again. The attempt was made to leave him again but he would have none of that.
Several of the men wanted to just shoot him and move on but the man in charge was afraid that a gunshot just might invite unwanted company. The bull was finally at a standstill, shaking his massive head in defiance and not wanting to give an inch.
Just before it was decided to rope and tie him down, Billy figured he would just ride up behind him and give him a good hard kick in the rear. Just as he did so, someone shouted a warning, but before Billy could respond all hell broke loose.
Billy had no idea that a bull could be so quick and ferocious. Before he even knew what had happened, his horse was being lifted into the air with the most violent force he had ever experienced. In that split second of turmoil Billy's right foot slipped through the stirrup. His natural instinct was to go for his gun and shoot his horse to avoid being dragged to death. But before the chance presented itself Billy was in a heap on the ground unconscious.
The horse lay motionless on top of Meeks. The bull stood just feet away waiting for any movement, just then a shot rang out and the bull went down never to get up again. Several men rushed to the fallen boy, two men grabbed Billy's arms and drug him from under the dead horse.
The bull's right horn had pierced the horse's heart, killing him almost instantly. Billy was also presumed dead, but after being pulled free and his foot dislodged, he groaned and moved his head. God Damn! Shouted one of his rescuers, he's still alive.
Shit! The leader said, put out to think that now they would have to nursemaid Meeks back to camp and someone would have to ride double. God Damn It! We have lost enough time not to mention the sound of that shot, God Damn It All To Hell! I knew that little bastard was going to be trouble. Well let's get him on a horse and get these cattle the hell out of here, the boss man screeched as he turned and rode back to the herd. He's got a broken leg boss! The man that was lifting Billy to his horse, shouted. To hell with him, load em anyway, we'll deal with it back at camp. Was the reply.
When Billy regained consciousness he found himself slung across a saddle like a sack of oats, his broken leg bobbing up and down in excruciating pain, but he bit his lip and suffered the long ride back to camp.
It was dark when the last cow went through the gate of the rustler corral. A lantern was lit and several men set out to find a couple of boards that could be used as splints for Billy's leg. Two old barrel stays from an old abandon still were found. Those ill do grumbled the boss, tie them on him and he'll have to make do. The break was bad, at least in two places. Not much hope or concern was given to whether Billy would live or die. The rustlers had their business to take care of and that was the thing that mattered. They lived a hard life, and sympathy could get a man killed.
Two days passed while the addresses were changed on the cattle. Rustlers brand, 7AL was made from the existing A Bar. Billy, with a fever lay in a bunk wondering what was to become of him when the head rustler stuck his head in the door and said, there is enough grub to keep you going till we get back, then we'll try and get ya to a doctor, see ya kid. And with that he turned and walked away. Billy listened as the sound of the cattle and rustlers faded into silence.
Two weeks had passed before he gave up hope of ever seeing the gang again or of being found by some passer by. He laid around that camp for almost a month, the food ran out just after the first week had passed. He made due by eating watercress, rabbits and birds that were abundant around the old cabin that he either shot with his pistol or snare.
Billy found himself in bad shape and getting weaker everyday, but somehow he kept his spirits up and managed to stay alive. The only honorable thing that the gang had done was to leave two horses behind, they weren't much but they just might get him out of there and find help.
His leg seemed to be healing and after four weeks he began putting a slight amount of weight on it, enough to limp / hop to the horses.
He had fashioned a crutch out of two willow branches which enabled him to get enough food and water to sustain him. The rustler had left the horses but no saddle, so Billy decided to ride bareback to the dead horse killed in the bull incident, get his saddle and ride for help. A month later Billy Meeks found his way to Fallon Nevada.
His leg eventually healed, but did so an inch or so short, leaving him with a permanent limp. He was tagged with the nickname Stubby which he was known by for the rest of his life. His outlaw days were short lived and was never mentioned until he was in the last years of his life.
It is said that Billy Meeks is buried In the Yerington, NV cemetery. Story and Sculpture By Jeff Wolf. This story was told to me years ago by a true Navada buckaroo. The name Billy Meeks may not be real but the nickname “Stubby” is and the story is true.
Biography of Jeff Wolf and Achievements Follow:
Persistence makes perfect: The trail to the top of the Western Art world is steep and narrow. It is littered with obstacles, beset with sheer drop-offs, and hindered by unexpected twists and turns. Sculptor Jeff Wolf has ridden that trail for more than twenty-five years and reached heights few artists attain. Along the way he has placed bronzes in prominent museums and permanent exhibits, in prestigious private collections, and on display in public venues. He has been bestowed with honors and awards, recognized in juried competitions, and called upon to teach and demonstrate.
Jeff made—and continues—the journey on a mount called persistence. He has lived by the old cowboy maxim that it doesn’t matter how many times you get bucked off, but what counts is getting back on—brushing off adversity, dusting off disappointment, climbing back in the saddle and continuing the journey. While the ride can be a lonely one, it is not a ride Jeff makes alone. Riding with him along the way are talent and skill, creativity and vision, experience and expertise. And, of course, persistence—keeping ever after the quest to not only depict the West in art, but to capture the emotion, the motivation, the underlying aesthetics of ordinary life and extraordinary events.
Saddling up; The importance of persistence was instilled in Jeff at an early age. Jeff excelled in everything he put his mind to except school. Dyslexia—virtually undiscovered at the time—made reading nearly impossible. But that didn’t stop him from graduating from high school and attending three years of college on scholarships, and eventually teaching himself to read.
In high school, Jeff became a champion livestock judge and earned a silver medal at the National FFA convention, earning what was at the time the highest score ever recorded—98 out of 100—in the cattle grading division. He was also a Champion rodeo cowboy in High School, college, and a top competitor in professional rodeo, competed mainly in the bareback and bull riding events, as well as saddle bronc riding, team roping, and steer wrestling.
Through it all, art sustained him. From an early age he was compelled to create. “My gift chose me, I didn’t choose it,” he says. Jeff’s story as a sculptor started at age five when he received modeling clay for Christmas. His hands and heart went to work to mold into the clay the world he saw around him. An early work, a buffalo carved from a bar of soap, earned his first recognition when published in the pages of Western Horseman magazine.
With a constant driving force from within, combined with a wild imagination and insatiable desire to learn and discover, Jeff’s childhood and youth would inform his art. Along with his gift of creation he was given, in his words, “a great gift of upbringing.” Raised on a ranch in the mouth of Goshen Canyon, located south of Utah Lake, he had both the opportunities and responsibilities of any ranch kid. “I lived among the local wildlife, learned the art of handling cattle and horses, and had the fortunate opportunity to listen to the stories of real old-time cowboys, memories of which remain ingrained in my mind.” Adding to the fascination, Wolf says, was “spending most of my days, when not working on the ranch, running wild and free in the mountains, along the creeks, building hideouts, and watching wildlife or hunting.”
Even anatomy lessons were in the offing. Jeff’s grandfather owned and operated a small meat packing company, which gave Jeff the opportunity to see firsthand animal anatomy from the inside out. “Grandpa used to take the front or rear leg of a beef carcass and move it as if it were walking and explain how each muscle and every bone made that movement possible.” This led Jeff to study every movement a person or animal made, trying to decipher the bones and muscles working to make that movement possible. “I developed the habit when riding for cows to ride behind another rider and watch the horse and rider as they moved as one in harmony. A nice moving horse and a true horseman is a symphony of visual music.” This curiosity and fascination with anatomy turned Jeff into a recognized master of capturing motion in sculpture.
And there were other lessons to learn: Jeff says, “I know firsthand what it feels like to climb down onto the back of a bull or bucking horse, know the rush adrenaline and the explosion from the chute. I know what it’s like to sit for hour watching mule deer feed, coming so close that I could feel their breath on my hand. I have experienced the fear and drama of a stampede. And I have lived in the wild, providing for myself among the ghosts of Indians.”
From his father, Jeff learned the ways of cattle and horses. “I remember one experience as if it were today,” he says. “Dad and I rode up on a cow and calf who hadn’t seen a human being all summer. She was one of those who enjoyed hiding out in country where she wasn’t easy to find. We saw each other at about the same time. Her head came up and her ears came forward, moving back and forth determining which route to take for escape. Dad said, ‘Let’s just let her look at us for a while.’ As we sat there, he explained every thought that was running through that cow’s mind by the way she her ears worked back and forth, the short, soft mooing sounds she made to her calf, her posture, and the way she looked away then back at us.
“Then Dad and I rode closer, stopping every few feet so as not to pose a threat, and from a direction that would move her in the intended direction. All this, to avoid a wild chase and the possibility of losing her altogether. Within half an hour we, the cow, and the calf walked off the mountain and into the holding pasture any mishap. These are the kinds of things that have the greatest impact on my work today.”
Riding out:Throughout childhood and youth, Jeff’s gift refuse to let him rest. He had to constantly be creating something. Persistence kept him sculpting, even as other interests competed for time and attention. “I didn’t sculpt a lot some years but I did keep after it. I seemed to know from my earliest years that sculpting would be my ultimate life and livelihood and I was in no hurry to get there. I was having too much fun experiencing life.”
After retiring from professional rodeo, Jeff’s desire to sculpt gradually increased, fed by those very experiences.
“If I haven’t personally lived the scene, I imagine myself in the time, place, and moment and visualize what it would have been like to actually be a participant. This might involve hours of research until that image or scene is fully and clearly formed in my mind. The concept then become like a photograph imprinted in my consciousness, becomes a vivid image and begs to be given life.”
But three-dimensional photographic-type depictions of those scenes is not what Jeff strives for in his art. “For me,” Jeff says, “art goes far beyond mere depiction or precise rendering. I feel that true art should tell a story, put you in a place or a moment in time that stimulates the imagination and arouses the soul. It’s not about the subject matter, concept, or idea; it’s about discovery and stretching the boundaries of creativity. I strive to sculpt an experience. This is what makes me tick. Discovering how mass and negative space can be used and manipulated to become a vital part of the design. Using mirroring, and mimicking shapes to keep the eye roving around the subject to tell a story. Years of devotion to the study of art principles, combined with the determination to produce works that are worthy of the title of fine art is the motivational drive behind my work. That’s is the visual tune I dance to.”
It’s not an easy dance to learn. It takes passion. Perseverance. And persistence. But those qualities, combined with an imaginative and creative mind pay off for Jeff. Then, it’s time for the work of the mind and heart to guide the hands of the sculptor.
“Once the physical work begins, the piece often times takes on its own personality. I then become merely the tool that gives life to the dictation of the piece. Those times produce my finest works.
“Finding ways to create the illusion of life in something like wet hair, rushing water, speed of movement, drama of action, sheer fabric flowing around the beauty of the female figure, wind whipping a mane of a stallion, or a reflection in water in a bas relief is the stimulation behind my work,” Jeff says. “I work to compose the design so that every aspect has purpose. Every line leads to another, every plane reflects light or casts a shadow for depth and dimension.
Balance points create harmony and mass builds strength and stability to create a realistic illusion of movement. The synergy of opposing forces coming together and pulling apart allows me to create a greater effect, a stronger vision. My feeling is that every work I create has its own distinct personality and character. Therefore, it requires its own texture or multiple textures unique to itself as well as the composition and design that best reflects the story that is being presented.
“A well-rendered pair of wrinkled and cracked work boots with worn soles and tattered laces, lying side by side as if just taken off the tired feet of the owner or even discarded will form a picture in the viewer’s mind. Some may see only a pair of boots. But others will see the life of the man who wore them— tired and wrinkled like the boots, exhausted from a hard day's labor and glad to get those old boots off his feet. Some may see dad or grandpa. Some may see a farmer plowing a field behind two mules. It really doesn’t matter what the viewer envisions, it’s the fact that a vision has been created. That is what I strive for in every work I create.”
Riding on: And so Jeff Wolf went to work. And he worked. Then worked some more to blaze his own trail to the artistic heights. Making the climb, and maintaining the heights requires persistence. Over time, collectors become familiar with an artist’s background and reputation. But reputation only goes so far. If the work isn’t up to snuff, one can never expect to create or maintain demand with an inferior product. But Jeff’s persistence paid off.
In 1990, art collector Ann Heckbert discovered Jeff’s sculpture at an art show in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Ann and her husband Jim, owner of Garret Gallery, approached Jeff about showing his work. By 1991, Jeff’s life as a professional sculptor was underway and has earned been his livelihood ever since. Jeff credits Jim and Ann for launching a career that has earned him a reputation as one of the finest western sculptors of our time.
Jeff’s first national juried show, the George Phippen Memorial Art Show in Prescott, Arizona, earned the artist the three highest awards: Best of Show, Best in Category and People’s Choice. He has won or placed in practically every juried art show he has participated in since, and may be the only living sculptor to have won Best of Show and People’s Choice awards in six genres of Western art: Wildlife, Figural, Rodeo, Equine, Western, and Native American.
Finally, while Jeff is well aware that gifts such as his are given to individuals, the trail to success isn’t one you ride alone. Persistence is often aided by the encouragement and assistance of others. He says, “The journey to the top would have been impossible if it weren’t for the help and support of family, friends, my collectors, admirers and especially my wife Jennifer.” Jeff also believes gifts are to be shared. So he now shares his talents and knowledge with fellow artists, students of the arts, and charitable foundations. He teaches workshops, lectures at schools, and sculpts at public events. Donations of time, talent, and art have generated over one million dollars for charitable causes.
God-given talent, real life experience, insatiable desire to be the best, and persistence have immortally molded and cast forever the name Jeff Wolf into the world of Western art and sculpture.
The portfolio of Jeff Wolf’s work is extensive, and his name is tied to some of the most prestigious collections, galleries, and museums. Persistence has placed his art in national and international collections including:
• Simons Collection, Cayman Islands
• Ryder Collection, Ryder Trucking
• Renn and Marie Zaphiropoulos Collection (inventor of the color tube for television and, later, the developer of laser printing)
• Meredith Hodges Collection and National Mule Museum, Loveland, Colorado
• Mr. and Mrs. Robert Henderson
• Jim Terry (former CEO of Coca-Cola)
• Jack Williams (former president of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines)
• Elton Salinas (owner of Elton’s Clothier, Las Vegas, Nevada)
• Richard and Carole Kreamer (Board of Directors, American Airlines)
• David and Pam Furr (Gaston Law)
• Jim and Ann Heckbert (Burg Simpson Law & Humble Ranch)
• Steve and Mary Kay Larsen
• Lori Wilkinson (Brown & Brown Insurance of Nevada, Waymark Insurance Services)
• Richard Sanders (president of Kobalt Music Group)
• Buck Taylor (artist and actor)
• Jane Blalock (Hall of Fame Golfer)
• Jim Palmer (Hall of Fame Baseball Player)
Jeff has filled commissions for sculpture for:
• Susan G. Koman Foundation
• T.A.P.S. Foundation
• Habitat for Humanity
• American Lung Association
• National Retriever Club and National Amateur Retriever Club
• American Airlines
• Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
• American Bucking Bull, Inc.
• Cistercian Preparatory School Hillary award
• Rodeo Champions monument, Gooding ID
• And several cities, corporate executives, farmers, ranchers, sportsmen, families, and friends.
Jeff’s talent has introduced him to an array of TV, movie, and sports celebrities, including:
• Kimberlin Brown
• Dylan Bruno
• Gordon Clapp
• Lenny Clarke
• Jeff Dunham,
• Grant Goodeve
• Chris Harrison
• Dennis Haskins
• Sandra Hess
• Brad Johnson
• Wendie Malick,
• Ron Masak,
• Marc McClure
• Rob Moran
• Eloise Mumford
• Eric Christian Olsen
• Jason Priestly
• Perrey Reeves
• James Sikking,
• Buck Taylor
• Steve Thomas
• Michael Trucco.
• John York
• Ian Ziering
Musicians, such as:
• Aaron Barker (musician and Hall of Fame songwriter)
• John Cafferty (of The Beaver Brown Band)
• Kevin Chalfant (of 707, The Storm, and Journey)
• Randall Hall (of Lynyrd Skynyrd)
• David Jenkens (of Pablo Cruise)
• Chris Ledoux
• Alex Ligertwood (of Santana)
• Gary Morris
• Hootie and the Blowfish
• Michael Martin Murphy
• Henry Paul (formerly of Black Hawk)
Sports champions, including:
• Matt Bahr
• Jane Blalock
• Larry Brown
• Brant Boyer
• Scott Hamilton
• Billy Kidd
• Jim Lonborg
• Chris McCarron
• Jay Miller
• Jim Palmer
• Gale Sayers
• Wayne Wong
And, of course, a host of rodeo champions, cowboys, ranchers, artists working in all mediums, and great people from all walks of life.
Other honors include:
• Selected as the sculptor at the 2000 Super Bowl for the Larry Brown Foundation.
• Featured artist at the Days of ‘47 Utah Heritage Art Show, 2000
• Commissioned to sculpt the six-time Labrador Retriever field trial champion and the Female Labrador Retriever Field Trials World Champion, owned by Fred Kampo, Oshkosh, Wisconsin
• Designed and sculpted many awards, personal tributes, and memorials such as the Huntsville Town Veterans Memorial Monument.
• Honored as one of Utah’s Most Fabulous People by Utah Valley magazine, 2012
He has also been featured in a host of magazines, such as:
• Cowboy Magazine
• Ranch & Reata
• Range Magazine
• Rodeo News
• Western Horseman
• Western Writers of America Roundup Magazine
• Saddlebag Dispatches
I am frequently ask the question as to where I get my inspiration. My inspiration is drawn from a number things, My girls, parents, family, grand kids, friends, animals, other artists, the great outdoors, life experiences and stories I’ve heard just to name a few. Rather than creating just a well done work of art, I want my work to tell a story, something people can relate to. Things that inspire, evoke emotion, and arouse the imagination, I want my work to mean something, something that can be talked about and shared. I like my work to also be educational, whether it is from an artistic, anatomy, historical or human interest aspect. I strive to encompass and portray the emotions, feeling and expressions in every work I create.