Absolutely a fun, surprising, highly intellectual and mesmerizing epic! This book is the true life-story of Charles M. Russell, a real dollar-a-day cowboy on the open range, who also happened to be an amazing artist, but he was a better story teller. This book will make a grown man cry and laugh a hundred times from cover to cover. This is not an ordinary western. This electric epic captures the true spirit of ‘the way it was’ in the wild and enchanted west, before it got plowed under by ‘nesters.
Charlie was a most improbable child who hijacked a destiny and a legacy that was beyond imagination. He was born on March 19, 1864 to wealthy parents in St. Louis who owned a coal mine, ranch and a brick yard plus a large and prosperous mercantile store, which outfitted traders, trappers and other renegades who were heading west up the Missouri River. Charlie could have gone to his choice of college then step into an executive position in his vast family empire, but this was not to be.
All Charlie wanted to do was ride ponies, draw pictures of cowboys, horses, buffalo and Indians and dream of every adventure that might happen on the wild frontier.
Finally, his father relented, and at age 15 Charlie was allowed to go west. His father hoped his son would soon get tired of chasing wild cows and herding them to Dodge, and rush to return to normal society and regular city life.
This did not happen. Charlie was in his element and as long as he had a fresh horse every day, and a place at the chuck wagon with the guys, he was there to stay. He was the life of the party, the straw that stirred the drink, the guy that pushed the envelope and told the best jokes. He was also an astonishing artist.
He painted what he saw, and he saw a lot. His photographic memory allowed him to see an event and reproduce it right down to the brand on the horse and the color of the cowboy’s shirt. Also, his scenes were always full of action. He did not paint a horse standing asleep out under the apple tree. Instead, his horses were bucking and snorting and falling down trying to avoid the horns of a charging bull, and the rider
was sprawled in the dirt. Whenever anyone liked his art, he would often just give it away or only charge a pittance. He figured his time was worth a buck a day as a cowboy, so if it took him a day to draw a picture then it must be worth a dollar.
Charlie became an alcoholic. He also married 19-year old Nancy who agreed to his proposal on condition he would quit the bottle and she would manage his art.
She priced his paintings at $500 each, then a thousand, and the wealthy were happy to pay. One day Nancy suggested he do 20 paintings and they get on a train to do a show in New York, then another in London. Along the way Charlie shared his yarns with senators, governors, queens and Wall Street tycoons. The price of his works also rose to over $40,000 each. Today his majors are worth well over $5 million each.
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