Nineteen-hundred and seventy was an interesting year for me. I retired from the Air Force after 20 years on active duty, and I met Greg Perino.
I was an avid arrowhead collector and Mr. Perino was the American expert on lithics and associated artifacts. He wrote the best books on North American stone projectile typology.
When he said I could come to Tulsa and get his opinion on several of my Cody Complex points, I was thrilled. Greg had been Special Assistant to Thomas Gilcrease of the Gilcrease Museum, and when he died, in 1962, Greg stayed on as a curator.
My parking spot behind the museum was tight and as I backed, the car bumper tipped over a large tin garbage can. It made a moderate racket, and its contents spilled all around the local periphery. My embarrassment was hiding behind sunglasses when Greg and I got out to clean up the mess.
In addition to the usual paper cups, coffee grounds, and candy wrappers, were a few interesting items that had belonged to William R. Leigh (1866 – 1955), the great Western artist. There were pencils with his name stamped on the side, some of his calling cards, letterheads, and other items.
But best of all was a 3” white goat made of rubber. Greg recognized it immediately as being from the hand of Mr. Leigh. He was positive.
He just stood there staring at the little goat. Then Greg spat a few maledictions, the definitions of which were not familiar to me. “What %$#@& tossed this model in the garbage?” His words contained a serious bite as the sound slowly tapered off and was dissipated in the wind.
To belay his irritation I quickly muttered, “Greg, let me take this goat home and cast it in bronze. I’ll make a copy for each of your board members, one for you, and one for myself. What do you think?”
He nodded okay, and his annoyance was suddenly gone.
Back in Lubbock I quickly made a mould and prepared 10 wax copies of the goat to be cast in bronze.
Then I ran a hose from our fireplace in the living room, through the kitchen and pantry to the garage where my melting furnace was waiting. I’d made it from a vacuum cleaner motor. That gave me ¼ psi of natural gas, which was enough pressure to melt the metal. It was so much fun that I also cast the nameplate in bronze.
The little Billy Goat needed a base so I blow-torched a piece of wood and then wire-brushed the black ashes away to get the antique finish I wanted.
In a weak moment we sold my copy of the goat, but over time the memory of it periodically floated back into my mind.
Then this morning a lady named Lou, called me from Albuquerque. She said that her husband had died and she wanted me to help her sell his art collection.
A couple of hours later we were unloading bronze sculptures in my driveway, about 20 in all.
Suddenly, there was my little Billy Goat. “Wow,” and my eyes thought about tearing up. Lou remembered when I sold it to her husband and how happy he was to get it. That was 49 years ago.
In the trunk of her car were 6 other bronzes I had cast and sold to her husband, including some George Dabich buffalos. After about 10 minutes of discussion we agreed on a price and I wrote her a check for the lot, including the goat. It was a lucky morning, and afterward, I thought maybe I should go play the lotto.
Another thing Lou brought me was a pony express belt buckle. I wasn’t the artist but I remember centrifugally casting it in sterling silver.My logo is on the back and the date ’73. It is fun seeing some of my old memories come back home again. f