This painting is a nod to my mother and to my grandfather, Daniel Autrey Jr, who was awarded the honor of “Coca Cola Cowboy” in 1995. The plaque he was given at the time now sits in my rolling desk aside an 1851 Navy Revolver and a pair of early 1900s Amazoc spurs. Below his photograph, the inscription reads:
The Coca Cola Cowboy epitomizes the highest ideals of the cowboy spirit and the tradition associated with the Silver Spurs Rodeo. The title, Coca Cola Cowboy, is bestowed on an Osceola County resident who has worked to promote the rodeo and its way of life.
As a small boy, I adored my grandfather. I called him Papoo. He carved corncob pipes for me. He taught me to shoot a .22 rifle at tin cans and paper plates from 30 yards. Every time I visited him in Kissimmee, FL, we’d watch Crocodile Dundee, so much so he nicknamed me “Crocodile”. To this day, I have a Brahman cattle skull on my wall he sent to me from the family ranches in 1989.
The Springbok chaps in the painting are a prized possession I acquired from “Big Jim” Houston at the Old West Show in Santa Fé, NM last year. Jim, the 1964-65 PRCA World bareback bronc champion, had these custom made for his show-riding in the late ‘60s. He felt it was time to give them a new life, and I happened to be the lucky recipient. We took the reference photos for this painting the day after I bought them [and I'm the one wearing them for the photos, right outside the Inn at Vannessie in downtown Santa Fé]. I can’t say I enjoyed painting the 200 silver brads lining the hide trimming, but man do I love looking at them and appreciating the life they’ve lived.
My Papoo branded my heart with reverence for the best sides of cowboy culture. He and my mother are the reason I love it, and certainly the reason I paint it. So let this be a nod to my Papoo, the cowboy spirit, and the rodeo tradition. When you look at this painting, I hope it makes you think of someone living an adventure, and living it with pride and a smile.