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Published April 02, 2020
The original artwork of Jerry Palen’s widely syndicated ranch-living cartoon, “Stampede,” now resides at the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center (AHC), thanks to the generosity of Douglas collector Art Nicholas.
From its first appearance in the agricultural-related publication Wyoming Stockman and Farmer more than 47 years ago, Palen has been publishing a “Stampede” cartoon every month. At the time of Palen’s retirement in 2016, “Stampede” had a viewership of more than 2 million readers in both the United States and in Canada.
Stampede’s main characters -- Elmo, Flo and their dog named Dammit -- capture the dynamics of ranch and farm life in a style that draws out its humor while recognizing the underlying seriousness of the profession. Palen came by his insight honestly: His father, Dr. J.S. Palen, was a large animal veterinarian in Cheyenne who often took his sons along when he went on ranch visits.
At the AHC, the cartoons are part of the Jerry Palen Papers, which also include a variety of horse memorabilia and saddles. Palen also is an artist and sculptor, whose sculptures have been commissioned by the White House. Two of his works stand on the grounds of the Wyoming State Capitol.
“It has been my true privilege to peek into the lives of rural America and bring humor to such hard-working and resilient folks. Of course, growing up with a veterinarian father who made house calls to farms and ranches gave me an edge,” Palen says about his AHC collection. “Dad always took two flunkies with him to do the dirty work: my brother and me. Flo and Elmo were on every farm or ranch we visited, and they have been wonderful inspirations for a humble cartoonist like me. The ‘Stampede’ cartoon series is Flo and Elmo’s story.”
Nicholas, who also owns the Wagonhound Ranch near Douglas, says it is a privilege to donate the collection of Palen’s art, cartoons and memorabilia to the AHC.
“Jerry, with his wife Ann’s support, has brought a big smile to us all. Farming and ranching have tremendous rewards, but there are times when it’s helpful to appreciate the humor in it all to make it through the day,” Nicholas says. “My wife, Catherine, and I offer many thanks to Jerry and Ann, Bill and Carol Ward, along with our other friends, who made it possible to preserve this wonderful collection for the enjoyment of all our country’s farmers and ranchers, and those who support them.”
The AHC is excited to have the complete 43-year run of Palen’s “Stampede” cartoons, says Director Paul Flesher.
“Now that we have accessioned them, we look forward to sharing them with Jerry’s fans across the state and beyond, perhaps even through a touring exhibit, once the present COVID-19 restrictions are over,” Flesher says.
To learn more about the new collection, visit the AHC’s online catalog at http://rmoa.unm.edu/docviewer.php?docId=wyu-ah12748.xml.