Friday, June 08, 2018

Storyteller in bronze

Betty Williamson

If the United States Postal Service had a loyalty program, Lea County cowboy artist Curtis Fort would be a platinum member. Or maybe, more appropriately, bronze. Almost every evening he's in the combination home/studio that he shares with his wife, Carol, near Tatum, he's at his kitchen table, a pen or pencil in his left hand, writing and illustrating notes to be stamped and mailed the next day. In a world where it's easy to acknowledge a passing encounter or kindness with only a nod or a quick text, Fort instead jots down a few cheerful lines, adds a sketch of a horse, an elk, a mule deer, maybe a cowboy, and mails it off, usually within a day. And he does that 500 to 1,000 times a year. With those letters, plus charm, humor, and a knack for being in the right place at the right time, Fort has built up a herd of loyal friends and a fan-base for his meticulous bronze sculptures that reaches across the United States and around the world. Curtis Fort may, in fact, be one of the best networkers to ever put a foot in a stirrup. 30 YEARS OF LETTERS "I've got more than 30 years of Curtis Fort letters," said New Mexico writer Steve Zimmer, who divides his time between Las Cruces and Miami, New Mexico. "I've kept every one of them and someday I'll pass them down." Albuquerque Realtor and ranch broker Tye Terrell Jr., who has known Fort since they were students at New Mexico State University nearly half a century ago, said he's gotten many of those letters over the years, too. It's a habit that Terrell says "goes back to those original cowboy days" when the two of them were "cowboyin' for a living." "I was making $160-$170 a month cowboying," Terrell remembers. "A dollar was hard to make, and a stamp was a lot less expensive than a phone call. Curtis was always mesmerized by Charlie Russell's letters and writing. He'd write letters in the evening after we'd come in from working. That was his mode of communication." Most people who have crossed Fort's path talk about those letters. Former State Land Commissioner Bill Humphries of Tucumcari, a longtime Fort friend, has a collection. "I think I have saved darned near every letter and card he has ever sent me," Humphries said. A STORYTELLER, PERIOD Curtis Fort has been called by many a "storyteller in bronze," but the truth is, he's a storyteller, period...MORE

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