Stampede mural, 1940 Oil on canvas, 5 1/2 x 16 feet Post Office, Odessa, Texas © James D. Lea

Stampede mural, 1940 Oil on canvas, 5 1/2 x 16 feet Post Office, Odessa, Texas © James D. Lea


I called it "Stampede" – it was for a new post office at Odessa, Texas, about seventy miles from a crossing of the Pecos River. The first verse of "Little Joe the Wrangler" was easy to remember:

We was camping on the Pecos when the wind began to blow,
And we doubled up the guard to hold them tight,
When the storm came roaring from the north with thunder
And with rain,
And the herd stampeded off into the night.

Snuffy cattle, epic times of drivers on long trails, were alive and kicking in my mind.

Frank Dobie had just sent me carbon copies of several chapters from his new book, The Longhorns. He was finishing the long labor with the manuscript, polishing the final draft, and I already had the good news that his publishers in Boston would let me illustrate the book. In preparation for that work- and I conceived of a color painting of a stampede as a part of it – I had spent a good deal of time that spring studying and diagramming the anatomy of cow brutes, attending the local rodeo to freshen my eye with the way a bull jumped and a steer ran, visiting the local stockyards to look sharp at cattle shipments from Chihuahua: some of the corrientes showed the rangy frame, the motley colors, the well-grown horns of the old Texas type.


Tom Lea, A Picture Gallery, Boston: Little Brown and Company, p. 35 - 36.