Saturday, September 17, 2011

Back in the saddle again

OK, true to his real-life Sioux ancestry, "The Scout" doesn't use a saddle. But I do, figuratively, and I'm back at work here after a six-month hiatus. Thought I'd reboot by revisiting the bronze icon on the limestone pedestal. 

The unofficial face of KC, he's been here since 1916 when his creator, sculptor Cyrus Dallin, dropped him off for a visit on the way home to Boston from an award-winning gig at the 1915 Panama Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco. The familiar narrative says "The Scout" was so well-received here that citizens raised the $15,000 purchase price so he could gaze forever northward from a grassy hillside in Penn Valley Park, near a branch of the old Santa Fe Trail. 

Actually not everyone loved him at first. A bunch of art critics gathered round his pedestal one day in 1916 and complained to a Kansas City Star reporter that he wasn't sufficiently muscled, that his horse looked too well-groomed, that the whole thing seemed, well, lifeless. "I think he's a drawing room Indian – little more," sniffed one expert. Still, the same issue of the Star carried a letter to the editor advocating civic-symbol status for "The Scout." 

Oddly, for a beloved symbol, he has suffered repeated acts of cruelty during his 95 years here – thefts of his feather, arrowheads, bow string, reins, etc.; graffiti galore; and last spring someone decided his horse ought to be a paint, emptying a gallon of gray Benjamin Moore satin Impervo across his backside. (At least it wasn't cheap vandalism.) 

"The Scout's" resume includes having his image appear on the sides of our long-lost streetcars and on the chests of our long-lost National Hockey Leaguers. That's work experience that qualifies him, I think, to help relaunch a wistful blog about his adopted hometown. When I visited him the other day he was stoic and clean, save for a crushed Heineken can wedged in his limestones. At least it was a premium beer.