Madison Ranch Bronzes By MJ Madison
Waterin' on the Cheyenne

Mavis Madison

Family history has inspired the desire to create western bronze pieces, both of people and animals that have represented the true west of this area.

Born in Rapid City, South Dakota, Mavis grew up on the Madison ranch which is now on the State Historic Registry. Her great-grandfather settled in the Dakota Territory in 1876. His cabin stands in Rapid City’s City Park as one of the first structures built in the territory. Her grandfather Russ Madison known as “Mr. Rodeo” in South Dakota, arrived here by train to the end of the rail line in Buffalo Gap and rode the stage into Rapid City to join his father in 1886. At the age of 12 he went to work for the Circle Bar Ranch. There he broke horses for the US Army and was a ranch hand. In 1907 her grandfather heard of a relay race in Sioux City, IA. He rode the entire way, taking two additional relay horses with him, where he claimed first prize of $2000. In 1899 he rode to Watertown, SD where Buffalo Bill was holding a Wild West Show. He rode two horses that day that had never been ridden and won $1000. That evening Buffalo Bill honored him in the ring, allowing him to ride in on his personal horse Isham, an honor Buffalo Bill never granted to any other cowboy. Thus started the passion for the great western glamour and showmanship of rodeo. In 1917 he put together his first string of bucking horses. Many of which were of the “White Horse” herd of wild horses gathered off the Badlands. He started having rodeos at the ranch and would produce rodeos anywhere else he could, including Main Street of Rapid City where he was bet he couldn’t ride a horse to the whistle with a silver dollar placed between his boot and the stirrup without losing it. He rode the horse through a drug store plate glass window and back out and never lost the dollar.

He produced the first professional rodeos in South Dakota. Including Deadwoods “Days of 76” and the Belle Fourche Roundup. His stock was known as some of the toughest there were. “Comanche” was one of those horses, In 1936 a challenge was issued to any cowboy that could ride him. For any on that could, they would receive a beautiful two foot silver trophy. In 1941, five years later, the trophy was awarded to Comanche and he was retired. The trophy stands on display today at the High Plains Western heritage Museum in Spearfish, SD. Her grandfather was inducted into the SD Rodeo Hall of Fall in 1992.

Her memories are vague of her Grandfather so the love for the western way of life came from her father Stanley, who had a special way with animals, but especially horses. He was a kind and gentle man. His horses trusted him and would give with all their heart to please him. He had a very special ability with horses. Her first remembrance on a horse was riding in front of her dad when she was two. She’d watch their head, ears, and muscles move as they rode along. Later when she was older, she’d spend hours working with him training horses or trailing cattle or sitting behind a bucking chute. Her life literally was about cattle, horses and rodeo. She enjoyed nearly 25 years of raising and showing Quarter Horses.

She has always loved western art. Stating, “I guess because when I looked at it, I was looking at a beautiful part of my own life.“With sculpting, it’s all been about touch and remembrances for me. The “feel” of the animal, just like the feel I remembered growing up. My pieces reflect my family’s and the area’s history.” As a dear friend once said, “It’s just something in your blood that doesn’t go away.” Those that have been raised with the western spirit known exactly what she means, and those who don’t, you just can’t explain. Mavis unveiled her first four pieces at the High Plains Heritage Western Center in Spearfish, SD in conjunction with the 1st Annual celebration of the “National Day of the American Cowboy” on July 22nd, 2006. With her first grandson beginning the 6th generation of ranch and rodeo in her family, her prayer is that the tradition continues. “that’s been a colorful and beautiful ride.”