Iconic Kansas Wheat Shock unveiled in downtown Dodge City

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As reported in High Plains Journal, with the unveiling of a story board south of the Boot Hill Museum, an iconic public art sculpture moved to a new home to the loud applause of a large crowd that gathered Aug. 3 in downtown Dodge City, Kansas.

The story board tells the history of the 32-foot original art piece, known as the “Kansas Wheat Shock,” which has been relocated to a median grass strip along historic Wyatt Earp Boulevard. For 40 years the signature artwork welcomed visitors to the former home of High Plains Journal, 1500 E. Wyatt Earp Blvd.

When the publication moved to its new location this past February to 11142 Kliesen, HPJ owner Nelson “Spence” Spencer Jr. maintained his commitment to keeping the statue in a prominent location as a way to say thanks to past, current and future employees of the farm and ranch publication. In delivering on his promise he found an eager partner with the city of Dodge City and was pleased that it could be prominently displayed.

“It is an iconic piece of art and should be in an iconic landscape,” he said as he marveled at its new location. Donating the wheat statue was the right choice because it belongs to the community and Dodge City, which has been intertwined with HPJ, Spencer said. The publication was started in 1949 but its roots dates back to 1876.

Spencer said HPJ has been a success because of its employees and continues to have a bright future.

“There would be no legacy to build upon without our people,” he said.

Artist Hoss Haley, who now lives in Asheville, North Carolina, remains humble about the project as he remembers it would not have happened without the generosity of HPJ and others in the community who believed in his talents.

“It’s a real honor,” Haley said before festivities as he thought about the new location. “I didn’t look down the road 40 years ago to know where it would wind up being (where it is today).”

The public sculpture is an example of the generosity shown by the late HPJ Owner and Publisher Joe Berkely and the late HPJ Art Director Ted Carlson. Haley, a Dodge City native, was awarded a $5,000 commission to build the statue, which used Corten Steel, an all-weather product.

“I get the credit because I made it but it would not have happened without Joe’s and Ted’s vision,” Haley said. “Ted was a fabulous artist. He sketched out the idea and I took it and ran with it.”

He credited the late Lowell Tasset for his willingness to share his shop location, skills and expertise. Haley remembers building the sculpture horizontally. A deep hole had to be dug and a pad poured with five yards of concrete in preparation of it being placed south of the Journal’s headquarters. The first time it stood vertically was when it was put in the ground. His dad had a John Deere 4010 with what Hoss Haley remembered was a homemade-looking loader and the statue was put in place until its relocation.

He also credited Ford County Commissioner Kenny Snook, who had contacted Haley and told him the Kansas Wheat Shock needed to be preserved. Haley was appreciative to all the entities who worked together to keep the wheat statue preserved and visible as he noted the meticulous work of the city employees under the direction of Corey Keller, director of Dodge City’s public works department. The statue was his first piece of public art and will always have a place in Haley’s heart. “It was the piece that started my career.”

Michael Burns, Dodge City vice mayor, was honored to accept the statue as a gift on behalf of the city and its citizens. The wheat statue will serve as an anchor for the downtown and it is appropriate to be close to the historic Boot Hill Museum. Burns also noted the wheat sculpture captures the importance of agriculture to Dodge City and the region and also HPJ’s continued commitment and legacy to serving the industry.

Retired HPJ Publisher Duane Ross, who attended the ceremony, remembers the commitment HPJ had made for many years to the wheat industry and agriculture and the Kansas Wheat Shock captured perfectly.

“It is classic art piece and so appropriate to this region,” he said, adding he was appreciative that it could be preserved and enjoyed by many more people who want to visit Dodge City.

Ross is one of three publishers pictured on the story board. Also pictured are Berkely and Tom Taylor, who was unable to attend. HPJ Publisher Zac Stuckey and former Publisher Holly Martin were also recognized. Dodge City’s Miss Kitty (Christina Haselhorst) provided the welcome and introduced dignitaries in attendance. The Dodge City Area Chamber of Commerce conducted a ribbon cutting, and a reception followed in the Mariah Gallery of the Boot Hill Museum.

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