Garnett celebrates the cowboy west

Robert Smith
Cody Garnett is bringing together a wide variety of artifacts of the cowboy west in a commemoration of the cowboy way of life. The Pawhuska businessman hopes to open his museum later this year. Robert Smith/Journal-Capital

There are any number of things you might know Cody Garnett for — the auctioneering, the pawn shop, the pink flamingos on Main Street, the irrepressible smile. But what he may be remembered for in the long run is his reverence for the cowboy way of life.

“It’s become forgotten history,” Garnett says, talking about his latest project, which is a museum dedicated to conveying the many sides and values of America’s cowboy west to new generations. The museum, which he’s still piecing together, will be housed in a newly renovated portion of the building at East 6th Street and Leahy Avenue in Pawhuska that is already home to Big County Pawn.

Garnett’s father was a rodeo cowboy who competed and won multiple times at Cheyenne, and he followed his dad into the rodeo cowboy life. That’s pretty much behind him now, in his current incarnation as a businessman and father of two little girls in Pawhuska, but it’s still burning bright in his soul — maybe the reason his eyes seem to twinkle sometimes.

“I’ve got such a deep respect for the cowboy way of life,” Garnett said.

His museum is meant to bring together multiple types of artifacts in an attempt to honor the contribution that cowboys and ranchers have made to the development of the American West generally and Oklahoma in particular.

“This is how I’m going to stay involved,” he said.

Garnett is working with the sculptor John Free Jr. to show Free’s work, that of his late father John Sr. and that of another up-and-coming member of the Free family, Cameron Free.

There will also be a Rodeo Room, which will feature saddles and buckles and other items once used or won by celebrated rodeo champions of the past. Y’all know the horse trailer, as we know it, was invented by Barton Carter of Osage County, right? Cody Garnett will have the details on that and a myriad of other aspects of the continued development of the West.

His collection of historically significant items will represent the achievements and contributions of a diverse crew of characters, including women and Native Americans who helped make the West a perpetually alluring landscape. He is also planning displays about well-known law men such as George Wayman and Dick Conner.

“We are going to be paying tribute to all the makers, too,” Garnett says, referring to craftsmen who made valuable tools such as saddles and spurs.

“The lifestyle is important to me. This is something we can be passionate about,” Garnett said, as he laid out his vision for his new museum. “I want to show this stuff off. I’m proud of it.”

He is hoping to be able to open by the time of the Cattlemen’s Convention in June. The museum will plan to have some core exhibits that are always available for viewing, along with a variety of changing exhibits.

Garnett also has a vision for the new museum to provide support for local causes of particular interest, such as the Junior Livestock Show, as well as scholarships.

“We’re giving it back directly to the youth in this community,” he said.