Museum opening leads off Cattlemen’s Week

Robert Smith
Museum creator Cody Garnett poses playfully behind an old jailhouse door. Robert Smith/Journal-Capital

By the time you picked up this newspaper, Pawhuska’s new cowboy museum should already have opened to the public.

The by-invitation ceremonial opening of the Ben Johnson Cowboy Museum, at 6th and Leahy, was set for Tuesday evening. The museum was to open to the public at 9 a.m. Wednesday for a general grand opening.

If you missed all the fuss and hubbub of the two openings, there still might be time for you to enjoy something celebratory. The museum, which honors both Ben Johnson Sr. and Ben Johnson Jr., will mark the 101st anniversary of Ben Johnson Jr.’s birth on Thursday and will have birthday cake available that was made by a member of the Johnson extended family, museum creator Cody Garnett said.

Regular hours for the city’s newest attraction are to be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The phone number is 918-287-9922.

For the uninitiated, Ben Johnson Sr. was a champion cowboy and his son, Ben Jr., was a champion cowboy and Hollywood motion picture actor.

Garnett said the preparation of the museum, which features the gear and exploits of champion cowboys and cowgirls from Osage County, has been continuing at a furious pace even as the opening day has come closer and closer. New material was still being added just last week about various honorees.

“We start about seven every morning and finish about eleven every night,” he said, explaining the work goes on “until we just can’t handle it anymore.”

“Haven’t seen the daylight in weeks,” Garnett said. He has, however, been hearing from increasing numbers of people who have heard about his project.

“We’ve had Ben Johnson fans from all over the country contact us,” Garnett said. “I just can’t wait to see the possibilities.”

This is Osage County Cattlemen’s Association convention week in Pawhuska, a tradition now in its 85th year, and the opening of the Ben Johnson Cowboy Museum has been timed to make it the first thing on the agenda for people interested in the activities of the Cattlemen’s Association. Among the subjects addressed by the museum is the importance of the ranching community to the past and present of Osage County.

Among the museum displays are photos from past editions of the Ben Johnson Memorial Steer Roping competition, and lists of past winners. The steer roping, which is held on Fathers Day, honors the memory of Ben Johnson Sr., who died of cancer. Proceeds are used to make charitable donations to the cause of fighting cancer.