Ben Johnson Cowboy Museum adds, expands attractions

Robert Smith

Some people have sheltered at home from COVID-19. Pawhuska businessman Cody Garnett has sheltered at work, making numerous improvements to his Ben Johnson Cowboy Museum, located at the intersection of Sixth Street and Leahy Avenue.

“We’re making the best out of everything. We’re showing this virus true cowboy spirit,” Garnett said in an interview last week.

The museum held its grand opening in June 2019 and it contains exhibits that document in detail Osage County’s cowboy and western heritage. During the COVID-19 health crisis of the past several weeks, with the museum closed, Garnett has been adding new features and exhibits, and expanding existing attractions.

He said Tuesday that he plans to reopen May 15-16, which will be Friday and Saturday of next week. His hours will be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and one of the first things that return visitors will likely notice is the new gift shop and art gallery space.

Garnett has converted the space in his building at 6th and Leahy where he previously had a pawn shop into a new gift shop and art gallery for the Ben Johnson Cowboy Museum. There are a couple of view-only exhibit cases in that space, which feature items that are not for sale, but the rest is going to be dedicated to gifts and serious western and native american art items that patrons can purchase.

“If you’re a fan of western art and native american art, this is going to be one of the premiere places,” Garnett said. “It’s almost like another museum inside the museum. I’ve already got a bunch of cool stuff in there. It’s a first-class deal.”

There will also be new museum exhibits — for instance, a Reed Ranch exhibit that tells the story of six generations of Reed men raising cattle in Osage County; an Allie Mae Baker exhibit that displays items related to a young woman from Barndall who became Miss Rodeo Oklahoma Teen; an exhibit regarding the Blucher Boot Company, formerly of Fairfax, which made boots for the likes of Tom Mix and John Wayne; and a Pioneer Woman exhibit that will consist of items related to Ree Drummond.

“We think she’s a great spokesperson for the western lifestyle, worldwide,” Garnett said of Ree Drummond.

Among the exhibits that has expanded is the Drummond Ranch exhibit, which has quadrupled in size, from four feet to 16 feet, and contains numerous artifacts.

In addition to new exhibits and expanded exhibits, the museum will now also have a media room with a 75-inch screen that will play documentaries.

“I’m building community stuff here,” Garnett said, explaining that he’s planning for the long run. For now, concern about COVID-19 continues and the tourists aren’t back yet, but he’s planning to be ready for them when they ride into town.

Admission to the Ben Johnson Cowboy Museum is $10 for adults; $8 for veterans and seniors; $6 for kids over 8 years; and free for kids 8 years old and younger.