Boise Art

Barbed Wire Cowboy - Don't Sit Down in Them Prickly Pants

Chamber of Commerce Description

Although this piece is located near some of the most frequented public space in Downtown Boise, it is easily overlooked due to its dark colors and out-of-the-way placement. However, next time you're on the Grove, take a gander toward the US Bank Building and you'll probably see the dark figure of a man hunched over, caught in the act of prospecting for gold.

But don't be content to just look from afar; it's only when you get up close that the true artistry in this piece is revealed. In a fitting tribute to two important facets of Idaho history, this gold miner is made out of two miles of barbed wire. The piece weighs over 700 pounds and is full of artistic details, despite the obvious restrictions posed by working with barbed wire. For example, close examination reveals the miner has suspenders, long underwear, and even pockets on the back of his pants. He also has a nice mustache, if you dare to get in his weathered face. The title of the piece, 1867, is a reference to the year the Idaho First National Bank was created in Boise by C.W. Moore and Benjamin M. DuRell. Moore and DuRell, who failed to get rich by mining, instead got rich by creating a nice safe place where more fortunate miners could put all the gold they found in them thar hills.

The US Bank Building itself was built in 1978, and it was originally the headquarters of the aforementioned Idaho First National Bank. In 1984, the directors of the Idaho First National Bank commissioned this piece of art to commemorate the year of the bank's founding. Despite this show of pride for the bank's heritage and local ties, Idaho First National Bank became part of the West One Bank conglomerate in 1989, which in turn was acquired by US Bank in 1995, leaving us with what we have today.

My Description

Even though I know this artwork depicts a gold miner in a creek, I've always called it the Barbed Wire Cowboy. First of all, the whole barbed wire theme seems to fit better with a cowboy. Second of all, there's the matter of his boots. I'd bet you both of my unwanted children that they're cowboy boots, because they look just like the pair I've got in my closet that I wear occasionally when I go to a hoedown or sheep shearing.

For some reason I can't picture miners in 1867 wearing cowboy boots. They would've been terrible for walking on wet stones in the creek, and more importantly they didn't even exist yet. No one can say with 100% certainty, but my numerous reliable Internet sources inform me that the cowboy boot as we know it wasn't invented until around 1875, which would make the cowboy boots on this miner a bit of an anachronism. I'm sure the artist will have it out with me for insisting they're the wrong type of boot, but I'm sticking to my guns here unless she can produce some pictures that show an 1867 miner wearing a similar boot.

Something that caught me by surprise when I inspected this piece was that the wire on the base of the thing still has some of the barbs protruding. You might think this is no big deal, but it's advisable to keep small children away from it, lest they puncture little hands, feet, or knees. Of course, they probably won't want to play on it anyway because the miner's face is a bit scary. But what else can you expect from a hard-living, hard-drinking, hard-working man from frontier Boise?


Boise-the-Great Name: Barbed Wire Cowboy
Real Name: 1867
Type: Barbed Wire Sculpture
Artist: Bernie Jestrabek-Hart
Completed: 1984
Where: West side of the US Bank Building

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