Daughter of Texas Artist Fights to Keep His Vision Alive

Tex Randall, an iconic cowboy statue, could see changes with restoration plans.

By Alexandra HartJuly 29, 2015 1:59 pm| ,

For 56 years, one Canyon resident has towered above the rest. His name is Tex Randall – a 47-foot-tall cowboy sculpture crafted by the late Harry Wheeler, a Canyon High School shop teacher. Tex has become something of an icon for the town of 13,000, but over the years, the cowboy fell into disrepair.

Now, Canyon has plans to restore Tex to his former glory, complete with parking and a green space around the statue. But not everyone is on board with the project. Notably, Harry Wheeler’s daughter, Judy Kingsberry. She has doubts about the plans to renovate her father’s work, so she’s spending time in Amarillo and Canyon showcasing her father’s work. The Standard’s David Brown talked with Kingsberry from the West Texas Western Wear Store in Amarillo where she’s displaying Wheeler’s work.

On this history of Tex:

“Tex came to be because my father has imagination. He’s an innovator at heart. He wanted to entertain people with something that would be fascinating for people driving on the highway. He designed [the sculpture] and built it. I remember looking outside. It was made out of heavy, heavy fencing wire. He would look at his hand and he would twist it to shape in his hand. So the hands that you see on the cowboy were my father’s.”

On her concerns with refurbishing Tex:

“I don’t want them to refurbish him and make him look like a city-fied pretentious cowboy. I want him like he was before … they know how he looks … I have a picture. I want it done voluntarily. [Tourists] would not be interested in a cowboy just standing there on a box with a yard beside it. They need something more than that … Certainly there are lots of people here in Amarillo that want the original looking cowboy. Everybody wants it that way. I dont have any animosity. I just want it to be better, the best.”

On why it’s important to preserve artwork:

“I believe if you had … some expensive artwork in your own home, would you take a butterfly or happy face and put it on? No, you know the artist. Even though my dad sold it … they cannot say, completely, it is theirs. You have to take in consideration the builder of this artwork. They should not have the attitude of changing it from the original way, because it is a classic. It is 60-some-odd-years-old. I’m 71 and I remember how it was built … the toil, the sweat he put into making that cowboy.”