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" The Sodbusters"  by Bill Tyree

"The Sodbusters" started as a three dimensional wood carving.  The man, plow, horse and supporting base form the original  wood sculpture. The basswood sculpture is finished with acrylic media. The  wood sculpture has won awards in gallery shows in Loveland and Fort Collins, the Santa Fe Trail Association show in Trinidad, Colorado and recently at a show at the Pioneer Museum  in Colorado Springs.

For information about this art contact the artist at

The "Sodbusters" has been featured at the following juried art shows

  • Art in the Park:  Loveland Colorado, 1999
  • Thompson Valley Art League: Loveland Colorado 1999
  • Northern Colorado Art Association: Fort Collins Co. May 2000
  • Sante Fe Trail Association: Trinidad Colorado July 2001
  • Pioneer Muzeum: Colorado Springs Colorado November 2001
  • Louisville Art Association: Louisville Colorado June 2002
  • Boyce Bronze Castings A-list Art Show: Arvada, Colorado June 2002

Historical context of this work of art.

 The North American Prairie states in the late nineteenth and  early twentieth century.

A man his dog and horse in front of a sod house North Dakota Circa 1907

"My childhood was spent in Oklahoma.   I remember when I was seven or eight, at the end of the depression, horses were still being used to till cotton and corn. Remember that the thirties were tough times in Oklahoma because of the Dust Bowl conditions that existed through all of  the depression years."

Breaking Sod behind a team of Four" North Dakota 1907

My Dad started out his adult life plowing in Southeastern Oklahoma and he hated it.  That is probably why he became a teacher. The pictures that show what the prairies of North Dakota  are perfect examples of what the flat parts of Oklahoma are like. The soil is a different color. Eastern Oklahoma is a lot more hilly but really rich land.  The Cherokee strip land rush was held to create homesteads  before Oklahoma became a state in 1907.

" Four teams of four horses each, plowing a field. Each team is pulling a walking plow,
with a man following behind. In foreground is turned sod."

In the art work "Sodbusters" I was trying to capture the lean tough times that people had to live through during the depression years. Many  went hungry but their livestock got fed because  their lives depended upon the survival of the livestock.

" Breaking Rocky Ground for the first time"

" Having a friendly conversation at harvest time"

When I was in Switzerland in 1995, it was obvious that the draft horse was still very much a part of basic farming. Switzerland imports all of its oil.  Horses don't require gasoline, at 5 dollars a gallon." and everything recycles.

Photographs provided by:  Fred Hultstrand History in Pictures Collection, NDIRS-NDSU, Fargo ND courtesy of the Library of Congress

US Postal service commemorative post card issued in 1987

It was not until 1837, when John Deere invented the self scouring steel bladed plow in Grand Detour, Illinois, that it was possible to break the prairie sod and farm the prairie on a large scale.

  Scan and information on the plow provided courtesy of:

 Kenneth R. Robertson,
Plant Systematist
Center for Biodiversity
Illinois Natural History Survey
607 E. Peabody Drive
Champaign, IL 61820 USA

See:  His Prairie Page

You might be interested in the paintings about American Prairie Settlement done by Harvey Dunn by showing a team of oxen plowing the prairie. 

See also Harvey Dunn Collection of American Illustration Images Courtesy of the
 Biggs Museum of American Art.

  The Bronzing Process

Rae Lee Frazier, Steve Boyce and Chester Comstock at Boyce Bronze Casting, have been my friends and mentors in the process of changing this original wood sculpture into a finished bronze. I started this bronze project with the idea that I wanted to do as much of the process as possible. I wouldn't learn anything if I didn't get involved. I told Steve that and he only smiled a little when he said "of course, go for it." I learned how labor intensive the lost wax process really is. It is a place to get hot, dirty, tired, and totally immersed in your art. I love the process.

Rae Lee converted the wood sculpture to multiple molds for the hot wax impressions.  She, in her very quiet, careful way, taught me to pour the hot wax into the mold not on my hands. Chester regaled me with the stories that make up the life of an accomplished bronze artist specializing in the world of birds and antiquities.

Photo shows Bill Tyree shanking on a pour at Boyce Bronze. Casting services are the done by the lost wax method of casting using ceramic shell molding techniques.

Pouring molten bronze is addictive.. I hold the shank end of the pouring fork, the dumb end.  Steve controls the other end, The smart end. There is something very focusing about holding 100 pounds of  molten metal in  a crucible radiating at 2200 degrees temperature and making sure that it goes in the mold and not on the floor or on your foot.. The beauty of the crucible color is pure magic.

Come and see for yourself.  Steve loves to talk about the bronze casting world and can show you the wide variety of art that he produces for his artist clients in his foundry.


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