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laughing togetherFunny Stories About the Cowboy

There are many funny stories that was told to me or that I was present at the time.  Tourists saw the cowboy and thought he was a plane.

I was given stilts and was ready to run.  The cowboy’s shirt was made in a gymnasium, but it ended up too small.  Dad did not tell them.  He did not want to hurt their feelings.   They were so excited to help.

I have pictures that will put a smile on your face.  Do you want a cure?  Try on a laugh.



Light and shadow brings happiness



laughter with a smilesome men talking and laughing


This picture of the big cowboy below is from the collection of Angelica Paez.  She bought this picture from a person in Houston.

Now Angelica is the owner. Angelica is an artist herself and does not mind her picture being posted.  It is registered, however.

This is the picture of the big cowboy and the curio shop in early 1963.  The picture brings back many memories of funny stories about the big cowboy and the special 501® Levi® original tall & big original fit jeans for men.

Francis. the mule and the big 47-foot cowboy are stories of interest and fun.

Tex Randall


Let me introduce myself.  I am Judy and my Dad is the one who built the 47-foot cowboy including the motel and curio shop and a 22-foot cowboy.

Dad’s name was William Harry Wheeler.  See if you can spot my dad in this picture.

Wheeler's 22-foot cowboy

My Mom’s first name was Gayneyl.   She was the businesswoman.  {dad did not care for paperwork involving money.}

She also was a piano teacher and a composer.   While we lived in Canyon, she spent some time at West Texas State University–now called West Texas A&M University working as an accompanist for students in Voice Classes.

Dad knew denim 501® Levi® jeans would be the fashion of young people. 

The denim western shirt was popular among cowboys.

He knew this even before the 1950’s.   That is the reason my mule stories are related to jeans.  It was the attitude of rebellion and a time now passing away.

In the 1950’s and 60’s, there were real cowboys right there in the panhandle of Texas.

Some today only wear the cowboy outfits but have never even ridden a horse or rounded up cattle.

The curio shop called the Corral Curio Shop was just 15 miles from Amarillo, Texas.   The town was named Canyon.  This is a picture of a small town in Texas.

small town possibly in Texas


We moved there in 1952.   In 1963, Dad sold the business when I was attending Amarillo College.

The tourist business was doing great when he decided to sell his curio shop and motel.  This was in 1963 or 1964. 

Why did he sell his curio shop business if his business was thriving?

He sold the curio shop and motel so that his youngest son would have more opportunities and be recognized and encouraged for his potential aptitude and talent.

This proved to be the case and his son did well in Amarillo.

Amarillo was just big enough that dad decided to move there to start his life new, but you know that would not have been a problem with dad.

I am forever thankful to Levi Strauss Manufacturing Company for providing the jeans for the big cowboy.  A tent and awning company made the typical shirt that was worn in the 1950s.

Levi Strauss sewing manufacturing company in Amarillo made the 501® Levi® denim jeans for tall and big men and the tallest was 47-feet tall and weighed 7 tons.

This is the setting for the funny stories about the big cowboy.

One funny Story–The Making of the Western Shirt!

The tent and awning company provided the material to make the western shirt.

I believe it was made of a durable material with the same strength as an awning, but I was too young to remember the details.

Just where was the shirt going to be sewn considering it was to be fitted for a large-frame cowboy.


Where in Canyon was big enough to accommodate the cowboy’s large shirt size?

What was the size of that shirt?   Will you guess?    

Please, put the answers you guessed in the comment box at the end of the story. 

By the way, email is for only ONE purpose and that is to let everyone know when I have a new post on my Website. 

I may also provide give-away gifts as well as a newsletter.  I would love the feedback on the questions and what you thought of this particular story!

can you guess question mark
What size was the cowboy’s shirt?  If you wear a size 32, how many shirts would it take to fit the cowboy?

The awing shop was able to get a group of volunteers to cut and sew a pattern in a local school gym.   The volunteers ended up being some older (elderly) ladies who for the most part knew each other.

 Can you guess how many older ladies it took to make the pattern and to sew the parts for Dad to fit on the cowboy? 

Like I mentioned before, the material to be cut and sewed was in a high school gym.

These wonderful ladies told Mr. Wheeler that they were careful to not make the shirt too big!!

They basically used needles, thread, and scissors to sew the shirt by hand.

scissors, needles and thread that women use to sew

Get a group of women together and watch out, their conversation is registered in so many decibels for the whole group to hear!

Now that would be some loud talk.  Do you hear the slight echo?

I imagine sometimes they did a one on one conversation.  

What did they talk about?   Can you guess?

I do not know how long it took these ladies, but I do know they were determined to do it right and to please Mr. Wheeler who was a genius to have built everything by himself including the big cowboy.  That is what they thought about him.

I do not know how long it took these ladies, but I do know they were determined to do it right and to please Mr. Wheeler whom they thought was a “genius” to have built everything by himself with very little help.

When they presented the shirt to dad, they did not stay to see if it fitted.  After all, it was cut out at a huge gym.

I think they were shy to present it to Mr. Wheeler.

How much bigger and where can you sew a shirt by hand?

Well, dad used several cranes to lift up the shirt to position it just right next to the cowboy.  Dad made the railings and ladders to be able to climb to the very top of the cowboy.

This, then made it possible to sew the shirt on the cowboy.

clip art of a crane

And like I said, it was way too small.   Now he could have contacted the ladies to add so and so more material so it would able to fit the big cowboy, but dad was too kind.

However, making the shirt a little larger was not an impossible task to perform.   He had done the same thing with the big cowboy’s jeans.

As you can see in this picture, it took a lot of adjusting.   But the jeans were not too short and they were wide enough.

The shirt was a shirt of a different color.

That is dad down at the foot moving the jeans to see how to maneuver the jeans by using several cranes to put them into position.  The cowboy could not lift up his legs,

The cowboy's tall big jeans

When dad discovered that the shirt was too small, he added the extra piece himself rather than tell these ladies about the shirt not being big enough to put on the body of the cowboy.

That was the kindness on dad’s part not to mention to them that the shirt was too small.

He was amused too as he related the story.   I guess these ladies could Not Believe the cowboy was so Big!!   But he was a kind man and he never told them.


Now for some more of the background about my dad’s project; the 47-foot cowboy that had the 501® Levi® original fit and tall & big original fit jeans for men.. Stay tuned for some funny stories.

Angelica Paez, is the actual owner of the big cowboy.    By the way, you can still see my dad’s ladder on top of the curio shop porch.   A little boy is standing on the left foot while a woman is taking a picture.


The 47-foot cowboy


Angelica knows my dad built everything. You can find her on Google. She has been an artist for over 20 years. 

She is the owner of this picture although she knows it is my dad’s cowboy and his business he built also by hand.   You can find her on Google.   She has been an artist for over 20 years. I will have her work listed on the homepage.

You can find her on Google.   Some of her artwork is done by using surreal collages and is called Scrapatorium.  This one is named  Free Spirit.  http://scrapatorium.blogspot.com/

Now to another funny story; the Frame.

Dad began the construction of the cowboy strictly from scratch by pulling this heavy wire apart from these slabs which he eventually wired together.   This was done in the back of the curio shop and in front of the motel.

Later he had to move the cowboy parts of the frame in front of the curio shop to piece together because he knew he would have to have cranes to lift the cowboy up in position.

When my dad started twisting and bending the wires to put the parts together, many tourists did not realize he was building a 47- foot cowboy.

No one had done such a thing; it had never crossed their mind and some of the comments they made were amusing and the way dad handled their comments was even funnier in my opinion.

Let me give you an example.

One day, a tourist stopped by the curio shop, named, by the way, the Corral Curio Shop, at the time dad was forming the hand of the cowboy.

This meant he was in about the center of the cowboy.

Now, this was a common question,  “What are you building, an airplane?”

They could have asked other question about the mystery of the figure on the ground, but it seemed like everyone who asked what my dad was making, they usually thought he was building an airplane.

Dad was patient with them.   Sometimes, he would just answer but that brought on more questions or comments.

Usually, he would say or tell them to come over about the middle of the ‘airplane’ and he would show them what he was building.

He took them close to the middle of the cowboy.   Then he asked,  “Do you see the cowboy hat?” as he pointed west.   “Yeh, I see a hat.” the tourist would respond.

Dad would turn and point to the opposite direction.   He would ask the tourist,  “Over there to the east, do you see boots?”    The tourists are surprised usually and told dad what he was building even though dad knew what he was building already!!    “Why, you’re building a cowboy!”      “That’s right, ” dad answered, “I’m building a cowboy.”    

Dad knew the next question that was invariably asked.   “How big is it going to be?”  Dad would say, “About 50 feet.”   If he had said 47 feet, they could not have visualized the size as easily as 50 feet.

This led to other questions.

This is a special notation. The cowboy had a reputation for being 47-feet, but he would talk to the family at home about the 49- foot cowboy.

In actuality, the cowboy was 49 feet, but among the general public, the cowboy was 47 feet.

The big sign beside the cowboy advertised that the cowboy was 47-feet.

Here are some more questions tourist made about the cowboy.

One. “What are you going to do with him?”

Two. “Where are you going to put him?”

Three. “Where did you learn how to do that?”

Four. “Aren’t you afraid it will fall down?”

Five. “Why did you build a tall cowboy like that?”

Six. “What is he going to look like after you finish?”

Seven. “Did you have a model to shape this here cowboy?”

Eight. “When will it be finished?”

Nine.  “What is going to happen when it rains or snows?”

Ten.  “Why didn’t you just build a large sign?

Eleven.  “How far down the road are people going to see the cowboy?”

Twelve.  “Clothes?   Real clothes?   Why don’t you just paint the cowboy?”

Thirteen.  “Is it true Life magazine is going to do a story about the cowboy?”

What question would you have asked?    4 way discussion and feedback



Now with the question such as these, dad would keep on working while he answered.

When they started to give him advice, he would invite them into the curio shop.

The tourist took their pictures and touched the cowboy or his jeans if they could reach them.

Then they would go to the curio shop to buy their souvenirs.

In the summer, we would have tourists visiting the cowboy and the curio shop continuously all day long from all over the United States.

If I were alone, I would have to call home for more help.

Our Home was behind the motel.

The large one was the family home and the smaller one was for my grand-mom.   Her name was Bessie, but I called her, “Maw”.   I loved her very much.

The largest selling item was the Texas shaped ashtray. 

I think that is funny since people today look askance at people who smoke.  Years later, the cowboy’s cigarette was replaced by spurs.

Here is a list of the curios and gifts from the Corral Curio Shop.
  • gags  
  • expensive turquoise and cheap imitation turquoise jewelry  
  • watches     
  • sterling silver rings and charms   
  • moccasins   
  • regular and designer cowboy hats   
  • regular size polished horns
  • steer horns
  • leather goods such as wallets and belts and purses;  
  • scarves and neckties
  • belt buckles   
  • ashtrays, plates with shape or decal of Texas   
  • large cut glass items
  • Squaw dresses   
  • postcards and other curios
What would you have bought if you were traveling as a tourist through Texas?
  • There was no need for the big cowboy to say anything.   When no one was looking, he would take a drag on his cigarette.

I have strange funny stories too.   They are short and sweet.

  •  I remember one time going around the corner of the motel just in time to see my dad sitting alone precariously on a railing for some work on the cowboy.
  • I slowed down considerably.  Like I said before, my dad was humorous.  By the time I neared the cowboy, dad smiled and told me that he was secure and for me not to be afraid.
  • I did not know that he had seen me or had heard me walk near the cowboy.   He did not look secure, but then again, I should have known my dad would have built something that would be safe while he was up high doing work on the cowboy.
  • One day, my dad bought a pair of stilts and ask me if I would like to try to walk on them.
  • My twin sister did not want to try them out.  I did and immediately began to walk around.
  • I figured he was going to use the stilts some way and I showed off.
  • He was surprised and told me that he was amazed that I could do it so quickly and with no problems.
He was always so happy when his kids achieved even the smallest thing.

Now many tourists stopped at the curio shop?   There were signs on the highway that aroused their interest and were fun to find because they were anticipatory signs.

They were signs of two cowboys talking.

Tourist would tell us that these hand-built signs were so clever and funny that they looked for the next one and the next one.  They also appreciated the directions.   Those signs are gone forever.   I wish that my dad had taken more pictures.

He meant for the cowboy to withstand the weather and to be secure in the ground so that the cowboy would not ever fall.   Local people and tourist would ask my dad, “What are you going to do if the cowboy falls down?”   Or perhaps they said, “How long will he last standing.”

The cowboy is still standing 58 years later!!  

Dad had no engineering degree, but he knew how to keep the cowboy from ever falling even in the harsh weather and high winds of the panhandle.

I thank the Texas Historical Commission for providing a marker in front of Tex Randall telling about my dad.

I wish I could tell all the funny stories about the big cowboy.

I quote verbatim the last few sentences of the marker from the Texas Historical Commission concerning my dad.

” Harry Wheeler’s vision, dedication, and attention to detail sealed his creation as a Landmark and Tourist Attraction.  The giant cowboy became Wheeler’s lasting contribution to Texas Heritage and History.”

The heritage. Texas Historical Commission

“Harry Wheeler’s vision, dedication, and attention to detail sealed his creation as a Landmark and Tourist Attraction. The giant cowboy became Wheeler’s lasting contribution to Texas Heritage and History.”

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