Roads of Destiny
Art And The Bronco
Out of the wilderness had come a painter. Genius, whose coronations alone are
democratic, had woven a chaplet of chaparral for the brow of Lonny Briscoe. Art, whose
divine expression flows impartially from the fingertips of a cowboy or a dilettante
emperor, had chosen for a medium the Boy Artist of the San Saba. The outcome, seven
feet by twelve of besmeared canvas, stood, gilt-framed, in the lobby of the Capitol.
The legislature was in session; the capital city of that great Western state was enjoying
the season of activity and profit that the congregation of the solons bestowed. The
boarding-houses were corralling the easy dollars of the gamesome lawmakers. The
greatest state in the West, an empire in area and resources, had arisen and repudiated the
old libel or barbarism, lawbreaking, and bloodshed. Order reigned within her borders.
Life and property were as safe there, sir, as anywhere among the corrupt cities of the
effete East. Pillow-shams, churches, strawberry feasts and habeas corpus flourished.
With impunity might the tenderfoot ventilate his "stovepipe" or his theories of culture.
The arts and sciences received nurture and subsidy. And, therefore, it behooved the
legislature of this great state to make appropriation for the purchase of Lonny Briscoe's
Rarely has the San Saba country contributed to the spread of the fine arts. Its sons have
excelled in the solider graces, in the throw of the lariat, the manipulation of the esteemed
.45, the intrepidity of the one-card draw, and the nocturnal stimulation of towns from
undue lethargy; but, hitherto, it had not been famed as a stronghold of æsthetics. Lonny
Briscoe's brush had removed that disability. Here, among the limestone rocks, the
succulent cactus, and the drought-parched grass of that arid valley, had been born the Boy
Artist. Why he came to woo art is beyond postulation. Beyond doubt, some spore of the
afflatus must have sprung up within him in spite of the desert soil of San Saba. The
tricksy spirit of creation must have incited him to attempted expression and then have sat
hilarious among the white-hot sands of the valley, watching its mischievous work. For
Lonny's picture, viewed as a thing of art, was something to have driven away dull care
from the bosoms of the critics.
The painting—one might almost say panorama—was designed to portray a typical
Western scene, interest culminating in a central animal figure, that of a stampeding steer,
life-size, wild-eyed, fiery, breaking away in a mad rush from the herd that, close-ridden
by a typical cowpuncher, occupied a position somewhat in the right background of the
picture. The landscape presented fitting and faithful accessories. Chaparral, mesquit, and
pear were distributed in just proportions. A Spanish dagger-plant, with its waxen
blossoms in a creamy aggregation as large as a water-bucket, contributed floral beauty
and variety. The distance was undulating prairie, bisected by stretches of the intermittent
streams peculiar to the region lined with the rich green of live-oak and water-elm. A
richly mottled rattlesnake lay coiled beneath a pale green clump of prickly pear in the
foreground. A third of the canvas was ultramarine and lake white—the typical Western
sky and the flying clouds, rainless and feathery.