Series chronicles history of cattle-ranching family

E.L. “Buster” Kenton painting
E.L. “Buster” Kenton, whose paintings are used in the Cow Creek Chronicles series, is a former rodeo performer and emcee. SKIP STOWERS

If you’ve been following our magazine since its launch 16 years ago you may notice that we’re doing something different this issue. Like the magazines of old, we’re running a series.

The Cow Creek Chronicles follows a pioneering Treasure Coast family and their cattle ranch through the generations. The first installment starts with this issue and we hope you’ll be looking forward to the next installment after you read it. As a multimedia company, we’ll also be offering extras on our web site, www.indianrivermagazine.com and through our Cow Creek Chronicles podcast.

If you remember my column from the winter 2021 edition, I revealed that my mom, Katie Enns, often suggested subjects that we should write about. She had been suggesting one on Jo Ann Raulerson Sloan, the subject of the series, for years, and she continued to do so until her death in January 2021. Mom was part of the story and, as the series progresses, I look forward to sharing her involvement in it, as well as that of my dad, the late Bob Enns.

You’ll learn about how the series evolved in our next issue, so I won’t go into detail here. But I did want to share one terrific discovery we had in putting the story together.

We were having difficulty finding photos of the title subject, historical Cow Creek crossing at Cow Creek Ranch near the border of St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties. During one of my interviews with Debra Sloan, Jo Ann’s daughter, she volunteered that she had paintings of Cow Creek and would be glad to allow us to use the images.

The paintings appear on our cover [for our St. Lucie and Martin editions] and on pages 18-19, 23 and 25. All are remarkable and evoke the spirit of Old Florida that we were trying to set. As far as we were able to ascertain, the image of the old Cow Creek crossing on the cover is the only remaining image of that landmark. So far, we have been unable to find any photographs.

Once we received Debra’s permission to take photographs of the paintings, we needed to find the artist who had painted them to get permission to reproduce the images for the magazine. We eventually learned that the artist, E.L. “Buster’’ Kenton, died in 1991. But luckily, we were able to locate his daughter, Rose Marie Kenton Anderson of Orlando, who retained the rights to reproducing his paintings.

We told her about the story we were doing and she provided us the necessary permission. In our conversation she shared that her dad will be inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame this year. The hall, established by the Florida Legislature in 1986, recognizes people who have made significant contributions to the arts in Florida either as performing or practicing artists.

The Treasure Coast has a healthy number of these members in the hall, including fine artists A.E. “Bean’’ Backus, Jacqueline Brice, Alfred Hair and Jim Hutchinson and writer Zora Neale Hurston.

We hope this honor will shed more light on the works of Kenton, who was well-known in his hometown of Kissimmee, where he was a former bronco rider and rodeo emcee. When not cowboying, he painted works such as the ones you see in our magazine. Osceola County High School still uses his cowboy images for the school mascot, Kowboy Jake, modeled after real-life Kissimmee cowboy Pete Clemons.

“I thought his art was great,” says photographer Skip Stowers, a friend of Kenton who took a rare portrait of the artist before his death. “It was interesting in many ways because the cowboys in a lot of his art were larger than the animals they were riding. That is 100 percent of what he was doing — preserving Florida’s cattle history.’’

See the original article in the print publication

 

Gregory Enns Signature

 

 

 

 

Gregory Enns
Reach Gregory Enns or 772.940.9005.

Please follow and like us: