On Seeing "Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies," a sculpture by David Govedare (Vantage)

  • By Dorothea Nordstrand
  • Posted 7/25/2010
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 9492
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Dorothea Nordstrand (1916-2011) contributed this reflection on the experience of seeing David Govedare's sculpture "Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies," located on top of a cliff near Vantage, visible from Interstate 90.

Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies

A high ridge overlooking Vantage, in Central Washington, is the site of the dramatic roadside attraction “Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies,” conceived and created by David Govedare of Chewelah, some 30 years ago.  It depicts a string of 15 galloping wild horses, life-sized and beautiful, that stretches more than 200 feet along the crest of the hill. From the highway below (Interstate-90), they look so real, you catch your breath, fearing they will plunge off the cliff in their racing.

My husband, Vern, and I were traveling East on our way through Vantage, when the horses caught our eyes and demanded a closer look. We pulled off the highway and found a back road that took us to the base of a trail leading up to where the monument stands.  We were amazed to discover that each pony has been cut from a one-inch-thick sheet of steel and are simply silhouettes set up on the edge of the bluff.

The piece of art seems complete as it stands, but the artist also envisioned a tipped-up basket, from which the stream of ponies come pouring and was meant to illustrate an old Indian legend of the creation of life by Grandfather Spirit. The following is quoted from the artist’s own explanation of the piece:        

“Creatures of this planet, behold, a Great Basket! I send this basket, bearing the gift of life, to all corners of the universe.  Now take these ponies.  I am cutting them loose. They will inspire a Spirit of free will. They will be a companion for work and play on this planet. This is a way for you to see how all life depends on all other life.  This basket is my heart.  You are at one with me.  Eagle of the sky, we look to you for vision.  Salmon of the water, we look to you for life-giving sustenance.  Deer of the land, you provide a bountiful tranquility for our Mother Earth.

"From the center of my basket burns the fire of our collective souls.  Humans, you are responsible. You have the power of reasoning and the gift of free will.  Use them wisely.  Always be aware of the limitless nature of this expanding universe.  Let us live to inspire each other.”

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