Over the mantel above the fireplace in the middle library in our home hangs the picture of a bronco bucking in front of a campfire commissary. A man is looking at the horse as he is bucking right over the middle of a fire loaded with lots of cooking pots and pans. It turns out that we own one Russell painting, labeled “Bronco to Breakfast” just like another picture of Russell’s the other “Camp Cook’s Troubles.” They are different paintings depicting the same subject, which leads us to believe that there might be three or four more pictures of the same subject. Our painting was bought in an antique shop in Hermiston, Oregon while I was up there working on the nearby McNary Dam. The painting looked like an original Charlie Russell painting so we bought it and brought it home.
Was it or wasn’t it a real Russell? That was the big question around our house. If it was real, it would be worth thousands. We sent a letter to the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. There they had one in the series of the “Bronco to Breakfast” pictures. The curator of the collection wrote back a courteous letter that they didn’t think our painting was a true Russell. But, they added, they couldn’t tell without seeing the picture. That comment was just enough to create more interest at our house.
Next, we showed it to Homer Britzman, who was living in the Russell House in Arcadia. The Russell House had been built for the Russells to retire in. The house was called Trails End, however Charlie Russell died before he was able to move in to it. Mrs. Russell moved in later and lived to a ripe old age. Homer Britzman was the owner of Trails End Publishing Company. He published short stories and several books--collections of stories by early century cowboys who wrote down their recollections and reminisces.
Homer Britzman was an executive of Richfield Oil Company, which is now Arco. He had a whole houseful of Russell paintings. We met Homer Britzman in the Trails End House and showed him our drawing. He said our painting was not by Russell and he was very argumentative about it, which was too bad. We were all hoping the painting was worth $50k.
Since then, everyone has quieted down.