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Sculptures of Chief Baconrind and Ellsworth Walters top the monument.
Sculptures of Chief Baconrind and Ellsworth Walters top the monument.

Friendship With Chief Bacon Rind

Field review by the editors.

Skedee, Oklahoma

America's indigenous inhabitants have historically had a one-sided, bloody relationship with European interlopers. But shining from the gloom, like a ray of sunlight across a Western prairie, is the warm-and-fuzzy -- and slightly lumpy -- monument of Colonel Ellsworth Walters and Chief Bacon Rind, friends forever.

Bacon Rind was chief of the Osage Nation in the early 20th century, when billions of barrels of oil were discovered beneath the Osage reservation. The Osage couldn't be kicked out -- as they had been from Missouri in the 1800s. The Whites had to pay to drill for the underground bonanza and, since this was the 1920s and not the 1620s, they had to pay in real money, not beads and trinkets. That's where Ellsworth Walters came in.

"Colonel" Walters was an auctioneer who made it his mission to get the best deal possible for the Osage. He got over a million dollars' worth of oil leases in a single day, auctioned to oil company founders and presidents who bid in person. It was the apex of a 15-year run that saw the Osage reap $157 million from their good fortune, making them, briefly, the richest people per capita in the world. Just before the Great Depression hit, Osage County had the largest number of Pierce Arrow luxury cars in America.

Chief Baconrind statue.

In 1926 -- just after the Killers of the Flower Moon murders -- the Osage expressed their appreciation for Ellsworth Walters by erecting a 25-foot-high monument, "Bond of Friendship," in Walters' hometown of Skedee. It stands the center of a sprawling Skedee intersection -- with plenty of room for circling Pierce Arrows. Atop a blocky concrete pillar stands the Chief and the Colonel, facing each other, shaking hands. The work is primitive for such well-oiled honorees: the pillar is plastered cinder block around old oil pipes, while the Chief and the Colonel appear to be made of clay spray-painted silver. The distended lower half of the Chief in his otter-skin cloak looks as if he's carrying a space alien seed pod that is about to burst. Oklahoma newspapers at the time mocked the design.

A lengthy poem, penned by Walters, engraved into a marble slab cracked with age, tells the story of the monument and praises two-peoples harmony:

Chief Baconrind statue.

"...I will build for them a landmark
That the coming race may see
All the beauties of the friendship
That exists 'tween them and me...."

Unfortunately, the future audience that Walters imagined for his monument never materialized. Chief Bacon Rind, who owned a modern home but who spent most of his time in a teepee in the yard, died in 1932. His luck held even in death: the oil boom went bust in 1935. The railroad line into Skedee was washed out by a flood in 1957, and never rebuilt. According to the 2020 census, Skedee has dwindled to a population of 62. The flag pole behind the Chief and the Colonel looks as if it has been without a flag for many years.

The Bond of Friendship monument now towers over a virtual ghost town; its neighbors are a vacant lot, a collapsing food market building, auto garage, and long-abandoned service station, which when we visited still advertised gas at 49.9 a gallon. The lone stop sign in town is almost unrecognizable under many layers of spray paint graffiti.

Abandoned gas station.

We drove to the Pawnee Bill Museum out on US Highway 64, and asked a lady volunteer what had happened to Skedee. How had this former oasis of wealth fallen on such hard times? She blamed the Pawnee Walmart.

Friendship With Chief Bacon Rind

Market St., Skedee, OK
North three miles from Pawnee on Hwy 18. Look for the sign for Skedee, then east six miles. The road bends sharply to the south, then look for the turnoff (east) onto the road (Market St.) into town. Corner of Market and Second Ave.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

World's Largest Dick Tracy MuralWorld's Largest Dick Tracy Mural, Pawnee, OK - 6 mi.
Pawnee Bill MuseumPawnee Bill Museum, Pawnee, OK - 7 mi.
Indian Murals, Hilltop HorsemenIndian Murals, Hilltop Horsemen, Hominy, OK - 17 mi.
In the region:
One Room Jail, Terlton, OK - 18 mi.

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