DAVIS — Vic Garrett is surrounded by trouble, but he's not circling the wagons, he's selling them — and his guns, holsters, spurs, saddles and boots and livestock-working equipment.
It's not the average farm or ranch auction. It's Arbuckle Wilderness, the exotic animal theme park. Owner Garrett is putting excess ranch equipment, some land and lodgings and most of a lifetime collection of Western memorabilia and historical artifacts on the auction block Friday and Saturday.
Garrett hopes the proceeds will provide a lifeline for the park, which is among a slew of businesses in a bind since First National Bank of Davis failed in March after 116 years in business.
Pauls Valley National Bank acquired most of the Davis bank's assets. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took the loans, though, to sell to investors, and after years of dealing with a friendly lender in Davis, Garrett said he's found himself on the phone with rank strangers in New York.
“When the loan was called due, we had no choice but to sell,” Garrett said. “We have an annual sale, but this one's cutting really deep. What's that saying? We're not broke, but we're badly bent. It's amazing. When a small-town bank goes down, it devastates a community like this.”
Randall Hill Auctions, of Atascosa, Texas, will start to straighten out Garrett's affairs by selling equipment and real estate on Friday and mostly Western collectibles on Saturday at 1101 E Main St. in Davis, just east of Interstate 35 about 100 miles south of Oklahoma City. The auction site is a pasture north of State Highway 7, a mile east of U.S. 77. The auctions, also online, start at 10 a.m. both days. For a list of auction items, go to www.1bid2.com.
Garrett said he is not closing Arbuckle Wilderness and that he still plans the grand opening of the Old West town he's been building this fall. It just will be without the saddle from the 101 Ranch near Ponca City, the spurs from the Y O Ranch near Kerrville, Texas, and many other historic pieces.
There's no telling where some of Garrett's collection could wind up, auctioneer Randy Hill said.
“There's lots of collectors on the East Coast for Texas and Oklahoma stuff,” he said. “The cowboy (collectibles) are extremely popular on the East Coast.”
Among the artifacts is an official copy of President James K. Polk's report on the state of the Union delivered to “the two houses of Congress” Dec. 2, 1845. Annexation of Texas and diplomacy “between the U.S. and British Govts over Oregon” dominate the message, then delivered in writing, not in person. The United States and Great Britain divided the “Oregon Country” in 1846, which set Oregon, Washington, Idaho and parts of Wyoming and Montana on their way to statehood.
“It's as rare as anything you've ever heard of,” said Tom Burks, former curator of the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco, who has been helping Garrett get ready for the auctions.
Saturday's auction will have several items related to the famed 101 Ranch: the costume and gear of Antonio (Joe) Esquivel, a charro — Mexican cowboy — who rode for the ranch and its Wild West show.
Esquivel was an occasional star of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, which the 101 Ranch acquired in 1916. Items include his leather trunk, ornate sombrero, embroidered pants, a pair of high-topped black boots and his ornate revolver with gold-plated hammer and trigger, ivory grip and backstrap engraved with “Antonio Esquivel.”
Esquivel isn't a well-known 101 Ranch name like Will Rogers and Tom Mix, who were connected to the 101 Ranch Wild West Show through the budding motion picture industry in the 1920s. But selling his gear could still help Garrett and Arbuckle Wilderness out with their problems.
Any of the auction items could fetch a hefty price, said Joe Glaser, secretary-treasurer of the 101 Ranch Oldtimers Association, which owns the last remnant of the ranch and a museum in Ponca City.
A pair of pistols the ranch show gave to Roy Rogers, engraved with his name, brought $100,000 not long ago, Glaser said, and a panoramic photo of the ranch popped up in El Paso, Texas, awhile back and fetched $32,000. But then, one 101 Ranch postcard sold for $770 on e-Bay, while a similar one didn't attract the minimum bid of $50, he said.
“It's something that you can't foretell. There's been so much of that stuff sold. Some sells at reasonable prices. Some of it sells so high you can't believe somebody would pay so much for it,” he said.
That last bunch is especially welcome in Davis Friday and Saturday, to hear Garrett tell it.