DEWEY, OKLAHOMA — There was no bigger cowboy star in the silent movie era.
Tom Mix and a succession of horses, including several incarnations of Tony the Wonder Horse, made how many movies?
“He did 366 movies,” says Tom Mix Museum manager Fawn Lassiter. “Predominantly, they were silent films.”
Lassiter is the current caretaker of the Tom Mix legacy.
He was night marshal in Dewey for a little while.
The third of his five wives came from here.
“He was a wanderer wasn’t he,” notes a visitor. “Apparently,” replies Lassiter. “at that time, in more ways than one.”
So the town felt a sense of ownership in purchasing thousands of Mix artifacts after his death in 1940.
There are many photographs, several monogrammed saddles, guns, and a wide array of promotional items.
Fawn continues, “even after death. They say a lot of stars don’t really die. They just keep on.”
He was born in Pennsylvania.
Tom always liked the spotlight.
After a short stint in the army, he left for Oklahoma Territory still a teenager.
He bartended at the Blue Belle Saloon in Guthrie for a while then caught on with the Miller Brothers wild west show.
“I can say what he didn’t do easier than I can say what he did do,” says Lassiter.
From there he made movies, lots of them.
He usually performed his own stunts.
Mix got rich, went broke, got rich again.
Then in October of 1940 it all ended suddenly.
At age sixty he drove his car of a lonely Arizona highway.
The wreck itself didn’t kill him, but a loose suitcase did.
Fawn says, “It hit him right in the back of the neck and broke it.”
That same aluminum suitcase sits quietly on display with a larger, matching suitcase.
Both were heavy duty, custom made suitcases.
The accident denied what would have been an interesting last act for ‘the king of the cowboys’.
The so-called ‘suitcase of death’ is one of the most asked about items in the Mix collection.
“People are very surprised that we have THE suitcase,” remarks Lassiter.
In the middle of Summer travel season hundreds of people stop by the museum each week to pay their respects.
They leave with a better appreciation of the man, and how fate can change with a shifting load.
The Tom Mix Museum is open from Tuesday thru Saturday.
In September the town holds a Tom Mix festival.
This year the car Tom Mix wrecked and the famous suitcase will come together for the first time since 1940.
For more information on the Tom Mix Museum go to http://www.tommixmuseum.com