Western Heritage Museum & Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame

Museum Offers Reception, Exhibit for Copter Cowboy

Museum Offers Reception, Exhibit for Copter Cowboy photo 9/5/2010 2:19:33 a.m. - Hobbs, NM. On Thursday, September 9, at 7:00 p.m., the Western Heritage Museum & Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame will host a Grand Opening Reception for the cowboy art and ranch photography of Russell G. Hill, also known as the “Copter Cowboy with the Red Grasshopper.”

For the past thirty years, Hill has gathered cattle by helicopter on many of the largest ranches in West Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.  His art and photography, which will be on exhibit at the Museum through October 10, reflect this unique perspective on the world of ranching and cowboys. This marks the first formal exhibit of his ranch photos, many of which were taken many years ago.

Hill was born and raised on the Hill Ranch southeast of Hobbs in Gaines County, Texas.  A graduate of Seminole High School, Hill earned an art degree from Sul Ross State University and taught briefly before joining the Air Force.  For seven years, Hill flew helicopters and jets, including a one-year tour of duty in Viet Nam flying rescue helicopters. After leaving the service, Hill pursued graduate studies in Art Administration and Philosophy at Texas Tech University.

Hill was then hired by Bell Helicopter to go to the Middle East to teach Iranian army pilots how to fly helicopters—until he was forced to leave during the revolution of 1979.  Upon his return, he moved home to the Hill Ranch, where he started Hilco Helicopters and served as the fixed base operator for several years at the Gaines County Airport.

Today, Hill and his wife Lynn, who together run a cow/calf operation, represent the fourth generation on the Hill Ranch, which was founded in 1906 by his great-grandparents.

At the Grand Opening Reception, Hill will be available to sign all photo copies and limited edition artwork.

For more information, please contact the Museum at 575.392.6730.

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About Western Heritage Museum & Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame

A prehistoric sea. Rich grasslands. Millions of buffalo. Ancient Indian tribes. The Great American Desert. Ranchers and homesteaders. World champion cowboys. The discovery of oil!

From the ancient, prehistoric sea that once covered the Permian Basin to the rugged individuals who tamed the Llano Estacado, or “staked plains,” the unique and colorful spirit of the timeless land of southern New Mexico can be explored fully at the Western Heritage Museum & Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame in Hobbs.

The museum's exhibits strikingly depict the vast region's fascinating background. As the largest non-mountainous land formation in North America, the Llano Estacado covers an area larger than the combined states of Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Throughout the centuries, this expansive area was comprised of rich grasslands that supported life for millions of buffalo, as well as a number of Native American peoples.

Long known as “The Great American Desert, ” the Llano Estacado was avoided by Europeans for centuries. It wasn't until the 1880s that bison hunters discovered the La Pista de Vida Agua, or Trail of Living Waters, which ran across northern Lea County. From that point on, the area underwent extensive exploration by the legendary Buffalo Soldiers and others.

Such efforts of early explorers convinced some that there was enough water to sustain livestock—if one was lucky enough to gain control of the few springs and lakes in the region. However, with the advent of the windmill, which pumped life-giving water from far below the surface, life on the Llano Estacado was changed forever. Now, enterprising homesteaders, cowboys, and ranchers were able to move onto the seemingly inhospitable rangelands to begin staking a future for themselves and their families.

As these hearty pioneers slowly began to tame the region, one last secret was discovered deep within the bosom of the Llano Estacado: oil! And with this discovery, the face of the Llano Estacado was to be transformed yet again. . .

Come discover for yourself the compelling history, the rugged men and women, and the rich traditions beautifully showcased in the Western Heritage Museum and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame in Hobbs!

Background: At approximately 29,000 square feet, the Western Heritage Museum & Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame was completed late fall 2005 and opened January 14, 2006. In addition to offering world-class exhibits throughout the year that exemplify the diversity, beauty, and rich cultural traditions that have shaped the American Southwest, the Museum also serves as home to the renowned Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame, which boasts more world champion cowboys than any other region in the world!

The Museum is located on the Lovington Highway (State Highway 18) between New Mexico Junior College and Lea Regional Hospital (and just past Zia Park Racetrack & Casino!). Come check out all the exciting new happenings around Hobbs!

Regular hours of operation: 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Tuesday – Saturday.

Adults - $3
Seniors (65+) - $2
Youth (6-18) - $2
Children 5 and under - Free

School groups from Lea County will be admitted free of charge.
School groups from outside the County will pay $1 admission fee.

Discounts will be offered to military, American Automotive Association (AAA), and groups of 10 or more.


For additional information contact:

Darrell Beauchamp – Exec. Dir. Western Heritage Museum and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame
New Mexico Junior College
1 Thunderbird Circle
Hobbs, NM 88240