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Benjamin resident and sculptor creates Ty Murray Top Hand Award

By Arianne Brown

On November 6, the Professional Bull Riders presented former rodeo cowboy and world champion, Lewis Field with the coveted, Ty Murray Top Hand Award that is given to athletes who exemplify excellence and traditional cowboy values. While the award most definitely gave credit where credit was due, what many don’t realize is that there wouldn’t be an award without skilled hands to create it – the skilled hands of Benjamin resident, Jeff Wolf.

Chosen from dozens of submissions, Wolf was selected by the Professional Bull Riders and nine-time World Champion Cowboy, Ty Murray himself.

ty murray

The award was a bronze replica of Ty Murray’s spurs and included every detail down to the bucking horse, buttons, engravings on the inside, and of course the intricate shape of the spurs themselves. And Wolf, who has been sculpting professionally for over 25 years, and who has had his own professional rodeo career, was just the man to create the one-of-a-kind piece.

“Creating the award was more than an honor, it was a blessing,” Wolf said in an interview for the Professional Bull Riders. “I really put my heart and soul into this piece. Not just because it was the PBR, but with everything that went around it – Ty and his accomplishments … the person that he was. It’s right up there at the top of the honors that I’ve ever experienced.”

The fact that Wolf considers the opportunity to create this piece among the top honors he has experienced, is saying a lot considering what he has accomplished over the years starting from a young age.

Raised on a ranch in the mouth of Goshen Canyon, herding cattle, riding horses and even working at his grandpa’s meatpacking plant, Wolfe said it was these experiences that shaped his art.

“I know firsthand what it feels like to climb down onto the back of a bull or bucking horse, know the rush adrenaline and the explosion from the chute,” Wolf wrote in his biography. “I know what it’s like to sit for hours watching mule deer feed, coming so close that I could feel their breath on my hand. I have experienced the fear and drama of a stampede.

“If I haven’t personally lived the scene, I imagine myself in the time, place, and moment and visualize what it would have been like to actually be a participant. This might involve hours of research until that image or scene is fully and clearly formed in my mind. The concept then becomes like a photograph imprinted in my consciousness, becomes a vivid image and begs to be given life.”

Taking with him those experiences and his desire to learn, Wolf has created a career for himself that includes being commissioned to create pieces for Coca-Cola, Susan G. Komen Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, American Airlines, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, American Bucking Bull, Inc. and many others. And now, most notably, Professional Bull Riders with the Top Hand Award.

Even with his success, Wolf remains humble regarding his abilities, often saying that his gift to sculpt chose him, and not the other way around. He credits his wife, Jenniffer, his daughters,  parents, grandkids, friends, animals, other artists, the great outdoors, life experiences and stories he’s heard for where he is today.

For more about Wolf’s art, go to jeffwolfstudios.com