- Associated Press - Monday, May 30, 2016

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) - A Ponca artist is out to eternalize the mythos of outlaw country legend Merle Haggard in bronze.

Dan Jones, the artist Haggard commissioned for a monument originally intended for Haggard’s California home, told the Muskogee Phoenix (https://bit.ly/1Wmcf97 ) that bronze adds a “certain softness to that artist, which he is.”

“The piece wasn’t my design at all,” Jones said. “It was Merle’s mythology, really.”

Haggard, before his death on April 6, commissioned Jones to build a monument of the Santa Fe Super Chief logo. Since his death, Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame representatives began raising money for a memorial, which is set to include the monument.

An OMHOF board member, Derek Gibson, said the estimated cost is $250,000 for the monument and a bench with a bronze likeness of Haggard. The group has raised about $11,000. Jones is commissioned for the monument, Gibson said.

Jones, a member of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, said mythology is “how we transmit our values to the youngest ages.”

“We tell these stories to our children; these stories of what’s a hero, who’s a villain,” Jones said. “So, from the youngest age you learn who you are, where you come from and who your people are.”

Haggard was raised in a decommissioned Santa Fe box car after his family moved out west, Jones said. Deeper than that, however, Haggard talked about the myth of the train and its influence on American music.

“It was the medicine shows that were the first vehicle for music to start spreading from community to community,” Jones said. “And then, when the trains started to come along … that became the archetype for being able to get from city to city and get your music out there.”

Haggard held that mythology close to him, keeping it embossed on the side of his tour bus.

“Merle considered himself an Okie; he considered himself one of the sons and daughters of the musical uniqueness that is Oklahoma,” Jones said. “Oklahoma has cultivated a long line of people who have impacted (music).”

OMHOF representatives are hammering out details of a Kickstarter campaign for the memorial project. Gibson said they expect to launch it within the next three weeks. Until then, he said, individuals can make private donations to the hall of fame for the Merle Haggard Memorial Fund.

The memorial project would place the monument and bench at the Muskogee Civic Center, near where a section of Boston Street is to be coined “Merle Haggard Avenue,” according to a media release from the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.

“If we do it right, it’ll be there for the next 100 years with very little expense to keep it up,” Gibson said in a previous story.

Haggard made Muskogee a household name after he recorded “Okie From Muskogee” in 1969 at the civic center. Gibson said that regardless of where they travel, people reference that song when they find out a person is from Muskogee.


Information from: Muskogee Phoenix, https://www.muskogeephoenix.com

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