28. Frank Hopkins - 2006 UPDATE
By John Fusco
That controversy, of course, was the impassioned crusade that came to be promoted as “the Hopkins Hoax.” This campaign against Frank was started by husband and wife founders of an international equestrian guild. The attacks appeared online while “Hidalgo” was still filming in the middle of the desert—a total surprise to all involved with the production. The would-be debunkers—who had never heard of Hopkins before the announcement of the movie-- began denouncing him as a fraud, a self-promoting charlatan, and “ghoul.
Hopkins was known as one of the rare riders who put his horses first, and had a reputation for preaching humane horsemanship. According to Dipper Brislawn, daughter of Spanish Mustang legend Robert Brislawn, Hopkins competed in these extreme events for one reason only: to prove the endurance ability of the Mustang and make a utilitarian case for the preservation of the breed.
All we had were 72 years of writings in horse history books, magazines, and newspapers, referencing Frank T. Hopkins as one of the greatest distance riders who ever saddled a horse. We had the recorded oral histories of western ranch families and Native Americans who grew up on tales of his rides, like the Blackfeet elder, Leo Pard, who recounts the Hidalgo story in his native tongue, the way his elders told him.
The critics might have then understood more fully why Albert W. Harris, 1930’s endurance champ, Arabian horse breeder, and author of the acclaimed book “Blood of the Arab,” dedicated that book to Frank Hopkins and wrote two chapters on him and his horse Hidalgo. More importantly, perhaps, they would have learned of the local consensus that Frank’s younger wife by 32 years, Gertrude, was planning to pen a book about her celebrated husband’s earlier days out west.
Gertrude Hopkins put pencil to paper.hey were composed by Gertrude who knew little about horses or the west, but knew that there was great interest in her late husband’s legendary reputation for extreme rides. The popular biographer, Robert Eastman, wrote her and indicated a publishing deal if she could provide enough material. Gertrude ammended accounts of his legendary rides, but she also penciled in some rollickers and monkeydoodle: like Buffalo Bill was 7 feet tall; like Geronimo was Sitting Bull’s brother; some material was hand-copied directly from books like Black Elk Speaks; other purple passages resemble a neophyte effort to write a Zane Grey western.
Peggy Conroy, a successful breeder of dressage horses who also holds credentials in the field of geology, emailed to say that her mother and her father were distance riders in the 1940’s and pals with Frank Hopkins. Her family’s evaluation: “Frank Hopkins was the ultimate in horsemanship.
Lt. Col. William Zimmerman, 96, of Amarillo, Texas, wrote in with that very question. The former Signal Corps Meteorologist e-mailed to say that the Frank Hopkins in the movie “Hidalgo,” was the same Frank Hopkins who lived a few houses away from him in Forest Hills, NY, in 1920 when the Lt. Col. was a young boy. “He was a famous horseman, retired in the east,” Lt. Col. Zimmerman, writes. “I was the envy of the boys in school (Public School #3) because Frank’s daughter, who was in my class, invited me to her birthday party. The boys knew that I might get to meet Frank Hopkins—the great horse rider.”
XXXLt. Col. Zimmerman remembers that Hopkins was somehow involved with “movie pictures” that were being filmed often in that area by the New York Film Company, and that Teddy Roosevelt once spent a few days there participating in a film of some kind. (We sent Lt. Col. Zimmerman’s emails to a local newspaper reporter in Forest Hills, NY, and he has confirmed every address and building that Col. Zimmerman references from that period; that newspaper is currently working with him on an unrelated historical article about the old neighborhood and this new discovery of the Hopkins house).
Hopkins’ own desert memories of 1891 and turned them into an action-adventure celebration of a story that has long fascinated me. Today, some critics actually believe that Hopkins himself dreamed up bandit ambuscades, hunting leopards, daring rescues, a three second victory margin, and the dramatic name of the race: the Ocean of Fire. He did not. I did. Movies are entertainment and I obviously heightened the “Based On” story to create an entertaining theatrical film. 3,000 miles is a long ride without some rising conflict.
John Fusco is a writer and Spanish Mustang preservationist. He is the founder of the Choctaw Indian Pony Conservation Program. A long time fan of Frank Hopkins’, he initiated this site in 2002, in association with the Horse of the America’s Registry, as a tribute site to Hopkins and an informational site on Spanish Mustangs. Among his movie credits are “Thunderheart,”“Dreamkeeper,” “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron,” and “Hidalgo,” which won the 2005 Spur Award from the Western Writers of America.
Nice bit of info caprice. I look at Hidalgo the way you look at the dime novels back during the old west. Also the same thing can be said of movies. Find a good story and make it great. The same thing has happened since the beginning of time. Stories passed down for generations, each changing a bit as they moved on from mouth to mouth, year to year, family to family. Robin Hood, Santa Clause. There's a grain of truth in most stories you hear. Louis L'Amour said "I think of myself in the oral tradition--as a troubadour, a village tale-teller, the man in the shadows of a campfire. That's the way I'd like to be remembered--as a storyteller. A good storyteller." Anyone mad at the movies should be mad at anybody who ever told a story and embellished it.
Uh....oh,oh, it's the pancakes! You don't like pancakes, I will get you somethin else!
Bodyspiritsoul, explain this to Gilgrease Museum because honor this man whether like it or not have been for at least 50 years.