HPJ donates iconic wheat statue for downtown Dodge City

A Dodge City, Kansas, icon, the wheat statue that welcomed visitors to the High Plains Journal headquarters for over 40 years, is headed to a new location in the community.

The 32-foot-high fine art sculpture titled “Kansas Wheat Shock” was on the lawn south of the building for the past 40 years and will be moved to a prominent area in historic downtown Dodge City, Kansas, in the near future. HPJ donated the statue to the city in honor of its legacy in Dodge City and its current and past employees.

Built in 1980, the statue was created as a project of Ted Carlson, the art director of HPJ, on behalf of the owners. Hoss Haley, a Dodge City native, was given a $5,000 commission to build the sculpture with an all-weather steel product.

Haley, then about 20 years of age, remembers how fortunate he was to be awarded the project and that he could develop the statue with his own vision. Haley said his machine shop teacher, Lowell Tassett, allowed him to build the statue in his shop. It took Haley several months to build as he worked on it when he had free time.

“It was all built on the floor and I never saw it upright until it was placed in the ground,” he said.

Haley is proud of the statue that has stood the test of time. The Corten Steel, an alloy product of U.S. Steel, has maintained its structural integrity. The steel was made so that when the rust occurs it provided a layer of protection.

“That steel was pretty new to use then. In the late 1970s steel buildings were made with it,” Haley said. He remembers the hole being dug and enough concrete was poured into the base so the sculpture could withstand the Kansas weather—most notably the wind. The statue was erected in 1981 in front of the High Plains Journal’s earlier headquarters at 1500 E. Wyatt Earp Blvd.

When Haley thinks back to the project—it was his first sculpture—it provided him with notoriety and the commission allowed him to buy a welder that he still has today. The wheat statue was a good educational experience, too. The statue reflects what Kansas is all about, he said. Dodge City, because of its Hollywood connection with Gunsmoke, raises great awareness about cowboys, he says, but it is wheat that is a sustainable crop and a longtime staple of southwest Kansas landscape and economy.

Haley and High Plains Journal are happy to see the city of Dodge City working to move the wheat statue to a location where many people can appreciate it. Haley now lives in Asheville, North Carolina, but continues to return to Dodge City to see his family.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].