Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A Horse is a Corpse, Of Course, Of Course

I hate the Mister Ed theme song.  Undoubtedly one of the worst earworms you'll ever get stuck in your head.  And I've never been a huge fan of the series either.  Even by 60s standards it seems a little bizarre.  But I do love celebrity graves, and when I heard that Ed himself (real name "Bamboo Harvester") was buried in an Oklahoma farmer's backyard, I couldn't book my plane ticket fast enough.

Now before I go any further, I have to state that there is some controversy regarding exactly which horse you'll find in Tahlequah.  In an interview given before his own death, series star Alan Young (Wilbur) stated that Bamboo Harvester died in a freak accident in California, and that his trainer had the body cremated.  Young purported that the horse who retired to Oklahoma following the show's cancellation was one used for publicity photos, but was never actually filmed on screen.  A dead ringer for the real Ed, this stand-in was named "Pumpkin."

Whichever horse it is, he retired from Hollywood following the show's cancellation in 1966, and moved with his owner to a farm an hour's drive from Oklahoma City.  Over the next 13 years, Ed enjoyed his role as a local celebrity, often appearing in the annual 4th of July parade.  (If anyone reading this has any old photos from those events, we here at Six Feet Under Hollywood would love to see them!)

Then on February 22, 1979, Mister Ed passed away.  His owner buried him in the backyard, and placed a simple wooden cross on the spot.  At some point in the 1980s, the farm changed hands, but the new owners were well aware of the Hollywood secret buried in their backyard.

For the next 11 years, the plot remained undisturbed.  Then in 1990, a Tulsa rock station, Z-104.5 FM, got wind of the story.  Deciding that Ed deserved a more dignified marker, they organized a fundraiser for a new memorial, a five-foot granite behemoth.  It was dedicated in a ceremony featuring a color guard (!) and a bouquet of carrots.

Location: Walker Farm, Highway 82, Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

Since that time, the marker has attracted a variety of tourists.  Bear in mind, this marker is on private property, so if you're planning a visit, be respectful of that.  Knock first, or try to call ahead.

Here's something else to note.  The farm's current owner, Mr. Leonard Walker, once met the grandson of the original owner, the farmer who owned and buried Mister Ed.  According to Walker, the grandson believes that the marker is approximately 13 feet away from Ed's true burial position.  The grandson fondly remembers his youth, spending time with and riding Ed, then attending the service his grandfather held when the horse passed away.

Here are some better shots of the marker's inscriptions:

Top section

The radio station that arranged for the marker in 1990 is today known as "The Edge,"
offering Oklahomans alternative rock.
This inscription seems to caution that this may or may not be the real Mister Ed.
And prosper!
Finally, a note of thanks to Mr. Leonard Walker, for welcoming me to his property (uninvited!) and allowing me to take these photos.  He spent the afternoon telling me some of the stories you read here, stories he's undoubtedly told over 100 times. 

  In 2004, FOX tried to reboot Mister Ed as a wacky new series starring Sherilyn Fenn of Twin Peaks fame.  Who did they get to voice Mister Ed?  George Jefferson himself, Sherman Hemsley.  View the entire, unsold pilot here.

Shameless Plug:
  While traveling to Oklahoma to visit this site, my flight had to make an emergency landing in Branson, Missouri, after our cabin depressurized.  On the ground, I was interviewed by the local ABC affiliate in a story that went national.  You can watch that interview here

1 comment:

  1. OMG, so much good stuff in this one. Pumpkin???? That's adorable, along with the bouquet of carrots!!!!