Anyone who grew up in the 1940s or early ’50s, especially boys, remembers Red Ryder, the cowboy hero of newspaper comic strips, comics, books, 38 feature movies, and for nine years a popular radio show. And countless millions of young boys ever since remember with fondness either owning or wanting to own their very own Red Ryder BB gun — as made famous by character Ralphie in the popular holiday movie “A Christmas Story.”
Today, you can learn all about Red Ryder at the Fred Harman museum in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, on the western edge of town along state route 160.
The man behind Red Ryder and his Indian sidekick Little Beaver was Fred Harman, who grew up and later spent much of his life in Pagosa Springs. Late in life, he gained fame as a serious Western artist. Early on, he struggled as an artist and businessman. He and his buddy Walt Disney formed a company that failed when they were both getting started.
Visit Harman’s studio in Pagosa Springs to see his paintings and even original Red Ryder cartoons. Buy a genuine Daisy Red Ryder BB gun for $60, or spend $110 for a rare Ryder Ryder comic book. If you don’t want to buy a BB gun, then just admire the very first Red Ryder BB gun ever made. Harman’s serious art is displayed: one small painting sports a $10,000 price tag. As an extra treat, sit or even lie down on the long couch that served as John Wayne’s bed when he would visit.
RV parking appears limited when you drive in, but drive around back for more space, or just park on the grass.
The museum is open year-round, but call first in the winter months to get the abbreviated schedule, (970) 731-5785. Admission is $3, less for kids. Learn more at the museum’s website.