August 2, 2022 |

The late artist Jerry Palen once described his penchant for taking time out from creating fine art and stately sculptures to draw cartoons, featuring Elmo and Flo, as a “bad habit” he couldn’t break.

Presidents sought out Palen’s bronzes and oils of the American West as gifts for foreign dignitaries. A monument Palen created to memorialize former Senator and Governor Cliff Hanson resides at the state capitol. A life-size bronze, depicting cowboy artist Bill Gollings, stands on the grounds of the Wyoming Arts Council in Cheyenne.

Palen’s most famous and beloved work may be low brow by comparison, but every bit as Western. The syndicated cartoon Stampede embraces the trials and tribulations of Wyoming ranch life through the endless calamities of Elmo and Flo. The strip ran or 43 years. Palen retired from drawing the timeless, single frame cartoons starring the unflappable married couple in 2015. Their adventures live on in ag publications in both the U.S. and Canada.

And as soon as this month, Elmo and Flo are coming to a picket fence in Encampment.

Palen died in November at the age of 78. As a tribute to the legendary artist, the Platte Valley Arts Council is planning a “paint by number” mural and everyone is invited to help. Stacey Crimmins with the PVAC said despite Palen’s fame, none of his art is displayed in the Platte Valley.

Palen’s love of the Western way of life shine through the strip. The Elmo and Flo characters. and the travails they face in everyday life on the ranch, were inspired by Palen and his wife Ann. Always quick with a laugh, Palen liked the idea of the fence mural, Crimmins said.

The mural will be painted on a fence that wraps around Harmony Park in Encampment. The park is located right along the highway nestled between two businesses.

Crimmins is hoping to have at least some of the fence finished by September 3rd, the date of the PVAC’s series of unveilings of public art projects in Saratoga and Encampment. As part of her vision of the piece, Crimmins said hopes to get K-12 students involved in the project

Crimmins is hoping the mural project offers a “teaching moment” in how colors are formed. The PVAC will provide paint in the form of primary colors. Younger students under direction of teachers or older kids will then be able to mix them to create additional colors as needed. Crimmins said the paint-by-number project is not just for kids.

With the September 3rd unveiling looming, the paint days are to be scheduled in August. Prior to Palen’s death, the artist was collaborating with the PVAC on a sculpture project. That may still happen in one fashion or another, Crimmins said. In the meantime, Elmo and Flo will battle all that ranch life throws at them in good humor on a picket fence in Encampment.

For more information about Jerry Palen, visit

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