Car crash damages Dodge City longhorn statue El Capitan

? When a life-sized bronze longhorn was knocked from its foundation in recent days, some local residents took the loss to heart.

Mounted on a brick foundation, on a green patch of earth in the heart of this southwest Kansas cowtown, El Capitan has been like a sentinel in this community for more than 30 years.

Dodge City Police Chief Robin James said the statue tumbled off its pedestal after 18-year-old Dodge City resident Dominic Sanchez accidentally crashed into it early on the morning of Oct.1. Sanchez was ticketed for leaving the scene of the accident, James said.

Since then people have been leaving wreaths and flowers, and there was a steady stream of traffic along Wyatt Earp Boulevard, with many snapping photos of where the longhorn once stood, James said, sounding amazed by the large response to the damaged piece of public art.

“The community has felt a loss,” said Jane Longmeyer, public information officer for the city. “It’s such a visible piece of Dodge City, it’s not only a statue, but has been used on postcards, brochures, and letterheads.”

El Capitan stood on a solid base and came off in one piece when the vehicle crashed into it. However, its left horn was broken in three pieces, the tail caught the impact of the car and broke in two places, and there was a crack in the left rear leg, said Mary Trent, special events coordinator for Dodge City.

“The longhorn had quite the span going,” Trent said.

However, the good news is the 1,700-pound landmark will be repaired and within months should be back on its foundation, once again keeping watch over the steady stream of traffic.

City leaders are waiting for estimates from several foundries regarding the cost of repairing El Capitan, Trent said. Insurance should cover the expense.

Not to have that presence, which has been downtown for several decades, has people feeling something is off kilter, Longmeyer said.

The bronze steer was created by the late Arizona sculptor Jasper D’Ambrosi and was given to the city by Boot Hill Museum. Back in the late 1970s, small El Capitan statues were sold to pay for the large sculpture, said Lara Brehm, director of Boot Hill Museum.