Dad found himself buried underground in a steel water tank waiting for a herd of about 50 horses to stampede over the top of him. Dad hoped to capture a unique angle from below the horses. He knew this would be challenging to pull off safely. He turned to his friend Red Wolverton, who knew lots about movie magic and even more about horses.
The plan revolved around a steel tank with slits cut in the sides for cameras. The tank would be buried inside Red’s corral with Dad and his crew inside. The slits would allow Dad to be at eye-level with the horses’ hooves and still have a degree of safety. Red selected an ordinary live stock water tank to accommodate a photographer, motion picture photographer plus their assistants and their cameras.
On the day of the shoot, Dad and the three guys got situated in the 7-foot diameter pillbox, as Red and crew called the modified tank. Red then used the backhoe to fill in the door area with dirt. About one foot of the tank was visible above ground. That placed the camera openings in the perfect position for some amazing pictures.
Pretty soon fifty horses supplied by Red barreled down the road right toward the corral and Dad. Wranglers on either side of the herd ensured the horses hit the mark. Nobody really knew what the horses would do when they reached the buried tank.
The photo crew could feel the ground vibrating before they saw the horses. Then things happened fast and furiously. The horses kept coming toward the pillbox and veered to the left and right of the tank at the last minute. Dust. Stones. Dust. Hooves. Shoot. Shoot. Shoot.
Dad only had two chances to capture the perfect shot both in movie and still form. It took about 40 minutes between the two stampedes just to get the horses back in place and the cameras somewhat clean.
The whole shoot from start to finish took most of the day. Dad got his winning shot on the first run. The horses’ hooves came within six inches of the camera lenses and about 10 inches from Dad’s face.
“When you do something like that you don’t realize how much nervous energy goes in to it. At the end of the day you’re just beat and covered in dust. I think that dust stuck with us for about three days even though we washed off with the garden hose a couple of times,” Dad said.
Despite the dust, Dad and his team managed to create a unique photo that captures the essence of the Old West.