COBWEB CORNERS: The unusual carriage team
By Mel McFarland
John over at the post office tells me we have had enough trains for a while. He wants more about the saloons. Well this sort of is, but you may not see the connection right off.
Back in the 1890s, John O'Byrne of Colorado Springs had something that attracted attention wherever he went. It was such an attention-getting device that "Pawnee Bill" bought it for his Wild West Show. So what was it? Well, in 1888 he saw something in Aspen that he knew was a winner. A judge over there had these two young tame elk that John bought and brought back here. He trained them to pull a carriage. John had a stable where he kept his horses and wagons, just east of what is now Wahsatch on Colorado Avenue. The sight of the team drawing a tourist wagon attracted quite a bit of attention. After being broken to harness, the elk would go anywhere that a team of horses would. One of the most remarkable things in connection with the pair was their attachment to a pet dog that belonged to John. Most dogs made the team nervous, but this big dog was their friend.
As they grew their antlers also became quite evident. John's little tourist business became quite well known because of the novelty of the team. It was quite popular for tourists to ride in the wagon and have their pictures taken with the pair. As word spread around, the team became one of the most popular attractions in the area. No one knows how many pictures of the team were taken in Colorado Springs, Colorado City, Garden of the Gods, Palmer Park or the Cheyenne canyons. It is said they were an easy team to use, and did quite well around the streets of town. It is said that no other team of elk was seen, even in other areas of the West. The team eventually was sold to a movie company that took them to Alaska, where they were filming advertisements. I have no idea what ever happened to them, but I am quite familiar with their names. You see, a businessman in town learned of the novelty of the historical pair, and decided a few years back it would make a novel name for his tavern/restaurant. You could even see a picture of the original Thunder and Buttons.