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Grave of famous horse still attracts visitors 50 years later

May 14, 2017

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) — He has been off the air for 50 years, and deceased since 1970, but Mister Ed still has a faithful following.

TV’s most famous talking horse didn’t do autographs, but plenty of memorabilia immortalizes Mister Ed and the show that ran during 1961-66. Plenty of fans make the trip to Tahlequah to see a big memento: Mister Ed’s grave marker.

“People call the chamber all the time, asking about the grave site,” said Laura Doss, executive director for the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce.

There is disagreement about whether the actual Mister Ed, whose real name was Bamboo Harvester, is at eternal rest beneath the marker. But fans and locals seem happy the TV star has a memorial, regardless of whether it stands over the wrong palomino.

“There is a lot of oral tradition about it,” local historian Beth Herrington told the Tahlequah Daily Press (http://bit.ly/2psms6g ). “It seems that the horse has no heritage here, but the owner thought this would be a good place for the grave site.”

Dr. Kin Thompson, an assistant professor of hospitality and tourism management at Northeastern State University, remembers finding an alternate account about whether Mister Ed was actually in the grave.

“It was when we first had the internet and could really start looking things up,” Thompson said. “I had my students doing a tourism promotion and development assignment, and on the Nickelodeon site, they found a story claiming that Mr. Ed actually died in California, and that he is still there. It also said the horse buried in Tahlequah was actually Pumpkin, who was Mr. Ed’s stunt double, and that Pumpkin and his trainer came to Tahlequah. I was so disappointed at the time. We’d had T-shirts printed reading ‘Dead Ed’s Tahlequah.’”

Pumpkin died in 1979, nine years after Bamboo Harvester, but Pumpkin certainly had ties to the TV show. He stood in for publicity shots, and then posed as the star for a few years after the real Mister Ed died.

Some of the stories concerning Mister Ed say he was euthanized. Alan Young, who played Wilbur Post — the only character to whom Mister Ed spoke — claimed the horse’s death was accidental, caused by a tranquilizer injection. He further claimed the horse was cremated, and that the ashes were dispersed by his trainer, Lester Hilton.

Another account claims Bamboo Harvester did die on the “Snodgrass Farm” north of Tahlequah in 1970, and that the marker is actually a memorial and doesn’t stand over the remains of any horse.

The state tourism site indicates the grave is the genuine resting place of Mister Ed, and that he retired to Tahlequah to live out his days. But it gives the death year of 1979, which suggests the horse under the marker may actually be Pumpkin, the “shadow Mister Ed.” Bamboo Harvester’s life span is usually given as 1949-70.

The Tahlequah grave marker was only a wooden cross and horseshoe until 1990, when it was replaced by an engraved granite memorial. The Tulsa radio station KMYZ raised funds for the gravestone. On rare occasions, it falls over and must be re-erected.

The marker remembers Mister Ed, reading: “According to media reports, Mr. Ed moved to Oklahoma in the late 1960s, after a successful Hollywood career. Mr. Ed continued to entertain and bring joy to many Oklahomans, finally retiring in this very field. May his memory live long.”

“We have a connection with Mister Ed, whether it is actually Mister Ed or some other horse,” Thompson said. “When you watch Mister Ed, you wonder how they got the horse to ‘talk.’ That is what we have now. We wish the horse could talk and tell us the true story. It was a fun, wholesome show — I could see it taking place in Oklahoma. I think this is fun for us.”

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Information from: Tahlequah Daily Press, http://www.tahlequahdaailypress.com

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