ABOVE PHOTO: Jon “Tut” Tuttle with his family and Wayne “Boo” Davis. (Photo credit: Jim Brown)
*Also read cover story: The Godfather of Philadelphia Urban Cowboy Culture: Ellis Ferrell and his Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club by Moni Jones
By Jim Brown
The movie “Concrete Cowboy” currently running on Netflix, has proudly given exposure to the urban Black cowboys in North Philadelphia and the Fletcher Street horse stables. It’s a great story about the lives of Black cowboys in the inner city and their impact in that particular community.
There is now a buzzing interest in the lives of this segment of the communities where the stables reside in, and what they do to give back to children who are curious about what these men and women do on a daily basis.
Last Sunday, we stopped by the horse stables in the Mantua section of West Philadelphia on Ogden Street near 40th & Westminster Avenue and met horse owner Wayne “Boo” Davis, Jon “Tut” Tuttle and a father and his children who exhibited an innocence and curiosity that steered them to the stables on that day.
As the children and their father watched the horses eat and run in a small mush ground area that was fenced in, the kids kept their eyes on the horses as their dad explained to them things about the horses and encouraged them to stay back a safe distance.
While seeing the beauty of the moment, Davis described what the Black cowboys do for the communities around the area of the stable. Davis owns three of the horses there. His passion to care for the horses that give these Black cowboys comfort and forge lifetime bonds among each other and the community, is visible when they come in. To sustain the stables, each owner pays the stable fees that keeps them as a vital part of the community.
“We’ve been here at this stable location for a very long time,” Davis said. “We do a lot in the community as a community partner. We give education and outreach to neighborhood youth who have an interest in what we do here. I come by every day to [take] care of the horses and if kids or families want to stop to visit the stables, they are more than welcomed.”
“The joy of being a Black cowboy in the city is having kids in a riding program that gets community support when the community has special events, block parties or various activities that the stables provide for youth who are a part of our programs,” he added.
On great days like last Saturday, the Black cowboys in Mantua and surrounding communities get out and enjoy the community by riding through local streets, parks and grassy areas to give the horses some room and freedom to ride. But it is the interest of the kids that give the cowboys the greatest pleasure in what they do. To see the smiles on their faces when they come to their blocks, wanting to experience riding on the horses when they couldn’t get a chance to go to a farm is priceless.
As another family stopped by, the mother, father and young son showed their interest and affection for the horse at the gate, but their young daughter clutched her dad as he held her in his arms, just wanting to view the horse from afar.
Twelve-year-old Tymier Hunter from Mantua talked about being at the stables and what he would do when he was there.
“I like to work with horses and all types of animals,” Tymier said. “I’m an animal lover and nothing can stop me from helping animals. When I’m at the stables, you got to clean them, wash them, ride them and take them for walks. The joy for me is that I get to run around with them.”
Long time Mantua resident and passionate former owner of three horses, Jon “Tut” Tuttle, who talked about the joy of being a Black urban cowboy.
“I love it,” Tuttle said. “I’ve been around horses for over 35 years. I like just being around the horses and those cowboys because we get along great like one big family. It’s a lot of love with us around those horses.”
“And we love the kids,” he added. “Kids can come up there and do anything they want. Kids can come and play with the ponies. They learn how to take care of the horses, clean up the stalls and the kids love it. We got a bulk board [like a buggy] that we can put 6-7 kids on and ride them in the street. We [have] participated in parades in the neighborhood on Lancaster Avenue from 36th to 42nd & Lancaster.”
“When we have special events, we bring the horses to [those] community events in Mantua [like] the annual Unity for the Community event with the 16th Police Department every July for the kids,” Tuttle continued. “The kids ride for free. We do block parties. We would be at the Black Bottom Picnics in Fairmount Park and we go over to the Please Touch Museum area and ride the kids and the grownups up and down with horses in that area, too.”
However, the most impactful contribution of Philadelphia’s Black cowboys is that they provide a positive alternative for youth and a way for them to stay out of trouble and experience something different in their neighborhood in a great space.
Cover story below: The Godfather of Philadelphia Urban Cowboy Culture: Ellis Ferrell and his Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club by Moni Jones