TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma – A horse is a horse, of course, of course – and no one can talk to a horse, of course. But anyone who could have that conversation might ask which famous animal is buried in a small Northeastern Oklahoma town.
"Mister Ed" was a sitcom that aired from 1961-1966 and featured the fabulous smart-mouthed talking horse. Bamboo Harvester was the actual name of the acclaimed horse, which was born in California and trained by Les Hilton. Two years after the series concluded, the horse suffered health problems that forced it into retirement.
There are varying versions of how Bamboo Harvester died, and whether he is found at the grave site at the “Snodgrass Farm.” The travelok.com site suggests this was the final resting place of Bamboo Harvester, and that he came to Tahlequah to retire.
A tombstone, erected in 1990, reads: “According to national media reports, Mister Ed moved to Oklahoma in the late 1960s after a successful Hollywood career. Mister Ed continued to entertain and bring joy to many Oklahomans. Finally retiring in this very field, Mr. Ed passed away Feb. 22, 1979.”
Gena McPhail, tourism director for the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce, said 200 visitors attended the dedication of his grave. Every year, visitors pay homage to the late horse.
“We have had some visitors come through to come see the gravesite,” she said. “Some of the folklore says there is no horse. Some say that it is a body double. The romantic notion of Mister Ed being buried is still very appealing to visitors, and they like to go out there. Visitors are coming from in-state due to the coronavirus. They stay close rather than leaving the state.”
The grave is on private property, so the department of tourism directs visitors to the site, giving them the address and coordinates. Ultimately, the owner of the farm has the final say on whether the tourists are allowed to visit the site.
The appeal of Mister Ed transcends generations, and McPhail was surprised at the demographic of visitors to the site.
“I was expecting most of them to be older, but in this last group, most of them were in their mid-30s,” she said.
Kin Thompson, Northeastern State University professor of hospitality and tourism management, believes the buried horse is actually Pumpkin, Mister Ed’s body double, and he was brought here by his trainer. Many others believe Mister Ed never came to Tahlequah, but stayed in California and was euthanized.
In an interview with TDP Staff Writer Sean Rowley a few years ago, Tahlequah historian Beth Herrington said it seems the horse has no heritage here, but the owner thought this would be a good place for the grave site.
She has recently added that new interest in the famed horse will give tourists the opportunity to learn about other sites in Tahlequah.
“COVID has thrown a rachet into our ability to market here in Tahlequah. 'Mister Ed' was a nationally televised show, and so it is significant, but I want us to be interested in many of the other historical sites here in Tahlequah. Many of them are open to the public and accessible during this time of COVID,” said Herrington.
Check it out
Tourists who want to learn more about the mystery of the grave of the celebrity horse can visit the Chamber of Commerce, where they will be given information about the site’s location and history. The phone number is 918-456-3742. They are also encouraged to learn about the many other historical sites that dot the county’s map.