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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Stan Ellsworth combines his love of history and his love of motorcycles

  • It's all thanks to one super-sized heroic statue of Stonewall Jackson.
    The statue was near the battlefield in Manassas, Vir., where the Battle of Bull Run, the first major land battle of the Civil War, was fought.
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  • It's all thanks to one super-sized heroic statue of Stonewall Jackson.
    The statue was near the battlefield in Manassas, Vir., where the Battle of Bull Run, the first major land battle of the Civil War, was fought.
    Young Stan Ellsworth lived near there and was fascinated by that statue.
    "I'd pedal my Schwinn over there and mom would tell us stories about how we were related to General Lee and my interest in history was born. I'd look up at that statue and think 'I want to be like that some day.'"
    Ellsworth spent some time in playing football in the NFL, but that didn't exactly earn him statue status.
    "I just needed to be a little quicker and a little bigger to be successful in the NFL," Ellsworth said in a recent interview at Boot Hill Museum.
    He tried coaching college football, but when his wife's death left him a single parent, the long hours didn't work with his family responsibilities.
    "So I took a job as a high school coach and it worked well while my kids were growing up — my schedule was the same as theirs," he said.
    The job also worked well for Ellsworth because he got to teach history.
    "The kids loved my lectures," he said — referring to his intense style of story telling.
    Ellsworth would test his students by giving them a historic reference point and asking them to tell the story.
    "You know the who, when, where, why, but I also wanted them to get the 'so what?' from the story," he said.
    Discussing the Doolittle raid on Japan in World War II, Ellsworth asked a student how the operation got its name.
    "Because it didn't accomplish much?" the student answered.
    Ellsworth got the joke and gave the student an F for the answer but an A for creativity.
    Ellsworth had no ambition to get into show business.
    When a producer friend asked him to play a mean coach in his movie, Ellsworth said "Not interested."
    "Then he told me what it would pay and he had my attention," Ellsworth said.
    With his toes in the entertainment industry waters, Ellsworth learned that you have to make work for yourself not just wait for someone to call.
    So he began to think about a project he could get interested in and he came up with "American Ride," a show that would combine two of his loves: history and motorcycles.
    "America is really a big classroom and I want America to remember her past and her greatness. I want kids from 8 to 80 to get excited about our story," he said.
    Page 2 of 2 - He shopped the idea around for nearly eight years and finally found producers who shared his excitement at BYUtv, the television network based at Brigham Young University.
    "American Ride" has become one of the channel's most popular shows, helping to further their family-friendly programming mission and, with Ellsworth at the helm, attracting a new audience.
    "American Ride" follows Stan Ellsworth the country on his Harley Davidson as he re-discovers American history.
    The show  is now filming the fourth season and Ellsworth was in Dodge City Tuesday on location at the Long Branch Saloon. He and his crew will spend part of today at the Santa Fe Trail tracks west of town.
    "I think Dodge City is one of the most romantic places in American history," Ellsworth said.
    "Just about everybody you read about during those frontier days came through here because it was the place to be. You think of Plymouth Rock and the colonists, Independence Hall in Philadelphia and the constitution and Dodge City and the settling of the West," he said.
    Sitting in the Long Branch, with the bar in the background, Ellsworth told the story of a gun fight between Levi Richardson and Frank Loving in March of 1879.
    Rumored to be a dispute over Richardson's attentions to Loving's wife, Mattie, the gunplay left Richardson dead and Loving in jail.
    Loving was later released after a coroner's inquest ruled the shooting self-defense.
    Part academician, part patriot, part college football coach and part road warrior, Ellsworth uses the open road as a metaphor for freedom.
    Season one, which aired in the fall or 2011, began with the settling of the colonies and progressed through the battles of the Revolutionary War, chronicling the founding of the nation.
    Season two, which aired in the spring of 2012, started with the Constitutional Convention and followed the nation's early growth.
    Season three, which is airing now, covers the Civil War through the Battle of Gettysburg and the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and will close with Grant and Lee making peace in the Appomattox court house.
    Season four focuses on the 1860s to the early 1900s and the shooting schedule for the 13 episodes takes the 12-member crew to Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and California.
    The newest season is set to air beginning the end of next April and the Dodge City episodes are tentatively scheduled for late May.

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