The Historic and Notorious Ox
I have been thumbing through your July/August 23 Kit Carson issue and enjoying it. I see your Saloons feature (May 2023), and noticed your mention of the Oxford.
First, everyone calls it “the Ox.” It has been around on Higgins Avenue in Missoula, Montana, since at least 1883, but nobody knows how long before that. I remember the smoke-filled room in the back that was used for keno and cards. It was popular with loggers and stockmen (as well as students and bums), but also with lawyers and judges, as it is in the heart of downtown Missoula.
One of the most colorful aspects of Ox lore was the lexicon of names for food items coined by Ox cook Shorty Hayden back in the 1920s or before. They have a regular menu today, but the Shorty Hayden names were still in use when I went there as a student. I can still remember the voice of the waiter shouting to the fry cook over the sound of the sizzling grill. My favorite “Shortyism” was “he needs ’em” for calves’ brains and eggs.
Bill Yenne (San Francisco, California)
I was looking through your May 2023 list of Olde-timey Saloons that you will want to visit before they are gone. I was surprised to see that you included The Oxford Saloon on Higgins Street in Missoula. I spent a lot of time there when I was working, undercover, for the Montana Narcotics Investigation Bureau. You folks are correct, you can get anything you want (and some things you don’t want) at the Oxford. If you want to visit some olde-timey but safe saloons, beautiful Lincoln, Montana, is rife with them! Such as The Boot Licker, The Wheel In, Lambkins 7Up Bar & Casino, The Wilderness Club and/or The Montana Club & Casino. Lincoln is only 63 miles east of Missoula, on the scenic route, Highway 200.
Merle Vines (Lincoln, Montana)
Since 1996, I’ve been going to Missoula. I liked your May 2023 cover story on Western saloons. Almost every year I go to Missoula and never miss a chance to visit The Ox (toned way down from the 1990s), and three you did not have on your list: The Missoula Club (1890) aka The Mo Club for The Mo Burger (maybe the best in Montana!), the Union Club Bar (since 1896!) and the Stockman’s Bar (it rocks!), which the same family has owned for 60 years.
Joe Freedman (Cave Creek, Arizona)
The Ultimate Trip
Dewey, Arizona, residents Bob Hoffman (below) and his wife Christa (the photographer) hit the road recently on a 4,000-mile trip with True West and the True West Ultimate Historic Travel Guide in hand and shared a photo from one of their first stops, Fort Apache, Arizona.
Western Shores to the Front Range
Reader Allan Hilton (below, right), from Salt Lake City, Utah, was busy hitting the Western saloons from Hawaii to Colorado. In Waimea, Kauai, recently, Hilton took the May 23 saloon issue with him and visited Wranglers Steakhouse & The Saddle Room with his friends Mark Lane (left) and John Vehr (center).
The Town Pump
In Colorado Springs, Hilton and Cindy Russell went to a saloon we left off our list—The Town Pump, the city’s oldest saloon, which was founded in 1909. He wrote, “It was a hoot” and it is now on our list of “Western Saloons You Must Visit Before They Close!”
When Milt Cram first built the Buckskin Tavern (above) on the Utah/Arizona border in 1934, he was catering to cowboys and local ranch folk—a humble beginning, but ultimately a profitable one, especially when the Little Hollywood moviemaking boom hit the area in earnest.
Considering how notoriously difficult it was to get a drink in Utah then—many say that it still is now—the Buckskin being right across the border made it a popular watering hole for many of the travelers, visitors and moviemakers visiting Kanab and Fredonia.
The tavern grew bit by bit, adding the dance hall and stage section in the ’60s, and new wings of seating since.
Peter Corbett (Scottsdale, Arizona)
On page 96 of the September 23 issue, Two Guns and Canyon Diablo should be listed as places in Arizona, not New Mexico. On page 50 of the July/August issue, Chris Wimmer’s podcast should be listed as “Legends of the Old West.”