Here are the winners of our “2007 Best of the West.” Sit back and see if your pick made the list.
Best Living Bootmaker
The year 2006 marked Paul Bond’s 60th year in the bootmaking business. Before that, he rodeoed in the 1930s and ’40s. Before that, he broke horses for the cavalry as a kid in New Mexico. A member of the Cowboy Hall of Fame, the 91-year-old Bond keeps getting better at making wearable, functional art. Sure, celebrities from Paul Newman to Dwight Yoakum rave about his boots, but Bond treasures the working cowboys who wear his leather.
Readers’ Choice: M.L. Leddy’s • Fort Worth, TX • leddys.com
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Founded by the Denver & Rio Grande Railway in 1879, Colorado’s ever-popular Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has been taking tourists on excursions since the tracks were first completed to Silverton back in 1882. Celebrating its 125th anniversary in July 2007, the Durango & Silverton remains one of the most scenic, most historic and most popular train trips around. It has also been one of the most filmed, starring in Around the World in 80 Days, Night Passage, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and
Readers’ Choice: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Best Living Artist
Try to find a Western painter these days who hasn’t been influenced by Howard Terpning. The “Storyteller of the Native American” has been honored by the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City and the Cowboy Artists of America, of which he has been a member since 1979. Terpning’s use of light is amazing, but what strikes us most is his blend of detail with insight into native cultures. His latest auction records also have inched into the millions, bringing him closer to masters such as Remington and Russell.
Readers’ Choice: Bill Owen • Kirkland, AZ • billowenca.com
Best Saloon in the West
Owner of Liquor License Number 1 in Colorado, the Buckhorn Exchange has been the place to wet your windpipe in Denver since “Shorty Scout” Zietz opened the doors at 1000 Osage Street in 1893. Want a good square meal or a stiff drink? The Buckhorn’s tops, serving a who’s who of customers including Buffalo Bill Cody, Teddy Roosevelt, Bob Hope, James Cagney, Charlton Heston and Presidents Eisenhower, Carter and Reagan. We also like to hear Bill Barwick sing on Saturday nights.
Readers’ Choice: Crystal Palace • Tombstone, AZ crystalpalacesaloon.com
Best Living Knife Maker
Many fine knifemakers exist in the world. Some excel at making weapons, others at creating art.
At his Enchanted Spirits Studio in Clovis, New Mexico, Jay Fisher does both. In the blade business full time since 1988, Fisher makes knives, many featuring gemstone handles, for collectors (Tom Clancy), museums (Tower of London) and people who really know how to use ’em (101st Airborne, Special Forces, U.S. Air Force Pararescue). Fisher’s not even a big knife user, but he loves creating them.
Readers’ Choice: Jim Sasser • Tucumcari, NM
Best Living Director
Certainly, Walter Hill’s career has been inconsistent
(we haven’t forgotten Wild Bill)— but even Sam Peckinpah turned out some dogs. Yet Hill’s Broken Trail with Robert Duvall, American Movie Classic’s first original film, pulled in fine performances and ratings, and our money’s on it sweeping Western Heritage Wrangler- and Spur-award honors. Studios cringe at the word Western, but Hill is willing to make the plunge (The Long Riders, Geronimo: An American Legend). Heck, we even think of 48 Hrs. as a darn good Western.
Readers’ Choice: Kevin Costner
Best Living Horse Gear Artisan
If he can make an 1870s saddle that’ll keep our own Johnny D. Boggs atop a horse for better than 100 miles, imagine what Will Ghormley can do for someone who knows the difference between a cantle and a latigo. This Des Moines, Iowa, artisan—a fixture with the National Congress of Old West Shootists—not only makes period-correct saddles and tack, our sources say you may spot Frank and Jesse packing iron in Ghormley-tooled leather in a forthcoming Brad Pitt movie about the boys.
Best Living Western Poet
Not many folks are talented enough to wax (brilliantly) poetic about Ted Williams and then choke up on the bat and give us some free verse on John Wesley Hardin. Poet, playwright, editor, baseball coach, the San Francisco-born Shuttleworth has wandered from Texas to British Columbia, and his voice is always honest, be it in the Spur Award-winning collection, Western Settings, or in his chapbook, …all these bullets, separate as nuns, eager as Reynosa whores…
Readers’ Choice: Gary “Old Buckaroo” Lundblad • Corpus Christi, TX
Best Living Nonfiction Writer
This native Texan—Great-Grandpa went up the Chisholm Trail in the 1870s—is probably best known for his Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters. Or maybe it’s his Western film books, Tex Ritter or Reel Cowboys. Or his biographies on Henry Brown and Harry Wheeler. In 2006, he gave us a long overdue, Cheyenne: A Biography of the “Magic City” of the Plains. Whether he’s writing for children or adults, on baseball or bad men, O’Neal gives readers an entertaining history lesson.
Readers’ Choice: Tony Hillerman • Albuquerque, NM tonyhillermanbooks.com
Best Preservation Effort
Hats off to Lynda Sanchez for her work at historic Fort Stanton in Lincoln County, New Mexico. When plans for a 600-unit subdivision development adjacent to the 150-year-old fort became known, Sanchez sounded charge. Her efforts helped keep that plan off the table (for now), and Fort Stanton continues restoration (with help from the preservation group Cornerstones) of the stables, plus plenty of other efforts. “We are still working on a long-term plan,” she says. “All we need is a huge bank to rob, so if you know of any, please let me know. Historic preservation done in the right way is extremely expensive.” Good luck, Lynda!
Readers’ Choice: Lincoln, NM
El Corral has been serving up the best steaks, ribs, and prime rib for more than 60 years in a historical territorial ranch house. The restaurant evokes the feel of a true Western ranch house with its big wood beams, fireplaces and red-checked tablecloths. Start with a Prickly Pear margarita, order the Tamale pie (my favorite side) and have the salad made tableside. The prices are unbelievable as are the portions! No trip to Tucson is complete unless you eat here at least once.
Readers’ Choice: Buckhorn • San Antonio, TX • buckhornmuseum.com
Best Living Hatmaker
“Welcome to the finest Panama hat store in the West.” Pretty big claim, but walk into Optimo Custom Panama Hatworks on Main Street in Bisbee, Arizona, and you’ll see that Grant Sergot isn’t just bragging. Instead of sculpting in marble and alabaster (he has done that, too), this Michigan native and self-taught hatmaker now fashions fabulous straw hats to customer specifications—and at surprisingly affordable prices (and others that’ll max out your Visa). Grant’s weavings have topped the heads of Tom Selleck and Faye Dunaway.
Readers’ Choice: Golden Gate Western Wear’s Knudsen Hat Co. • Pleasant Hill, CA goldengatewesternwear.com
Best Living Western Clothing Designer
The diamond snaps and sawtooth pockets of Rockmount shirts have been popular ever since Jack A. Weil first used them in 1946, but they took on new meaning when Jake Gyllenhaal, as Jack Twist, wore them in Brokeback Mountain. After the filming, one of those shirts he wore sold at auction for $100,100.51, with proceeds going to Variety, a children’s charity in Hollywood. Not bad for a shirt you could walk into the Rockmount store in Denver, Colorado, and purchase new from Papa Jack for $55. Oh, yes, and this year, Papa Jack will celebrate his 106th birthday on March 28. For his 105th celebration last year, Wazee, where the store is located, was temporarily renamed Jack Weil Way. Although son Jack B. and grandson Steve have taken over partial operations for Rockmount, Papa Jack is still there most days, figuring accounts and serving customers, undoubtedly he is the oldest active CEO in the nation, and we tip our hat to him.
Readers’ Choice: Scully • Oxnard, CA • scullyleather.com
Best Tour Company
High Wild & Lonesome
Forget that old routine of putting your horse’s nose to the tail of the horse ahead of you and taking a trail ride.
At High Wild & Lonesome, based out of Big Piney, Wyoming, you’ll be riding the range the way you ought to … out of the dust of the few other riders with you, possibly at a lope. One focus of these horseback adventures is to let you see free roaming wild horses. Camp is under the stars or in a tent far away from the hustle and bustle of town life (there aren’t any big cities in this part of Wyoming to even consider).
A. Uberti & Co.
This pioneer Italian firearms manufacturer is the largest producer
of replica firearms worldwide. Since 1959, Uberti has turned out historically accurate, detail-perfect working replicas of the percussion Colts and other six-guns, lever-action Henry and Winchester copies, S&W Schofields and Colt Peacemaker look-alikes. Through importers like Benelli USA, Beretta,
Cimarron Firearms, Dixie Gun Works, EMF Co., Navy Arms Co., Taylor’s & Co. and Tristar, American shooters can enjoy a bit of firearms history. Owning an Uberti replica is like owning an original, but affordable, vintage shooting iron.
Readers’ Choice: Sturm, Ruger & Co. Southport, CT • ruger.com
Best Living Potographer
Through the lens of his camera, summer or winter, spring or fall, Idaho’s David Stoecklein captures the cowboy life. A Pennsylvanian by birth, Stoecklein first began photographing ranch life in Colorado and now works from his home in Idaho. He’s made it a mission to capture on film the men and women who ride the range, work the cattle and make a living from the land. His cowboy, horse and ranch images are in books, on postcards and photo prints, plus you’ll find them on lampshades, calendars, mouse pads, even neckties, proving that he can really wrap you in the West.
Readers’ Choice: Randy Templin • Tombstone, AZ
Best Hotel in the West
With its original back bar, tin ceilings and furnishings, the Occidental Hotel in Buffalo, Wyoming, is not a re-creation of a historic hotel, but a refinement of the historic structure that has been frequented by guests such as Teddy Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill Cody, Calamity Jane and Butch Cassidy. Started in a tent, the hotel later moved into its first permanent building—a log barn-like edifice that was renovated into the present hotel. It was on the edge of demolition when John and Dawn Wexo bought it in 1997 and began the restoration that brought it back to its early days of grandeur. They not only salvaged the structure but also most of its original furniture, pieces that are now used in suites and guest rooms as well as the common areas with some special items included in the Occidental Museum in a downstairs area of the hotel.
Readers’ Choice: St. James Hotel • Cimarron, NM • stjamescimarron.com
Best Living Western Accessory Designer
Keith Seidel’s business is Seidel Saddlery in Cody, Wyoming, and he and wife Lisa do build saddles, but what he is really good at is making custom leather belts. Why are they so outstanding? Because Keith uses saddle skirting leather for the exterior, and he lines each belt with tooling leather. As he points out, “our inside is everyone else’s outside.” That makes a Seidel belt not only beautiful but also longer lasting. The more involved tanning process for saddle leather also means Keith can create increasingly intricate designs when tooling a belt, and the leather itself burnishes to a rich color.
Best Western Art Gallery
To say that the list of artists whose work shows and sells at Trailside Galleries in Jackson, Wyoming, and Scottsdale, Arizona, is impressive is more than an understatement. The biggest names are there—Charles M. Russell, John Clymer and Howard Terpning—along with today’s most talented Western painters, including Z.S. Laing, Nancy Glazier, Bill Anton and Tim Cox. With a show area that constantly changes, the Trailside in Jackson, located just off the Town Square, commands attention during the annual Fall Art Festival every September.
Readers’ Choice: National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s Art of the American West Gallery • Oklahoma City, OK • nationalcowboymuseum.org
Best Ranch of the West
Wolf Creek flows from the Bighorn Mountains and winds its way across the foothills toward the Tongue River. Situated along the creek at the base of the mountain is the Eaton Ranch outside Sheridan, Wyoming, recognized as the first dude ranch in Wyoming. The Eaton brothers, Howard, Willis and Alden, started their guest ranch in 1904, having hosted Eastern visitors for free at their ranch near Medora, North Dakota, until they realized they could turn their hospitality into a business. The atmosphere at Eaton Ranch remains true to those early days. Guests have a horse to ride, they eat meals and relax in common areas of a large lodge dining hall, and they spend their nights in cozy log cabins scattered in the trees along Wolf Creek.
Best Living Western Home Furnishings Designer
A recent winner of the “Best Artist in Metal” award at Cody, Wyoming’s, prestigious Western Design Conference, Merrill attributes growing up in a ranching environment and living the Western lifestyle as the major influence on his work, which profoundly blends the traditional West with modern comfortable living. His unique signature style of simplicity, with just the right amount of decoration, incorporates authentically detailed, triple-sized 19th-century spurs, classic Western stars and other iconic motifs, all set in rustic iron and glass furnishings that are at home in any Western setting.
Readers’ Choice: Rocky Mountain Cabin Décor • Gilroy, CA rockymountaindecor.com
Best B&B in the West
As if the luxury of period furnishings in an 1880s cattleman’s mansion is not enough, innkeeper Jim Osterfoss has added more value to a stay at the Nagle-Warren Mansion on Cattleman’s Row in Cheyenne, Wyoming, by offering high teas, mystery dinner weekends and fine dining options on a monthly basis. Jim and his staff carefully select food and wine to reflect seasonal opportunities and regional differences with menu selections that reflect both American and European culture. And on a routine basis, you can enjoy a Victorian room and a hearty breakfast in the dining room the following morning.
Readers’ Choice: Casa de Patron • Lincoln, NM •casapatron.com
Best Living Screenwriter
McMurtry has to get the nod this year because, with writing partner Diana Ossana, he took home an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for Brokeback Mountain, a film that garnered more than its share of publicity. Truth is Brokeback Mountain, based on a short story by Annie Proulx, dealt with controversial (to some) subject matter…. After all, it was about two Wyoming cowboys who were lovers. Wyoming ranchers who saw it said the film accurately depicted life on the Wind River Reservation, though they admitted they weren’t too thrilled about the love angle. All the attention did please the folks at Wyoming Tourism, who saw a spike in interest in the Cowboy state after the film aired.
Best Living Fiction Writer
With five Spur Awards from Western Writers of America (given over a period of three decades), three Western Heritage Awards from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and 10 other national writing awards, Loren Estleman is a commanding presence in the world of fiction writing. But what makes him the Best Living Fiction Writer? He can down shots like a fish, and he’s won recognition for books about Wild Bill Hickok and the wife of an undertaker. His long-time editor (who must remain nameless in these pages) says Estleman’s newest book about the American West, The Adventures of Johnny Vermillion, is his best to date. Ride with Vermillion and the Prairie Rose Repertory Company on a rollicking jaunt around the West where you, the reader, become involved in the events in the way an attendee at a melodrama gets caught up in the action on stage.
Best Auction House
Cody Old West Show & Auction
Brian Lebel’s Cody Old West Show & Auction every June attracts the biggest collectors because he specializes in rare and singular items. The mainstay, however, are regular offerings of bits, spurs, chaps, hats and other cowboy gear. Recent listings have included a conquistador’s spur and a belt buckle that belonged to George Armstrong Custer, but this year’s collection of Molesworth furniture brought prices that astounded even serious collectors, giving us one more reason to designate the auction as a Best of the West pick.