Here are the winners of our “2009 Best of the West.” Sit back and see if your pick made the list.
Best Living Photographer of 2009
David Stoecklein of Sun Valley, Idaho, has a strong understanding and respect for Western history, culture and cowboys. His photography elegantly presents each aspect of Western culture, ranging from a collection of books about horse breeds to his celebration of cowboys and cowgirls, where he examines their wisdom, ethics and hard working attitude. His most well-known work is a collection of individual photography books on the history and function of Western gear, such as spurs, boots, saddles, cowboy hats and buckles. He has worked closely with ranchers and cowboys from every Western state in a heartfelt mission to keep the spirit of the West alive.
READERS’ CHOICE: Jim Hatzell • Rapid City, SD • fiddlersgreenstudio.com
Best Polish Hobo Rodeo Poet of 2009
It might be mystifying that lyrical poetry could be so gently composed by a man who rode bareback broncos in the rodeo circuit for 15 years, but that’s exactly what makes Paul Zarzyski’s poetry award winning. This self-proclaimed “rodeo poet” has spent the past 35 years writing, and riding, as a performer. He entwines two Montana literary traditions: embedding the Western cowboy experience with waves of modernist poetry, which leave one immersed in his painted imagery. He was awarded the 2005 Montana Governor’s Arts Award for Literature, and this Missoula, Montana, resident has performed at every Elko Gathering since 1987 and has 10 collections of poetry.
READERS’ CHOICE: Baxter Black • Benson, AZ • baxterblack.com
(“Best Living Western Poet”)
Best Cutting Edge American Indian Skateboard of 2009
From New York (Hudson’s Modo Gallery) to Santa Fe (the prestigious Indian Market) to the Ivy League (Princeton University) to Los Angeles (Artist Gallery, with the all-girl punk band The Sirens opening for him), Douglas Miles of the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona is skating his way to fame. Unapologetic and unforgettable, his graphic art is mainstream with a strong sense of history. When Miles puts that art on skateboards, he’s helping reaffirm pride and heritage among today’s American Indian youth.
Best Living Western Painter of 2009
After re-imagining the Battle of the Little Bighorn in plywood cutout art pieces, Thom Ross of Seattle, Washington, has done it again. He spent two years working to produce a two-week exhibit on San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, recreating (once again in life-size plywood replicas) a photograph taken in September 1902 of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s Wild West show. His reinterpretation was displayed on the exact spot of the original photograph. No other painter consistently enhances Western history and art quite the same as Thom Ross does.
READERS’ CHOICE: Buck Taylor • Marrero, LA • bucktaylor.com
Best Living Western Sculptor of 2009
Greg Polutanovich of Dramatic Bronzes
It’s a little scary how lifelike Greg Polutanovich’s bronzes look. This 42-year-old, Canadian-born artist who resides in Saugus, California, cites Italian master Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Mount Rushmore genius Gutzon Borglum as his influences. Equally inspired by Hollywood and history, Polutanovich is at home in the studio whether he’s re-creating a historical figure, such as Lakota Chief Sitting Bull, Mountain Man Jim Bridger or O.K. Corral gunfighter Doc Holliday, or a Hollywood icon, such as “The Man With No Name,” “The Shootist” or “The Rifleman,” in bronze.
READERS’ CHOICE: Bill Nebeker • Prescott, AZ • billnebeker.com
Best Auction House of 2009
With History Detective Wes Cowan steering the reins as founder of the auction house, we’re not surprised that his crew can not only locate fascinating, authentic items to put on the block but can also dig up the details that tell you why each lot is so precious and worthy of a collection. Our favorite auctions of his feature American Indian & Western Art, Historic Firearms and Historic Americana. In 2008, Cowan’s held eight auctions in Cincinnati, Ohio, featuring highly collectible lots of the West, and the hammer ended the year with a bang at its Western & Historic Americana auction. The options at Cowan’s are as vast as the West itself.
READERS’ CHOICE: Cowan’s • Cincinnati, OH • cowanauctions.com
Best Western Art Gallery of 2009
Arizona West Galleries
Abe Hays has long championed the Western artists who have deserved a bigger following. Abe, and his son Greg, collected and promoted Maynard Dixon, long before he “arrived.” The same is true of artists Ed Borein and many others. In addition to being an excellent art gallery, Arizona West Galleries in Scottsdale, Arizona, houses an amazing collection of cowboy collectibles and Western antiques. You’ll find antique saddles and chaps, old rifles and six-shooters, sheriff’s badges, spurs and all the gear we love to lust after. Plus, rare books. What else could a Westerner want?
Best Threatened Art Gallery of 2009
Nine Mile Canyon
“Petroglyphs in peril,” warned Mark Boardman in his Preservation column for True West. The world’s largest collection of rock art is carved into the 40-mile-long Nine Mile Canyon in eastern Utah. Yet some 10,000 petroglyphs, many by Utes and Fremonts, are endangered by traffic that kicks up dust and a chemical deposited on the road to keep down the dust (the tail wagging the dog). Much of that traffic is due to the 100 natural gas wells in the area, and a proposed buildup of 800 more will only exacerbate the problem. Meanwhile, the BLM has nominated some Nine Mile sites, albeit not the canyon itself, to the National Register of Historic Places. This year, we honor the folks who are doing their part to save the entire canyon from destruction, and we keep our fingers crossed that the world does not suffer this unnecessary loss.
Best Bookstore in the Boondocks of 2009
Singing Wind Bookshop
If the Three Princes of Serendip had steered their camels toward scholarly texts on Tissaphernes and came across a wandering soul, desperate to thirst on Thrapp’s Conquest of Apacheria, they would have somehow discerned that a traipse on Ocotillo Road, north of Benson, Arizona, past a cattle guard and a mailbox, down a dirt lane, surrounded by the majestics of the Whestones, the Empires, the Huachucas and the Dragoons, would bring the knowledge seeker to a working cattle ranch and Winn Bundy’s house bursting with floor-to-ceiling books. Branded the “Headquarters for Books about the Southwest,” the Singing Wind Bookshop is the ultimate bookstore in the boondocks. Since 1974, adventuresome bibliophiles have serendipitously found treasures on these shelves. One word of advice: Bring your checkbook or cash.
Best Western Nonfiction Writer of 2009
It takes a special writer and energetic historian to make perhaps the West’s most rehashed story fresh and vibrant. James Donovan of Dallas, Texas, certainly proves up to the task in A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn—The Last Great Battle of the American West (Little, Brown Book Group). Relying on primary accounts (some often used, many almost forgotten) and recent archaeological data, Donovan reinterprets the controversial battle, earning a place among scholars such as Vine Deloria, Jay Monahan and Robert M. Utley.
READERS’ CHOICE: Robert Utley • Georgetown, TX
Best Western Fiction Writer of 2009
With honors such as the Rosenthal Foundation Award and the Lambda Literary Award, David Ebershoff of New York City, New York (Pasadena; The Danish Girl) has earned respect in the highest literary circles. His latest masterpiece, The 19th Wife (Random House) combines a historical novel with a modern murder mystery, centered on Ann Eliza Young, Brigham Young’s outcast, angry wife. Lyrical, suspenseful, uncompromising, illuminating and ambitious, The 19th Wife is often difficult to read, yet even harder to put down, told vividly by an American master.
READERS’ CHOICE: Elmer Kelton • San Angelo, TX • elmerkelton.net
Best American Indian Fiction Writer of 2009
Joseph M. Marshall III
Raised on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, Joseph M. Marshall III, who now resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, could have easily focused on writing nonfiction like his outstanding books The Journey of Crazy Horse and The Day the World Ended at Little Bighorn. Luckily for fiction fans, he has turned his storytelling gift to historical novels told from the Lakota perspective. His latest “Lakota Western,” The Long Knives Are Crying (Fulcrum Publishing), about 1876’s Little Bighorn battle, is as powerful as last year’s Hundred in the Hand, which provided a fresh look at the
1866 Fetterman battle.
Best Hotel of 2009
Brown Palace Hotel
The Brown Palace hosted DNC delegates in Denver, Colorado, in 1908, and the 1892 hotel played host once more exactly a century later. Every president, excepting Calvin Coolidge, has visited the Brown since Teddy Roosevelt. The presence of the past is felt in the biweekly history tours, the original artesian well providing water to every faucet, the carousel oven churning out baked goods. Above all is the joy one feels while sitting in the historic atrium, sipping afternoon tea, as light pours down from a stained-glass skylight eight stories above. We’re not sure if another cowboy will ever ride up the grand staircase like Monty Montana once did on his horse Rex, but this time-tested hotel is still every cowboy’s dream.
READERS’ CHOICE: Irma Hotel • Cody, WY • irmahotel.com
Best Bed & Breakfast of 2009
Slot Canyons Inn
Slot Canyons Inn provides luxury cabins in one of the most beautiful and historical locations in the country. Nestled in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument region of Utah is a secluded 160-acres, where the Escalante River and North Creek create waterfalls and canyon pools from America’s highest plateau. While staying here, guests can ride ATVs or horseback through Dixie National Forest, discover dream destinations hiking in Lower Calf Creek Falls and visit American Indian archaeological sites. Look closely at rocks around you: it’s been said that this area has the highest concentration of dinosaur fossils in the world.
READERS’ CHOICE: Ellis Store & Co. Country Inn • Lincoln NM
Best Tour Company of 2009
Great American Adventures
Even George Custer would be impressed by the Little Bighorn re-enactment held by Crow Indians Ken and Henry Realbird, on land adjacent to the national monument. The soldiers—many of whom participate through Tijeras, New Mexico-based Great American Adventures—spend three days of riding and sharing history. Mostly local native youth play the role of the battle’s Indians, and this is a great opportunity for them to commemorate their culture and heritage. At the end of the event, both sides have a better understanding of just what happened in June 1876. The participants have fun, too. In this battle, everybody wins.
READERS’ CHOICE: Old Butte Historical Adventures • Butte, MT • buttetours.info
Best Outdoor Tent of 2009
Cowboy Range Teepee from Sheridan Tent & Awning
A teepee dwelling is remarkably durable and, at the same time, easily broken down and packed away. Cowboys decided American Indian teepees would be ideal shelter for them as well, and range teepees became popular around the turn of the 20th century. Since 1924, family-owned Sheridan Tent & Awning has produced custom canvas products in Sheridan, Wyoming, including its bestselling Cowboy Range Teepee, which is hospitable for working ranch cowboys and casual campers. This sturdy, reliable tent boasts a variety of sizes ranging from 7×7 to 10×10, and the company makes it simple to customize your needs, from the window locations to the type of zippered doors.
Best Re-enactment of the West of 2009
Defeat of Jesse James Days
Every September, the cry of “Get your guns boys, they’re robbing the bank” rings through downtown Northfield, Minnesota, as the town holds the Defeat of Jesse James Days. The event celebrated 60 years in 2008 (132 since the actual raid), and it still draws visitors from across the globe. Sure, there’s food and parades and art shows and more—but the heart of the celebration is honoring the brave townsmen who fought (and some who died) to protect the town from the outlaws. The re-enactors consistently, year after year, make audiences feel as if history has come to life, making Defeat of Jesses James Days your best bet if you had to see only one re-enactment of the West this year—or even in your lifetime.
READERS’ CHOICE: A Tragedy at the O.K. Corral • Tombstone, AZ • tombstonesmainevent.com
Best Historical Trail Ride of 2009
Hashknife Pony Express
The legendary Pony Express only lasted for about 18 months. So it’s remarkable that its Arizona namesake, the Hashknife Pony Express, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008. Each January, members of the Navajo County Sheriff’s Posse and their guests ride the 200-plus miles between Holbrook and Scottsdale. This is the real deal, officially sanctioned by the U.S. Postal Service. The riders carry some 20,000 pieces of first-class mail—and neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stops them.
READERS’ CHOICE: Frontier Pack Train • June Lake/Bishop, CA • frontierpacktrain.com
Best Dude Ranch of 2009
Tanque Verde gets our vote as the ultimate dude ranch experience combined with the luxury of a Southwestern resort. This historic dude ranch began as a cattle ranch founded by Emilio and Rafael Carillo in 1868 and is located on 640 scenic acres in Tucson, Arizona, adjacent to the Saguaro National Park and Coronado National Forest. Tanque Verde offers horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, fishing and much more, all included in your nightly rate— ideal for a family ranch vacation! Choose from 74 Southwestern-style suites with beautiful desert and mountain views, enjoy a day at the La Sonora Spa and finish up with an outdoor cowboy barbeque in the Cottonwood Grove.
READERS’ CHOICE: Greenhorn Creek Guest Ranch • Quincy, CA • greenhornranch.com
Best Dude Ranch Website of 2009
320 Guest Ranch’s 320ranch.com
Although historic, this 110-year-old homestead restored into a Montana guest ranch in Big Sky definitely has up-to-date technology. Revamped in 2008, 320ranch.com now features breathtaking ranch photographs: rotating sepia-toned photos of today’s wranglers with images of classic Montana and the Old West. Historical trivia about the state, such as “what Montana’s state animal is” (it’s the grizzly), is another fun addition to the website. Web users can: make online reservations, sign up for an
e-newsletter, view a complete list of ranch events and check out the weather so they can pack for a stay accordingly. The overall beautiful presentation of the website will increase your desire to stay at this dude ranch!
Best Ranch Rodeo of 2009
Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association Range Roundup Rodeo
Little wonder this Working Ranch Cowboys Association-sanctioned event is probably better known as “The Real Deal.” Put 12 historic Oklahoma ranch teams (like the Hitch, the Broken O’s and the Drummond Land & Cattle Co.) to compete for the state’s bragging rights, and what are you going to get (besides a whole lot of bruises)? It’s a good time, with events like saddle bronc riding, wild cow milking and the wild horse race. Check out this year’s event (August 28-29 at State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City) and see for yourself.
READERS’ CHOICE: Rowell Ranch Rodeo • Hayward, CA • rowellranchrodeo.com
Best Achy Breaky Knees Saddle of 2009
The Legend Saddle by Down Under Saddle Supply
The “down-under Western” that most readers know of intimately is Kirk Douglas’s The Man From Snowy River. Heath Ledger fans were probably drawn to 2004’s bushranger film, Ned Kelly. And the year 2008 brought us Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman’s Aussie Western, simply dubbed Australia. Yet horse riders should get to know another “down under” beauty, the Legend Saddle from Down Under Saddle Supply in Denver, Colorado. This handcrafted Australian saddle is deep seated and features a low-maintenance panel that distributes the rider’s weight evenly. The saddle has proven, time and again, that those who experience knee problems while riding Western saddles will have happy knees in this Aussie saddle.
Best Horse Innovator of 2009
We like Nelseena Lehmann’s grit. When she got knocked off her horse, Nelseena wasn’t about to let her cowgirl days be over. She not only started up her own saddle making business in McCook, Nebraska, she changed the foundation of saddles themselves. Since the build of quarter horses and the performance demands of riders have changed, Nelseena took a new look at the saddle tree. She created her fiberglass tree after manipulating its angles for optimal comfort and measuring the shoulder width of 500 American Quarter Horses—the nation’s most popular breed. We honor Nelseena for changing with the times (after all, the first Western saddles did not have a horn until that was added to the saddle tree!).
Best Horse Advocate of 2009
Founder Equine Rescue Sanctuary
Frank Weller wears a green bracelet with the phrase “Rescues Rescue Us.” When you hear his story, you’ll never want to forget the horses he’s working so hard to save, and that’s why we’re honoring him. He rode the trail with horse rescuer Helen Meredith, who first exposed him to Canada’s Premarin foals. These foals are SB, “Slaughter Bound,” seen as by-products of mares bred to create human hormone replacement therapy medications by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals for nearly 70 years. Frank formed the charity Equine Angels Rescue Sanctuary (EARS) in New Milford, Connecticut, in 2003 to find rescuers, volunteers, donors and foster families to place these foals in loving homes. In the past six years, the sanctuary has rescued more than 250 Premarin horses from Canada.
READERS’ CHOICE: Pat Parelli • Pagosa Springs, CO • parelli.com
Best Firearm of the West of 2009
1873 Single Action Army Model P by Colt Msfg.
The original six-gun that tamed the frontier, the granddaddy of them all, the Colt Peacemaker, is this year’s winner. Made virtually the same as the gun was manufactured in 1873, when this well balanced, hard hitting revolver was among the Westerner’s most important tools, the Peacemaker remains a hand fitted, beautifully finished six-shooter that will not only last for generations, but, like gold, will also sustain its value. Currently offered in the classic .45 Colt chambering and in a reissue of the famed 1880s etched panel “Colt Frontier Six Shooter” .44-40, this handsome smokewagon is still winning the West.
READERS’ CHOICE: Colt .45 Peacemaker • Hartford, CT • coltsmfg.com
Best Knifemaker of 2009
Still reigning as the modern-day master of period-correct Bowies, Cowboy Bob Giles of Whitefish, Montana, works from recycled circular sawmill blades, handcrafting raw materials into every type of frontier-era Bowie from big clip point fighting knives of the 1830s to the smaller, commercially produced 1880s hunter’s companion blades. Each vintage-looking, ruggedly made Bowie is hand fitted with authentic-type handles of ebony, pearl, stag, wood and ivory—including silvered Tiffany style grips. Only the most discerning eye can distinguish one of Giles’s Bowies from a 19th-century original.
READERS’ CHOICE: Dave Ferry • Tehachapi, CA • horsewrightclothing.com
Best Single Action Shooter of 2009
Dr. Dennis Ming, alias China Camp, of Santa Ana, California, is probably the most accomplished single action shooter in history. Three national championships. Five consecutive world championships between 1992 and 1996—a record unmatched before and since (and likely to stand forever). And he held far too many other titles to count. China Camp even had a popular cowboy action gun named after him. He died of a heart attack on July 31, 2008, and we hope his family will accept this award, in honor of his legacy among single action shooters.
READERS’ CHOICE: J.T. Wild • Salt Lake City, UT
Best Cowboy Mounted Shooter of 2009
Matthew Sronce of Westhoff, Texas, is one of the most dominating forces in mounted shooting. A three-time CMSA National Champion. The 2007 World Champion Cowboy. A three-time (consecutive) World Rifle Champion. Numerous other titles (including several in team competition, with his wife Tammy, herself a top shooter). In 2008, Sronce scored in the top 10 of each national match in which he’s competed (the final points standings, World Championships, were not yet determined as of press date). Sronce is also a noted trainer, clinician and teacher, and he helps run a 26,000-acre Texas cattle operation. Sronce is a cowboy, a horseman and a great shooter. No wonder he’s one of the Best of the West.
READERS’ CHOICE: Daniel “Tatonka Dan” App • Morrow, OH • tatonkadan.com
Best Break-the-Bank Women’s Jeans of 2009
In Sao Paulo, Brazil, BrazilRoxx specializes in show-stopping jeans, featuring embroidery famous for its dimensional work and strong rayon thread detailing the artwork. Although the jeans cost a pretty penny, NO pair of jeans is the same, whether it’s the custom color, array of materials, embellishments or cut, as each pair is handmade by local women at their homes. For women who want to accentuate your curves while staying comfortable and fitted, these jeans are designed for you. The jeans range from sun dried-tomato red with suede swirl, crystals and studs, to chocolate brown wash with turquoise highlights, teal three-dimensional satin embroidery, brass studs and teal crystal buttons. Our favorite pair is the black jeans with leather and suede design from the Fall 2008 Collection (shown here).
Best Riding Cowgirl Jeans of 2009
Wrangler Cash Jean/USA
In order to create the ultimate riding jeans for cowgirls, Wrangler of Greensboro, North Carolina, teamed up with the women of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) to find out exactly what women riders look for in clothing. Wrangler tells us that its designers wanted to capture the “freedom, independence and beauty inherent to every cowgirl.” They certainly came up with jeans that fit riding cowgirls’ needs, as each pair features flexible knees, vented bootcut, flat comfort seams and a mid-rise fit. After the jeans were tweaked to cowgirl perfection, Wrangler added a sexier finish to them so girls can look great in the saddle, or out on the town.
Best Use of Old Boots of 2009
Cowboy Boot Purses by Diamond 57
Grammy-nominated Country singer Taylor Swift wears a custom Pink Lucchese boot purse by Diamond 57, with pink crystals, silver and a pirate skull concho. But celebrities aren’t the only ones singing the praises of creator Sue Roarke of Gresham, Oregon. Everyday folks have asked Sue to create purses too; purses out of their deceased husband’s boots as mementos for their daughters, out of a daughter’s first pair of boots, even out of a once favorite-pair of a cowgirl bride’s, for her wedding gift, so she never forgets her roots. We pride Sue on her ingenuity in recycling not only everyone’s favorite pairs of boots, but also incorporating other tack, like handles made out of
horse reins or headstalls.
Best Western Accessory Designer of 2009
Jacque Smiley of Western Vintage Revival
Old china, multicolored beads and vintage flatware could be set afire by the sparkle in Jacque Smiley’s eyes. Her appreciation is so intense, we’re surprised the found objects aren’t charmed right into her loving hands, antique shop owner be damned! But they flirt with her a bit, get her to pay their dowry and when she takes them home and puts a shine to them, beauty is in the eye of every beholder. In Martha, Oklahoma, Jacque has repurposed vintage spoons into fashionable bracelets, to which she adds dangling fashion adornments—natural stones, such as turquoise, cowgirl charms and Old West china plate pendants. Her spoon bracelets ensure that many will be gazing admiringly at your wrist.
READERS’ CHOICE: Ben Nighthorse Campbell • Ignacio, CO
Best Versatile Men’s Shirt of 2009
Diamond Dobby by Wahmaker
Calvin Klein’s made one. Martin Gordon’s made one. Champion’s made one. The Diamond Dobby shirt by Wahmaker in Oxnard, California, beats them all—in style and especially in versatility. A re-enactor crossing the fields clothed in this long-sleeved rangewear would look every bit as handsomely authentic as a same-styled cowboy riding along the road near his ranch would look authentically handsome. The angle-lined inset bib front provides a classy contrast to the rest of the shirt’s vertical design. The stand up band collar recalls the preferred fashion of 1880s gamblers and bankers. A classic style back on the frontier, the pullover shirt is still worth mussing your hair over today when it helps you cut a fine figure as does this eye-catching Diamond Dobby.
Best Old West Vest of 2009
Texas Jack’s Gold Rush Vest
by Texas Jack’s Wild West Outfitters
Texas Jack is every bit the romantic when it comes to the American West, and it shows in the quality clothing sold in his store in Fredericksburg, Texas. We were pleasantly surprised when, in 2008, he came out with his own Texas Jack’s brand. We were struck by his Gold Rush Vest, a shimmery jade, with a gold pattern of flowers woven into the silk material. Metallic brocade vests were all the rage in America by the late 1850s. Day vests typically were cut straight across the bottom, but in later periods, vests did get tapers at the edges. The vest-wide lapels and double breast cut shown on this beauty were favorite styles in the early 1870s. All eyes will definitely be on anyone who wears this classy, colorful vest.
Best Western Movie Hat of 2009
Jimmy Stewart Hat
by Bill Knudsen/Golden Gate Western Wear
Re-creating hats popularized in movies is tougher than it looks, but Bill Knudsen in Pleasant Hill/Richmond, California, captures the essence of cowboy icon James Stewart (Winchester ’73, The Naked Spur) perfectly. Fittingly, during what would have been Jimmy Stewart’s 100th birthday in 2008, the “Jimmy Stewart” hat was available in 10X beaver and wool, stained (heavy or light) or clean, and in different colors. Put this baby on, and you’ll be wanting to shoot down a crazy-killin’, dirty dog like Dan Duryea.
READERS’ CHOICE: Bill Knudsen of Golden Gate Western Wear • Pleasant Hill/Richmond, CA • goldengatewesternwear.com (“Best Living Western Hatmaker”)
Best Men’s Snap Shirt of 2009
Ornate Floral Embroidery by Rockmount Ranch Wear
Everyone knows Rockmount. This Denver, Colorado, company creates secure, snap button shirts that flatter any figure. Our favorite is the Ornate Floral Embroidery style, in black and white, that we’ve seen on the likes of William Shatner on Boston Legal (shown here) and former Sec. of State Henry Kissinger on The Colbert Report. The originator of the Western shirt was Rockmount’s founder Jack A. Weil. The nation’s oldest CEO, Papa Jack passed away in 2008 at the age of 107. His signature snap shirt has lasted the test of time, making it the longest production shirt design in the nation. We can’t imagine Western fashion without Rockmount, and we’re sure glad Steve, who has been running the company for years, has his grandfather’s fashion sense!
BEST BOOTMAKER MANUFACTURER OF 2009
It has been said that no other boot fits the human foot like a Lucchese boot. This may be true, considering 2008 marked Lucchese’s 125th year in the bootmaking business. Arriving in America in 1880, the youngest of the three Lucchese brothers, at 17 years old, had a vision of a career in bootmaking. Lucchese Boot Co. in El Paso, Texas, has consistently displayed immense dedication and precision in the craft. Each boot is handmade in the finest of leathers and inspected twice for perfection.
READERS’ CHOICE: Olathe Boot Co. • Mercedes, TX • olatheboots.com
BEST INDEPENDENT BOOTMAKER OF 2009
“My first love is making boots for ranchers and cowboys,” Paul Bond has said. He desires not to be the largest company, but among the best. He made his first pair of cowboy boots in 1929, busted broncs for the U.S. Cavalry at age 16 and excelled at trick riding. In the 1950s, the Paul Bond Boot Co. opened in Nogales, Arizona. His boots are designed down to the detail: you choose the leather, toes, heels, tops and colors. Bright colors and crafty leatherwork spruce up the sturdiest custom boots on the market, which might explain why Country Outlaw singers Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings wear them.
READERS’ CHOICE: David Espinoza • Phoenix, AZ • espinozabootmaker.com
BEST RESTAURANT OF 2009
Buck’s T-4 Lodge
The setting is Montana mountain rustic, the staff is first-rate, the portions are large, the wine list is something you’d expect at a five-star San Francisco restaurant and, well, executive chef Curtis Waltman is pure genius. At Buck’s T-4 Lodge in Big Sky, he blends local ingredients and wild game with a master’s touch. You haven’t dined until you’ve bitten into the Great Plains Bison Tenderloin or sipped a “Yes, I’ll Have Another” (Absolut mandarin vodka, pureed fresh strawberries, lemonade and lemon-lime soda). Save room for dessert!
READERS’ CHOICE (TIE):
Cattlemen’s Steakhouse • Oklahoma City, OK • cattlemensrestaurant.com
The Fort • Morrison, CO • hefort.com
BEST CAFÉ OF 2009
One of the best parts of a road trip is finding a little, hole-in-the-wall cafe that still serves up a great breakfast. Since True West’s headquarters is within a 300-mile radius of Flagstaff, Arizona, we can always think of an excuse to go to Mart Annes, just off Route 66, on San Francisco Street in downtown Flag. Inside, you’ll find a cozy, intimate setting, with strong coffee and heaping dishes of great, homemade food (try the huevos rancheros), all of which make Mart Annes (also spelled Martan’s and Marttan’s on different signs; this gives the café extra points, just because it’s so far off the corporate franchise map) the very best café in the West.
READERS’ CHOICE: OK Café • Tombstone, AZ
BEST CASINO RESTAURANT OF 2009
Restaurante Orozko at the Nugget Casino
John Ascuaga’s family is Basque, from Orozko in northern Spain, arriving in America in 1914. More than 50 years ago, John opened a roadside café that evolved into the Nugget Casino in Sparks, Nevada. He still keeps a flock of sheep to remember his heritage by. In 1998, he celebrated the opening of Orozko by unveiling Douglas Van Howd’s 17-foot-tall bronze, The Shepherd, who is sheltering a spring lamb under his open coat. Orozko’s house special is a family recipe, Basque Garlic Chicken, with red and green peppers, tomatoes and smoked ham marinated in white wine. For sides, enjoy the oven roasted garlic cream soup and herbed polenta. Orozko reminds us of the Basque proverb about home, “Haitzean jaioak, haitzera nahi,” What’s born on rocks, to the rocks wants to return.
BEST HERITAGE SALOON OF 2009
Genoa Bar & Saloon
“Nevada’s Oldest Thirst Parlor” has welcomed patrons since 1853, first serving spirits to Mormon traders. This watering hole in Genoa has remained so true to its Old West heritage that celebrities John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings once hung out here. Look for original features such as the ceiling medallions, the electric lamps and the Diamond Dust Mirror that was brought here from Scotland in the 1840s. They say if you shine a flashlight at an angle into the mirror, thousands of diamond sparkles will gleam back at you. That’ll be a fun trick to try the next time you’re downing whiskey here.
BEST HOTEL SALOON OF 2009
The circa-1908 barroom (part of the great Occidental Hotel on Buffalo, Wyoming’s historic Main Street drag) has come a long way. First considered nothing short of “a regular gambling hall” in the 1880s, then rebuilt in the early 1900s as an elegant place to cut the dust, then almost demolished. Now restored to its full glory (and smoke-free), with the impressive 24-foot bar and bullet-perforated tin ceiling, the Occidental caters to cowboys, bikers, hippies and tourists, as well as perhaps a few cattle barons and suspicious, but friendly, characters riding the owlhoot trail.
READERS’ CHOICE (TIE):
Big Nose Kate’s Saloon • Tombstone, AZ • bignosekate.com
Million Dollar Cowboy Bar • Jackson, WY • milliondollarcowboybar.com
BEST WILD WEST SODA OF 2009
Lewis & Clark Sarsaparilla by Lost Trail
Founded in Louisburg, Kansas, in 1977, Louisburg Cider Mill was created by Shelly Schierman whose great-great grandfather discovered the original root beer formula off the Santa Fe Trail. Under Lost Trail, the company wanted to create a distinctive old-style Sarsaparilla edition to represent Lewis and Clark’s transcontinental journey in 1804-06. Thanks to its creation in a “small batch” process, the Lewis and Clark Sarsaparilla has the refreshing quality of smooth and creamy Sarsaparilla that we like. Even better news? It’s fat free, as the drink is low in sodium and caffeine free.
BEST WESTERN LOVESEAT OF 2009
Yellowstone Centennial Loveseat
BY Santos Furniture
Just in time for West Yellowstone’s 2008 Centennial, Santos Furniture in Cody, Wyoming, created the Yellowstone Centennial Loveseat. The loveseat’s hand-carved sofa legs and frame, from Cherry and Juniper wood, is topped off with hand-laced cushions from leather of your choice. Intricately carved, sturdy and with a classic rustic design, this loveseat maintains its composure even in its wildness: from its gnarled wood, holding up the plush cushions, to its smooth box frame under the loveseat, which is carved with scenes of Old West wildlife and is centered with a bust of one of the park’s free-roaming Buffalo.
BEST MOLESWORTH REPRODUCTION OF 2009
Deeply Rooted Console Table BY Santos Furniture
Lester Santos of Cody, Wyoming, is one of the few faithfully reproducing Thomas Molesworth’s style—with a fresh look at it, all the same. Molesworth (1890-1977), inspired by the Arts & Crafts Movement, opened his Shoshone Furniture Company in Cody, experimenting with burls, leathers, antlers and Indian weavings in his furniture. The piece that most reflects the Molesworth aesthetic that we appreciate in Santos today is his “Deeply Rooted” console table (shown). “It’s something that we think Tom Molesworth would have built if he were still alive,” Santos tells us. What a beauty it is; the lower tree trunk is hand carved from cherry slabs, while the stained glass light backsplash features a hammered copper top. What’s even better: a portion of every sale of Santos Furniture is donated back to replacing trees in Wyoming.
READERS’ CHOICE: Texas True • Tyler, TX • texastrue.com (“Best Home Furnishings Designer”)
BEST WESTERN BEDDING OF 2009
San Miguel Blanket Collection by Pendleton Home
If you wanted to live the Old West, you’d strap a bedroll on your horse and sleep under the stars, amongst your livestock. But let’s face it; most of us prefer to enjoy the Old West in comfort. Thanks to Pendleton Home in Pendleton, Oregon, that does not mean abandoning our love of history. Our selection this year is the San Miguel Blanket Collection. The banded Chiefs Stripe design reflects the third phase of Navajo chief blankets of the 1880-1900s, while the cross symbol reflects the Spanish Mission influence. Another reason why we like it? The reversible jacquard gives you two different looks, reflective of wool’s natural colors: grey on one side, ivory on the other.
BEST ANTIQUE STOVE OF 2009
Round Oak Cylinder Stove
by Good Time Stove Co.
While tinkering with his grain drills, Philo D. Beckwith cast his first stove in the late 1860s to heat his foundry. Based in Dowagiac, New York, the Round Oak Stove Company promoted its fictional Indian mascot, Chief Doe-Wah-Jack, so customers knew how to pronounce the town when asking the operator for a connection. For those of you inspired by our Westward Home coverage to spruce up your own abode, we favor the antique Round Oak Cylinder Stoves at Good Time Stove Company in Gosen, Massachusetts. Featuring four mica windows, a cast iron dome covering a removable cooklid and scrollwork touches above the name plate and throughout, this stove is an efficient, dependable heater to add to your guest room, reading nook or your own master suite.
BEST OUTDOOR FURNITURE OF 2009
Faux Bois by Rituals
We love the Adirondack chairs rocking on the porches of ranchitos across the West, but every now and then, a new entry comes into the market that encourages us to expand our outdoor living areas. The Faux Bois line introduced by Rituals in Los Angeles, California, has done just that. From barrel chairs to plank and branch benches to birdbaths and dining tables, the earthy, rustic furnishings are all hand textured and made of reinforced steel framework. With all the beautiful views the West has to offer us, we may as well look out on them seated in a rustic style that matches our hardy, durable characters.
BEST WESTERN HOME MURALS OF 2009
TXLC Custom Tile Murals
We now have a new use for the lights on the hood of your stove—directional lighting for the striking Western art murals made by TXLC. The fun does not stop there! You can feature tile murals in your shower, on BBQ surrounds, on kitchen islands and even as a tile rug, like the copy of a prized Navajo rug one customer had installed in an entryway. Our favorites are the Frank McCarthy murals that evoke the Old West stagecoach era. Other popular Western tile choices include artworks by David Stoecklein, Terri Kelly Moyers, Jack Terry and Larry Fanning. Inspiration definitely struck the right people—metal artist Tammie Riggs and her daughter Tracie—that fateful day in a studio on Constellation Road in Wickenburg, Arizona.
BEST CHAIR TO WATCH A WESTERN IN OF 2009
Ruidosa, Western Style Cinema by Tahoe Seating
By now, we’re sure most of you have added 2008’s Oscar-winning Westerns to your collection, but we’re not so sure you’ve adjusted your cinema seating for proper viewing of Tommy Lee Jones and Daniel Day-Lewis. Luckily for you, Tahoe Seating in Carrollton, Texas, introduced the Ruidosa, “cowhide and hair-on-hide” seating that features bold rolled arms and a 22-inch wide seat. You can custom order this beauty to fit just you or you and four of your friends. The folks over at Tahoe Seating tell us they’d like to take credit for the cowhide design, but Adam Cox admits, “I think God has been the designer all along.”
BEST WESTERN GARDENER OF 2009
Ruth Bancroft, who turned 100 in 2008, took what most considered obstacles—hot, dry climate; boron in water; and poorly draining soil—and cultivated a succulent and cactus garden, when she was 60 years young. The first winter, severe frost killed her plants. She put hoe to the ground and started anew. Her namesake garden still thrives on the two-and-one-half acres that once featured walnut and Bartlett pear orchards planted on a 400-acre farm in the 1880s by Hubert Howe Bancroft (his library of the American West is the heart of UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library). To see the beauty that can be grown with little water, pay Ruth’s garden in Walnut Creek, California, a visit.
BEST INDIAN RIGHTS CRUSADER OF 2009
In Cherokee tradition, a person responsible for the security of a village is called a “mankiller.” Wilma Mankiller has certainly lived up to the name. She is best known as the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation (1985-1995). But for longer than that, she has written and spoken out about Indian sovereignty, health issues, education and tribal development—even as she has battled cancer and other personal health issues. She may be the most recognizable face (and name) in American Indian activism, and thanks to her, more and more people are paying attention to Cheyenne culture.
READERS’ CHOICE: Russell Means • Porcupine, SD • russellmeansfreedom.com
BEST PRESERVATION EFFORT OF 2009
Saving the 101 Ranch Collection by the Gilcrease Museum
The Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, really stepped up when it acquired a collection of 101 Ranch items. They bought rare photos, posters, costumes, firearms—more than 3,700 pieces from the combination working cattle operation and Wild West show. Then the Gilcrease put the collection on exhibit almost immediately—a big task, but fulfilling for folks who have seen it. The City of Tulsa and supporters Randi and Fred Wightman helped with the purchase. The collection is valued at more than $2 million—but how do you put a pricetag on saving precious history?
READERS’ CHOICE: Bent’s Old Fort • La Junta, CO • nps.gov/beol
BEST HISTORIC (100+ YEARS) BUSINESS OF 2009
Hamley & Co.
In 1850, the Hamley’s of England moved to Wisconsin and started the trade of saddle and leather craftsmanship. In 1883, Hamley & Co. was established in South Dakota by the family’s two sons, John James and Henry Hamley. Since 1905, the family business has been located in Pendleton, Oregon, along the Oregon Trail, in the same building that exists to this day. Over the years, Hamley became known throughout the West as the maker of “the finest saddles man could ride.” Today, you can still purchase boots, buckles, chaps, hats, jewelry, saddles, tack and leather gifts that are made and sold at the store.
READERS’ CHOICE: El Paso Saddlery Co. • El Paso, TX • epsaddlery.com
BEST MUSICAL TOUR OF THE WEST OF 2009
Songs of the Cowboys
by Mark Gardner/Rex Rideout
Little Joe the Wrangler, a tough kid in broken shoes and overalls, was penned into song by Jack Thorp while riding in a cow herd in 1898. Thorp published the first collection of cowboy songs in 1908, and Old West music revivalists Mark Gardner (right) and Rex Rideout (left) brought those songs to life at concerts in New Mexico during 2008—on vintage instruments, no less. Gardner played bones, jawbone and banjo, while Rideout played the piccolo banjo, fiddle, mandolin and concertina. For those who heard the show, Jack Thorp’s words hung in the air: “…the songs I heard some cowboys sing were an authentic feature of the land and life that made it seem good to me.”
BEST LIVING WESTERN SOLO MUSICIAN OF 2009
He’s as introspective as Guy Clark, as ornery as Billy Joe Shaver and has a voice as rich as Don Williams’s—and he’s just as talented as those three legends. Jon Chandler of Commerce City, Colorado, is a singer-songwriter (and award-winning novelist) who is equally at home during a performance at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium or while headlining the monthly Olde Town Pickin’ Parlor’s Pickin’ in the Parlor Songwriter’s Circle in Arvada, Colorado. Just wait till you hear him sing his new song about Doc Holliday!
READERS’ CHOICE: Michael Martin Murphey • Linden, TX • michaelmartinmurpheymusic.com
BEST LIVING WESTERN MUSIC GROUP OF 2009
Riders in the Sky
For 30 years, “America’s Favorite Cowboys,” Riders in the Sky, have been reviving the genre that Gene Autry and Roy Rogers kept alive. The members—Too Slim (Fred LaBour), Ranger Doug (Douglas B. Green), Woody Paul (Paul Woodrow Chrisman) and Joey the Cowpolka King (Joey Miskulin)—each add their own twist to the legacies they honor by combining true Western music with their humor. With more than 5,400 concert appearances, the group delights cowboys and cowgirls of all ages, and has been honored regularly for it. They are the only Western music group to join the Grand Ol’ Opry, and the only Western group to have won a Grammy (the group has won two).
READERS’ CHOICE: Riders in the Sky • ridersinthesky.com
BEST HARMONICOWBOY OF 2009
With his grandfather’s harmonica in his vest pocket, Gary Allegretto worked as a forester in Flagstaff, Arizona, a forest firefighter all over the West and a bouncer in some rough honky-tonks in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He’d play his harmonica at friend’s ranches in Colorado and Wyoming, and he eventually found himself dubbed the “Harmonicowboy” at festivals and cowboy saloons across the West. Gary is a modern-day Hy Dolber (also dubbed Harmonicowboy under Art Dickson), self-taught, like Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid, who were known to break a reed. Now residing in Los Angeles, California, Gary is endorsed by Hohner, whose founder was the first person to mass-produce harmonicas, back in 1857. This harmonica wrangler has a versatile technique that is sure to impress the cowboy hat off your head.
BEST YODELER WHO CAN’T START AN AVALANCHE OF 2009
Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo. When Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman wanted to find out if yodeling could trigger an avalanche, they found Liz Masterson of Denver, Colorado. Liz has been performing Western music since 1982 and is a founding board member of the Western Music Association. Adam and Jamie’s small-scale experiments indicated that an amplified voice could set off an avalanche, but Liz yodeled her heart out to no avail. Even with the aid of a megaphone, her yodels only set off an overwhelming rush of joy to all those who heard it. The myth was busted, but Liz proved to be a talented yodeler worth our recognition.
BEST LIVING WESTERNS ACTOR OF 2009
Viggo Mortensen for Appaloosa
Viggo Mortensen made the most of a rare opportunity when he was cast as best friend Everett Hitch opposite Ed Harris’s locked-down peacemaker Virgil Cole in Appaloosa. As an actor who often underplays everyone else on screen, Mortensen was under the umbrella of one of the few actors capable of underplaying even him, which freed him to carry the emotional center of the film with a minimum of exertion. Considering how the film ended, if a sequel to Appaloosa is made, Mortensen’s part will be even more prominent, and that’s good news.
READERS’ CHOICE: Robert Duvall
BEST WESTERNS INDIE FILM OF 2009
The Man Who Came Back by Grindstone Entertainment
This post-Civil War picture, which folds in elements of the Thibodeaux strike and subsequent massacre of 1877, is really a revenge story with a fascinating cast and more than a few finely written scenes. TV soap star Eric Braeden plays a retired Confederate assassin, Reese Paxton, who seeks justice on a number of people in the town after his wife and child are killed. George Kennedy, Sean Young, Armand Assante and James Patrick Stewart all act well in the film, which is several cuts above your typical home-grown Oater. Grindstone released the DVD in December 2008.
READERS’ CHOICE: Open Range • Touchstone Pictures (For “Best Western Indie Film of All-Time”)
BEST CLASSIC WESTERNS DVD OF 2009
Randolph Scott/Budd Boetticher Collection by Sony
This collection deserves a place alongside the box sets of Westerns by Sam Peckinpah, John Ford and Sergio Leone. The danger in overhyping these films lies in what makes them so wonderful—their simplicity and casual intensity. The Tall T, Comanche Station, Ride Lonesome, Decision At Sundown and Buchanan Rides Alone, all directed by Budd Boetticher and all starring Randolph Scott, are pictures that grow better with each viewing. Sony’s newly restored prints, as well as the commentary and documentaries in the package, give these fine movies the dignity each one deserves, at last. Sony released the DVD in November 2008.
READERS’ CHOICE: The Searchers • Warner Home Video
BEST MODERN WESTERNS DVD OF 2009
No Country For Old Men
This movie is modern in every sense, perhaps so much so that it stopped being an entertainment and stepped across the aisle into becoming a first rank literary adaptation. Co-directors Joel and Ethan Coen had the good taste and intelligence to respect Cormac McCarthy’s novel, and they managed to retain the integrity of the book without overdressing or overselling the piece. Some came away from the film ungratified by the ending, but in fact, it ended perfectly; the restrained acting by Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones left the field open for Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh to move into the ranks of all-time great creeps, right next to Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates. Miramax released the DVD in March 2008.
READERS’ CHOICE: Tombstone • Buena Vista Pictures
BEST LIVING WESTERNS SCREENWRITER OF 2009
To be fair, Leonard was responsible only for the underlying structure of 3:10 To Yuma, a story he wrote in the early 1950s. What’s important about Leonard is how this and his other stories created the bedrock for a kind of idealized Western landscape, a lost continent made of desert and sage and teeming with desperados and the desperate, who live in towns called Bisbee and Benson and Contention, which in no way actually resemble their real counterparts in our universe. Robert Parker’s Appaloosa, the book and the town, would not exist were it not for Leonard’s fantasies.
READERS’ CHOICE: Larry McMurtry
BEST LIVING WESTERNS DIRECTOR 2009
At first glance, Ed Harris’s Appaloosa is a bare knuckles Western, perfectly at home in any decade since 1950. In actuality, through Appaloosa, Harris has also created an homage to all Westerns, and his careful directing and scripting show how completely he respects and loves the genre. Harris also surveyed recent Westerns and found them lacking as visual works, so he worked the landscape into Appaloosa in a way that other pictures made in New Mexico didn’t. If Harris has a chance to pursue his vision, he might actually become a great director of Western films.
READERS’ CHOICE: Simon Wincer for Lonesome Dove • CBS
BEST WESTERN COMIC BOOK OF 2009
The Lone Rangerer
by Dynamite Entertainment
What good comic writers do best is take existing characters and point them in new directions, expand on their back stories and add depth. Bad comic writers and artists can destroy characters, while a good team can make them relevant without violating whatever it is that made them good in the first place. The Lone Ranger is a tough sell, mostly because sophisticated audiences have moved well beyond that 1950’s idea of a kiddie cowboy hero. So far, two years into it, Brett Matthews and Sergio Cariello are doing a solid job of reimagining a Lone Ranger and Tonto who are 100 percent camp-free and still interesting.
READERS’ CHOICE: Bat Lash by Peter Brandvold • DC Comics