Here are the winners of our “2011 Best of the West.” Sit back and see if your pick made the list.
BEST SUNDAY RIDE TO THE RIVER
Longhorn Saloon’s Sunday Ride
On Sunday afternoons, you’ll see folks in Bandera, Texas, riding their horses along, and even into, the Medina River. Championship horse trainer Charlotte Browning and singer/songwriter Brian Black have started this weekly tradition after reopening the Longhorn Saloon facing Medina River in 2007, sixty years after it first opened. Charlotte likes to call the day “Sunday, Funday,” and the ride truly does make Sunday fun.
Sometimes, you’ll even get a free bowl of chili at the end of it … as if riding to the river is not enticing enough!
BEST CHUCKWAGON CONTEST
Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium
Ruidoso downs, NM • CowboySymposium.org
If you want to see the biggest and best chuckwagon cook-off in all the land, get yourself to Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico, in October for the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium. As it has for the past 20 years, the symposium will feature a fantastic chuckwagon contest with prizes totaling nearly $25,000 for the best mouthwatering “chuck” any self-respecting cowboy would travel miles to partake in. These wagons are first-class authentic (and they are judged on this), with most of them costing north of $60,000. Here’s how it works: the chuckwagons line up, featuring great names like Honey-Do Spoiler, Camp Cookie Land & Cattle and Rocking K Chuckwagon. The camp cookies (cowboy for cook) are dressed in authentic garb and cook cowboy meat, beans, potatoes, bread and dessert in the traditional method. Oh, and they never forget to make biscuits and gravy.
BEST HOTEL IN THE WEST
Beaumont Hotel and Spa
Ouray, CO • BeaumontHotel.com
Remember back in the eighties (that would be the 1980s) when people actually had money to do crazy things with? Well, Dan and Mary King, who made a fortune in the Coke container biz, decided to take some extra money (some say $24 million) and renovate an 1886 hotel in Ouray, Colorado, that was in danger of being torn down. Like most renovations, the project was much more intense than what they bargained for, yet, like all great history buffs with a passion for getting it right, they hung in and finished the place first class. In 2010, the Kings gave the keys to the hotel to new owners Jennifer Wyrick and Chad Leaver. Known in its heyday as the “Flagship of the San Juans,” the Beaumont hosted guests like Sarah Bernhardt, Teddy Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover. When we were there a couple years ago for the first True Grit Days, the register included guests Angie Dickinson, Kim Darby and Johnny Crawford. Be sure to check out the small, cozy club bar, just off the dining room—really rich.
READERS’ CHOICE: Carefree Resort & Conference Center • Carefree, AZ • Carefree-Resort.com
BEST B&B IN THE WEST
Fort Davis, TX • TheVeranda.com
When it comes to B&Bs, we prefer ours with a bit of history (surprised?). We have the great pleasure to announce that the Veranda, a spacious adobe at Fort Davis, Texas, built in 1883, fits the bill as Best of the West, and then some. In addition to being historic, the Veranda features 12-foot-high ceilings and 13 rooms and suites furnished in antiques and collectibles. Baths are private. And a separate carriage house stands under the shade of a large pecan tree. This is a place to nestle in and enjoy the rustic charm in peace. If this is history, give me more!
READERS’ CHOICE: Nagle Warren Mansion B&B • Cheyenne, WY • NagleWarrenMansion.com
BEST NAME FOR A HETERO BAR IN A REDNECK BORDER TOWN
Gay 90’s Bar
Some words evolve from their meaning to become something totally different than the original intent. That’s why, on the way to the Mexican border at Naco, Arizona, almost everyone does a double take at the sight of the Gay 90’s Bar, parked about 25 yards north of the border station. Named for a frivolous period in the 1890s, the term was altered (some would say hijacked) some time in the 1970s. President-elect Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy spent a couple hours here, while, allegedly, waiting for a wealthy contributor to Reagan’s 1980 presidential run. The Reagans were on their way to Washington and wanted to thank the Mexican financier who gifted the campaign a reported $1 million. He was late, and Nancy supposedly had a little too much to drink. This photo of her coming out of the Gay 90’s Bar shows she’s feeling no pain. When we visited this bar late last year, we asked the bartender if she ever got any calls or inquiries for such a provocative name in such a conservative little town. She rolled her eyes and said, “Every single day.”
BEST PRESERVED FORT IN THE WEST
Fort Davis, TX
Fort Davis, TX • nps.gov/foda
We sometimes argue for days over these categories and winners, but we can’t remember when a winner has received unanimous agreement like Fort Davis did. Just listen to our contributing editors gush: “Fort Davis, Texas. Love at first sight for me more than 30 years ago.” Bruce Dingus. And, the dean of historians, Robert Utley: “The best preserved fort in the West is without question Fort Davis, Texas. No other so visually re-creates the frontier fort, and this one is also audio, because the bugle calls sound at the appropriate time during the day and the evening retreat parade, which was re-created by a period band at Fort Sill in the 1970s, is blasted over the parade ground in late afternoon. . .the National Park Service uses the fort, as I intended [as Park Service chief historian and director], to interpret the role of the black soldiers in the West. The four black regiments were kept in the Southwest for 30 years and did fine and exciting work.”
BEST GREEN EFFORT OUT WEST
Grand Canyon Railway
Williams, AZ • thetrain.com
A steam locomotive . . . powered by recycled vegetable oil? Yep, Grand Canyon Railway is bringing railroading into the 21st century. Some rail fans might bemoan the loss of the black plumes of smoke, yet we suggest they might want to focus instead on the versatility that makes steam locomotives so great and the creativity that is needed to ensure we can still enjoy these steamers today. After all, this “greener” steamer chugs along just fine. The oil is collected from restaurants at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and in Williams, and filtered into fuel at A Greener Day Recycling in Cornville. The railway also collects snowmelt to feed the locomotive’s water needs. The steam train runs on special occasions, so plan accordingly.
BEST RESERVED GRAVESITE IN THE WEST
El Paso, TX • concordiacemetery.org
If you’re into gunfighter graves like we are, then you’ve been to some out-of-the-way places, but the one that sticks out for us is Concordia Cemetery in El Paso, Texas—the final resting place of John Wesley Hardin. Just standing there at his grave, with the freeway humming nearby, gives off an eerie vibe, as the 19th century comes crashing into the present with such force. John Selman, the man who killed John Wesley in 1895, is nearby, as are assorted Buffalo Soldiers and even the alleged “World’s Tallest Man.” Local re-enactment groups put on excellent shows and, unlike so many other Old West graveyards, they keep the place clean and respectful. This grave is still the one to beat.
BEST FARMER’S MARKET IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
Hubbell Trading Post NHS Farmer’s Market
Ganado, AZ • nps.gov/hutr
Since 1876, Hubbell has served the Navajo Reservation—this is a real store, not living history. When superintendent Anne Worthington worked with the community to bring back agriculture to Hubbell, putting on a farmer’s market made sense. Alfalfa fields were first grown here in 1902, so John Lorenzo Hubbell could feed his freight horses and mules; yet farming pretty much ended when the National Park Service bought the site in 1967. Today, you can again see a blue sky-lit field of alfalfa, plus corn, squash, melons, tomatoes, chilis, rye and oats growing in the dirt. Maybe Hubbell is a site of living history,
the best kind—one that returns to its roots to better service its customers.
BEST RE-ENACTMENT GROUP
Prescott Regulators & Their Shady Ladies
Prescott, AZ • prescottregulators.org
In 2010, the Prescott Regulators & Their Shady Ladies held its fifth annual “Shootout on Whiskey Row,” the largest re-enactment gathering in Arizona. Groups came to Prescott from as far away as California to participate. The Regulators & Ladies get around too, performing in several exhibitions and competitions each year, including Festival of the West in Scottsdale. Even more impressive, the re-enactment group annually gives financial donations to community groups like Prescott’s Sharlot Hall Museum. For its charitable giving of time and money, all in the name of preserving Old West history, this group has earned the honor as the Best of the West.
READERS’ CHOICE: Wild Bunch & Hell’s Belles • Tombstone, AZ • TombstoneWildBunch.com
BEST MOUNTED RE-ENACTMENT
Defeat of Jesse James
Northfield, MN • DJJD.org
Since 1948, Northfield, Minnesota, has annually honored the citizens who took down the James-Younger Gang on September 7, 1876. Who the town is lauding is important to note; this is not a celebration of outlawry or outlaws. No matter how many times you see it, the re-enactment is thrilling and accurate. The bad guys ride up, enter the bank, then try to escape as the angry locals pour fire at them. Year after year, the performance never gets old, thanks to dedicated and believable re-enactors and, of course, an inspirational storyline.
BEST OLD WEST MARKETING CAMPAIGN
New Mexico State Monuments
santa Fe, NM • nmmonuments.org
“Poor Billy,” says Shelley Thompson, deputy director of Marketing & Outreach for New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. “If he knew that one photograph would come to define him, would he have stood up taller? Worn a suit? Or not?” When Shelley worked with her team on a new campaign to promote New Mexico State Monuments, she challenged the crew to connect Billy the Kid to Lincoln without relying on the one photograph of him everyone has seen. When the team dug up an archival photo of a pool scene, copywriter Kate Nelson playfully chimed in: “…a Kid named Billy chalked up another one.” The ad was born, and the campaign, in addition to Lincoln State Monument, now includes El Camino Real, Bosque Redondo Memorial and Buffalo Soldiers Forts Selden and Stanton. For their creativity and passion, we honor: Shelley Thompson (concept), Kate Nelson (copywriting) and Autumn DeHosse (graphic design).
BEST LIVING PHOTOGRAPHERS OF THE WEST
Philip Varney & Kerrick James
Voyageur Press • voyageurpress.com
Phil Varney (left) and Kerrick James (far left) are photographic artists, as well as determined historians, with the mission of foiling the effects of time’s blazing sun, wild winds and woeful winters while they battle man’s own forgetfulness. Ranging the entire West’s ghost towns, they have captured those sites of the abandoned and lost with their unique camera work. Varney’s excellent travel guides also take veteran and tenderfoot safely there and back, while James shares his camera techniques at major photo workshops. Thus, is it any wonder the pair have been recognized as the Best Living Photographers of the West?
READERS’ CHOICE: David Stoecklein • Ketchum, ID • StoeckleinPhotography.com
BEST LIVING COWBOY POET
Not too many performers, much less a cowboy poet, have performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall and on the Great Wall of China. In 2004, Jeff Hildebrandt performed at the venerable New York venue, Carnegie, and recited his popular “Cowboy Up America” poem. The Prairie Rose Wranglers and students from the Independent School of Wichita provided musical backup, and Hildebrandt received the only standing ovation of the show. In 2006 he took part in the Great American Cowboy China Tour with Johnny Western and Rex Allen Jr. (Hildebrandt is shown on the left, next to Western). He believes he might be the only cowboy poet to perform in China, or at least, on the Wall. His other gig is producer of programming for the Westerns Channel (Starz-Encore), a job that allows him to travel and, thus, perform in a variety of venues. A devout Christian, he often appears at local churches on the road and recites his poems to rapt audiences.
READERS’ CHOICE: Baxter Black • Benson, AZ • BaxterBlack.com
BEST LIVING FICTION WRITER
Lucia St. Clair Robson
Arnold, MD • Luciastclairrobson.com
This librarian-turned-fiction writer won the Western Writers of America Golden Spur award in 1982 and made The New York Times bestseller list for her very first book Ride the Wind. Many award-winning books followed. With her greatest achievement to date, 2010’s Last Train from Cuernavaca (Forge Books), the story of two courageous women fighting for the survival of their country during the Mexican Revolution, Lucia St. Clair Robson once again proves a master in prose, description, character development and authenticity via her diligent research. Look for more from this powerful writer.
READERS’ CHOICE: Dusty Richards • Springdale, AR • DustyRichards.com
BEST NONFICTION WRITER
San Francisco, CA • OUPRESS.COM
Over the past two decades, John Boessenecker has been a top writer/researcher in the California outlaw and lawman field. His 2010 University of Oklahoma Press publication, Bandido: The Life and Times of Tiburcio Vasquez, is a tour de force and probably his best to date. Bandido is a comprehensive biography of the legendary outlaw that strips away the myths surrounding Vasquez. With this book, Boessenecker has reaffirmed his place as one of the Best of the West.
READERS’ CHOICE: Frederick Nolan • London, England • FrederickNolan.com
BEST LIVING WESTERN PAINTER
Clifton, TX • OverlandGallery.com
When Martin Grelle was 18 years old, two well-known cowboy artists moved to Grelle’s hometown of Clifton, Texas. Both artists took a shine to the unschooled painter and, after driving a truck for his father’s gasoline distributorship for two years and painting on the side, Grelle finally took the leap and started painting full time. He joined his mentors as a member of Cowboy Artists of America in 1995, and Grelle has made a steady climb to the top of the Western Art heap. In 2005, he became one of only five artists to have won the top award twice—first won it in 2002—at the Prix de West invitational show at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Today, he is at the top of his game; his painting Apsaalooke Foot Soldiers sold for just over $150,000 at the June 2010 Prix de West. Grelle is our kind of painter: humble, hardworking and historically accurate. Sweet.
READERS’ CHOICE: Tim Cox • Bloomfield, NM • TimCox.com
BEST CLASSIC ILLUSTRATOR
Ariel, WA • PaulLanquist.com
Those of us who love classic illustrations by the likes of giant draftsmen like Howard Pyle, Maynard Dixon, N.C. Wyeth and L.C. Leyendecker are hard pressed to find much of it in any contemporary posters, or magazines, for that matter. Well, a bright light is coming from the Mount St. Helens area of Washington State, Paul A. Lanquist (“PAL”); his stunning series of destination posters beautifully capture the spirit of the Northwest’s most spectacular places. We discovered Lanquist’s art about a year ago, and he created our popular Buffalo Soldiers cover art for True West’s November/December 2010 issue. His work often celebrates America’s rugged individualists and pioneer spirit. Lanquist’s clients include Boeing Museum of Flight, the National Park Service and tourism destinations across the country and Canada. “Paul captures such a spirit of place. You get a sense that you are really there in the poster, right down to the clothesline fluttering in the breeze. His poster [of Gettysburg] captured the essence of Lancaster County so much that you can practically smell the cows,” says Scott Standish, director of Heritage Planning in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
BEST WESTERN ART GALLERY
Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery of Western American and Native American Art
In France, the rich collected art like crazy, then lost their heads in the revolution, and their paintings were put in museums for the public to enjoy. The same dynamic has happened in the U.S., but, in most cases, without the guillotine. Take, for example, the Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery, otherwise known as Basha’s Art Museum. Eddie Basha, the Arizona grocery magnate, has made his private collection of Western art available for the public to enjoy (he named the gallery in honor of his artist aunt Zelma). His little known gallery is a gem and a must-see for anyone who loves Western art; it contains more than 3,000 pieces of art, including sculptures, paintings, pottery and basketry by some of the West’s best contemporary artists.
READERS’ CHOICE: Trailside Galleries • Scottsdale, AZ / Jackson Hole, WY • TrailsideGalleries.com
BEST AUCTION HOUSE FOR WESTERN COLLECTIBLES
Coeur d’Alene Art Auction
Reno, NV/Hayden, ID • cdaartauction.com
When you hear of an auction record being set for Western art, more than likely that hammer fell down at Coeur d’Alene Art Auction. These folks are behind top prices for classic artists Charlie Russell ($5 million for his 1918 painting Piegans shown here) and Taos Society founder Oscar Berninghaus ($1.3 million) to emerging artists Howard Terpning ($1.3 million) and Mian Situ ($375,000). The auction celebrated its silver anniversary in 2010, having started under Stu Johnson, Pete Stremmel and Bob Drummond at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1986. Drummond’s retirement in 2005 ushered in
11-year company man Mike Overby. The auction has become so popular, it has outgrown its Idaho venue (although headquarters are still in Idaho), and it is back in Nevada, this time in Reno. Congratulations, for 25 years of impressive record-setting Western art auctions.
READERS’ CHOICE: High Noon • Mesa, AZ • HighNoon.com
BEST FUNKY JEWELRY ENGRAVER
New River, AZ • kitcarsonjewelry.com
First of all, this engraver has the most unlikely name of Kit Carson, and he comes by it legitimately, that is, his father named him. Second of all, his lifestyle, his house (Oh, his house! See True West’s January/February 2010 issue) and his work give true meaning to his slogan: “The Wildest Jewelry Engraver in the West.” Whether he’s creating stylish ravens, dragonflies, Day of the Dead skeletons or cowboys, each piece is Southwestern Art meets Art Nouveau. So we’ve raved about him, yet what do his peers at Metalsmith magazine say about Carson? “An outrageous mix of cowboy humor, technical skill, an extraordinary eye for detail and a passion for quality craftsmanship.” Okay, but what about his customers? “René Lalique meets
Dr. Seuss at the High Noon Bar,” says comedian Robin Williams. ’Nuff said. Kit Carson is an engraver to remember.
BEST PLACE TO BUY PERIOD CLOTHING
Wild West Mercantile
Mesa, AZ • wildwestmercantile.com
Tom and Claudia Ingoglia visited Arizona on vacation in 1978 and, as Tom says, “it was love at first sight.” He tried to get a job at Rawhide’s Old West town, but the owners said he was “overqualified.” Ha! Fast forward to 1991, and both Tom and Claudia participated in their first SASS match at Cowtown in Mesa, Arizona. Hooked on all things Western, they sold their house, cashed out their retirement account, drained their savings and maxed out their credit cards to start Wild West Mercantile. That was more than 15 years ago; since then, the Ingoglias have created a 10,000-square-foot retail store (which makes it the largest single retailer of Old West clothing in the world) and have one of the best Old West e-commerce sites. We salute the both of them for living out their dreams and for providing the rest of us with great, authentic products.
BEST LIVING WOMEN’S PERIOD CLOTHING FASHION DESIGNER
Hawks, MI • recollections.biz
Whether you want to dress like Denver socialite Molly Brown or prairie homesteader Laura Ingalls Wilder, Recollections is your place. Specializing in Pioneer, Old West, Soiled Dove and Victorian attire since 1980, Recollections staffs a team of seamstresses that creates more than 600 styles ranging from the Civil War era to the Roaring ‘20s. Plus, you also have your choice of period accessories, whether it be jewelry or hats. And hold on those hats ladies, because we got big news for you: if you’re fans of Recollections like we are, then prepare the men in your lives, because Recollections is releasing
a line of gentlemen’s Victorian wear!
READERS’ CHOICE: Recollections • Hawks, MI • Recollections.biz
BEST LIVING MEN’S PERIOD CLOTHING FASHION DESIGNER
Old Frontier Clothing Co.
Los Angeles, CA • OldFrontier.com
Designer and company president Larry Bitterman began Old Frontier Clothing Co. in 1989, setting out to create quality, authentic clothing worn by men who wanted to relive the Old West. What he created was a company that offers a unique approach to Western wear, making the category stylish and fashionable. You can buy attire like the bon ton gamblers wore or clothes sported by everyday cowboys, and then complete the look with a hat or neckwear (and we don’t mean a rope). A tip of the hat to you Larry, for upping the bar and creating one of the best Old West men’s clothing lines in the past 20 years.
READERS’ CHOICE: Wahmaker by Scully • Oxnard, CA • wahmaker.com
BEST LIVING WESTERN WOMEN’S FASHION DESIGNER
Celeste Sotola for Montana Dreamwear
Basin, MT • MontanaDreamwear.com
As a fashion designer, Celeste Sotola is a ball of energy. She is always inspired by our courageous pioneers who forged a life on the frontier (she calls them “mavericks” and “maverikas”). Her ode to sharpshooter Annie Oakley came in the form of a brocade-lined deerskin coat, accented with handmade leather flowers and gold-plated stars as a nod to the floral-beading costuming of showman Buffalo Bill, whose Wild West show Oakley joined in 1885. Sotola founded her company in 2004 upon the premise that you should “wear the way you want to live.” Her fashion is indeed wearable art, more of which you’ll soon be seeing when she finishes her collection, “21st-Century Inspirations of the American West,” for the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming.
READERS’ CHOICE: Patricia Wolf • Smithville, TX • PatriciaWolf.com
BEST LIVING WESTERN MEN’S FASHION DESIGNER
Rocky Mountain Clothing Company for Cinch Jeans
Denver, CO • rockymountainclothing.com
Ty Alford made the Cinch Elite Team during the 2010-2011rodeo season. The team roper represented his high school in Ponce de Leon, Florida, at the 62nd annual National High School Finals Rodeo in Gillette, Wyoming, in July 2010. So how did he get to be the sole “Cinch Elite” member? As a top finisher, he qualified for the Cinch Rodeo Team and his academic standing at school qualified him for the Cinch Academic Team; that combination earns next-generation rodeo competitors “elite” status in Cinch’s eyes. We congratulate Cinch for reaching out to rising rodeo stars like Alford by becoming the “official jeans and shirts” of the National High School Rodeo Association in 2010. After all, what cowboy wouldn’t mind slapping on a pair of light wash Brendans or destructed dark rinse Coopers?
READERS’ CHOICE: Manuel • Nashville, TN • ManuelCouture.com
BEST LIVING BOOTMAKER
Nogales, AZ • paulbondboots.com
If not for J.D. and Brenda Braswell, Chuck Carlson might have missed out on meeting an incredible man. Luckily, the Braswells introduced him to their best friend Paul Bond, who had been one of the original members of the Turtles (which grew up into the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) and began handcrafting his Western boots in 1946. Bond still creates artwork for the boots handmade at his company, and he is still full of surprises. When a customer stopped in and asked about a saddle Bond had made for John Wayne, Bond admitted he had made but a few saddles, yet Wayne’s was among those because he needed an extra large saddle. Those rare saddles might be more collectible than his boots, if you can imagine that! True West honors Paul Bond once again; we just can’t get beyond the quality of boots made by a man whose equipment is older than he is (and that’s saying a lot, when he turned 95 this December). Every honest cowboy knows a boot made under Bond’s guidance is unbeatable.
READERS’ CHOICE: (Tie) Lucchese Boot Co. • El Paso, TX • Lucchese.com / Paul Bond • Nogales, AZ • PaulBondBoots.com
BEST LIVING WESTERN HATMAKER
Beaver Brand Hats
New Haven, MO • BeaverBrandhats.com
A ton of hatmakers are preserving the trade out West these days (which is a very good thing), yet few can claim the rich legacy of Beaver Brand Hats. These guys have been making hats since 1860, so they’ve had time to hone their skills to the white hot center of style and comfort. To boot, this is a tried-and-true American company, employing workers with a strong work ethic and a pride in what they do. And what do they do? They make great hats! (Full disclosure: Beaver Brand Hats named our own Bob Boze Bell “Westerner of the Year” for 2010, and Bob proudly wore his custom Beaver Brand hat to Paris this past October, turning heads from the Eiffel Tower to the Notre Dame.)
READERS’ CHOICE: (Tie) Stetson • Garland, TX • StetsonHat.com / Tom Hirt • Penrose, CO • TomHirt.com
BEST LIVING WESTERN HOME FURNISHINGS DESIGNER
Harriette Allison of Lucky Star Gallery
Reno, NV • Luckystargallery.com
“Inspiring” is what Harriette Allison made of the 31-room ranch house owned by cowboy humorist Will Rogers in Santa Monica, California. A rope lassoed around a steer’s head from a wood ceiling beam. A saddle turned into a light hovering over the dining room table. Harriette wanted to design furniture with character too, and she loved the idea of repurposing lived-out goods. She started in 1996, working her way up to open Lucky Star Gallery in 2000. Handcut fringing, tailored nailheads, richly-colored leather and recycled wood stick out on pieces like her Oregon Trail overstuffed chair (at left) and custom barrel chairs. For preserving our vintage handcrafted American furnishings so we can live in them comfortably today, we honor Harriette Allison.
READERS’ CHOICE: Terry Hertz for Alpha Omega Western Furnishings • Grass Valley, CA • Alpha-OmegaWF.com
BEST OUTRAGEOUS BED
Wagon West Beds
Sonoma, CA • WagonWestBeds.com
Mike Hardister was one of those guys who transported your “junk” for the dump truck company he owned. When he stumbled upon an antique wagon, he did not have the heart to throw it away—so he kept it on his lawn. One day in 2004, he got the notion to make a bed out of it. Before he knew it, people who owned old, unserviceable wagons began calling on him to make their beds out of them too! Mike tracks down the history of every wagon he has ever converted into a bed, which he crafts by using all of the metal parts from the wagon and adding only wood. His favorite bed is the latest one he made in 2010; he attached a lantern that illuminates only half of the bed so as not to disturb his wife when he has to turn it on to get up; the light keeps him from banging his shin on the hub! Now, a Wagon West bed goes for a hefty price—roughly $20,000 to $30,000. Yet the price sounds about right when you consider the 500 man hours Hardister puts into each bed; roughly $50 an hour, for the most unique and historic Western bed you might ever sleep in.
Remington Collection by Reflections of Joi
Broken Arrow, OK • Reflectionsofjoi.com
For Wantha Deaton, Frederic Remington’s work is typical of her day-to-day life growing up on a cattle ranch. She sees her father in most of the cowboy moments captured by the 19th-century artist, so she was inspired to add his artwork to her line of kitchenware for Reflections of Joi, a company she started in 1999. Now you can cook a meal, set a table and decorate with her Remington-inspired kitchenware. Her collection features patterns of both line drawings and color paintings by Remington. The award-winning Deaton learned how to paint china from her grandmother and has been painting china since her college days, roughly 30 years ago. We’re glad to hear that Remington’s works have finally made it to the dinner table, beyond gracing dining room walls across the West.
BEST LIVING OLD WEST BLACKSMITH
David W. Osmundsen of Arrowhead Forge
Buffalo, WY • Arrowhead-forge.com
If you want to impress your friends at the next chuckwagon gathering, or you just want to be creative with your cooking at home, your best bet for authentic Old West cooking utensils is Arrowhead Forge. David Osmundsen’s passion is shaping iron into artistic and functional forms by blending 19th-century blacksmithing techniques with 21st-century convenience. He’s been forging since 1976, and no two of his creations are identical. How does he come up with his designs? He studies historical photos of roundup cooks and their equipment, and he’s well versed in the art of blacksmithing (he has demonstrated his forging talents at places such as the 1824 Fort Vancouver in Vancouver, Washington, and Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming). Our favorite pieces are Osmundsen’s hand-forged utensils, yet he also leaves his mark of distinction on ironwork ranging from fire screens to house gates.
BEST CAFÉ IN THE WEST
Meeker, co • themeekerhotel.com
The Meeker Café, at its present location, has served patrons since 1918. Charlie Dunbar and Susan Wright originally opened the Meeker Hotel
and Café in an adobe building in 1884. In 1918, owner R.S. Ball moved the café from the hotel into the Vorges Building (which housed the town’s post office in 1891 and the 1st National Bank in 1904). While the café continues to offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, folks rave about the breakfast—a long-time favorite dish is the High-Country Skillet. When dinner comes around, though, folks around here do tend to have a hankerin’ for the café’s Chicken Fried Steak.
READERS’ CHOICE: Owl Café • Albuquerque, NM
BEST RESTAURANT IN THE WEST
Deadwood Social Club
Deadwood, SD • saloon10.com
While this restaurant serving classic, upscale northern Italian dishes has only been open since the 1990s, it’s housed above the re-created Saloon #10, which pays homage to Nuttall & Mann’s saloon where Wild Bill Hickok was shot during a poker game in 1876. Located on the second floor, the Deadwood Social Club serves homemade meals and award-winning desserts in its beautiful 19th-century dining rooms. In addition to its northern Italian specialty dishes, the restaurant also serves bison, elk, pheasant and fish. Wild Bill would have enjoyed dining here.
READERS’ CHOICE: Cattlemen’s Steakhouse • Oklahoma City, OK • CattlemensRestaurant.com
BEST SALOON IN THE WEST
San Antonio, TX • buckhornmuseum.com
The Buckhorn has been a San Antonio staple for 130 years (although in different locations). It’s a comfortably classy setup, appreciated by locals and visitors alike. And where else can you get a beer while checking out a museum? In fact, the Buckhorn has two museums, one of various Lone Star State odds and ends, and the other dedicated to the Texas Rangers. The place is unusual and fun—and deserving of recognition as a Best of the West. We definitely recommend you stop by when you’re in town to celebrate the “Fall of the Alamo’s” 175th anniversary this March.
READERS’ CHOICE: Crystal Palace Saloon • Tombstone, AZ • CrystalPalaceSaloon.com
BEST FRONTIER FARE
Pryor, OK • prairieroseok.com
Loyd Arthur’s roots trace back to his grandparents who raced to Oklahoma in the Great Land Run of 1889. He was taught to appreciate the land, so he lives a sustainable life in Pryor, Oklahoma. Using old-style techniques, he’s been growing, raising and processing his period food products since 1969. His company Prairie Rose sells sorghum, honey, flour, meal, eggs and meat, but you have to visit Loyd in Oklahoma to purchase these amazing treats. Call before you go to see if you can arrange for him to prepare an authentic chuckwagon dinner too!
READERS’ CHOICE: Cowboy Flavor BBQ Sauce by Billy & Sue Ruiz • Los Alamos, CA • CowboyFlavor.com
BEST LIVING COWBOY MOUNTED SHOOTER
Ellensburg, WA • KendaLenseigne.com
Kenda Lenseigne’s run to the top actually began in 2009, when she won the overall title at the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA) Worlds—the first time a woman has ever captured the top spot at a CMSA major championship. She continued the run in 2010, taking the overall at three of the four majors. She (and her trusty mount Justin) also squeezed in a world record run to boot. In mounted shooting, Kenda’s the best.
READERS’ CHOICE: Kathy Hollmann a.k.a. Morning Dove • Hagerman, NM
BEST LIVING SINGLE ACTION SHOOTER
Steven Rubert a.k.a. Badlands Bud
Badlands Bud took his first cowboy action shooting world championship when he was just 15. Since that win in 2005, he has taken home seven additional world titles—including the 2010 Single Action Shooting Society End of Trail overall. The shootist otherwise known as Steven Rubert is proficient with just about any kind of gun you can mention: pistol, rifle, shotgun, derringer and more. We pity his competitors. Bud is just 21, and his best years are ahead of him.
READERS’ CHOICE: Gene Pearcey a.k.a. Evil Roy • Durango, CO • EvilRoyShootingSchool.com
Bob Giles of Cowboy Bob’s Frontier Trappings
A master of period-correct Bowies, Bob Giles’s Bowie knives truly blur the line between original and reproduction. Working from recycled circular sawmill blades, Giles handcrafts frontier-era Bowies from the big, ornate clip-point fighting knives of the 1830s to the smaller, commercially produced, late 19th-century “hunter’s companion” style blades. Each of his knives are ruggedly made and hand fitted with handles of ebony, ivory, pearl, stag and wood—including silvered Tiffany-style grips. Only the most discerning eye can distinguish one of this artisan’s Bowies from a 19th-century original!
BEST GUNLEATHER ARTISAN
Rich Bachman of Old West Reproductions
Florence, MT • oldwestreproductions.com
One look at Rick Bachman’s gunleather will have you swearing you were looking at an original piece in new condition. His museum-quality gun holsters, cartridge belts and rifle scabbards look like the products of the finest frontier gunleather artisans who came before him. As testimony to his quality, Bachman’s gunleather has been packed by Country singers Dwight Yoakam and Hank Williams Jr., and has seen use in films like 1993’s Tombstone. When it comes to replicating Old West or modern gunleather, Bachman’s work is second to none.
READERS’ CHOICE: (Tie) El Paso Saddlery • El Paso, TX • EPSaddlery.com / Karla Van Horne of Purdy Gear • Jasper, GA • PurdyGear.com
BEST FIREARM OF THE WEST
Colt Single Action Army .45 Peacemaker by colt’s Mfg. Co.
Hartford, CT • coltsmfg.com
An American icon, the Colt Peacemaker is the granddaddy of all cartridge single actions. From Colt’s Custom Shop, it’s virtually the same as the 1873 original when this well balanced, hard hitting six-shooter was a frontier favorite. Still a hand fitted, beautifully finished revolver that, like gold, has proved to increase in value, making it both a functional sidearm and a collectible heirloom. Offered in classic .45 Colt chambering, as a reissue of the 1880s etched panel “Colt Frontier Six Shooter” .44-40 or in the short ejectorless Sheriff’s Model in both .45 and .44-40, Colt’s Peacemaker is still winning the West!
READERS’ CHOICE: Colt Single Action Army .45 Peacemaker by Colt’s Mfg. Co. • Hartford, CT • ColtsMfg.com
BEST COWBOY ACTION FIREARM
1873 Replica Lever Action Rifle by Cimarron Fire Arms
Fredericksburg, TX • cimarron-firearms.com
With more than 10 different replicas of Winchester’s famed 1873 lever-action rifle, Cimarron offers today’s cowboy action and cowboy mounted shooters everything from the short 16-inch barreled “Trapper” through the standard 19-inch round-barreled carbines and 24-inch octagon-barreled rifles, all the way up to the 30-inch “Long Range” rifle. Regardless of configuration or chambering, which range from .32-20 to .45 Colt, the Uberti Italian-produced Cimarron replicas offer reliable function, accuracy and authentic lines with historical detailing not found in many replicas.
READERS’ CHOICE: Vaquero by Sturm, Ruger & Co. • Enfield, CT • Ruger.com
BEST 100-YEAR BUSINESS IN THE WEST
Carson City, NV • comstockheritage.com
We wanted to wish America’s oldest silversmiths “Happy Birthday,” and our present for them is all their doing—2011 marks the 125th birthday of a company that has clearly withstood the test of time and delivered on its promises. In 1886, Comstock started its journey as jewelers in San Francisco’s Market Street area. The company survived the 1906 earthquake and fire, and went on to make badges for the police and firemen of the city. By 1911, Comstock was crafting “Spanish Ornamentals and Plaquet belt buckles,” which we refer to today as conchos and trophy buckles. Comstock makes its Western buckles today on some of the same equipment used in 1886, and the company is still in the Stegman family! The original Stegman owners were brothers Christian and Herman; 43-year-old James Christian owns it today, his 78-year-old father still comes in four days a week and Donna and James’s girls can be seen working here during school vacations. We salute you Stegmans, ages 78 to 13!
READERS’ CHOICE: Hamley & Co. • Pendleton, OR • HamleyCo.com
BEST HISTORIC RENOVATION
San Diego, CA • OldTownCosmopolitan.com
Back in 1869, Albert Seeley turned an 1827 hacienda into a hotel, saloon and restaurant. Jump ahead to mid-2010, and the Cosmopolitan has come full circle reopening in Old Town San Diego State Park after a six-year, $6.5 million rehabilitation. On top of that, the public was kept informed of the progress via the Cosmopolitan Chronicle sharing its “true tales from the annals of history, archaeology, construction and restoration” of the hotel. The Cosmo now offers 10 guest rooms decked out in 19th-century style and furnishings. Plus, the bar was built in the 1870s and had a former life in a Tombstone saloon. Very cool.
BEST NEXT GENERATION RANCHER
Tate Jensen of Tavaputs Ranch
Price, UT • TavaputsRanch.com
Tate Jensen turned 30 in 2010, and when he looks back on his already amazing ranching career, the highlight of it all, he admits, is the “privilege of being a cowboy everyday.” You see, Tate has a special relationship to the ranch in eastern Utah where he tends to the cattle herd on horseback (no ATV for this rancher). His great-great grandfather Jim McPherson started working cattle here in 1889, and he even traded horses with Butch Cassidy. We’ve honored Tavaputs and its owners Butch and Jeanie Jensen before (2008 “Best Ranch in the West”), yet Tate has roped us in once again. His work on maintaining the springs at the ranch played a part in the family earning a 2009 Leopold Conservation Award and a 2010 National Cattlemen Environmental Stewardship Award. Besides his cowhand duties, Tate is also president of Eastern Utah Cattle Growers Association as well as the Utah Cattlemen Area Director. We’re so proud he is continuing the tradition his great-great grandfather started, and we hope his story inspires even more next generation ranchers.
BEST VAQUERO HORSE TRAINER
Glendale, AZ • HistoricalOldWest.org
Ed Connell wrote a series of articles in the 1950s documenting the Spanish vaquero horse training tradition. A young horseman from Madrid, Iowa, C.L. “Lee” Anderson read these articles in Western Horseman with great interest, saying, “It made sense to me, and I’ve practiced the art ever since.” But Anderson didn’t stop with training horses in the vaquero tradition. He has also collected antique vaquero firearms, horse gear, clothing and tools, and, even in some cases, made his own historically-accurate, museum-quality gear. He also spent several years professionally training and showing horses on the national show circuit, which helped him hone his skills to a very high level. Anderson likes to say, and we agree with him, “I’ve become just about as close to the real thing as you’re going to find . . . at least in this day and age, anyway.”
READERS’ CHOICE: Richard Caldwell • Alturas, CA • VaqueroHorseman.com
BEST LIVING HORSE GEAR ARTISAN
Keetch Cowboy Gear
When you’ve been publishing a “Best of the West” guide for nine years, people tend to have their own ideas who we editors should pick. We particularly enjoy underdogs though, so we had to check out a 2004 company that a reader from Mount Vernon, Washington, told us about. He raved about owners Mike and Cindy Keetch, saying, “Personally, I find it amazing that they have flown under the radar for this long.” Turns out, their work is amazing too. Former rodeo cowboy Mike builds the saddles and floral pattern carvings, Cindy purchases the leather, makes the chaps and the skirting leather, and their daughter makes 100-perfect mohair cinches. “Mike is very particular about the finished product because he also uses it himself with his own horses,” Cindy says. They both study up their craft, collecting books on old-fashioned cowboy gear. When the only difference between the chaps and the chaps of the old days might be the zipper, it is indeed a wonder Keetch has flown under the radar so long. We’re honored to recognize them as the Best of the West.
BEST PROFESSIONAL RODEO
Pendleton, OR • PendletonRoundup.com
If cowboys and Indians agree on any one thing, it’s that the annual Pendleton Round-up in Pendleton, Oregon, is a world class event. This four-day show attracts more than 700 competitors, and the purses are among the largest paid out in all the land. American Indians get their share of attention at the Happy Canyon nighttime pageant, which showcases the Indian story of the West. Add to that the Hotel de Cowpunch (christened by that name by none other than legendary cowboy Casey Tibbs after returning from a tour of France), a venue that adds to the aura at the venerable event. When the Round-Up held its 100th rodeo in 2010, hotels had been sold out for months. The folks lucky enough to attend got a great show, with each day featuring a heritage event, such as a hide race, in which competitors ride a cowhide between two racing horses. No wonder folks are still cheering “Let ‘er Buck!”
BEST DUDE RANCH IN THE WEST
Hunewill Guest Ranch
Bridgeport, CA • HunewillRanch.com
Richard Beal is the cowboy behind Beal’s Cowboy Buckles. Beal has helped gather and sort cattle drives for Hunewill ranch for a decade, and he rang in his 10th year working with the Hunewill family when the ranch celebrated its 100th consecutive cattle drive in November 2009. (In 2011, Hunewill will celebrate another milestone—its 150th birthday.) Beal was kind enough to report on the 100th cattle drive, in which the five-day task was the same as always: move 600-800 pregnant cows from Bridgeport, California, through Nevada desert to the Wellington ranch. “It’s a sun up to sun down activity,” he stated, adding that snow, rain and wind in below freezing temperatures is often nature’s blanket on this drive. Yet these cowboys find good cheer when they make it the last mile through residential Wellington; most folks are sitting out in their chairs by the road to watch them arrive. We’re jealous of their seats!
BEST HORSE TRAIL RIDE OUT WEST
Engineer Mountain Ride by Rapp Corral
Durango, CO • RappCorral.com
When the sky is clear, you can see all the way to New Mexico from the base of Engineer Mountain. Lake Electra shimmers in the distance. Animas Valley offers endless views. Needle Mountain is covered with toothpick-like trees. When you’re surrounded by such beauty, could anything make the day ride better? Why, yes, Anne Rapp of Rapp Corral can give you a ride you’ll never forget. A guide for more than 25 years, she has regularly undertaken pack trips into San Juan National Forest, and hidden treasures come to light when you experience this trail under her guidance. She knows the historic mines dotting the mountains off the trail, and she knows how to keep you safe from their hazards. Darley Newman, our Trail Rider columnist (shown here, behind Anne Rapp), recommends riding here during July and August, when the rich mining region is ablaze with wildflowers.
READERS’ CHOICE: Wyatt Earp’s Vendetta Ride by Great American Adventures • Tombstone, AZ • Great-American-Adventures.com
BEST RESTORER OF HISTORIC SADDLES
John Carney Custom Creations
Vichy, MO • CarneyCustomCreations.com
“John Carney is unquestionably the premier restorer of Edward H. Bohlin silver saddles in the world today,” Joseph Sherwood, cofounder of High Noon in Mesa, Arizona, told True West. Sherwood’s enthusiasm about Carney is obvious, and the reason why is that very few contemporary craftspeople would ever even attempt to replicate a vintage saddle (and its accessories, like Carney’s Bohlin corona shown here), yet Carney has welcomed the challenge. His patience and meticulous attention to detail are keys to his success. Carney can replicate “not only the exact gauge and size of the sterling conchos and other adornments, but also the precision engraving of the various silversmiths who worked on the diverse array of parade saddles,” Sherwood says. Keeping track of the variety of engravers who worked for the Bohlin company from the 1920s through the 1960s is indeed a challenge—one which we’re glad Carney has taken up.
BEST LIVING WESTERN SADDLEMAKER
David Carrico of Carrico’s Leatherworks
Edna, KS • carricoleather.com
If you are looking to re-create the Old West, regardless of whether it is military or civilian, Carrico’s Leatherworks can outfit you and your horse with authentic military McClellan or civilian Hope-style and 1870s saddles, accoutrements, gunleather and other frontier gear for trooper and plainsman re-enactors alike. David Carrico’s handsome and ruggedly-made saddlery and leather goods have been used in movies such as the upcoming True Grit and Cowboys & Aliens, as well as Appaloosa, The Missing and Into the West, to name a few. Well, what are you waiting for? Boots and saddles!
BEST LIVING WESTERN MUSIC GROUP
Asleep at the Wheel
Austin, TX • AsleepAtTheWheel.com
Asleep at the Wheel has had the market cornered in the Western Swing category pretty much since the group’s inception in 1970. Other Texas Swing bands have certainly popped up over the past few decades, yet Ray Benson and his boys are not just the longest-lived, they’re also the best. Their 2010 Grammy-nominated team-up with old friend Willie Nelson was one of the high points of their 40-year career.
READERS’ CHOICE: Riders in the Sky •Ashville, TN • RidersInTheSky.com
BEST LIVING WESTERN SOLO MUSICIAN
Royal Wade Kimes
Burns, TN • RoyalWadeKimes.com
Kimes draws on several traditions, but among them he can authentically claim to have come from both cowboy stock and Depression-era outlaw lineage. He’s earned a nod in 2009 from Western Writers of America for his song “Apache Kid,” and even one from True West, for his 2004 album Cowboy Cool. Yet we’re impressed with the camaraderie he’s been able to generate among Country cowboy singers at his Mount Royal Trail Ride; he led his fifth ride in 2010. Kimes was joined on the stage by the Nashville Pickers, Michael Black of the Jordannaires, Mike Noble, Phil Lee and piano man Paul Hollowell. Now that’s some fine pickin’.
READERS’ CHOICE: Michael Martin Murphey • Amarillo, TX • MichaelMartinMurphey.com
Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian by PBS
Alexandria, VA • pbs.org
The year 2010 was a good one for Western-themed documentaries, which included the cowboy sheepherding film Sweetgrass and the convict cowgirl film Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo. Yet PBS’s Reel Injun takes the cake; this film is a fantastically entertaining and breezy overview of how Hollywood, and America, imagined aboriginals, starting with Tom Edison’s earliest penny arcade machines through the Inuits in 2001’s The Fast Runner and Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of Ira Hayes in 2006’s Flags of Our Fathers. The movie offers commentary from sources like Russell Means, Eastwood and Adam Beach, and clips from a vast number of films.
BEST WEB VIDEO SHORT
Tex, the Passive/Aggressive Gunslinger
“He never draws his gun; he’s far too subtle for that,” says the bartender in this Funny-or-Die short from 2000 (yes, it took a while for us to hear about it; but trust us, this is worth watching). The bartender is referring to Tex, played by Bob Balaban, a mild-mannered character actor who goes back to 1969’s Midnight Cowboy. Tex’s passivity, which makes Destry look like Rambo, is too much for Bart, a man-in-black gunfighter played by Charles Rocket. Tex is challenged by Bart, and the result is like something out of an old Warner Bros. cartoon.
BEST WESTERN SHORT FILM
Friend of the Devil
Eric Heisner of Glendale, California, lives and breathes Westerns, having written something like six Western screenplays. He also directs and acts in them, or would if he got the chance, and to that end Heisner made the pilot/short Friend of the Devil, about a former Ranger after some bad men. This good-looking award winner was shot in Brackettville, Texas, and Lone Pine, California, two of the most familiar locales in Western film history. We enjoyed seeing those sites get play again. Heisner’s short has potential. He’s one to keep your eye on.
BEST DARK HORSE WESTERN
In 1845, wagonmaster Stephen Meek convinced his emigrant caravan to attempt a new and untried route to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, deviating from the better known Oregon Trail. The new route became known as Meek’s Cutoff. The movie of the same name, starring Michelle Williams (of 2005’s Brokeback Mountain fame) and Bruce Greenwood, won’t be a typical Western, but it should be an honest look at one of the darker chapters in America’s move westward. This darling of the independent film circuits in 2010 should see a release date for the public soon.
BEST MODERN WESTERNS DVD
Ride With The Devil by Criterion Collection
New York, NY • criterion.com
Criterion’s Westerns releases for 2010 include the 1999 Ang Lee movie that looks at Missouri and Kansas during the Civil War from the perspective of a small group of Bushwackers, the men who rode with “Bloody Bill” Anderson and Quantrill in 1863. This new presentation, which looks and sounds spectacular, was re-edited by Lee. While the original stands as the smartest and most accurate version of those times, this newer and longer version is even better, and the extras and commentary are outstanding.
READERS’ CHOICE: Lonesome Dove
BEST CLASSIC WESTERNS DVD
Stagecoach by Criterion Collection
New York, NY • criterion.com
John Ford’s Stagecoach may be the best and most important Western ever made, and not just because it pulled John Wayne out of matinee Oaters and put him on the road to superstardom. Fact is, the film did pretty much the same thing for the entire Westerns genre, proving that Westerns could thrive when given top-notch writing, directing, cinematography and acting. Criterion’s DVD edition shows the 1939 film the same respect, yet with a newer and much cleaner print, far superior than the original cinematic version.
READERS’ CHOICE: The Searchers
Special thanks to Henry Cabot Beck, Mark Boardman, Chuck Carlson, William Garwood, Sherry Monahan, Phil Spangenberger and Linda Wommack