Best of the West
- Published January 01, 2010
Here are the winners of our "2010 Best of the West." Sit back and see if your pick made the list.
Best Hotel in the West
San Antonio’s Menger Hotel celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2009. And what a history it has seen—guests have included Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, in addition to any number of Old West characters. Teddy Roosevelt recruited his Rough Riders in the hotel bar (which has changed little since 1898). The heritage is well preserved and displayed throughout the Menger. The hotel is also a comfortable hangout for those visiting the Alamo, located just across the street.
READERS’ CHOICE: Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel • Cody, WY • irmahotel.com
Best B&B in the West
Nagle Warren Mansion B&B
The History Channel chose the Nagle Warren Mansion to film interior scenes for its “Cowboys and Outlaws” series segments on Tom Horn and Cattle Kate, confirming something we already knew: this is one of the great Victorian properties in the West. Once a cattle baron’s home, it is now home to visitors in the Magic City of the Plains (Cheyenne, Wyoming) where you’ll have a chance for “Wine & Whine” on the third Thursday of the month, High Tea on Fridays and mystery weekends. Innkeeper Jim Osterfoss’s breakfasts are bound to get your day off to the right start.
READERS’ CHOICE: Lost Creek Country Inn • Chandler, OK • lostcreektown.com
Best Tour Company Out West
Great American Adventures
Steve and Marcie Shaw of Great American Adventures have taken Old West travel to a new level. Emphasizing period dress and historical accuracy, the Shaws have opened up a brand new category: Historical Re-enactment Travel. In addition to their annual Custer Ride (horseback on the actual route in period dress, with a mock battle on the Little Bighorn Battlefield), the Shaws this year, in conjunction with True West magazine, added the Wyatt Earp Vendetta Ride. Each participant was given a horse to ride into Tombstone, Arizona, and out to Cottonwood Springs where historians now believe the famous fight between Wyatt Earp and Curly Bill took place. In addition to visiting the site, one of the tour members, our own Dave Daiss, discovered the foundation of a line shack that may have been the actual line shack Curly Bill and his gang were in when the fight commenced. Living history indeed. Shaw is planning expansion of the concept next year with tours to the Wild Bunch’s Hole-in-the-Wall and other outlaw-lawmen trips.
READERS’ CHOICE: Into the West Jeep Tours • Hereford, AZ • intothewestjeeptours.com
Best Chance to Drive a Steam Locomotive
Nevada Northern Railway's Engine Rental Program
“You actually have the chance to put your hand on the throttle of 100 tons of a fire-breathing steam locomotive. It transports you to a different place and time,” says Executive Director Mark S. Bassett, about the engine rental program at the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely. Rental engineers have ranged from U.S. Air Force generals to a gentleman who showed up in a traditional engineerman’s uniform, styled like the one he wore while he sat in the engineer’s seat during the heyday of steam. Rental engineers get to run the steam locomotive to Keystone, up 323 feet—the equivalent of a 30-story building—and back down the hill to Ely. While the fireman feverishly shovels coal into the firebox, every tug of yours on the throttle brings a whoosh of steam escaping from the open cylinder cocks. For such a unique outreach program that transports adventurers back to our steam locomotive heritage, we honor the Nevada Northern Railway.
Best Preserved Gravesite in the West
The ghosts of El Paso’s Concordia Cemetery protect the place. Well, actually, the ghost tours should get the credit. For years, vandals damaged gravestones at the famous landmark; repairs took most of the institution’s budget. In July 2008, the specter of a solution appeared to the El Paso del Norte Paranormal Society—paid ghost tours of the cemetery. Between then and last August, more than $10,000 was raised to restore and preserve the historic site, and to bolster security. On top of that, the society contributes its efforts to the cemetery for free. Now outlaw John Wesley Hardin (see his grave at left) and lawman John Selman, and the Buffalo Soldiers and the Texas Rangers who rest among the 60,000 souls buried here are getting some peace again.
Best Preserved Fort in the West
Wyoming’s Fort Laramie has served a lot of purposes during its 175 years: a fur trading post, a U.S. Army installation, private homesteads and finally a National Historic Site. Through all those changes, the fort has maintained an important place on the California, Oregon and Mormon Trails. Twelve buildings dating back to the Army days are standing and well maintained—including Old Bedlam, built in 1849 and the oldest standing building in Wyoming. In 2009, an effort to digitally preserve the images of Fort Laramie began. Scans—in 3D, no less—will allow online visitors to tour the historic location.
Best Horse Trail Ride Out West
Hondoo Rivers & Trails Ride at Capitol Reef National Park
Pat Kearney and Gary George have been leading camping and inn-to-inn trail rides throughout southern Utah since 1975. Pat reads pioneer journals to satisfy her curiosities, making her a great guide for a tour through Capitol Reef National Park. On a tour with her, she’ll point out remnants of a one-room schoolhouse from the pioneer Mormon community of Fruita, Fremont Ancestral Puebloan petroglyphs on the canyon wall in the Capitol Gorge area and the Cassidy Arch, supposedly a hideout of Butch Cassidy. We can’t prove the outlaw hid there, but it is illustrative of the Robber’s Roost area where he and his fellow Wild Bunch outlaws often found shelter. “All the scenic features of this canyon land are on a giant scale, strange and weird,” wrote explorer John Wesley Powell in 1875. One hundred years later, the Hondoo guides set off to offer an educational adventure that made the terrain less weird, more familiar—and succeeded.
READERS’ CHOICE: Evening Rides at Sunset Ranch • Hollywood, CA • sunsetranchhollywood.com
Best Horse Competition Out West
National Cavalry Competition
Each year, the U.S. Cavalry Association in Fort Riley, Kansas, keeps the spirit and heritage of the cavalry alive through its National Cavalry Competition. Dozens of riders—from novice re-enactors to expert military equestrians—compete in a number of categories, including mounted saber, mounted pistol and military equitation. The event—held at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, this past September—puts a premium on accuracy in uniforms, tack, equipment and performance, whether you’re re-enacting the 1846-48 Mexican War or the 1860s-90 Plains Indian Wars. This is a remarkably colorful, beautiful and precise athletic competition that celebrates the partnership of horse and rider.
Best Vaquero Event
Santa Ynez Valley Vaquero Show & Sale
The Santa Ynez Valley Vaquero Show & Sale is the oldest event dedicated to the Spanish colonial vaquero, a world-class horseman dating a couple centuries before the American cowboy took hold. Held in the heart of Vaquero country, in Santa Ynez, California, the event began as a collector’s show that evolved into an all-encompassing gathering depicting vaquero life in the 1750-1870 heyday. One of our leading vaquero experts, Lee Anderson, tells us, “It’s as good as it gets. It would definitely get my vote.” Vaquero horsemanship and roping demonstrations are the norm at this vaquero event, put on by the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum, which celebrated the event’s 25th anniversary in November 2009.
READERS’ CHOICE: The Californios • Red Bluff, CA • thecalifornios.com
Best Re-Enactment of the West
Six Guns and Shady Ladies
From their vignettes at the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces, New Mexico, the Concordia Cemetery’s Halloween ghost tour in El Paso, Texas, and the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona (see right), this Wild West re-enactment group gets around. Bernie Sargent and his wife Melissa founded the El Paso-based troupe in 1998 as an Old West traveling show that roams throughout Texas and southern New Mexico. The group has nearly 50 skits in its repertoire, including the 1881 “Four Dead in Five Seconds” shoot-out involving a posse of Mexican vaqueros. The re-enactors pepper their skits with humor and enjoy playing the role of mythbusters. In short, they make local history fun, and they make the effort to bring their shows to as many locales as possible. That’s the big, Texas-sized spirit for you!
READERS’ CHOICE: Real Bird’s Little Bighorn Re-enactment • Crow Agency, MT • littlebighornreenactment.com
Best Annual Western Event
National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
Would anyone know where Elko, Nevada, is if not for the Western Folklife Center’s outstanding event? The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2009, with former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor delivering the keynote address. Other “Best of the West” winners this year, Waddie Mitchell and Sons of the San Joaquin, gave their first public performances in Elko. The gathering is a great place to catch fantastic poets, such as Paul Zarzyski, Linda Hussa, Wally McRae and Baxter Black, in action.
READERS’ CHOICE (TIE): Helldorado Days • Tombstone, AZ • helldoradodays.com
Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival • Santa Clarita, CA • cowboyfestival.org
Best Living Photographer of the West
Jay Dusard has been photographing cowboys and the American West for 40-some years. Although raised in Illinois, he discovered the unique calling of the Western landscape at an early age. Dusard is not only a deeply respected steward of this terrain, but quite humble as well. Jay puts it best: “That cowpunchers have allowed me into their world, has been the great blessing of my life. They have welcomed me in to make their portraits, but more miraculously, they have indulged this pilgrim’s desire and efforts to participate in what they do. I was riding horses and following cows before I got serious about photography, so working horseback with the men and women on the outfits most likely gave me some credibility.” In 2009, folks who flew in and out of Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport got a chance to see his cowboy and cowgirl photographs (like Julie Hagen, shown) in a multimedia exhibit. Dusard lives in Douglas, Arizona, where, when not working, he punches cows and plays the jazz coronet.
READERS’ CHOICE: Diana Volk • Sheridan, WY • dianavolk.com
Best Living Cowboy Poet
Cowboy poets may come and go, but Waddie Mitchell is here to stay. No other poet in the country hits the stage more, makes you laugh harder or is a more honest-to-goodness cowboy. At the Heber City Cowboy Gathering every November in Utah, he takes to the stage dozens of times, introducing other poets and musicians in a non-stop cascade of barbs, jabs and genuine affection. Never once does he carry a note card with him onto the stage, proving that he learned well one of the great skills of the cow camp: if you can’t dazzle ’em with brilliance, baffle’ em with BS.
READERS’ CHOICE: Waddie Mitchell • Elko, NV
Best Living Western Nonfiction Writers
Charles H. Harris III and Louis R. Sadler for The Secret War in El Paso
Charles H. Harris III and Louis R. Sadler won the 2005 Spur Award for The Texas Rangers and the Mexican Revolution, and they’ve marked 2009 with another significant book The Secret War in El Paso: Mexican Revolutionary Intrigue, 1906-1920 (University of New Mexico Press), which describes the conspiracy and spying of the revolution that took place in El Paso.
During the Mexican Revolution period 1906-1920, the border town was a base of operations home to secret agents, smugglers, adventurers, gunrunners and more. Hmm ... some would say it still is.
READERS’ CHOICE: Robert Utley • Scottsdale, AZ
Best Living Fiction Writer
Unfortunately for Western readers, Elmer Kelton died in August at age 83 shortly after his selection—again—as the Best Living Fiction Writer. But a writer of Kelton’s talent—seven Spur Awards and four Western Heritage Wranglers—really never dies. He’ll live on with treasures like The Time It Never Rained, The Good Old Boys, Wagontongue and The Day the Cowboys Quit. Want proof? His novel Other Men’s Horses (Forge Books) ranked in the top 3,000 on Amazon.com a week before its release this past October.
READERS’ CHOICE: Elmer Kelton • San Angelo, TX
Best Western Book Series
Leisure Books’ Rediscovered Classic Westerns
A tip of the old Stetson to New York-based Leisure Books for putting back in print the titles that inspired some of the greatest Western films. Leisure launched the “Classic Film Collection” in February 2009 with The Searchers by Alan LeMay (including an essay by Owen Wister Award winner Andrew J. Fenady), and followed that with Max Brand’s Destry Rides Again, T.T. Flynn’s The Man From Laramie and LeMay’s The Unforgiven. Brand’s and Flynn’s novels hadn’t been in print for years. There’s more to come, too. Yee-hi!
Best Auction House for Western Collectibles
Heritage Auction Galleries
Jim Halperin and Steve Ivy founded what is today the world’s third largest auction house, with annual sales of more than $700 million. Their offerings are not limited to the Old West, as they fit all types of nostalgia-seeking collectors, but the treasures of the West are certainly among the company’s most precious sales. The Dallas, Texas-based auction house sold Gen. George A. Custer’s personal battle flag (shown) from Lee’s Surrender at Appomattox to the Little Bighorn in 2007 for a $750,000 bid. Its top historical record to date is Gen. U.S. Grant’s Civil War presentation sword ($1.4 million). The auction house’s nearly half-a-million registered online bidders at HA.com beat out those at Christies.com and Sothebys.com, the leading auction houses, by more than 275,000 and 345,000 respectively (with latest figures available, September 2009). On top of that, Heritage Auction Galleries is the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer.
READERS’ CHOICE: High Noon Western Americana • Mesa, AZ • highnoon.com
Best Living Western Painter
As recently as 20 years ago, Westerners would be hard pressed to imagine an acclaimed painter of the American West to be from China, much less win an award for the best living Western painter but, frankly, Mian Situ has rocked our world. In fact, his painting The Powder Monkeys (shown) has rocked the entire art world. With a Masters in Fine Art from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, Situ immigrated to Canada before moving to the United States. His list of awards is astounding: Masters of the American West Purchase award, Thomas Moran Memorial Award for Artistic Merit and the Patron’s Choice award. In 2009, Mian was presented with another Masters of the American West Purchase award, for Convergence of Cultures. Situ lives with his wife Helen and daughter Lisa in Southern California. Given his attention to historic detail and masterful approach we are honored to name him the Best Living Western Painter.
READERS’ CHOICE: Bob Boze Bell • Cave Creek, AZ
Best Artist to Watch
Bill Anton, born in Chicago in 1957, attended Loyola University in Chicago and then transferred as an English major to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he became interested in painting. He settled in Prescott, and his wife Peggy supported him while he established his career as an artist. He resembles in style both James Reynolds and Robert Lougheed, which is a compliment all in itself. “I do not see myself as a biographer of the ‘cowboy,’” Anton says. “I know some artists feel they are recording an historical portrayal of ranch life today in the American West, but the focus of my work has always been mood and passion. If I’m recording anything, I’m recording how I feel about the West. I want the viewer to feel the drama of atmosphere and the mystery of a Western night.” Anton is really coming into his own, and we look forward to his growth as an artist.
Best Living Western Sculptor
The fact that Bruce LaFountain placed second in the Cast Metal category at the prestigious Santa Fe Indian Market in 2009 didn’t surprise anyone. Yet this Chippewa Indian—he grew up on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota but now creates out of Salt Lake City—doesn’t create art for awards, though he has many. His abstract sculptures seem to be always moving, which might come from his childhood memories of dancing in powwows. LaFountain is brash and forthright: “The motivation for my work does not stem from wanting to win a show or from money,” LaFountain says. “It evolves from the spirit of my ancestors and my own deep spiritual feelings.” Well said, sir.
READERS’ CHOICE: Susan Kliewer • Sedona, AZ
Best Western Art Gallery
Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery
Dr. Mark Sublette has excellent taste in art. By his own admission, “A love of Maynard Dixon’s art got me into the art business.” But, he adds, “it was being exposed to pueblo pottery when I was growing up in New Mexico that stoked my love of art.” His parents were research scientists and art collectors, as well. Sublette grew up in New Mexico buying American Indian art “the way some kids collect baseball cards. I always used to go to Santa Fe, up into the square and the pueblos, and buy from the artists,” he says. “That’s what really gave me the love for it—being around and seeing how things are done.” His love for Western art has made Sublette’s Medicine Man Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Tucson, Arizona, of the highest caliber. It is like visiting a museum, the art pieces are that good.
READERS’ CHOICE: Altermann Galleries • Santa Fe, NM • altermann.com
Best Photographer’s Field Trip Out West
Jim Hatzell’s Artist Ride
What began as a trail ride in 1984 celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2009. But the Artist Ride near Wall, South Dakota, has never been an ordinary photo-op. Fifty artists are invited each year to “gather scrap” of knowledgeable models dressed in period attire as mountain men, cowboys, Indians—you name it—all against the backdrop of South Dakota’s Cheyenne River country. Artists fill out a “wish list” of material they would like to see and the models do their best to pack accordingly. Hatzell, a graduate of the American Academy of Art who has an eye, and plenty of lenses, for Western history, has been the ride’s director since 1997.
Best Heritage Brand Launch
Miller Ranch Apparel
The popular saying goes, “Everything old is new again.” Yet not many have the requisite knowledge of a past success in order to revive a brand for today’s world. Miller was renamed Rocky Mountain Clothing Co. in 1992, and seven years later, the company mailed the last catalogue first started by Philip Miller 76 years earlier. Yet Miller Western Wear had made some pretty cool shirts in its past, and the executives at Rocky Mountain began collecting them. With each new addition, they began examining the company’s legacy and they noticed a gap in the Western Wear market: high-quality shirts with traditional Western styling. What better way to fill that gap than to revive the legacy brand as Miller Ranch? For allowing the past to be a window into its future, we are proud to honor Rocky Mountain Clothing Co. with our first-ever Best Heritage Brand Launch award.
Best Living Women’s Period Clothing Fashion Designer
One designer who constantly reminds us how to infuse the pioneer styles with modern-day looks is Michelle Oster at Cattle Kate. The Prairie Blouse was made for the 1800s businesswoman, yet the posture-defining ruffles and hidden button front is a style that still demands respect today. The Sagebrush or Checkered Swisher Skirts can be paired up with more contemporary-styled shirts for that casual-yet-dressy look (and the skirts have inseam side pockets too). If you want to go all-out Victorian, you can combine these styles and others with attire such as the silk Walking Jacket with its small piping and back ruffled peplum. A pair of lace-up Frontier Boots completes the look. For outerwear, the wool Carriage Coat still keeps you warm with its full frontier length, tucked leg of mutton sleeves and two kick pleats in the back. The pioneer offerings are as authentic as the store’s pioneer name—in memory of Ellen Watson, an independent Wyoming homesteader hanged by vigilantes for alleged cattle rustling in 1889.
Best Living Men's Period Clothing Fashion Designer
Michael J. Guli
Talk about authentic fashion! Many styles today owe their look to an earlier style, but Michael J. Guli of River Crossing takes the Metis Coat (shown), for example, to show off the influence of two different worlds. Combining the cut and fit of men’s European designs with the artistic qualities of American Indian beaded, floral and geometric patterns, these wonderful-looking coats walk the walk and establish a unique artistic interaction between two disparate cultures. Bravo Metis, and bravo Michael Guli!
Best Living Western Men’s Fashion Designer
New York City-based Acorn Clothing Corp. may be one of the best-kept secrets in men’s Western shirts. For nearly 30 years Acorn founder and designer Bob Goldfeder has produced meticulously tailored shirts available in just a handful of Western stores that cater to the well-heeled cowboy. Using the finest fabrics sourced from around the world, his limited-edition shirts typically retail from $140 to more than $200. Earlier this year, Goldfeder introduced a new lower-priced line of premium Western shirts that are turning up in a wider range of stores. Same classic yet classy styling, premium buttons and luxurious fabrics as some of his high-end shirts, the new Acorn shirts start at about $60!
READERS’ CHOICE: Michael Ryan of Ryan Michael • Kennesaw, GA • ryanmichael.com
Best Living Western Women’s Fashion Designer
The hand-painted leather skirts and jackets by Patricia Wolf are truly wearable art. In fact, some of her apparel designs actually end up displayed on the walls of customers’ homes when they’re not being worn. Her collections of leather, silk, Tencel and cotton jackets, shirts, tops and skirts are always tastefully done, well constructed and recognizable. A particular favorite of ours is her Cowgirl Cruiser lambskin jacket with Tibetan wool collar.
Best Living Western Accessory Designer
Craftsmanship, style and legacy are among the hallmarks of silversmith extraordinaire Clint Orms, of Clint Orms Engravers & Silversmiths in Ingram, Texas. Orms makes collectible Western buckles and other accessories that are classic, clean and exquisitely detailed. Having grown up in the Western apparel industry in Texas, Clint draws on traditional cowboy and Western designs, and makes them his own. Many of his buckle designs are inspired by places and events in Texas, including a series named after the state’s counties.
READERS’ CHOICE: Nancy Anderson • Boulder, CO • sweetbirdstudio.com
Best Western Bootmaker Manufacturer
Lucchese Boot Co.
Lucchese deserves every success it has thanks to its continual precision of the bootmaking craft. In 1883 Sam Lucchese Sr. established his bootmaking venture in San Antonio, Texas (currently based in El Paso). His grandson, Sam Jr., honed his family’s dedication to the craft by inventing a twisted cone last that mirrored the contours of the human foot, which is why no other boot fits quite as snugly on your foot as does a Lucchese boot. Like all boot companies, Lucchese stays relevant by designing styles to fit modern sensibilities. Yet boot aficionados return to Lucchese, not because of trendy fads, but because of the foundation it stands on. Gifted artisans ensure that the stock boots are made of the same fine leather and with the same care as custom orders. Yet thankfully no one has forgotten how important a custom fit can be; Lucchese still tours cities with a trunk show, where a master bootmaker can take nearly 25 measurements of your foot for custom orders. As long as the boot company stays true to its roots, we don’t doubt that the legend that is Lucchese will continue to attract fans.
READERS’ CHOICE: Lucchese Boot Co. • El Paso, TX • lucchese.com
Best Living Western Hatmaker
Trent Johnson, owner of Greeley Hat Works in Greeley, Colorado, has a truly unique vision when it comes to hat design and trim. Working with silversmiths, bootmakers and other artists, Johnson turns out high-quality hats with a significant wow factor. Whether it’s a black Cattleman crease trimmed with a gothic silver cross and twisted silver strands encircling the crown or a Rios of Mercedes-stitched boot leather lining the underside of the brim (shown), or a pure beaver fur fedora with self trim, a GHW hat gets noticed. When the company commemorated its 100th anniversary in 2009, Johnson produced a commemorative fur felt hat trimmed with a buckle hand carved from mammoth ivory and inlaid with diamonds.
READERS’ CHOICE: Bill Knudsen of Golden Gate Western Wear • Pleasant Hill, CA • goldengatewesternwear.com
Best Living Western Home Furnishings Designer
Marc Taggart & Company
As a boy Marc Taggart liked the smell and look of his grandfather’s den, which was furnished with the work of master craftsman Thomas Molesworth. Now Taggart keeps that Western style fresh with his own furniture company in Cody, Wyoming, creating furniture for the entire home in the style of the great Western designer. But even better, he occasionally obtains original Molesworth pieces that he sells to discriminating clients. On hand late this fall he had a seven-piece bedroom set, representing the best of Molesworth’s craft.
READERS’ CHOICE: Texas True • Tyler, TX • texastrue.com
Best Western Home Lighting
Rustic Interiors’ Twig Chandeliers
When a company has 20 versions of its twig chandelier, that’s the first clue that this is a showstopper for those decorating their homes with American West sensibilities. Like many who start their own furniture business, Lorrie Zuzek began Rustic Interiors because she was having trouble finding the perfect rustic furnishings and accessories for a log home she was building in the Beaver Valley region of Ontario, Canada. She decided to help create that rustic environment for others in 2001, and now her store carries antler lighting, animal hides and lodge furnishings. Her twig chandeliers just scream “Wild West,” with the crazy hickory twigs going every which way, looking as if you just set the wax-dipped candle bulbs on a pile of twigs you found in your backyard. The chandeliers may look like found art, but they are UL approved for your safety.
Best Western Home Shopping on the Web
In the Texas Hill Country, Anna Berry found herself surrounded by incredibly talented local artisans. She wanted to provide a venue to showcase their talents, so in 1997, she created a catalogue of fine Western home décor and arts and crafts. She moved her store into the 1898 Hatfield building in Medina before opening the design center in Houston. The Internet, though, allowed her to finally provide a showcase of home shopping that everyone could easily assess: cowgirl and cowboy room dividers, a horseshoe wine rack, old world Spanish-carved hardwoods and Western and Southwestern-style pillows. On the website, you can shop by brand, including Double D Ranch, Wooded River, Traditions by Pamela Kline and American West for Western bedding, and Oklahoma Casting for lamps and wall art. You can also shop by category: bath décor, bedding, furniture, home décor and tableware. Thank goodness we have this homepage to turn to for helping us dress up our Westward Homes!
Best western movie poster art
Vintage Western Movie Posters
VintagePosters.com might be the first (and only) website to visit when you’re in the market for an original poster showing John Wayne spanking Maureen O’Hara in McLintock! In fact, the website offers a variety of original Duke movie posters, litho reproductions and reprints. It also carries posters from a great many other Westerns, stretching from the silent era to the present, from the most obscure bottom rung B-pictures to the great Spaghetti Western epics, such as Once Upon a Time in the West. Some are very pricey, others remarkably affordable. Shopping or browsing, the site is a fun place to visit.
Best Green Product Out West
Can you imagine drinking green coffee—literally? Until the close of the Civil War, that’s how the beans were sold, so in 1865, John Arbuckle and his younger brother Charles took these unroasted, raw, green coffee beans and invented a dry-roasting process to make Arbuckles’ Ariosa Coffee. Chuckwagon cooks immediately stocked the one-pound packages to keep their range cowboys energized. The Arbuckles’ tradition is carried on today in Tucson, Arizona, by Denny and Pat Willis. Now the coffee is green in the modern sense—organic. Arbuckle Coffee Traders is the first roaster in Arizona to qualify for Organic Certification by the USDA, and it is also a Fair Trade roaster. With many of us “greening” our lifestyles, it looks like Arbuckles’ Coffee will continue to win the West.
Best Frontier Fare
Buffalo Meat From the Buffalo Guys
The pemmican, thinly-sliced buffalo meat akin to today’s jerky, constituted almost the entire diet of the mountain men in the Northwest (remember the 1814 Pemmican War?). Eating buffalo meat not only takes you back to the days when pioneers and Indians hunted buffalo for their meals, but the meat also has less fat and fewer calories than beef. Not all of us are lucky enough to own a buffalo range though, and that’s where Ken Klemm (Homestead Ranch near Atwood, Kansas) and Peter Thieriot (Elk Mountain Ranch in Elk Mountain, Wyoming) step in. In the summer of 1994, Ken owned one of the largest buffalo ranches in the west (more than 3,500 animals) and Peter was just starting to learn about ranching. By 2000, when Peter’s herd grew to 600, the two decided to form a company to market their buffalo meat. Internet sales began in 2002, bringing their frontier fare to more dinner tables. Their meat is also available in more than 1,200 grocery stores and on QVC. The Buffalo Guys offer buffalo burgers, sausages, jerky, steak, stew meat and even a smoked dog bone pet treat!
Best Western Culinary Accessories
Marty Roberts is a PRCA bull rider, so you probably don’t imagine him knocking about much in the kitchen, yet he and his wife Heather have the best offering of Western culinary accessories we have ever seen. Three months after they married, the couple launched Cowboy Living at the NFR Cowboy Christmas Gift Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, in December 2001. It is a family business in every sense: Marty’s parents—horse trainer Monty Roberts and Western art sculptress Pat—offered invaluable feedback, while Heather’s mom, artist Eve Armson, paints some of the original watercolors on these offerings, and her father is the sales director who got the products in retail stores across the U.S. and Canada. Buck Taylor, Gunsmoke-actor-turned-Western-artist, even has a new collection out with a “frontier justice” theme displayed on a steak plate and canister. Etched barbwire, etched brands, rustic ironware chargers, flatware and porcelain and stoneware collections, we can’t talk it up enough; you’ll just have to get the catalogue for yourself. When you do, we bet the next time you ring that dinner bell, your family will be sitting down at a table dressed up in Western flair.
Best Café in the West
Still going strong since 1887, this old-time watering hole, located 40 miles north of Los Angeles in present-day Santa Clarita, first opened its doors in the Saugus Railroad Station, when real cowboys, and later reel cowboys, rode the local ranges. Moved to its present location in 1891 (just a mile down the road), the Saugus Café has served locals, cowhands and movie stars including John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Tom Mix and Hoot Gibson. When he stopped at the café, President Teddy Roosevelt declared that his New York steak was “splendid!” Open 24 hours a day, year-round, the café’s homemade pies, milkshakes and malts are worth shooting it out over.
READERS’ CHOICE: Rainbow Cafe • Pendleton, OR • mcgeerainbow.com
Best Restaurant in the West
Wortley Hotel Dining Room
Many great restaurants can be found in the West, but few can match the history of the Wortley Hotel Dining Room in Lincoln, New Mexico. In April 1881, Bob Olinger was sitting in the dining room of the Wortley when he heard a pistol shot across the street at the courthouse where Billy the Kid was being held. He got up and walked out into history (thus the restaurant’s motto: “No guests gunned down in over 100 years”). In addition to having a solid sense of humor, Victor and Kathy Garrison are wonderful hosts. Although the Wortley is a replication of the original building, the attention to detail is remarkable and the food is home grown and tasty. Try the green chile.
READERS’ CHOICE: Wolf Hotel • Saratoga, WY • wolfhotel.com
Best Saloon in the West
Miners & Stockman Bar
Said to be the oldest saloon in Wyoming, the Miners & Stockman Bar in Hartville pours your whiskey neat and attracts an eclectic mix of local ranchers and city travelers for you to trade tales with at the bar. The back bar, crafted in Germany in 1864, was brought to the area in 1881, just three years before the town became an incorporated community. The walls are covered with historical photographs of the Sunrise Mines (which spawned this town as an alternative to the company-owned town of Sunrise), ranches and the regional towns themselves. While the atmosphere and alcoholic options are attractions, the burgers here really put this place over the top.
READERS’ CHOICE: Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel Saloon • Cody, WY • irmahotel.com
Best Firearm of the West
Replica 1876 Winchester NWMP Carbine by Cimarron Fire Arms
Hats off to Cimarron for supplying an original firearm and having Uberti make the special tooling needed for this frontier lever-action replica. A spitting image of the North West Mounted Police 1876 Winchester carbine, it sports authentic .45-75 caliber chambering, blued receiver and a proper “NWMP” stamping in the stock. The ’76, used by the Mounties from 1878-1914, helped suppress the North West Rebellion of 1885, kept peace in the Canadian wilderness and protected Canada’s borders during the Yukon Gold Rush of 1898. Even the Mounted Rifles (demobilized Canadian militia) toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show using 1876 carbines.
READERS’ CHOICE: Single Action Army Peacemaker by Colt’s Manufacturing Co. • Hartford, CT • ColtsMfg.com
Best Western Knives
Bowie Collection by Wrangler Knives
A knife created by a frontiersman killed during the 1836 Battle at the Alamo could not help but become one of the most popular tools of the American West. And Jim Bowie’s stout, single-edged knife is still popular today. In fact, Wrangler has very few of any of its bowie knives left, says Wrangler Knives President R.C. Crisp. Depending on the model, the knives were limited to 250 to 1,000. Its large Indian knife, made of high carbon steel by Dave Palmer with handmade sheaths, is completely sold out by the official distributor American Buffalo Knife and Tool Company. For a company that purports to be “for the cowboy in you,” Wrangler Knives certainly hit the bull’s eye with this collection.
READERS’ CHOICE: Frontier Knives by Chuck Burrows (Wild Rose Trading Co.) • Durango, CO • wrtcleather.com
Best Cowboy Action Firearm
Pump Action “Lightning” Rifle by Navy Arms
Celebrating 50 years in 2009, pioneer blackpowder and historic firearms replica producers Navy Arms brought in the Pedersoli-made copy of Colt’s pump-action “Lightning” rifle. Incorporating design elements to improve the Lightning’s feeding and ejection, this lightweight and fast straight shooter is available in .45 Colt, .44-40 and .357 Magnum, has a 24-inch octagon barrel, checkered stock and forearm, and weighs just under seven pounds. It’s the last gun the late Val Forgett Sr. (the Godfather of modern blackpowder) and Italian arms maker Pierangelo Pedersoli worked on together, to bring today’s shooters this quality replica.
Best Cowboy Action Gunleather Artisan
John Bianchi’s Frontier Gunleather
With more than 50 years of gunleather experience, noted holster maker John Bianchi and his custom company handcraft world-class cowboy action gun rigs, blending the Old West and Hollywood styles into competition-ready gunleather. His offerings range from the Hollywood #115, which duplicates the fast-draw gunbelts of the 1950s and ’60s, to the Gunfighter Special #1881 (shown), which would look at home on any Dodge City marshal. You’ll proudly slap leather with one of John Bianchi’s first-class rigs.
Best living Cowboy Mounted Shooter
The Rock of Tennessee is a polite Southern man until he mounts a horse and picks up a pistol. Then he’s a terror, wreaking havoc in the world of mounted shooting. He’s the current points leader of the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (his teenage son Cody is right behind him), and at the time of this writing he has won 11 matches in 2009. Rock was the first person to reach Level 6 in CMSA—the highest class—and at some point the organizers might have to create another level, just for him.
READERS’ CHOICE: Jim Rodgers • Kirkland, AZ
Best living Single Action Shooter
A student of the Old West gunfighters, their weapons and methods, Jim Dunham has entertained audiences for decades with his educational and humorous gun spinning and fast draw routines, frontier stories and witty dialogue. He puts to good use the knowledge he shares while working as director of special projects at the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia. While he’s spinning his guns, he also has an easel on stage, where he creates a drawing while doing the show. As a serious shooter, Jim has often competed with the Single Action Shooting Society and in other shooting competitions, always demonstrating his straight shooting abilities with his 1873 Colt Peacemakers. A pistoleer and gentleman of the old school, as the Western saying goes, Jim Dunham is one to ride the river with!
READERS’ CHOICE: Larry “Reno Star” Duffy • Poteau, OK
Best Preservation Effort in the West
Mission San Miguel
Northern California’s Mission San Miguel, found along the historic El Camino Real Trail, had stood for more than 200 years when an earthquake hit the area in 2003. The adobe building suffered structural damage and cracks, and was closed. Over five years, the local Roman Catholic Diocese steadfastly raised about $10 million and drew up repair plans to restore the historic mission. In September 2009, the mission reopened! More needs to be done, and up to another $5 million must be acquired, but for historians, tourists and churchgoers, the progress to this point is a prayer answered.
READERS’ CHOICE: Former Texas Ranger Foundation • Kerrville, TX • formertexasrangers.org
Best Living Indian Rights Crusader
Charmaine White Face
She is a voice for the Black Hills—and it’s a task Charmaine White Face has gladly undertaken for more than two decades, as a columnist for several newspapers and an activist. She formed Defenders of the Black Hills in 2002, working to end logging, mining and exploitative tourism of this area, which is sacred to her Ogala Sioux tribe. Her work has received international recognition, and she hopes that will help return the Black Hills to its rightful owners—the American Indians.
READERS’ CHOICE: Russell Means • Porcupine, SD • russellmeansfreedom.com
Best Town Promoter
Jackson Polk has brought El Paso, Texas, to life through numerous video productions over the years. Topics include “Legends of El Paso’s Mountains,” “Gunfights of the Old West,” “El Paso’s Mount Cristo Rey” and “Mexican Revolution Sites in El Paso.” Last September, his Capstone Productions released the DVD, Ghost Stories of El Paso Volume 2. Add on the fact that he hosts a weekly radio show with local legend and noted historian Leon Metz, and you’ve got somebody who has brought El Paso’s story to the world.
Best Living Horse Advocate
Wild horses couldn’t drag Madeleine Pickens (shown) away from her calling—saving wild horses and burros. Her National Wild Horse Foundation proposes to take over the care of more than 30,000 animals currently managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management. Her web efforts have propelled the plan ahead, as has her buttonholing of members of Congress. She is also not shy about trying new things to promote the cause—like a “Salute to the Mustangs” halftime show featuring singer Michael Martin Murphey at a college football game between Navy and the SMU Mustangs. Don’t bet against Madeleine (who doubles as the wife of oil baron and wind energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens) getting her way.
READERS’ CHOICE: Pat Parelli • Pagosa Springs, CO • parelli.com
Best Living Western Horse Gear Artisan
For a lot of riders, their gear has to be more than functional—it must be art. That’s where Sharon Paulin of Pine Valley, California, comes in. She works in the tradition of the California vaquero, braiding rawhide into hackamores and quirts and other horse gear. Sharon works from scratch, creating her own rawhide and cutting her own strings. She likes to use native plants and bark for her dyes. Her unique approach sets her work apart from others in the field.
READERS’ CHOICE: Gene Klein • Miami, NM • geneklein.com
Best Professional Rodeo
World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo
The August rodeo in Payson, Arizona, bills itself as the “world’s oldest continuous rodeo”—psst, don’t tell Prescott, Arizona, or Pecos, Texas—and Arizona’s Rim Country spectacular celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2009. Set in an area Western novelist Zane Grey loved, Payson’s rodeo wasn’t just a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event this past year. The rodeo grounds also hosted the Women’s Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and ranch rodeo events, and the event kicked off with a “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” benefit for breast cancer research.
Best Next Generation Rancher
Meghan Lally runs cattle, sheep and a few tourists on the Ladder Ranch in Savery, Wyoming, which straddles the Wyoming-Colorado border and has been in her family’s ownership since 1881. Working the land beside Meghan and husband Brian are her parents Pat and Sharon O’Toole, and her grandfather George Salisbury. Her own young children are learning the life as well (if she has work to do, she puts the baby in the backpack and the two toddlers on their own horse). Ladder Ranch has been involved in Wyoming’s Coordinated Resource Management project since 1993, and some of its ranch land has been placed in conservation easements held by Wyoming’s Nature Conservancy and the Colorado Cattleman’s Land Trust. Such programs ensure that the land will remain in agricultural production and be a wildlife habitat for future generations.
READERS’ CHOICE: Wyatt McCrea of McCrea Ranch • Moorpark, CA
Best Saddle Blanket
Rim Rock Saddle Blanket by Pendleton Woolen Mills
Pendleton Woolen Mill celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2009, so we have been primed to expect good offerings this past year from the historic trade blanket company, based today in Portland, Oregon. When we caught our eye on the Rim Rock Saddle Blanket, we thought, why shouldn’t our horses be just as wrapped up in our heritage as we are? The Rim Rock blanket is versatile in that it is reversible and comes in eight color choices. The design is typical Pendleton quality, woven in the Central Point style with a central element dominating the overall pattern. The integrity of Pendleton’s product line is undoubtedly traced to the fact that the company is still helmed by descendants of the Bishop Family.
Best Living Western Saddlemaker
Sawtooth Saddle Company
Western singer Michael Martin Murphey, Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association founder Jim Rodgers, mounted shooting champions Matt Sronce and Royce Anderson, and Extreme Cowboy Race founder Craig Cameron are just a few among the many working cowboys and competition and trail riders who ride on Sawtooth Saddle Company’s handcrafted saddles. Made on a one-at-a-time, guaranteed-to-fit-your-horse basis, the saddles made by this family-owned-and-operated outfit are tops. Sawtooth has been making plain or fancy and old-time or modern saddles, tack, chaps, chinks and gunleather since 1990. You’ll recognize some of the company’s work in productions such as Ron Howard’s The Missing and TNT’s Monte Walsh. You and your horse are guaranteed comfort with a Sawtooth saddle.
READERS’ CHOICE: Severe Brothers Saddlery • Pendleton, OR • severesaddles.com
Best Dude Ranch in the West
Tanque Verde Ranch
One of the curses of the modern dude ranch is that “progress” has overrun almost every open vista in the West. This is most apparent in the Tucson, Arizona, area where many a heritage dude ranch has seen housing projects literally surround them. In spite of the sprawling growth, one dude ranch stands alone, literally: Tanque Verde Ranch. At the extreme end of Speedway Boulevard, the ranch is surrounded by some of the most pristine, saguaro-studded mountains in the region (and not a single roof line in sight). Add to that a pitch perfect setting, with rough-hewn ranch corrals and buildings, not to mention excellent food and spectacular horse trails. Beatle Paul McCartney and his lovely wife Linda were on one such ride in the 1970s. They so fell in love with the area that Paul bought Linda a neighboring ranch—in fact she loved it so much she chose to fight out her battle with breast cancer at the ranch, where she died in 1998.
Best Working Cattle Ranch in the West
Celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2009, the Grant-Kohrs Ranch near Deer Lodge, Montana, continues to uphold its mission to “recreate the historic ranch scene of the 1880-1900 period.” Canadian fur trader Johnny Grant transformed Conrad Kohrs’ cattle ranch starting in 1859, turning it into a 10 million-acre cattle empire. Today, the working cattle ranch is a National Historic Site that offers 1,600 acres with more than 80 historic structures, including the main ranch house that Grant built in 1862 that held a trading post downstairs and his residence upstairs. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, a variety of ranger-led programs are offered daily—sharing pioneer stories at the blacksmith shop, at the chuckwagon and on a horse-drawn wagon tour of the ranch. Throughout the year, you can explore the ranch on your own, watching cowboys at their chores and heading out on the trail to locate the cattle. Even more, artifacts and business records tracing back to Kohrs acquiring the ranch in 1866 are housed at the ranch. Grant-Kohrs Ranch is the perfect example of how a working cattle ranch can work off of the heritage that it continues to preserve everyday.
READERS’ CHOICE: C.S. Cattle Company • Cimarron, NM • cscattle.com
Best Historic (100+Years) Business in the West
Pendleton Woolen Mills
Back in 1909, the Bishop brothers bought an old mill in Pendleton, Oregon, and decided to try their hand at a traditional craft—creating wool Indian blankets. In opening their mill, the Bishops built on the sheep textile mill foundation weaved together by Thomas Kay, who came from England to Oregon in 1863. The high-quality products made at Pendleton Woolen Mills were marked by intricate patterns and vivid colors, and local tribes immediately took a liking to them. Then everyone else picked up on the Pendleton blankets too. Soon after, the mills expanded into the apparel market. The Bishop family still runs the operation, making sure the tradition continues strong today.
READERS’ CHOICE: Hamley & Co. • Pendleton, OR • hamleyco.com
Best living Wild West Troubadours
Paul Zarzyski & Wylie and the Wild West
Back in 2008, at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Paul Zarzyski & Wylie and the Wild West performed together on stage in what was supposed to be a one-off. It was a natural partnership between two of the best cowboy poets and Western singers. The audience responded so enthusiastically over the performance that the two decided to hit the road on a Spur Wild! tour. Throughout 2009 the duo performed (to great acclaim) in places from Pigeon Ford, Tennessee, to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. This could (and should) become a regular act.
Best Living Western Music Group
Sons of the San Joaquin
Joe, Jack and Lon Hannah—the Sons of the San Joaquin—sing harmonies on stages across the country, and in 2009 they produced their first DVD Live, Western Jubilee Warehouse. The live concert performance includes a montage of family photographs, personal stories and Hannah family history, as well as a recording of the group’s visit with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. That all means you can both hear—and see—this talented trio not only at a venue somewhere out in the country, but in your own home as well.
READERS’ CHOICE: Riders in the Sky • Nashville, TN • ridersinthesky.com
Best Living Western Solo Musician
Dave Stamey has been voted Entertainer of the Year and Songwriter of the Year, twice each, and selected as Male Performer of the Year three times from the the Western Music Association, plus he’s received the Will Rogers Award from the Academy of Western Artists. What makes him “best” in our view is he can ride a horse, strum a guitar, sing and look good doing it all at the same time.His latest album is Come Ride with Me.
READERS’ CHOICE: Michael Martin Murphey • Amarillo, TX • michaelmartinmurphey.com
National Parks: America’s Best Idea
by Ken Burns for PBS
Ken Burns, America’s foremost documentary filmmaker, is either getting better or his decision to honor our spectacular National Parks came from someplace deeper, because this is his best and most heartfelt work. While the geography and beauty of the National Parks are central to the 12-part series, the heart of the documentary are those individuals, from the high born to the hardscrabble poor, who played important roles in isolating and preserving the American wilderness. It’s a great story, and if you missed the broadcast on PBS in September 2009, the entire show can now be purchased in a box set.
Best Western Comic/Graphic Novel Series
Jonah Hex has been around for decades, and he’s suffered indignities that few comic characters could survive, including a stint as a monster fighter in the future and as a stuffed exhibit in a theme restaurant. But surviving is what the horribly scarred bounty hunter does best. For the last several years, at the hands of writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, and an amazing number of creative artists at DC Comics, Hex has kept in front of a number of recent Western comics, all of which are pretty good. Look for the Jonah Hex movie in 2010.
READERS’ CHOICE: Mickey Free by True West Publishing
Best Classic Westerns DVD
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance & El Dorado Set by Paramount
When Liberty Valance was made in 1962, Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne (shown) were too old for their characters, and the black-and-white movie abandoned the poetic sweep of John Ford’s earlier Westerns. Ford got the last bitter laugh, because for all its flaws and Ford’s soured soul and flagging vigor, Liberty Valance is a classic Western and a great, great film. Howard Hawks directed El Dorado in 1966, and he was older than Ford was when Ford made Valance, but the movie has the energy of a much younger director. These two-disc DVDs, packaged as a Centennial Collection, are loaded with all the bells and whistles that any fan would want, and it’s great to see two proud warhorses treated with the respect they deserve.
READERS’ CHOICE: The Searchers by Warner Home Video
Best Modern Westerns DVD
No Country for Old Men Three-Disc Collector’s Edition by Miramax
Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, the Coen Brothers’ weirdly comic Western Noir veers dangerously close to being a “Serious Literary Adaptation” but is better than that, thanks to performances by Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Kelly MacDonald and Javier Bardem. Bardem’s psycho-killer Anton Chigurh—with his accent, Peter Tork haircut and hydraulic cow-killer—was such a bizarre boogeyman, it was as though he’d stepped out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Miramax’s three-disc DVD edition is so loaded with interviews and features, it makes one forget that the Coens never do the commentary tracks for their own films.
READERS’ CHOICE: Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford by Warner Home Video