Best of the West
- Written by True West Editors
- Published September 30, 2004
Celebrating our 51st continual year of publication, True West again brings you our hoarded nuggets, our favorite out-of-the-way secrets: the best saloons, the top single action army revolver, the wildest Western towns—the West’s best, bar none. We also share your picks in the Readers’ Choice. So sit back and feast your eyes on the best in the West. We know you’ll be glad you did.
Best Living Contemporary Western Artist
Dream a Technicolor vision of the idealized West with cowboys on horseback, cattle and high country, then capture it all on glowing canvas with unerring honesty and skill. A longtime member of Cowboy Artists of America and a major award winner at the National Academy of Western Art, this Arizona painter paints the myth and the reality. Just possibly as good as it gets.
Readers’ Choice: Bob Boze Bell
Best Living Western Sculptor
Born to a California ranching family, McCain decided he wasn’t cut out to be a premed student in 1961 and became a starving artist instead. He’s not starving these days, and his bronzes The Cowboy, a tribute to the working cowhand, and Invocation, a mammoth Indian appeal to the Gods, have become symbols of what Western art can (and should) be.
Best Living Native American Artist
The first to depict a buffalo dancer with an ice cream cone, Fritz Scholder is widely considered the padre of the New American Indian Art Movement. His art has spoken against the cliché of the noble savage ever since he first painted the Indian “real, not red.” No other artist so fully depicts American Indians’ struggle to maintain their traditions while living in modern society.
Best Living Cowboy Poet
Winner of the first Spur Award for poetry from Western Writers of America (Western Settings in 2001), this humble professor is as eloquent as most cowboy poets are crude, a combination, if you will, of Jack Schaefer and Dylan Thomas. Besides, anyone who teaches English, coaches baseball and waxes poetic about Jesse James gets our vote.
Readers’ Choice: Baxter Black
Best Living Western Novelist
So what if he’s won seven Spur Awards and Western Writers of America voted him “the greatest Western author of all time,” Kelton gets this award because a lot of folks—our editor and his father among them—think his books are one fine read.
Readers’ Choice: Elmer Kelton
Best Living Western Historical Novelist
Having trouble staying awake? Read two books and call me in the morning. Retired physician Coldsmith has a sure prescription to keep even the sleepiest pardner awake. Using his blazing quick pen, from the first Spanish Bit novel to his latest The Pipestone Quest, Coldsmith writes historically accurate page-turners. He is a must read for anyone who relishes a good Western.
Best Living Western Nonfiction Writer
Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet writes about some of the worst thugs ever to strap on a gun belt. His biographies of John Wesley Hardin, Pat Garrett and others are as insightful as his prose is polished.
Readers’ Choice: Bob Boze Bell
Best Publisher of Western Fiction
Forge Books New York, New York
What do you get when you combine the courage to publish Western literature in today’s soft Western publishing market with a stable of outstanding Western writers? You get Forge Books, that’s what. Enough said!
Best Publisher of Western Nonfiction
University of Oklahoma Press Norman, Oklahoma
Although the University of Nebraska Press runs a close second, the University of Oklahoma Press wins this one by a nose because of its large inventory of backlisted Western titles and because our editor has so many of them in his home research library.
Readers’ Choice: Tri Star-Boze in Phoenix, AZ
Best Western Bookstores
Arizona: T.A. Swinford, Bookseller, Avondale
California: Argonaut Book Shop, San Francisco
Colorado: Colorado Pioneer Books, Englewood
Idaho: The Yesteryear Shoppe, Nampa
Kansas: Mostly Books, Pittsburg
Minnesota: Lien’s Bookshop, Minneapolis
Missouri: Spivey’s Rare Books, Old Maps & Fine Art, Kansas City
Nebraska: Plains Trading Co. Booksellers, Valentine
New Mexico: Dumont Maps & Books of the West, Santa Fe
Oklahoma: Abalache Book & Antique Shop, Oklahoma City
Oregon: Powell’s City of Books, Portland
Texas: Aldredge Book Store, Dallas
Utah: Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore, Salt Lake City
Washington: Arthur H. Clark Company, Spokane
Wyoming: Valley Bookstore, Jackson
Best Retro Clothing Manufacturer
CadZoots Downey, California
David “Cad” Kadison has created fine Western clothing with a vintage flair for you cowboys and cowgirls who know “cool” when you see it. Shirts from the Billy Bob Thornton American Originals series, the Roy Rogers Signature series and the Dale Evans Signature series feature stitched arrow smile pockets, Western-style piping and diamond or round pearl snaps. We know “cool,” and these babies are way “cool.”
Best Jean Trend Setter
Lawman Western Los Angeles, California
Lawman has stolen the show with their jeans for surfer cowboys. And all of their sexy styles for gals are hot hot hot. If you don’t believe us, check out the cowboys and cowgirls wearing Lawman Western at your favorite watering hole. Going or coming, they’ll be looking good.
Best Western Shirt Maker
Rockmount Ranch Wear Denver, Colorado
Since Jack A. Weil founded Rockmount in 1946, the company has been both a leader and an innovator in Western shirt design, and made the first Western shirts with snaps. Rockmount’s signature look is the longest running, Western production shirt design in the country, a distinction that earned the shirt a place in the Smithsonian Institution’s permanent collection.
Best Regional Western Wear Store
Texas Jack’s Wild West Outfitters Fredericksburg, Texas
Named for John Burwell “Texas Jack” Omohundro, famed 19th-century army scout, this king-size Western emporium has been dubbed the Greatest Store on Earth. Whether you’re looking for vintage cowboy togs or an 1838 Colt Paterson reproduction, Texas Jack’s can fill your needs.
Hatman Jack’s Wichita Hat Works Wichita, Kansas
Need a new hat? Since sending one’s head in for a custom fit isn’t feasible, call Hatman Jack’s. With a single call, Jack can customize the perfect hat whether it be a contemporary or traditional cowboy style. HMJ’s has created originals for Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Luciano Pavarotti, Charlie Daniels and others. No smoke and mirrors veiling his work.
Readers’ Choice: Stetson in Garland, TX
Best Leatherware Manufacturer
American West Pompano Beach, Florida
Founded in 1986, American West has been the leader in Western-style leather handbags, travel wear and small leather goods for nearly 18 years. The company specializes in elegant leather goods that are hand-tooled by Guarani Indian craftsmen. Whether you’re a cowboy or cowgirl, American West’s briefcases and handbags will complement whatever you wear, from jeans to a suit.
Best Bootmaker—Large Manufacturer
Lucchese Boot Company San Antonio, Texas
The Lucchese boots have been known for quality ever since Sam Lucchese, Sr. founded the company in 1883. But it was his grandson’s study of the human foot and from that knowledge, his design of the exclusive “twisted cone last” that put the company head and shoulders above other large boot manufacturers. Whether made from traditional leather or exotic skins such as kangaroo, elephant or stingray, Lucchese boots fit like a glove.
Best Bootmaker—One Man Shop
John Weinkauf Washoe Valley, Nevada
A native of Tucson, Arizona, John Weinkauf has been working in leather for 35 years. He has been making custom boots in his cozy Washoe Valley, Nevada, shop for 21 years. A true artisan from the old school, John has been making custom boots for his friends and a growing constituency of fans since he moved up to Nevada to get away for a change of scenery. Unpretentious and traditional, John also has a creative, wild streak in his work, which makes for some interesting departures from old style bootmaking. John loves his work and it shows. (He’s moving his shop to Kerrville, Texas, later this year.)
Best Custom Bootmaker
Tres Outlaws Boot Company El Paso, Texas
For overlaid or inlaid, filigree-style, hand-tooled boots that look as though they should be in the Louvre, rather than on some cowboy’s feet, Tres Outlaws is the place to go. The craftsmen at this company don’t just make boots; they create art. And the rich and famous who pay big bucks to own a pair of Tres Outlaws’ boots reads like a who’s who of Hollywood.
Readers’ Choice: Bowman’s Wilson Boot Co. in Livingston, MT
Cheyenne Frontier Days Cheyenne, Wyoming
Lose yourself in what has been the world’s largest rodeo since 1897. Organized almost entirely by nearly 2,500 volunteers, the “Daddy of ’em All” closes each July with parades, chuckwagon cook-offs, Western art and nine PRCA rodeos with purses reaching one million dollars. Record crowds cheer rodeo athletes by day and hot Country and Western entertainment by night. It’s where to feel like a cowboy even if you’re not.
Readers’ Choice: National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, NV
Oklahoma Prison Rodeo McAlester, Oklahoma
Fun times and hard time, hard labor and a Labor Day weekend institution. Held inside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, this is PRCA’s only sanctioned “behind the walls” event, where card-carrying cowboys as well as inmates compete.
Readers’ Choice: Cody Nite Rodeo in Cody, WY
Best Horse Trainer
Buck Brannaman Sheridan, Wyoming
He was the inspiration for the film The Horse Whisperer. Buck Brannaman drinks his coffee black, has a dispute over environmental damage on his Wyoming ranch caused by coal bed methane development and can whisper instructions to a horse, making even the wildest animal settle down in a few short hours. His horse training technique has been so effective, some wives and employees want to try it on their husbands and bosses.
Best Dude Ranches
Arizona: Elkhorn Ranch, Tucson
California: Coffee Creek Ranch, Trinity Center
Colorado: Vista Verde Ranch, Steamboat Springs
Idaho: Diamond D Ranch, Stanley
Montana: Nine Quarter Circle Ranch, Gallatin Gateway
New Mexico: Double E Guest Ranch, Gila
Oregon: Rock Springs Guest Ranch, Bend
Texas: Cibolo Creek Ranch, Big Bend
Utah: Wind Walker Guest Ranch, Spring City
Wyoming: Paradise Guest Ranch, Buffalo
Best Cap and Ball Revolver Reproduction
1851 Colt Navy Navy Arms Co. • Martinsburg, West Virginia
Introduced in 1959 by Navy Arms, the .36 caliber 1851 Colt Navy revolver started the replica business. Colt’s original served during the Civil War and traveled west to tame the frontier. The ’51 Navy was Wild Bill Hickok’s favorite, and Navy Arms’ well crafted, faithful replica is ours.
Readers’ Choice: Model 300, .44 caliber 1860 Army brass revolver, Taylor’s & Co., Winchester, VA
Best Cartridge Conversion Revolver Reproduction
Richards-Mason 1851 Navy Conversion Cimarron F.A. Co. • Fredericksburg, Texas
Six-guns converted from percussion ignition to metallic cartridge played a bigger part in the Wild West than they’ve previously been given credit for. Now, thanks to top-notch reproductions like Cimarron’s Richards-Mason 1851 Navy Conversion, they’re re-winning the West, especially in cowboy action shooting. Cimarron’s handsome replica has captured the authentic lines and feel of the real deal.
Readers’ Choice: Richards-Mason 1851 Navy Conversion, Cimarron F.A. Co., Fredericksburg, TX
Best Old West Repeating Rifle Reproduction
1860 Henry Cimarron F.A. Co. • Fredericksburg, Texas
Cimarron’s Civil War-era, 1860 Henry replica is a spittin’ image of those martial rimfire arms that made the trek westward during our early frontier years. Detail perfect and beautifully finished—complete with military sling swivels, “U.S.” and inspector’s stampings of “B. Tyler Henry” and “Charles G. Chapman”—these rifles are now chambered in either .44-40 or .45 Colt centerfire rounds.
Readers’ Choice: Henry Big Boy, Henry Repeating Arms Co., Brooklyn, NY
Best Old West Single Shot Rifle Reproduction
Model 1874 Hartford Sporting Rifle C. Sharps Arms Co. • Big Timber, Montana
If Christian Sharps were alive today, we bet he’d be proud to stamp his name on C. Sharps Arms’ reproductions of his company’s famed buffalo guns. Powerful, ruggedly handsome and extremely accurate, their Model 1874 Hartford Sporting Rifle authentically recreates the epitome of the boss gun of the 1870’s hide hunters.
Readers’ Choice: Rolling Block Buffalo Rifle, Navy Arms Co., Martinsburg, W.V.
Best Single Action Army Revolver
Single Action Army United States Fire-Arms Mfg. Co. • Hartford, Connecticut
Following in the historic hoofprints of the Old West’s most famous workhorse six-gun, the fit and finish of United States Fire-Arms’ “Peacemaker” reproduction is without equal. The company’s SAA is accurate, reliable and reasonably priced for such quality. Sam Colt’s got to be spinning over this handsome clone.
Readers’ Choice: Colt .45 Single Action Army, Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Mfg. Co., Hartford, CT
Best Frontier Cartridge Revolver Reproduction
1875 Remington Hartford Armory • Collinsville, Connecticut
Exhibiting first-class workmanship, Hartford Armory’s 1875 Remington replica is a detail-perfect copy of the famed frontier six-shooter that tried to take some of the handgun market away from Colt in the late 19th century. Hartford’s quality clone is not only suitable for cowboy action shooting, but its beefy construction also allows for use as a powerful hunting revolver as well.
Best Authentic Gunleather Artisan
Jake Johnson Glendale, California
Moviemakers wanting the very best in Old West gunleather often call on Jake Johnson for his handcrafted gun rigs. He’s outfitted films, such as Hidalgo, Wild Bill, The Quick and the Dead, and the History Channel’s Wild West Tech series. Prices are competitive for such quality, and the finished product looks like it fell out of a time machine.
Readers’ Choice: SA Gun Leather in Wheaton, IL
Best Mounted Shooting Event
CMSA World Championship Scottsdale, Arizona
Got a hankerin’ to see about 300 of the nation’s top cowboy mounted shooters and their spirited horses compete for around $75,000 in money and awards—including saddles and guns? Then head on down to WestWorld in Scottsdale, Arizona, November 24-28, for the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association’s (CMSA) World Championship. Lots of action, Saturday night entertainment, Western vendors ... it’s a blast.
Readers’ Choice: End of Trail in Norco, CA
Best Single Action Shooting Match
Winter Range Phoenix, Arizona
We like Winter Range with its authentic scenery, mild Arizona winter weather, cowboy action and mounted shooting, and other Western doin’s—all a part of this frontier encampment and exhibition held in the beautiful Sonoran Desert, just north of Phoenix, Arizona, on February 16-20. SASS’ National Championship of Cowboy Action Shooting is produced by the Arizona Territorial Company of Rough Riders.
Readers’ Choice: End of Trail in Norco, CA
Arizona: Palace Restaurant & Saloon, Prescott
California: Viva Fresh Mexican Restaurant & Lounge, Burbank
Colorado: Buckhorn Exchange, Denver
Idaho: Pioneer Saloon, Ketchum
Kansas: Last Chance Bar & Grill, Caldwell
Minnesota: Dressen’s Saloon, Hay Creek
Montana: Bale of Hay Saloon, Virginia City
Nevada: Bucket O’Blood Saloon, Virginia City
New Mexico: Mine Shaft Tavern, Madrid
Oklahoma: Blue Belle Saloon & Restaurant, Guthrie
Oregon: Wild Hare Saloon & Café, Canby
South Dakota: Old Style Saloon #10, Deadwood
Texas: White Elephant Saloon, Fort Worth
Wyoming: The Virginian Hotel’s Shiloh Saloon, Medicine Bow
Best Roadside Attraction
Sandia Park, New Mexico
Best Roadside Attraction
Tinkertown Museum Sandia Park, New Mexico
Ross Ward had a unique vision, creating a miniature Western town (and circus) that draws 20,000 visitors each year at its off-the-beaten-path location on the Turquoise Trail. The 22-room museum houses a lot of oddities and is surrounded by walls made from 50,000 glass bottles. Why? Well, why not?
Readers’ Choice: Old Trail Town in Cody, WY
Best Western Train Ride
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Durango, Colorado
Cinders, mountains, sunlight, cold streams, a three-hour tour coming or going where even Gilligan could not get lost, and you have the recipe for a perfect day. We’d venture to say a good portion of you folks have never ridden an old-fashioned passenger train. (Commuter rides don’t count.) Pack up the family and camera, and book a ride on the D&SNGR.
Readers’ Choice: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Durango, CO
Best Ghost Town
South Pass City, Wyoming
Gold boomtown and birthplace of women’s suffrage in Wyoming, South Pass City is long past its heyday of the 1860s. Although many of the town’s buildings remain, mining equipment litters the hillsides and the jail is still in working order, even if not in use.
Readers’ Choice: Silver City, ID
Best Stagecoach Ride
Virginia City Overland Stage Virginia City, Montana
Hold on to your hat as Scott and Dawn Hagedorn flick the lines over the backs of their team and the stagecoach lurches and picks up speed rolling out of Virginia City, Montana, and onto the rutted roads near Alder Gulch. You’ll be bounced and bumped into fellow travelers as the dust swirls through the windows and the harness jangles. Now this is a stagecoach ride.
Best Wagon Train Experience
Ben Kern’s Wagon Train Club Evansville, Wyoming
If you can get along with the sometimes cantankerous wagon boss (Ben Kern), you’ll travel old Western trails (Oregon, Mormon, California, Bozeman, Cherokee) the best way possible, riding in a covered wagon with steel-rimed tires (no rubber allowed) pulled by a couple of mules. Veteran travelers with Kern would say, in fact, that the wagon master is closely related to his mules—stubborn, determined and certain his way is always right.
Best Bar to People Watch
Greasewood Flats Scottsdale, Arizona
First off, Greasewood Flats is an outdoor saloon. During our editor’s first trip there, he saw one couple arrive in a Rolls-Royce, which they parked next to a bevy of tricked-out Harleys, whose riders had as much gray hair as he does. And with Coors costing only $2.25 a bottle, he was in hog heaven.
Best Western Riverboat Cruise
Lewis and Clark Cruise American West Steamboat Co. Portland, Oregon
If you’re into Lewis and Clark, this is the cruise for you. American West’s riverboat journey up the Columbia and Snake Rivers traces the Corps of Discovery’s route, while an onboard historian recounts the explorers’ adventures during stops at scenic and historical sites. As an added plus, the boat’s galley turns out tasty victuals, so even if you don’t like history, your appetite’s sure to be appeased.
Best Old West Coffee Company
New Mexico Piñon Coffee Co. Albuquerque, New Mexico
Another award for New Mexico Piñon Coffee could be the World’s Most Sexy Coffee, since there’s an aphrodisiac quality inherent in the piñon tree nut used in the company’s five-bean coffee blend. And unlike the drug Ecstasy, New Mexico Piñon Coffee is legal.
Readers’ Choice: Arbuckles’ Coffee in Tucson, AZ
Best Wild West Town
Remember, it’s pronounced Presskit. It may have lost its status as the capital the last time in 1889, but Whiskey Row is still around, only serving better food and libations than during those territorial days. It’s home to real cowboys, wanna-be cowboys and rodeo cowboys during the Prescott Frontier Days’ “World’s Oldest Rodeo.” Oldest? That’s debatable.
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