Best of the West 2011

True West's Best of the West 2011 Winners


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Here are the winners of our "2011 Best of the West." Sit back and see if your pick made the list.



Longhorn Saloon’s Sunday Ride
Bandera, TX

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!



Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium
Ruidoso downs, NM •

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.



Beaumont Hotel and Spa
Ouray, CO •

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 •



Fort Davis, TX •

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 •



Gay 90’s Bar
Naco, AZ

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.”



Fort Davis, TX
Fort Davis, TX •

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.”



Grand Canyon Railway
Williams, AZ •

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.



Concordia Cemetery
El Paso, TX •

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.



Hubbell Trading Post NHS Farmer’s Market
Ganado, AZ •

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.



Prescott Regulators & Their Shady Ladies
Prescott, AZ •

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 •



Defeat of Jesse James
Northfield, MN •

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.



New Mexico State Monuments
santa Fe, NM •

“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).



Philip Varney & Kerrick James
Voyageur Press •

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 •



Jeff Hildebrandt
Englewood, CO

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 •



Lucia St. Clair Robson
Arnold, MD •

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 •



John Boessenecker
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 •



Martin Grelle
Clifton, TX •

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 •



Paul Lanquist
Ariel, WA •

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.



Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery of Western American and Native American Art
Chandler, AZ

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 •



Coeur d’Alene Art Auction
Reno, NV/Hayden, ID •

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 •



Kit Carson
New River, AZ •

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.



Wild West Mercantile
Mesa, AZ •

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.



Hawks, MI •

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 •



Old Frontier Clothing Co.
Los Angeles, CA •

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 •



Celeste Sotola for Montana Dreamwear
Basin, MT •

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 •



Rocky Mountain Clothing Company for Cinch Jeans
Denver, CO

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 •



Paul Bond
Nogales, AZ •

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 • / Paul Bond • Nogales, AZ •



Beaver Brand Hats
New Haven, MO •

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 • / Tom Hirt • Penrose, CO •



Harriette Allison of Lucky Star Gallery
Reno, NV •

“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 •



Wagon West Beds
Sonoma, CA •

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 •

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.



David W. Osmundsen of Arrowhead Forge
Buffalo, WY •

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...

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