Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My Heros Have Always Been Cowboys!!

Growing up on a cattle ranch in California, my first heroes were the neighbors who came and helped us brand cattle every spring.  At the young age of 4, I rode my own horse and I watched those guys like a hawk, trying to learn how to rope a calf.  They would rope it, then hand me the end to take a couple turns around the horn.  I was in 7th Heaven!!  Later, when we finally got a two foot square box called a television, my heroes quickly became Hopalong Cassidy, the Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers!!  When this guy hit the screen, he was my all time hero!!

So it was fitting that we take in the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum yesterday, for which I thank Barbara and Tom immensely!!
Not only cowboys, but cowgirls have a part in this museum.  There's not much on women in the cattle business until the 30's and 40's when they began to enter rodeos in their 10 gallon hats.  Still not allowed to wear "levis", they sewed their dresses together in the middle!!
Your first view upon arrival is the familiar End Of The Trail statue.
The museum has been enlarged considerably since the Westerfields were here last.  As in one of the museums we experienced in Amarillo, they have built an entire early 1900's town, full to the brim with original artifacts and sound effects.
This is a first ... the bellows are suspended from the ceiling with a rope pulley device to make it work, leaving much more room in the barn for working on wagon wheels or horseshoes.
The Sheriff's Office had a small jail in the back, along with some guns and handcuffs hung on the wall.  What caught my attention however, was this small original "invitation" to a hanging.  Some Sheriffs would send these out to witnesses, requiring their presence at the gallows.  It's amazing how many artifacts are in this museum.  I never would have imagined so many old saddles still existed, including Visalias and the 101 Ranch saddles.  They are all on display here!!

There is an entire section on the movie cowboys, including Harry Carey Sr. and one of the saddles he rode.  He was the first western silent film superstar, born in New York City!!  Both he and his son Harry Carey Jr. became great stunt doubles.
Maybe you remember Tom Mix??  He was Hollywood's first Megastar.  His original plan to become a knife throwing artist in the circus, was rerouted when he fell in love with the horses his dad managed for a lumber tycoon.  He made more than 160 movies in the 20's, becoming the first good guy in the white hat.  He was also a good friend of Wyatt Earp.  
I'm sure you know these two ... my Saturday morning companions for years, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.  I'm sure I've seen every movie they made 10 times!!!
Later on, Glen Ford played some great cowboy parts ... there are many more here, including Hopalong Cassiday and Clint Eastwood, just to name two.  Most, if not all of the items in the museum have been donated by family members.  
Later on, guys like Tom Selleck became great cowboys and many movie-used items are on display.
In the REAL world, Charros were some of the first cowboys, riding uncomfortable saddles and wearing tight jackets.  You can definitely see the wear and tear on most of the items here, proving they were actually used in real life.  The museum goes on from here to the early cowboys riding the range, moving cattle on the long trails.  
I'm not sure how many cowboys actually wore Stetson hats, as they were and still are, very expensive!!  This display of well worn hats, shows the different crowns they wore, depending on where they were from and what they did.  The wider brims were worn by cowhands working on a ranch ... the one on the far right with the narrow brim, was worn by a cattle rancher ... the owner.  Many of the tall pointed hats also told everyone what State you were from.
Before levis were invented, cowboys wore a lot of different designed wool pants and either cotton or wool shirts.  Later on, chaps became a mainstay to keep your pants from being ripped by brush and that calf kick from hurting quite so bad.  The angora chaps ... and they have more here than I've ever seen anywhere ... are just for show!!
Not only do they have exhibits of what the cowboys wore, but their tools of the trade, including bridles, spurs and ropes.  One room is complete full of barbed wire and brands!!
Cowgirls weren't totally left out ... here's a leather riding skirt and boots, much like the leather bronc riding skirt I bought in Sisters last year.  
There is a section on the Soldiers, one on Indians that I didn't have time to see, and several art galleries full of original paintings by Russell and Remington, just to name two.  There is also an entire rodeo grounds setup where you can get close to the big plastic bull!!  Very life-like however!!  Along the corridor you can see the names of every cowboy who has been elected to the Cowboy Hall of Fame ... greats like Jim Shoulders and Larry Mahan!!
By now we were starving, so we stopped in at their restaurant and were pleasantly surprised!!  The decor was really bright and the buffet excellent.  As we left, we talked to maybe the Chef and his mother ... who said they just cooked good Southern food!!  I highly recommend it!!!
While Barbara checked out the gardens, I checked out the gift shop!!  Lots of great clothing, but I just couldn't let go of that $100 bill for the white cotton blouse.  Instead I got a couple of silk cowboy scarves that you can't find much anymore and a cookbook on Dutch Oven Desserts!!  If you make it to Quartzsite this year, stop by for a taste test .... I plan on doing some outdoor cooking!!

No comments:

Post a Comment