September 3, 2006
I spent the last 48 hours in Wichita at the Old Cowtown Museum. We (Cactus Productions and I) taped a big PSA (public service announcement) TV spot for the museum on Saturday after the day's events. It was Preston Randolph's concept and vision. I would start at the end of the street walking towards the camera. In front of me would be dozens of authentically dressed Old West characters walking to and fro, across and back (think Deadwood). At first you can't even see me because the activity on the street is so heavy, but you can hear me, and this is my pitch:
"One of the biggest issues facing the West today is this: How do we preserve our history?
"Many historic sites have already been lost, while others, like Wichita's Old Cowtown are in danger of going away. Founded in 1950 and featuring over 53 authentic buildings, including the actual jail Wyatt Earp was held in. . .we can't let that happen.
"That's why we at True West magazine have rededicated ourselves to preserving the American West. And as Ed LeRoy, my good friend and tireless proponent of Cowtown puts it, 'Pony up—and quit horsin' around.'
Visit oldcowtown.org to see how you can help save this American treasure. Act today, before it's too late."
As I say this last line, everyone on the street has disappeared and even the buildings are gone, each one vanishing (via computer magic) in the mists. What was once a bustling intersection of vital community is gone. A lone tumbleweed rolls across the barren scenery behind me. Cut to logo and website: "Pony up @ oldcowtown.org"
This morning we had three hours before we went to the airport to tape and produce a True West Moment, for the Westerns Channel and it turned out to be a very ambitious poject as well.
We summmoned all of the mounted shooters, about 25, and asked them if they could come down the street shooting a la "Comin' Through The Rye" style and they assured us that would be no problem, and they were correct, nailing the scene after one dry run. As the two dozen Kaboys yelled and rode by the camera in a swirling cloud of dust and gunsmoke I stepped in behind them and walked towards the camera saying:
"Wild and Wooley Wichita. One of the most famous cowtowns in the West. Home of Billy the Kid, Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp, and many a Texas cowboy hot off the Chisholm Trail.
"And in Wichita there were efficent lawmen like Mike Meagher [as I say this, I am met by the city marshal, played by Randy Edins] who served five terms with only one killing. [Marshal Meagher tips his hat to me as he walks past]. The before mentioned Billy the Kid, was just a street urchin on the streets of Wichita [two kids come out of a store front and run between me and the camera, closely chased by a woman in a sun bonnet screaming, 'Henry McCarty you come back here!' [the other boy was a dead ringer for Sombrero Jack, but we didn't have time to explain that and besides, wrong town, that would be Silver City].
[As I step up on the boardwalk I am met by a gaggle of Wichita-ians] "In addition to controlling the Texas cowboys, the local lawmen had other duties as well. They shot stray dogs and collected fines from prostitutes [the lovely and sexy Janine walks by giving me a MOI? look], they inspected the safety of chimneys and repaired the local sidewalks [Bat Masterson is kneeling on the boardwalk pounding in nails as another two women walk by and pull up the hems of their dresses], so that the ladies would not catch their hems on stray nails.
"Wichita policeman Wyatt Earp got in a fist fight with a political rival [Wyatt and another man come out of the bank building with their hands up, a la Queensbury style, and exchange threats, but I keep walking] and Wyatt ended up right over here.
"This is the actual jail Wyatt Earp was thrown in and it is here at Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita, Kansas.
"Yes, the Texas Cowboys were lawless and rowdy and sometimes had to be put in this calaboose, but it's kind of nice to know that sometimes, so did Kansas lawmen.
"I'm Bob Boze Bell and this has been a True West Moment."
Rob B. and I flew out at three. Got home to big clouds and high winds and a big ol' rattlesnake by the front door. Got my trusty Steinegger Rattlesnake Grabber out of the garage, hooked that sucker around the neck (he lunged at me and went right in the wire loop). Carried his wriggling body out past Buddy and Kathy who were doing the poolside watusi and dropped the critter over the fence.
Tired. Going to bed.
"The fact that a snake wags it's tail at you doesn't mean it wants to be petted."
—Old Vaquero Saying
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