Monday, July 21, 2008

July 21, 2008 Bonus Bonus Blog Post
Mark Boardman just got back from the WWHA convention, held this year in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I asked him for highlights and here they are:


About 175 people attended the first WWHA Roundup in Tulsa. That was a very good turnout, especially considering the cost of travel these days.

There were a couple of field trips. The first went to Coffeyville to see the Dalton Gang-related stuff and see a re-enactment of Oct. 5, 1892. We also went to a gun museum and to Woolaroc, the Oklahoma ranch owned by oil baron Frank Phillips. It has an incredible art collection, especially featuring works by Frank Tenney Johnson with a Remington and Russell thrown in here and there. And even more impressive is the collection of Indian artifacts from the region--some going back 3000 years.

The other trip was to the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, which has just acquired a major collection of 101 Ranch items. Really neat stuff. The Gilcrease is one museum to put on the list to visit.

There were also a number of great speakers--Paul Cool on Ranger John Tays, who got involved in the El Paso Salt War; Bill O'Neal on Caldwell, Kansas, which is the subject of his latest book; Corey Recko on New Mexico Territory Governor Samuel Axtell, who bungled his way through the Lincoln County War; and several more. There was also an evening session with Bob DeArment, a retrospective of his long and distinguished career in Western history. That was a highlight.

But for me, the top event was the after-banquet speech by Michael Wallis, the Tulsa author who has written on Billy the Kid, Pretty Boy Floyd and other subjects. One of his books is on the 101 Ranch, and his presentation touched on the history of that great operation. Frankly, we were all mesmerized. Wallis has a great, deep voice that rumbles with color as he speaks. And his language is so incredibly descriptive; he really paints pictures for the mind. More than just about any writer I know, Wallis writes as he speaks (and vice versa). At one point, he talked about an old Indian he interviewed for the book. As a teenager, the guy had done trick riding for Pawnee Bill and then the 101. And it was a wonderful life for him, obviously--he traveled all over the world, met some of the great figures of the West (including Buffalo Bill, Bill Pickett, Tom Mix, etc.), and enjoyed every minute of it. Wallis talked about how the guy was later living in a small home with his elderly wife, spending most of his time in a recliner. But when Wallis wanted to take some photos, the Indian put on an old performance costume and seemed to drop all those years. They went to the old ranch site and the memories became real. I can't do justice to Wallis' retelling of this, but he had several of us near tears.

Note to True West Executive Editor: we've gotta get this guy to write some stuff for True West.

Anyway, it was a great time. I expect a lot of us will go to next year's event in San Antonio.

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