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Duke’s Life Lessons

 Anyone familiar with John Wayne films knows that the Duke has a few tried-and-true ways of dealing with the situations life (or the director) hands him. Call it the “Wayne Way,” as author Douglas Brode does in his 2014 book John Wayne’s Way: Life Lessons From the Duke. Noting that Wayne’s onscreen persona was both entertaining and similar to his real-life persona, Brode contends that we (especially American males) can improve ourselves by emulating Wayne’s actions (even when playing a flawed character) on the silver screen.

Brode summarizes 100 Wayne films and then provides a life lesson from each performance. For example, Brode’s takeaway from flawed longtime seeker Ethan Edwards of The Searchers (1956): “Idealism may seem like the best approach, but if you always expect the worst, you will seldom be disappointed.” From The Alamo (1960), in which Wayne played freedom-loving Davy Crockett: “America’s most admirable attribute is its promise of absolute freedom for every individual to make choices according to his or her own unique sensibilities.” From Hondo (1953): “Although we have an obligation to teach our youth, sometimes they will choose to ignore our warnings and learn lessons the hard way. We then must allow them the freedom to choose for themselves.” From the John Ford classic Stagecoach (1939): “Accept people for who they are rather than judging them according to assumptions or prejudices—and that includes a potential spouse. Ask not whether that person is good enough for you, but whether you’re both willing to do what it takes to make a marriage work.” There you have it from Ford and Wayne—filmmakers and marriage counselors extraordinaire.

Chronicling The West

 The Wild West and Old West are one in the same as far as we’re concerned. Both refer to the 19th-century frontier period (more or less) in the American West (more or less). Wild West chronicles that time and place with articles written by present-day writers. Old West, a sister publication to True West, once did pretty much the same thing but rode into the sunset in the early 1990s. Now, in the 21st century, we have Dakota Livesay’s Chronicle of the Old West [www.chronicleoftheoldwest .com], a 20-page monthly newspaper whose tagline reads, “The Old West Is a Time and Place of the Heart.” It does things a little differently, publishing actual articles from the 1800s in the month originally published. For example, in the November 2014 issue is a November 18, 1896, article out of McAlester, Oklahoma Territory, about the previous day’s death of Judge Isaac C. Parker. The Chronicle’s mailing address is P.O. Box 2859, Show Low, Arizona Territory 85902, though we’re guessing a letter will still get there if you leave “territory” off the envelope. Livesay also operates beyond print, making the most of that newfangled radio apparatus by telling tales of the Old West [] on some 250 stations nationwide. “When it comes to the Old West,” he says, “my objective is to ‘tell it as it was’ warts and all.” Clearly, his heart is in the right place.

A Trail Ride With God

 Elliot Johnson of Oklahoma City has a passion for the Old West and God, not necessarily in that order, and he combines those interests in his one-man annual publication Trail Ride. “There are four volumes so far,” he says. “I write one each year, sell the ads, distribute, speak at functions and cowboy churches, and encourage folks to get into the word of God in a Western context.” The latest issue, released in October 2014, features Wagon Train actors Robert Horton (Flint) and Ward Bond (Major Adams) on the cover and includes “A Cowboy’s Study of Joshua, Judges and Ruth.” The October 2013 issue put Maverick stars James Garner (Bret) and Jack Kelly (Bart) on the cover and a study of 1 and 2 Corinthians inside.

Another of Johnson’s passions is baseball, a sport he coached for 40 years (30 as a collegiate head coach). For more than 30 years he has directed the nonprofit Winning Run Foundation []. Coach Johnson grew up working cattle on an 850-acre spread in Nebraska and looks forward to each issue of Wild West. “I’ve never lost the love of horses or the prairie,” he adds. “And I owe all hope to the Lord Jesus and His word, so why not combine the two.” The result: Trail Ride.

Hardin’s Card Trick

 A playing card drilled with deadly precision by Texas gunman John Wesley Hardin was the top seller at Heritage Auctions’ Legends of the West Signature Auction in Dallas last November. The winning bid (including buyer’s premium) was $13,750. Hardin shot the king of spades center mass and signed the border “J.W. Hardin” with the date “July 4, ’94.” That Independence Day he reportedly plugged the king and six other face cards at a shooting exhibition or contest. Five months earlier Hardin had been released from the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville after serving 17 years on a manslaughter charge. Hardin himself claimed to have killed 42 men. Even if he exaggerated, many still regard him as the baddest of Old West badmen.

Another Hardin item, a signed May 13, 1895, bar tab from El Paso’s Wigwam saloon, fetched $10,000. An album of more than 50 original photos taken by F. Jay Hanes during an 1896 hunting expedition in northwest Wyoming sold for $11,250. A 63-page handwritten memoir by 7th U.S. Cavalry Lieutenant Charles A. Varnum, who was in Major Marcus Reno’s command at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, brought $10,000. A purported photo of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid originally published in Last of the Bandit Riders (1940), by Matt Warner (as told to Murray E. King), did not sell.

Empire Ranch Roundup

 More than 1,500 spectators attended the Empire Ranch Roundup and Open House in south-central Arizona last November to celebrate the cowboy culture and raise funds to preserve this historic property in Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, 7 miles north of Sonoita. Bought by Englishmen Walter Vail and Herbert Hislop in 1876, Empire Ranch grew to become one of the area’s largest cattle-calf operations and horse-breeding farms. In its heyday the ranch silver mine, the Total Wreck, generated enough money to cover ranch costs. Today the Empire relies on donations to maintain its buildings and continue as a working cattle ranch, and administrators encourage the public to come watch cowboys ride, rope and brand using traditional methods. Highlights of the roundup included precision riding by the Fort Huachuca Cavalry Association, 4th Memorial Cavalry, B Troop; a Colt Single Action demonstration by Sgt. Maj. Bob Pinter (U.S. Army, Ret., see photo); and single-action mounted shooting by the Tombstone Ghost Riders. Roping and cattle-handling presentations brought out the cowboy in everyone.

“This annual event was created to highlight the efforts of the foundation to preserve and protect this historic site by keeping the culture of the cowboy alive through demonstrations, activities and displays,” says Ali Boelts, administrator of the Empire Ranch Foundation [].

—Melody Groves

 Cody and The Savages

 An engraved Savage automatic pistol presented to William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody in 1911 sold for $69,000 at Rock Island Auction Co.’s Premiere Firearms Auction in Rock Island, Ill., in early December. It may be hard to imagine the Old West icon firing anything but a single-shot rifle or revolver, but Cody himself wrote of his first outing with this gun: “Today I took [my] old revolver and the Savage automatic out and fired each 50 times, making, to my surprise, a much better score with the automatic than I could with my old pet gun.” While there’s no evidence he mothballed his pet pistol, Cody was taken enough with the Savage to order five more, personally engraved to friends.

Forty-Niner Photo

 A quarter-plate daguerreotype of California pioneer Nathaniel Miller hammered down at $15,600 at Cowan’s Auctions’ American History auction in Cincinnati last November 21. In the image Miller poses in a fringed buckskin jacket with a large knife tucked in his belt and a percussion rifle slung over his shoulder (see photo). A native New Yorker, Miller went to California as a Forty-Niner, struck it rich and helped form the first vigilance committee in San Francisco before returning home to Brookhaven, Long Island.

Cowan’s Buys Little John’s

 Cowan’s Auctions Inc. of Cincinnati has become the third largest antiques firearms auction house in the country with the acquisition last November of Little John’s Auction Service of Orange, Calif. John Gangel, president and CEO of Little John’s, will join Jack Lewis, Cowan’s director of firearms and militaria, as a consignment director and auctioneer. Together, Lewis and Gangel will source consignments and represent Cowan’s at all major trade shows. Gangel has owned and operated one of the nation’s top firearms auction houses since 1979. He will continue to operate his retail business, Little John’s Firearms, in Orange, but much of his time in 2015 will be spent on the road, visiting collectors and attending regional and national gun shows. Wes Cowan, a nationally recognized antiques expert and PBS television star, formed Cowan’s Auctions in 1995 and has been a leading firearms auctioneer for the past decade. “John Gangel and Little John’s Auction Service bring the same extraordinary honesty, integrity and expertise that Cowan’s has been providing to our customers for the past 20 years,” says Cowan. “With the addition of John’s, Cowan’s will extend their reach across the country. Both Jack [Lewis] and John come from a collecting background, and they probably understand the business better than anyone else in the field. We think it’s a match made in heaven.”

West Meets Far East

 Curators from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyo., traveled halfway around the globe to attend a museum exposition in Xiamen, China, last December, showcasing for Chinese attendees some of the center’s Old West firearms and other artifacts. “We are hoping to develop partnerships with museums in China and also promote the United States to Chinese tourists who would like to visit Yellowstone and our museum,” explained Bruce Eldredge, the center’s executive director and CEO. Eldredge said some 2,000 Chinese tourists visited the center in 2014 and that his staff is putting together a touring Plains Indian exhibition for museums in China.


Originally published in the April 2015 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.