Monday, February 1, 2016

Old West Cowboy Valentines Poem

Valentine's Day is just around the corner. Here is a traditional old west Cowboy poem for your sweetie! 
Remember Cowboys' needs were simple!!!!

A love Poem

My horse is brown,
my dog’s name is Blue.
I feel so lucky to
have someone like you.
Your hair is like cornsilk
blowing in the breeze.
It’s softer than Blue’s
without all the fleas.
Cut from good cloth
like my best longjohns,
You pluck chickens all day
and still sing sweet songs.
I think I’m in love,
and I’m tickled pink.
We go together like, a skunk goes with stink

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Western Horseman the safest most durable 
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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Mecate, Bosal, Hackamore Vaquero Tack

 Vaquero Horse Tack, Mecate, Bosal and Hackamore

The Mecate is the rein portion of the horse tack, called the Hackamore. The Hackamore is a type of headgear for horse training. The unique part of the Hackamore is that it does not have a bit. It uses a braided noseband called a Bosal. The Bosal is a special type of noseband that works on pressure points on the horse's face, nose, and chin. The Mecate is a rope made from horse hair or soft feeling rope that serves as reins and lead rope.

The types of Hackamores include the Bosal and side pull. The Bosal Hackamore uses the Vaqueros tradition of the braided noseband and the Mecate rope.

 100% Alpaca Mecate

The Mecate is tied to the Bosal in a specialized manner that adjusts the fit of the Bosal around the muzzle of the horse and creates both a looped rein and a long free end that can be used for a number of purposes.  

For the mounted rider, the free end is coiled and attached to the saddle or tucked under your belt. When the rider dismounts, the lead rein is not used to tie the horse to a solid object but used as a lead rope and a form of lunge line when needed.

 AAA Bosalitos Vaquero Style

The traditional Mecate used by the California Vaqueros was made from the long hair of a horse's tail and was hand braided. Modern Mecates are made with horse hair and synthetic rope with a horse hair tassel at one end and a leather popper at the other end.

A properly tied Mecate knot (please view the how to video here) allows wraps of rope to be added to the knot in front of the rein loop in order to tighten the Bosal noseband on a horse or the rope can be unwrapped to loosen the Bosal.

 Black Beauty Concha Hackamore

 Cadillac Hackamore Set with Fiador and Mecate

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Western Horseman the safest most durable 
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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Horse Queen of Idaho....Kittie Wilkins

In 1870, Kittie Wilkins built and empire that encompassed a large area of Southern Idaho, northern Nevada and eastern Oregon. She became an outstanding rancher and expert dealer in horses and often was called "The Horse Queen of Idaho," or "The Queen of Diamonds," due to her diamond brand.

Kittie was born in 1857 in Jacksonville, Oregon. Her parents, John R. and Laura Wilkins, were an ambitious couple who visited many boomtowns of the west before settling in Challis, Idaho, where they began raising cattle and horses. During her early years Kittie lived in several western states. John and Laura, however, never neglected their daughter's schooling. While her father taught her the horse trading business, Kittie's mother made sure she attended the finest schools. She grew into a well educated woman who could ride the range, carry out a shrewd business deal, or sit at the piano to entertain guests.

Kittie always claimed she got her start as a small child when two of her father's friends each gave her a $20 gold piece to invest. When her father became involved in the stock company, he used the money to buy Kittie a filly, which started her in business. She soon acquired her own herd that numbered between 700 and 800 horses. Kittie was an expert horsewoman, it was said she could ride anything with four feet on the ground, or anything with one foot on the ground and three feet in the air.

By the time she was 28, the Wilkins Company had moved to the Bruneau Valley of Owyhee County, Idaho. Although the outfit consisted of Kittie's father and her three brothers, she was the undisputed head of the company. She claimed every unbranded mustang on their range, which ran from the Humbolt River in Nevada, to the Snake River in Idaho, and from Goose Creek County in Idaho to the Owyhee River in Oregon. Kittie had the hardest working outfit west of the Mississippi River. Her boys were riding almost constantly as the ranch broke and shipped 154 horses every two weeks. The Wilkins riders became known as the finest in the world.

Kittie rode the open range with her cowhands, roping and saddle-breaking. The newspapers described her as a striking, blue-eyed blonde who rode a palomino the color of her hair. Seated upon a saddle that was mounted in silver and gold, Kittie was one with her horse as he flew over the rough terrain, rounding strays into the holding-corrals.

When traveling to the Eastern stockyards, Kittie took two trunks, one for here work-clothes and the other for her fancy outfits, which were worn with flair. Although she raised more than one eyebrow, the talented lady personally watched over her own horses, disdaining the idea that women were limited to playing the piano and attending tea parties. The herd was more important to her than the whispered gossip of others.

Because she was totally feminine, Miss Wilkins never failed to create excitement as she entered the marketplace. While selling her horses, the lady pulled her golden hair up under a hat and dressed in skillfully tailored mannish attire, something that was unheard of in that era. Whatever her attire, however, Kittie knew her business. She found a way to move the abundant wild mustangs of the West to the horse-hungry markets of the East.

One time she brought 3,000 head with her to St. Louis, Missouri and auctioned them off herself turning a tidy profit. It was rumored that the beautiful woman could make a better deal than her male counterparts and in 1891, Kittie Wilkins was the only female in the United States whose sole occupation was horse dealing.

Once the horse trading was over, Kittie changed her male attire and met the press wearing the most stylish fashions. In 1895, during an interview, a reporter told his friends he was hardly prepared to meet the tall young woman "dressed in a svelte, tailor-made costume, her blonde curls surmounted by a dainty Parisian creation, who greeted him with perfect self-possession and invited him to be seated."
He said she was a strikingly handsome woman. In 1904, at the age of 46, Kittie visited San Francisco. During her stay, she was a guest of the city and awarded, "The Palm for Beauty," which meant she was the toast of the town.

Often a cowboy who rode over the large Wilkins spread looking for a job, was surprised to find that "Kit" Wilkins was a she not a he. At first many of the men weren't sure they wanted to work for a female. However, once they realized the beautiful lady could not only handle her horse, but would also ride beside them, they always hired on. All of her "boys" were paid $40 a month and board, and they were strong, rough riders. Kittie ruled with an iron hand. If a cowboy got out of line, he was immediately fired. In a magazine article, one her "hands" wrote: "If a man weren't a good rider when he went to work for Kit Wilkins, he was a good rider when he left of he wasn't riding at all-unless in a hearse."

Many of Kittie's riders hired on as apprentices, and, under her guidance, became excellent cowboys. A few of them went on to fame in the Wild West Shows and others performed in rodeos. High Strickland became a Champion of the World several times; Jess Coates rode before the King and Queen of England in a Command Performance, and Walter Scott became part of Buffalo Bill Cody's show, and then became known as Death Valley Scotty.

Kittie was king to her crew and earned their admiration as a skilled rider. She was not afraid of the unbroken horses and would enter the pens and manage the most unruly. She knew more about pedigrees than most women did about stylish clothes.

With all her wealth and beauty, however, Kittie never married. It had been rumored she loved only one man. He was her top foreman and superintendent and they were reportedly engaged to be married. Unfortunately, he was killed while trying to remove and intruder from the Wilkins spread and Kittie was true to his memory the rest of her life.

Kit raised her horses on "Wilkins Island", a high plateau between what was then called "Kittie's Hot Hole" and the mining area of Jarbridge, Nevada. The Hot Hole was a natural hot springs at the bottom of a gorge, and today is known as "Murphy's Hot Springs." The Island was the company's headquarters where Kittie's "hands" built a corral that held the horses until they were shipped on to the eastern markets.


 Kittie's Letter Head

As Kittie rode the range and worked beside her cowboys, they shared a special camaraderie. Often, after a hard weeks work, she and her hands would ride into town and visit the local tavern for a bit of rest and frivolity. On one of these occasions, the Wilkin's boys were so carried away with their fun-making that someone "accidentally" opened the corral gate and the entire herd of captured "dollars" escaped.

Mrs. Alice Hicks, of Mountain Home, Idaho, remembers both Kittie and the tavern, as her father, Elijah Fletcher, once worked for the Wilkins. In a letter, she described a day in which she and her brother rode into town with their father to buy beef. Kit was standing in the door of the tavern and she greeted Elijah in a friendly manner saying, "Hello Lige, come on in and join the boys." When her father left the children sitting in the wagon, Mrs. Hicks recalls being a bit upset because at that young age she considered a tavern a den of "sin."

Although respectable women of that period didn't enter a tavern, it must be remembered that Kittie Wilkins was not an ordinary woman. She was always a lady, but she lived by her own rules.
Kittie had a lively personality and was a polished publicist. Her news releases were consistent and timely. She never deviated from her original tale of how she got her start with the two $20 gold pieces. Kittie's beauty and her success stories made headlines from San Francisco to St. Louis. Reporters admired her and the public enjoyed reading about the charming woman who many called "The Golden Queen".

Her generosity extended beyond the welfare of the cowboys who rode beside her on the ranch. Kittie supported an orphanage in Salt Lake City, Utah, and she donated to a Catholic academy near San Francisco. When the boys were old enough to work, they were hired as hands for the Wilkins Company. Several of the girls were taken into Kittie's home to assist with the housework, and a few she sent on to further their education. Numerous letters of appreciation from those who Kittie helped are on file, along with her property deeds and old records.

As time passed and Kittie grew older, she may have tinted her hair a bit, but she never lost that inner spark that made her so special. When she died of a heart attack in 1935, at the age of 79, no one thought of Kittie as an old woman.

She is buried in the Mountain View Cemetery in Mountain Home. There is a modest stone bearing a simple inscription in which her name, birth and death dates are followed by the words, "Horse Queen of Idaho."

Although Miss Wilkins was one of the best known women of her generation, there has been very little written about her. Bits and pieces of Kittie's colorful life have come from old newspaper articles, a few paragraphs here and there, and through the courtesy of the Elmore Historical Society in Mountain Home, Idaho.

this is an excerpt from the book "Daughters of the West", by Anne Seagraves.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Ed Bohlin Saddle Maker to Hollywood

 Eddie Bohlin

Eddie Bohlin ran away from home in Orebro, Sweden at age fifteen, hoping to find an apprenticeship as a silversmith. He was unable to find a position and instead worked his way to America on a four-masted schooner, arriving in New York in 1910. As he had been raised with horses, he headed for Montana, where he soon found his first job as a wrangler, rounding up more than nine hundred horses to be sold in Miles City, then the horse trading capital of the world.

For several years Bohlin worked as a cowboy on long cattle drives, both on horseback and as a hand on the freight trains that took cattle to the Chicago stockyards. Bohlin had an aptitude for art, this inspired him to attend the Art Institute in Minneapolis for four months. There he learned the basic concepts that later results in his artistic masterpieces.

Bohlin opened his first silver and saddle shop in Cody, Wyoming, just across the street from Buffalo Bill Cody's Irma Hotel. It was in this shop that he created his first fancy silver-mounted cowboy gear.

While in Billings, Montana, on a buying trip for his shop, an event occurred that changed his life. Billboards around town advertised a vaudeville performance with live horses on the stage, for which he purchased a ticket. Bohlin recognized one of the act's performers from one of his earlier cattle drives and was introduced by him to the show's manager. When Bohlin showed the manger some of his rope tricks that he had picked up along the way, he got hired. The vaudeville act, no matter how small-time, eventually gave Bohlin an unexpected break.

In Los Angeles, while performing at the new Pantages Theatre in 1922, Bohlin heard a loud voice call out from the audience, "Hey kid! What do you want for the coat?" The fellow had spotted Bohlin's coat of black, white and tan calfskin that he had made for himself. "Thirty-five dollars," Bohlin yelled back. When he returned the following night, the coat was gone from his dressing room and in its place was a thirty-five dollar check with Tom Mix's picture and name on it.


 Tom Mix

In those days the cowboy star Tom Mix (1880-1940) was one of Hollywood's most popular actors. Mix asked his friend and business associate, Pat Christman, to invite Bohlin to the studio and to bring some silver and leather goods with him. Tom Mix quickly purchased various items, including the silver decorated boots Bohlin was wearing at the time, for seventy-five dollars. Mix strongly encouraged him to stay on in Hollywood to produce silver and leather items for the studio market.

With this exciting encouragement, Bohlin immediately gave two weeks' notice to the vaudeville troupe's owner and started looking for a place to set up shop. He was fortunate enough to persuade the First Baptist Church in Hollywood to rent him part of their building on the corner of Cahuenga and Selma Avenues.


 Bohlin's personal show saddle (above) and bridle (below)
 both photos from Western Horseman Mag. May 1962

The rapid success of his business soon required him to move the shop to larger quarters. He occupied a series of addresses on Cahuenga and Selma Avenues, and hired many skilled leather workers and silversmiths to augment his own skills and vision.

Tom Mix, his first great customer and friend in Hollywood, was joined by many other film stars, who assured Bohlin of a built-in clientele. This connection with the studios quickly brought him the job of supplying the Egyptian-style chariot harnesses for Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments," in 1923, and twenty Roman-style chariot harnesses for MGM's 1925 production of "Ben Hur." Another early studio job was supplying two hundred buckskin suits for Universal's 1923 movie "The Days of Daniel Boone." This order alone came to more than four thousand dollars, a huge sum in those days.

Bohlin's relationship with Tom Mix coincided with the beginning of the era of the super fancy movie cowboy, and his skills were matched by Hollywood's demands for spectacular goods in the Western style. In addition to the early custom work he made for Tom Mix, he produced a richly mounted custom saddle, bridle and breast collar for Buck Jones, and a pair of pistols inlaid with gold and silver for William S. Hart.

picture from Western Horseman Mag. May 1962

Soon, every successful Western star had to have Bohlin equipment for personal appearances, parades and the movies themselves. Bohlin's movie cowboy customers over the next thirty years would include Ray "Crash" Corrigan, Ken Maynard, Rex Bell, Will Rogers, Leo Carillo, Monte Montana, Monte Hale, Gene Autry, Charles Starrett, William Boyd (Hopalong Cassidy), Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Clayton Moore (the Lone Ranger), and Ronald Reagan.

One of Bohlin's custom saddles was owned by two popular and durable Western actors. Ray "Crash" Corrigan (1902-1976) ordered a special saddle and tack from Bohlin in 1938 which he used in about forty movies. Corrigan appeared in dozens of Westerns and starred with John Wayne in twenty-four episodes of the 1930s serial "The Three Mesquiteers."


Although the fancy saddles Bohlin designed for cowboy stars provided him with great publicity, his stock designs sold to private horsemen were probably his greatest source of day-to-day income. The most luxurious of these made the movie saddles seem understated by comparison. One of the most spectacular of his stock saddles was the "Fiesta" model. In addition to its elaborately tooled leather, the saddle was heavily mounted with chased and engraved silver openwork plates and conchas, and further adorned with eighteen three-color gold steers' heads with ruby-colored gemstone eyes and other gold ornaments.

Understandably the "Fiesta" model was very expensive. Requiring more than six weeks of work, its list price in the 1941 catalog was $1,255. In 1941 the average cost of a new automobile was $925. (Bohlin's most expensive stock saddle in the 1941 catalog was the "P.K. Wrigley" model. With all of its matching tack, the saddle's list price was $5,750.)

picture from Western Horseman Mag. May 1962

Bohlin also designed and produced nearly ninety percent of the hundreds of silver-mounted parade saddles used in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California. In all, between 1923 and 1980, the Bohlin Shop designed, produced and sold more than twelve thousand saddles, most of which were extensively adorned with sterling silver ornamentation.

Unquestionably the most spectacular and unique example of his artistry was his very own parade saddle, lovingly fabricated with gold and silver over a fourteen-year span and finally completed in 1945. The seventy-pound saddle has gold and silver relief carvings that depict in minute detail scenes of western life and game animals of the Pacific Slope. When completed it was considered the most expensive parade saddle in the world with a value in excess of $125,000. Gene Autry later purchased it for an undisclosed sum. It is now in the collection of the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles.

After more than fifty years in the trade, the old master finally semi-retired in 1972. His longtime employee, Bud Phillips, ran the shop for him. Bohlin later suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed until his death on 28 May 1980.

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Western Horseman the safest most durable 
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Monday, January 11, 2016

Rope Talk of the Old West Cowhands

Old West Cowhands "Rope Talk"

Here is a brief list of some general rope terms used by the Old West Cowhands:

Lariat is an Americanization of la reata, Spanish for the rope

Lasso is the lazo, meaning in Spanish a noose or snare.

Lazo reata is a Spanish term meaning snare rope.

Catch rope, throw rope, saddle rope, grass rope, twine, whale line, hard twist, lass rope, and rope are all used to designate a catch rope.

Reata is from the Spanish reata, meaning rope, but the American cowhands use it to designate a rawhide rope.

Reata men are hands who use a rawhide rope and they sometimes refer to this rope as a lass rope.

Roping terms used by the cowhand are, rope, meaning to throw a rope, roped, meaning to have caught something with the rope, roping the act of catching and looped meaning caught.

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Western Horseman the safest most durable 
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