Jun 28

Mississippi takes Lucky 7 spot

It’s OFFICIAL! On Friday afternoon, June 28, 2013, Mississippi joined the growing list of states that have awarded permanent status to the 4th Saturday in July as the National Day of the Cowboy! With its passage of HCR #3, Mississippi has become the seventh state in the country to formally recognize the importance of protecting our pioneer heritage and promoting our cowboy culture through this concurrent action of both houses of their legislature. Thanks to our awesome volunteer, Rip Copeland of Batesville, Mississippi, and to his enthusiastic sponsor of the NDOC bill, Representative Nolan Mettetal, we have seven states where the National Day of the Cowboy has been deemed to be of such import that the legislature has passed it as a permanent bill. And, guess what! This makes Mississippi  the first state EAST of the Mississippi to pass the National Day of the Cowboy in perpetuity.

Thank you Rip Copeland. Thank you Representative Mettetal and Thank you Mississippi. Don’t forget to celebrate!

Jun 13

Don Weller to illustrate 2013 National Day of the Cowboy Hatch poster

Even as a boy in Washington, renowned American illustrator and painter, Don Weller, was already drawing
horses and cowboys.

Utah Cowboy & Western artist, Don Weller

Utah Cowboy & Western artist, Don Weller

When he was out, exploring on his horse, he rode along the banks of the Palouse River or over the rolling hills that surrounded his home near Pullman. He roped calves in high school rodeos and sold cartoons to Western Horseman magazine. His passions have always been horses and art. In college, he continued to rope in college and amateur rodeos in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

When Don Weller graduated from Washington State University with his Fine Art degree, he sold his horses and moved to Los Angeles, where he spent decades working in the field of graphic design and illustration. His work appeared on album covers, on posters, in advertisements, and on hundreds of magazine pages. His art graced the covers of Time Magazine, and TV Guide. He illustrated stories in Readers’ Digest, Sports Illustrated, Boys’ Life, and many others. Don created posters for the Hollywood Bowl, The National Football League, The National Cutting Horse Association, The Rose Bowl, and the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He has illustrated three children’s books and published a coffee table book about cutting horses, Pride in the Dust, which he both illustrated and photographed. To date, he has created five stamps for the United States Post Office.

Along with working in illustration and graphic design, Don Weller taught school, part-time, for three years at UCLA (where he met his wife, Cha Cha), and eleven years at the Art Center School in Pasadena. Eventually, Cha Cha and Don moved to Utah, near ParkCity, where a book project for the National Cutting Horse Association introduced him to a neighbor who trained cutting horses, and the west of Don’s childhood came flooding back to him. The cutting horse book project took him to Texas, California, Arizona, and Montana, where he was frequently in arenas and on ranches and soon began to wonder what it would be like to ride those cutting horses. It wasn’t long before he found out, and he’s been addicted ever since.

Nowadays Don and Cha Cha Weller live in rural Oakley, Utah, with Buster the border collie, and five horses who are bred to cut. This is where Don creates his cowboy and western watercolor and acrylic paintings and rides and competes on his cutting horses. In the summers their animal menagerie grows to include an occasional buffalo, and cattle for practice and for training younger horses.

Over the years, Don Weller has received numerous prestigious art awards, including most recently:
2011 Bosque Conservatory: First Place Watercolor, Patron’s Award
2011 American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum: Steel Dust Award
2011 American Plains Artists: Golden Spur Award (APA Member’s Choice),
Arrowhead Award (Director’s Choice), Second Place (Overall) Award
2011 Western Artists of America:  Artists’ Choice Award, Editor’s Choice Award, Third place watercolor
2011 Western Artists Association, National Western Art Show: Best of Show Water Media
2010 American Plains Artists: Exhibition Award
2010 Art of the Horse: Best of Show

Don’s work has of course, been featured in many of the highest caliber western arts shows around the country, including exhibitions at Cheyenne Frontier Days – Old West Museum, Cheyenne, Wyoming, the Mountain Oysters Show, Tucson, Arizona, the Pearce Museum, Corsicana, Texas, and the C.M. Russell Museum, Great Falls, Montana.

Don Weller is currently exhibiting his cowboy action watercolors featuring  working ranch and desert scenes, at Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, Arizona, where he will be a guest on the National Day of the Cowboy July 27, 2013. The Don Weller exhibit runs to October 6, 2013.

When the National Day of the Cowboy approached Don about contributing a piece of original artwork to their limited edition National Day of the Cowboy Hatch poster series project, not only was he willing to contribute the art for the 2013 commemorative poster, but he was elated to participate in the project. As a former graphics artist, he was already very familiar with Hatch’s historic letterpress work and he is also friends with Jim Sherraden, the previous owner of Hatch and co-author of the Hatch coffee table book, “Hatch Show Print – The History of a Great American Poster Shop.”

The National Day of the Cowboy organization is extremely proud to have one of America’s premier Western artists, Don Weller of Utah, join the six cowboy and cowgirl artists who have previously contributed their original art to the National Day of the Cowboy Hatch Show Print collectible poster series. Those artists include Jennifer Ward – AZ, Teal Blake – TX, Zane Mead – NM, Christina Holmes – CA, Jim Harrison – FL, and Jim Clements – KS.


May 29

2013 National Day of the Cowboy gaining solid ground


Sedona, AZ, National Day of the Cowboy.

Sedona, AZ, National Day of the Cowboy.

After more than eight years of working to secure permanent passage of a National Day for the Cowboy, six states have now passed the National Day of the Cowboy bill in perpetuity; Wyoming, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma and Oregon. We’ve also secured a 2013 proclamation or resolution from Kentucky, Indiana, Texas, Tennessee and Washington. Hey – with six states solidly on board, we’ve passed the ten per cent marker for our fifty-state goal!

Several other states are still in the process of officially recognizing the 2013 National Day of the Cowboy. Those states that we’re aware of include Kansas, Missouri, Florida, Colorado, South Dakota, Mississippi, Idaho, North   Dakota and Nevada. These are territories where we have volunteer campaign wranglers working to enlist a sponsor in their legislature or secure a proclamation from their governor. This of course also means it is not too late to see more states pass the National Day of the Cowboy in perpetuity this year.

NDOC volunteers everywhere are performing a great service in helping to make the Day of the Cowboy a permanent fixture on our educational and cultural landscape, but it’s also important to recognize that a day such as this is an economic proposition as well. Cattle ranching alone contributes over five billion dollars to America’s economy each year, and, events such as rodeos, western festivals, and cowboy gatherings, not only serve to build community and stimulate local economies, but organizers behind these events very often donate thousands of dollars from the proceeds to local and national charities.

The 9th Annual National Day of the Cowboy is Saturday, July 27, 2013. And, while it is of major historical significance that it is now a permanent day of celebration in six states, the most important thing is that we do indeed celebrate it! If you’re not sure how to get started, consider some of these creative ideas others have already implemented; host a “Read Em Cowboy” event for young people, participate in Cowboypoetry.com’s Art Spur contest (the painting or photo “spurs” the writing), host a branding demonstration, offer a store discount, host a celebration at your ranch, honor a local Cowboy or Cowgirl, honor a local rancher or local cowboy poet, hire a band for western dance, have a cowboy poetry reading or contest, hold a country western music concert, visit a ranching heritage museum, visit a western art or western photography museum or exhibit, host a horse clinic, purchase a CD of western music and encourage some friends to listen to it with you, purchase a book about cowboy culture, purchase a book about pioneer heritage, teach a pioneer or cowboy history lesson, fly your National Day of the Cowboy flag, initiate rope making activities, organize a team roping, organize or attend a ranch rodeo, teach others about cowboys’ clothes and gear, offer land stewardship workshops, teaching about brands and how to read them, host a chuck wagon or Dutch oven meal, have a saddle maker’s demonstration. Invite everyone to wear their hat and boots that day. The possibilities are endless, fun and exciting!


May 14

Oregon makes it six

On May 7, 2013, the Oregon Legislature became the sixth legislature in the nation to pass the National Day of the Cowboy in perpetuity. The Oregon resolution, House Concurrent Resolution 25, was co-sponsored by Senator Doug Whitsett and Representative Mike McLane.

“Cowboys deserve special recognition in Oregon because the beef and ranching industries are critical to the state economy,’ said Sen. Doug Whitsett.   “Being a cowboy,” Whitsett said, “is more than cowboy boots, big buckles and white hats…Cowboy is a title that is earned, through a life of dedication, hard work and sacrifice.”

Although this was Oregon’s first time to consider and pass the National Day of the Cowboy resolution, they did pass it with permanent status. Oregon joins a growing list of states, including Wyoming, California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Oklahoma in awarding permanent status to a day of celebration of cowboy culture and pioneer heritage. Although the 9th Annual National Day of the Cowboy, July 27th, 2013, is fast approaching, we anticipate more states will achieve permanent passage within the next few months.

Mar 11

New Mexico honors its cowboy heritage

New Mexico National Day of the Cowboy posse.

On Monday, March 4th, 2013, the New Mexico State Legislature passed the National Day of the Cowboy bill in honor of New Mexico’s rich and diverse cowboy and ranching heritage. The bill was passed unanimously and in perpetuity, making New Mexico the third state in history to assure the National Day of the Cowboy a permanent place in the state’s celebration of its culture.

The NDOC bill was sponsored by Representative Brian Egolf, at the request of Richard Beal, of Beal’s Cowboy Buckles, located in Lamy, New Mexico. Representative Egolf enlisted the support of rancher and NM Representative Candy Ezzell, to co-sponsor the effort. Richard Beal, Ms. Santa Fe Rodeo Princess, Abbagail, and NDOC Executive Director, Bethany Braley, were guests on the podium in the legislative session for the final vote.

The National Day of the Cowboy bill was awarded permanent status by the State of Wyoming in March, 2012, thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Susan Thomas. The bill passed, in perpetuity, in Calfiornia, in June 2012. Other states now in the process of passing the National Day of the Cowboy legislation are Arizona, Oklahoma, Kansas, Florida and Texas.

New Mexico National Day of the Cowboy posse.

Feb 06

Arizona and Oklahoma take 4th and 5th Day of the Cowboy slots

Group in Senate chamber Apr 2013On Wednesday, April 3, 2013, at 10:30AM, the Arizona Senate held its final vote on the National Day of the Cowboy bill, SB1139, unanimously awarding permanent status to the 4th Saturday in July as an official day to celebrate cowboy culture and pioneer heritage. Arizona Senator Gail Griffin, from Hereford, Arizona, was the bill’s sponsor. Arizona became the fourth state in history to approve the bill which first passed as a bill in the Wyoming Legislature in March 2012. In June 2012, California became the second state to pass the National Day of the Cowboy bill and New Mexico followed suit on March 4, 2013.

A posse of longtime backers of the National Day of the Cowboy effort, including representatives from Arizona’s prestigious Cowgirls Historical Foundation, John and Pat Manes from the Arizona Horsemen’s Association, NDOC Spokespersons; Kelsey Bradshaw and World Champion gun spinner Hotshot Johnny Tuscadero, America’s Western Sweetheart, Belinda Gail, Bob Lorbeer of the Long Beach Mounted Police, as well as the Director of the National Day of the Cowboy nonprofit organization, Bethany Braley and her mother, Nina Braley, all gathered with other NDOC supporters on the west steps of Arizona’s Capitol at 9:30 Wednesday morning to witness together the reading and passage of the bill.

On Thursday, April 4th, Oklahoma became the fifth state to pass the National Day of the Cowboy bill in perpetuity, thanks to Oklahoma volunteer, Ed Pewitt and to his NDOC bill sponsor, Senator Don Barrington. It is anticipated that Kansas will also pass the National Day of the Cowboy bill within the next three weeks, bringing the total to six states recognizing the day in perpetuity. The bill began as a resolution in 2005 and has since passed as a resolution in the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, and many state legislatures, with Arizona being the first state body to pass it as an annual resolution in 2008. The National Day of the Cowboy flag now flies in 28 states and three other countries (United   Kingdom, Lebanon, and Canada). It has flown over the barracks of the Desert Cowboys in Iraq and Afghanistan and, in 2008, a National Day of the Cowboy flag flew to the International Space Station aboard the Discovery Space Shuttle with NASA Commander, Mark Kelly.

Kansas, Texas, Washington, and Florida are all in the running to become the 6th state to pass the National Day of the Cowboy resolution in perpetuity.  Kansas has enlisted Representative Brian Weber. In Texas, the resolution is in the hands of Senator Donna Campbell and Representative Joe Pickett. NDOC Spokesperson Tom Bass feels there is very good chance that Florida will become the first state east of the Mississippi to pass the resolution, which is very fitting since Florida was our first cattle state.

In March 2012, Wyoming took the lead in becoming the first state to award permanent status to the 4th Saturday in July as the National Day of the Cowboy. Susan Thomas is the NDOC volunteer who was able to make that happen in Wyoming, along with Senator Jim Anderson and Representative Tom Lockhart. Later that year, in June, the California Legislature also bestowed permanent status to the National Day of the Cowboy. Volunteers Larry Brady, Jan Brady, Bob Fox, Brent Slutsky, Janet Slutsky, Vi Tara, Belinda Gail and Bob Lorbeer, all worked together with Senators Gaines, Fuller and LaMalfa to achieve this milestone in California. On March 4, 2013, as a result of the efforts of Richard Beal and Senator Brian Egolf, New Mexico became the 3rd state to pass the resolution in perpetuity, recognizing the 4th Saturday in July as the official day for New Mexicans to honor their rich ranching and cowboy heritage.

Jerry Betley enlisted the support of Indiana Senator John Waterman to sponsor the NDOC resolution in Indiana, but the chairman of the committee to which it had to first be referred, Senator Alting, decided to kill the bill. Wow! This is a first!.Those of you who live in Indiana might want to give Jerry a hand by contacting Senator Alting and asking why he killed the bill in committee. Maybe you could encourage him to reconsider.

Other volunteers working to secure a sponsor in their states are Slim McNaught in South Dakota, Ray Morrell in North Dakota, Debbie Koop in Colorado, Ron Wilson and Sandie Masden in Kansas, Kerri Ellis in Idaho, and Mike Burk in Missouri. Greg Martin, of Ag Radio, also now has an NDOC sponsor for the first time in the State of Washington, Senator Sharon Brown. Since this is Washington’s first passage, it will most likely be a resolution for July 27, 2013 only, but this lays the groundwork for Washington to introduce it as a bill next year and seek permanent passage at that time.AZ State Capitol

If your state is not listed in the above and you’d like to volunteer to help, please contact info@nationaldayofthecowboy.com. Enlisting a sponsor in your state legislature is not usually a difficult or complicated process and we can guide you through it each step of the way. It never involves petitions or letter campaigns. We will send you all the information you need to move the resolution forward. Our 2013 goal is to add every state to our list of those who have awarded permanent status to the National Day of the Cowboy as a day to celebrate pioneer heritage and cowboy culture. Wouldn’t you like to see YOUR state to be among at least the first ten states to formally recognize the importance of preserving this history for now and for all generations to come?

Jul 08

Gather the Herd – 2012 NDOC Hatch Poster Is Here!

2012 National Day of the Cowboy Hatch Show Print

The Official NDOC 2012 Hatch is now in stock! “Gather the Herd”  on the 8th Annual National Day of the Cowboy Hatch Show print. Artwork for the 2012 was contributed by award winning Kansas artist, Jim Clements, and features a cowboy herding cattle. As most of you know, these posters are still made from hand-carved wood blocks and hand-cranked on a press, just as Hatch has been doing since 1879. Colors for this the newest Hatch in our series are Wyoming Sky Blue and California Tangerine. Jim Clements also contributed an image of his painting, Simple Things, to the NDOC for the 2011 Cowboy Keeper Awards.

If you’d like to order your 2012 poster, they are still just $15 each, $5.50 S&H for one poster. As always, we will have a limited number (33) hand-signed by the artist. Hand-signed posters are $25 each, $5.50 S&H for one poster while supplies last.

Don’t forget we still have some of our great NDOC Hatch posters from 2006, 08, 09 and 2010 in the Shop section of our website. email orders@nationaldayofthecowboy.com

Jul 04

2012 Campaign Summary Update

As the National Day of the Cowboy quest catches on like wildfire, and the volunteers get better and better at the campaign side of our effort, I know it gets harder for everyone to keep track of where we are in terms of resolutions and proclamations, so here it is up to July 13, 2012.

The two huge milestones in 2012 have been the passage of the NDOC resolution in perpetuity (you know, permanently) by two state legislatures. The Wyoming Legislature passed it permanently on March 13, thanks to the efforts of volunteer Susan Thomas. The California Legislature passed it permanently on June 7, with a tip of the hat to volunteers Brent Slutsky, Vi Tara, Larry Brady, Bob Fox, Janet Slutsky, Belinda Gail and Bob Lorbeer. I’ve tried to list all the others below, but if I’ve missed your state, don’t be mad at me! It’s moving pretty fast. Just send me the info again if you don’t mind, and I’ll be sure and add it here and on the campaign page as well.

  • Alabama – Hub & Kat Hubbard – Senator Brewbaker – Passed June 26, 2012
  • Arizona – Bethany Braley – Sponsor Senator Steve Pierce – Passed Feb 15, 2012
  • California – Brent Slutsky, Belinda Gail, Vi Tara – Passed CA Senate March 21, 2012.
    On June 7th,
    California became the second state to proclaim the NDOC in Perpetuity.   
  • Colorado – Jim Ratthel, Debbie Koop, Patty Helberg, John Pontius – Proclamation from Governor Hickenlooper June 11, 2012.
  • Idaho – Kerri Ellis, Kraig Sundberg – Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter NDOC Proclamation April       20, 2012
  • Indiana  – Jerry Betley – Governor Mitch Daniels Resolution April 18th, 2012
  • Kansas – Ron Wilson – Governor Sam Brownback signed the NDOC Proclamation June 15.
  • Kentucky – Jim Pinson – Rep Tom McKee – NDOC Joint Resolution Ag Committee July 21.
  • Missouri – Mike Burk – Sponsor Rep Dave Schatz – Passed by the Legislature March 20.
  • Nevada – Vi Tara – Governor Sandoval proclamation July 16, 2012
  • South Dakoto – Slim McNaught – Governor Dennis Daugaard Proclamation July 13.
  • Texas – Bethany Braley – Senator Jeff Wentworth – Passed March 7, 2011 for two years.
  • Wyoming – Susan Thomas – We are proud to have Mrs. Thomas support the NDOC in Wyoming. Susan is the widow of the late WY U.S. Senator, Craig Thomas, the original      sponsor of the Cowboy Resolution. The NDOC Resolution passed in PERPETUITY March      13, 2012. Thank you Wyoming!

We’re still seeking state volunteers willing to enlist sponsors for the 2012 National Day of the Cowboy resolution in their state legislatures, or to request a proclamation from their governor. Wouldn’t it be great if this was our last year of going to state legislatures and perhaps in 2012, the U.S. Congress would make the resolution permanent at last?

If your state does not have a volunteer listed and you’d like to help, or if you’d like to help a volunteer who is already on board, please email us at info@nationaldayofthecowboy.com. It’s not a difficult or complicated process to enlist a senator or representative as a resolution sponsor in your state legislature, and it never involves petitions or letter campaigns.

Jun 11

California Makes it Happen!

IMG_6981On June 7, 2012, the California Senate voted to award permanent status to the fourth Saturday in July as the National Day of the Cowboy. The CA Senate first passed the 2012 bill March 27, but since they were asking for permanent status, the resolution had to also go to the California Assembly. As the bill was in process, some objections came in, so the CA Rules Committee had to review both the reasons for objection and the countering reasons for support. In response to the objections, many people and organizations from California and around the country, as well as from Canada, wrote letters and sent emails of support for the NDOC legislation. Also, CA Senator Gaines represented the NDOC’s point of view at the committee hearing, as did Bob Fox from the California Rodeo Association and Vi Tara of the Highway 50 Wagon Train Association.

As a result, the bill came out of the Rules Committee with only one ‘no’ vote. A few days later, it went to the Assembly floor sponsored by Representative Fiona Ma, for a vote and passed with 68 co-authors. However, since the rules committee had modfied the original bill text, the newer version had to again go back to the Senate for a final vote. It passed there late on the afternoon of Thursday, June 7.

This marks another major milestone in the effort to achieve permanent status for the National Day of the Cowboy resolution in Congress. California became only the second state in history to establish the Cowboy Day in perpetuity. Wyoming lead the way as the first state to do so on March 13, 2012. It is hoped that as more states officially establish the fourth Saturday in July as their day to celebrate cowboy culture and pioneer heritage, the United States Congress will support that by giving it pemanent status at the national level.


Feb 11

2012 Cowboy Keeper Award Recipients announced

Morning Lessons – Painting by Phil Beck

Five honorees garner prestigious 2012 Cowboy Keeper Award recognition

Each year since 2006, the National Day of the Cowboy 501(c)3 has selected individuals and organizations that have contributed significantly to the preservation of pioneer heritage and cowboy culture, to receive its Cowboy Keeper Award. The award was conceived in support of the NDOC’s mission to increase awareness for and celebration of the National Day of the Cowboy. The esteemed recipients of the 2012 Cowboy Keeper Award are; Chris LeDoux, Cowgirls Historical Foundation, J.R. Sanders, Susan Thomas, and the Will James Society.

Idolized by rodeo fans, writing timeless songs that captured the essence and spirit of rodeo and cowboys, forever immortalized in Garth Brooks’ “Much Too Young to Feel this Damn Old,” legendary on stage for a wildly soaring energy level, legendary cowboy Chris LeDoux excelled at everything he tried. He received a horse as a boy and made up his mind to be a ridin’, ropin’ cowboy. He soon began rodeoing, winning championships early on and continuing to rodeo in high school and college, achieving fame as a rodeo rider, including 1976 World Champion Bareback Rider. When his musical star began to rise, he went toNashvilleto try his luck, where he was told “his music wouldn’t sell.” With true cowboy grit, Chris started his own record label, selling his music everywhere he could. Thirty-six albums and millions of sales later he showed the world a man who stuck with his dreams. He eventually achieved success at every level of rodeo and International acclaim as a singer/songwriter, but Chris wanted to be known best for being “a good husband and family man.”

A Gold Record recipient, member of the Pro Rodeo and Rodeo Halls of Fame, Wyoming’s Chris LeDoux was the epitome of the cowboy little buckaroos want to grow up to be. He looked you in the eye with a broad warm smile and spoke to you cowboy to cowboy. Respected for his modesty, humbleness, friendliness, and kindness, he lived to exemplify what he believed a good cowboy should be. On the road with LeDoux for years, Mark Sissell of TKO Entertainment sums Chris up, “Working with Chris was like getting up every morning and going down the road with John Wayne. The only difference was, there was no on-screen/off-screen; Chris was the same extraordinary person every day, all the time. Anyone who ever associated with Chris LeDoux ended up the better for it.”

California’s Western author, JR. Sanders, is the tireless catalyst behind the groundbreaking national Read Em Cowboy project which he developed and initiated in 2011 in support of the quest for a National Day of the Cowboy. As a result of his work, there will be at least eight Read Em Cowboy events nationwide in 2012; all focused on encouraging young people to read and write western literature and cowboy poetry while learning about pioneer history. Sanders’ deep interest in old west history is reflected in his literary articles and his books, such as “The Littlest Wrangler,’ as well as in his work as a living historian in which he regularly portrays cowboys, lawmen, and Gold Rush prospectors in creative historically correct presentations to schools, colleges, and historical societies throughout Southern California. He has worked both on-camera and behind the scenes on A&E/History Channel’s documentary series Dangerous Missions. J.R. Sanders is also an active member of the Western Writers of America, the National Day of the Cowboy, and the Wild West History Association.

Arizona’s beloved ambassadors of western heritage, the Cowgirls Historical Foundation is a non-profit organization, faithfully Saddled Up for Service.” These young women work continuously to increase public awareness around the importance of the preservation of western heritage and equestrian life style. Their initiatives are met through excellent educational programs including workshops they conduct; teaching poise, horsemanship, and public speaking skills. You may find these talented young ladies performing precision equestrian drill team demonstrations or acting in their children’s play, “Keeping Our Western Past Alive,” or you may be lucky enough to attend one of their electrifying cowboy couture fashion shows featuring collectible rhinestone studded vintage western wear from Hollywood’s glitterati age. These Cowgirls also spotlight Western Heritage by riding on beautiful vintage parade saddles; paying tribute to the past while honoring the future. They have won many awards for their parade participation, including appearances in the legendary Tournament of Roses Parade. The Cowgirls participate faithfully in numerous local, state, and national events and they lend a gracious volunteer hand at as many charity fundraising events as time and funds allow, cheerfully doing whatever needs to be done, performing hundreds of hours of community service annually.

Nevada’s Will James Society nonprofit organization promotes the legacy, literature, and art of the great cowboy and author of the American West, Will James, through the giving of full sets of his inspiring and captivating western books to public and school libraries, as well as to hospitals and members of the military, throughout the world. Will James Society members are dedicated to preserving the works and memory of James, a renowned western author and artist who won the Newbury Prize for Literature in 1927 for his most famous book, Smoky the Cowhorse. For twenty years they have faithfully hosted the annual “Will James Gather,” educating, entertaining, honouring, and fundraising through the sharing of music, western literature, cowboy poetry and story telling. They steadfastly recreate a campfire atmosphere and invite the best of story tellers and cowboy singers and writers to participate in the Gather.

The Will James Gifting Program is the Society’s way of bringing stories, written and illustrated by Will James, to communities everywhere, so young and old alike, can read about and enjoy Will’s cowboy experiences. James wrote about horses, rodeos, ranching and the cowboy way of life, as only a true cowboy can. The Will James Society has given away over 1,700 Will James books in the past five years.

Raised on a ranch inWyoming, Susan Thomas inspires and encourages young people to strive to be all that they can be through her own life work as an educator. As a cowgirl of unlimited compassion she has spent nearly four decades advocating for the rights of children with special needs. She has served and continues to serve on the Boards of numerous community organizations, including the Board of Reach for a Star Riding Academy, the Natrona County Fair Board, the Raising Readers Board and the Advisory Council, Grand Teton National Park Foundation.

Riding beside her husband, Craig, in the Cheyenne Frontier Days parade, carrying the National Day of the Cowboy flag, Susan Thomas exemplified the extraordinary cowgirl that she is. Her dedicated work as an NDOC volunteer inWyomingresulted in passage of the National Day of the Cowboy resolution intoWyominglaw onMarch 13, 2012, makingWyomingthe first state to pass the resolution in perpetuity. With this action, she graciously brought the work of her late husband, U.S. Senator Thomas, full-circle as the original sponsor of the Day of the Cowboy in 2005. As the resolution was signed by Governor Matt Mead, Susan spoke these words, “I want to thank the Legislature for their votes, their belief in the Great West and most importantly, their belief in the National Day of the Cowboy, as sponsored by Craig, and subsequently passed under his leadership in the U. S. Senate in 2005 and 2006. Your action ensures that Craig Thomas’s cowboy legacy will live on forever.” Susan Thomas has honoredWyoming, Craig’s memory, and her country through her 36 years of excellence in teaching and through her persistent efforts on behalf of establishing the National Day of the Cowboy for her fellow citizens.

The artist image selected for use in the 2012 Cowboy Keeper Award is the heartwarming painting, “Morning Lessons,” the work of Phil Beck, a renowned and gifted western artist from Arizona. Chris LeDoux, the Cowgirls Historical Foundation, J.R. Sanders, Susan Thomas, and the Will James Society, the five outstanding recipients of the 2012 Cowboy Keeper Award, have all demonstrated a powerful commitment to the preservation of pioneer heritage and cowboy culture. The National Day of the Cowboy lifts its hat high to each of these tremendously deserving honorees.

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