Mar 08

National Day of the Cowboy Flag Video

The National Day of the Cowboy organization has been collecting pictures of the NDOC flag since 2005, when it was first created. The very first photo was taken at Cheyenne Frontier Days, when Senator Thomas and his wife, Susan, presented one to the Cheyenne Frontier Days Board of Directors and to the CFD Volunteer Organization, in 2005. Each time we sold a flag after that, we asked the buyer to send us a photo of it flying. We had hoped to someday create a video of some of those inspiring pictures. The year of the pandemic, 2020, presented us with some down time which we took advantage of to finally create that film.

Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

New Hampshire SASS

After reviewing hundreds of our flag photos, we settled on 65 or so, to include in the video, so we could keep it under 5 minutes. Then we hired a professional producer, Jason Cupp at WorldCupp Productions in Saint Louis, MO, to sequence it, and add titles and music, as well as a voice-over reading the text of the National Day of the Cowboy bill. Many of you will recognize the harmonica music as that of Frank Bard. When our website had a “Home” page and music played, it was Frank’s composition, “Muddy Waters,”you heard.

We think the video is inspiring and certainly historical. The photos, as you will see, have come from all over the world. We know our flag flies in at least 36 states and has also flown in six countries or more. We’d love to hear your comments about the video or to have you add them on the video page. If you are planning to purchase a National Day of the Cowboy flag, we would appreciate you sending us a photo of it flying, so we can continue the tradition.

Cheyenne Frontier Days 2005

Jul 25

16th Annual National Day of the Cowboy

Yes. July 25th, 2020, is indeed the 16th Annual National Day of the Cowboy!
We started off our cowboy year last August, with the amazing support of the Pro Bull Riders organization, which not only hosted a fundraising sweepstakes for us, but also facilitated generous donations from some of their sponsors, such as Ariat, the MGM Grand Hotel, and Pendleton Whisky. Thank you! The PBR also made it possible for us to hold a face-to-face working board meeting in Virginia, the first time our current board had been able to meet each other in person.
During our board meeting we discussed our shared desire to grow our Read em Cowboy initiative in 2020, as well as our hope to create an inspiring flag video from the many photos you have sent us over the years of your National Day of the Cowboy flag flying. We were gratified to have Sean Gleason, CEO of the PBR, stop in during the afternoon and talk with us about his personal vision for helping us ensure that we get the remaining 35 states on board with the NDOC bill.
We did end July, 2019, with fifteen states having passed our bill into law. Those states, in order of passage, are WY, CA, NM, AZ, OK, OR, MS, KS, VA, TX, ID, IN, AR, ND, and MT. Sad to say that the current pandemic hit before we could enlist any new states this year. We had high hopes for Missouri when Representative Warren Love introduced our bill very early in the Missouri legislative session, but it did not move forward in the senate. Hoping things will improve in 2021, I will be working on Missouri again and we now have volunteers Easton Colvin and Kraig Sundberg, already working on Nevada, as well as volunteer Francine Ganguzza, working in New Jersey. If your state is not on the list of passage, and you’d like to help get it passed, please let me know. I will send you the draft text for the bill and information about how best to approach it and make it happen.
We did complete our beautiful flag video just yesterday. It was produced for us by Jason Cupp (aka Worldcupp Productions). I’m so glad we were able to upload it to YouTube in time for Saturday, because I know so many of you will not be able to participate in any kind of gathering. We hope you’ll enjoy watching it as a reflection of the many people and organizations who have supported and celebrated this effort since we began in 2005. Please give it a thumbs up if you like it and also consider sharing it far and wide.
Although Jim Harrison created a fabulous piece of art for our 2020 NDOC Hatch Show Print, Hatch has remained closed since early March so there will not be a 2020 commemorative poster at this time.
We also elected to forego our annual Cowboy Keeper Awards due to the many logistics in the awards process. If you want to send a nomination for a 2021 Cowboy Keeper, please remember to do that next spring.
Many annual NDOC events have had to be cancelled, but there are still a few taking place, especially in places where the outdoors can be part of the gathering. Volunteer Erika Royal has been working to keep our events calendar as up to date as possible, but she does recommend you check with any listed event you might want to attend before going. Keep in mind, no celebration is too small, and, if you’re flying your National Day of the Cowboy flag, we’d still like to have a photo of it and your comments about how you recognize the Cowboy Day.
We have not encouraged any Read em Cowboy Circles this year since the pandemic struck, but we know what a great project it is and we intend to keep working on growing it next year. By that time, we’ll have a newly designed author’s bandana to give to all the young people who participate. A few days ago, we received our first permission from an author, H. Alan Day, to include his name on it. We’ll be contacting many other authors and poets soon, with the same request.
We want to acknowledge the sad truth that there are many, many, empty saddles this year. We know too that some people are struggling emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually. Our hope is 2021 will bring some normalcy and peace back to our lives, so we’re focused on the possibilities we’d like to see come about.
We still need your support to keep this effort moving forward. Consider making a donation if you feel able or becoming a supporting member, or purchasing one of our promotional products, including the NDOC flag.
Under these circumstances, it doesn’t seem right to use the word, ‘celebrate,’ as I’ve always done, so I’ll simply encourage you to honor the cowboys and cowgirls of the past and the present, in a way that works best for you. Thank you all for your continued support and encouragement over these many years.
Please stay safe. See you all down the trail.

Aug 21

Six Incomparable Cowboy Keeper Award Recipients

Without question, the receiving and reading of nominations for its annual Cowboy Keeper Award is a highlight of every National Day of the Cowboy year. The nominations are always educational and truly awe inspiring. Here are the six incomparable recipients selected by the National Day of the Cowboy’s Board of Directors for its 2019 Cowboy Keeper Awards; Pat and Denny Willis – Arbuckles’ Coffee, Jackson Sundown, Vladimir “Lucky” Lukianenko, Marshall Mitchell, Steve and Marci Shaw – Great American Adventures, and The Stark Museum of Art.

Pat & Denny Willis – Arbuckles’ Coffee
Known to many as “The coffee that won the West,” Arbuckles’ Coffee is a true cowboy tradition kept alive and flourishing by Denny and Pat Willis. Headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, since 1979, Arbuckles’ Coffee began in the post Civil War Era of the 19th Century in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Up until the close of that war, coffee beans were sold green and had to be home roasted in an iron skillet over a fire or in a wood stove, making it difficult to achieve consistent results. In 1864, John Arbuckle and his brother Charles, partners in a grocery business, changed all that by patenting a process for roasting and coating coffee beans with an egg and sugar glaze to seal in the flavor and aroma. Their process enabled them to roast a coffee that was of consistently fine quality. They also invented the concept of selling their pre-roasted coffee in patented airtight one pound packages. Their original packaging bore a trademark yellow label with the name, “Arbuckles’” in large red letters across the front, while a flying angel hovered over the words “Ariosa Coffee” stamped in black letters. It was shipped all over the country in wooden crates, one hundred packages to a crate.

The new packaged roasted coffee was an instant success, especially with chuck wagon cooks in the west, who were faced with the task of keeping cowboys supplied with fresh hot coffee out on the range. With the inclusion of John Arbuckle’s original premium item, the peppermint stick, it quickly became the dominant coffee in the west. It was the reward of that peppermint stick that enticed the cowboys to grind the beans for the cook.

Pat and Denny Willis continue to carry on the Arbuckle brothers’ tradition of roasting and distributing world-class coffees, complete with the Flying Angel trademark and a peppermint stick inside each bag. For many of today’s cowboys and chuck wagon cookies, Arbuckles’ remains “the original cowboy coffee.”

Steve and Marcie Shaw – Great American Adventures
Steve and Marcie Shaw grew up on opposite coasts of America, each with a love for the Wild West. Steve relished reruns of 1940’s cowboy flicks and produced his first cowboy film in California, on his dad’s 8mm camera, while Marcie spent her Pennsylvania childhood role playing her favorite cowgirl heroines, such as sharpshooter, Annie Oakley. Twenty years later, they met and married.

Since then, the Shaws have worked to preserve the heritage of the west and share their love of all things western with others. Through their Great American Adventures, they offer historical re-enactment travel, which started with their first ride in 2004, “Custer’s Ride to Glory,” a ride that included Calvary training and staying at the barracks where Custer and his 7th Calvary stayed. That first immersive experience became a hallmark of the rides Steve and Marci offer. Today those rides include Wyatt Earp’s Vendetta Ride, Billy the Kid’s Regulator Ride, Jesse James’ Great Train Robbery, and Wild Bill Hickok’s Last Ride in Deadwood.

On all of these adventures, participants ride on horseback on the original trails through the same territory in which the events took place. Historians along on the ride, offer in-depth details to enrich the learning experience. Period western attire is encouraged, but not required. The Shaw’s hope is that each rider will gain a unique appreciation for the ride and its place in history. The Shaws and their Great American Adventures have earned substantial recognition and numerous awards. In 2012, the State of Arizona, endorsed their “Vendetta Ride” as an Official Arizona Centennial Event. In 2018, Tombstone’s City Historian presented them with the key to the city. Over twenty magazines have written about the significance of their rides, including Cowboy and Indians and Horse and Rider.

“As one who has been on their Vendetta Ride twice, I can assure you, Steve and Marcie Shaw go to great lengths to provide as authentic an old west experience as possible. Through their re-enactment rides, they share their passion for western history and cowboy culture in a way that also works to preserve this heritage.” Brent Slutsky.

Vladimir “Lucky” Lukianenko
The National Day of the Cowboy has had its challenges over the years, including tough times in the summer of 2008, when gas went to $4 a gallon and no one drove to town for weeks, which meant no one dropped in at the National Day of the Cowboy store either. With bills, rent and utilities due, the financial situation grew untenable and the day came when the organization planned to close its store and office and perhaps be forced to abandon the National Day of the Cowboy effort altogether.

That morning, two customers knocked on the door and asked to be let in. Both were wearing cowboy boots, but only one had on a cowboy hat, while the other sported a classy Italian Fedora. The “Fedora” immediately started scoping out everything in the store; the Hatch posters, the photographs, the flags, the caps, the membership display, brochures, and the NDOC buckles. Soon the questions started. “So tell me, what is this National Day of the Cowboy all about? What’s the story on these posters? Why is this cowboy flag hanging here? Who makes these buckles?”

Two hours later, with those many questions satisfied, the key question came, “So how do you pay for all this?” The answer was it was all about end due to a lack of funds. His casual response to that revelation was a simple, “How much do you need to keep it going?” Then, without hesitation, he said, “I will personally see to it that this organization has the money it needs to stay in operation. Don’t give up. This work is important.” He proceeded to stack hats, posters, buckles, pins and flags in a pile on the counter, all of which he purchased on the spot. Next he asked for an address where he could send a donation check. Somewhat in a state of shock, the NDOC thought to ask his name before he went out the door. “My name,” he said so politely, is Vladimir Lukianenko, but YOU may call me Lucky.”

Lucky sent those donations (and more) as promised, and from that day forward, took on the role of Goodwill Ambassador for the National Day of the Cowboy; wrangling donations from friends and folks he met along the trail, urging people to become supporting members, handing out brochures everywhere he traveled, buying NDOC posters and buckles to gift to friends, all the while providing encouragement and sharing his business expertise with the NDOC. Lucky, who is a lifetime buyer and seller of cowboy antiques and collectibles, admitted he’d wanted to be a cowboy all his life, but significant hurdles had stood in his way and now, at last, he was going to be that cowboy, “through the National Day of the Cowboy organization.” Twelve years later, thanks to Lucky’s persistence in knocking on the door, and his pivotal moment of faith in the organization, the National Day of the Cowboy has been able to stay afloat, and to move steadily forward toward establishing a National Day of the Cowboy for all.

Jackson Sundown – Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn
Legendary Nez Perce warrior and rodeo athlete, Jackson Sundown, has been inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame, the National Cowboys of Color Hall of Fame, and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Hall of Fame. He was the first Native American to win the World Champion Saddle Bronc title at Pendleton, Oregon, yet many have never heard of this impressive cowboy who lived during the time of Chiefs Joseph and Sitting Bull. Jackson Sundown was the name he chose for himself, but his given name was Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn (Earth Left by the Setting Sun or Blanket of the Sun). Born in Montana in 1863, he was a nephew of the great Chief Joseph. Historical accounts of his life report that he displayed traits of a superior athlete at a young age, including riding his pony from the time he could walk. At age 14, his horse handling skills earned him the privilege of caring for his tribe’s horses and herding them when they moved camp.

On Aug. 9, 1877, Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn displayed great cunning when his people were ambushed by the U.S. cavalry at Big Hole in Montana territory. Although badly burned, he survived the attack by hiding under a buffalo robe after the cavalry torched his mother’s teepee. Another display of his bravery occurred when the Nez Perce, en route to Sitting Bull’s camp in Canada, stopped to rest near Snake Creek in the Bear Paw Mountains. Unbeknownst to the Nez Perce, Brigadier General Nelson Miles had been ordered to find and intercept them. They made a surprise attack on the Nez Perce and, after a three-day stand-off, war weary Chief Joseph surrendered, declaring he would, “fight no more forever.” Yet again showing his prowess as a warrior, a wounded Sundown escaped. Despite having no blankets or food, he and a small band of survivors made their way to Sitting Bull’s camp in Canada, to live in hiding. Two years later, he secretly rode to Washington, where Joseph and his followers were confined to a small reservation. Joseph warned him not to come to that reservation, so Sundown traveled instead to the Flathead Reservation, where he lived for years, marrying and raising two daughters. In 1910, Sundown rejoined his tribe on the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho, where he accepted an allotment of land and built a cabin. He remarried and built a home at Jacques Spur, making a living breeding, raising, breaking and selling horses.

At age 49, Sundown began entering rodeo events in Canada and Idaho to earn extra money. He cut a striking figure in a big panama hat, with his long braids tied under his chin by a handkerchief, wearing brightly colored shirts and large wooly angora chaps. His flamboyant look and style made him a crowd favorite. Although twice the age of his competitors, the six-foot tall Indian not only won the bucking championship, but would win cash all-around titles as well. He so dominated the sport that many opponents withdrew upon learning he would be competing.

In 1911, Sundown made the Saddle Bronc finals for the World Championship at the Pendleton Round-Up, an event that ended in controversy and protest. Reports were that Sundown took third after falling from his horse which had run into one of the judges’ horses, but he was not given a re-ride. Western novelist, Rick Steber, chronicled the event in his book, Red White Black, as one that, “forever changed the sport of rodeo and the way the emerging West was to look at itself,” because that championship decision came down to a Native American, an African American, and a white American. In 1915, Sundown again made the Saddle Bronc Finals for the World Championship at Pendleton and when he again placed third, he decided to retire. However, artist Alexander Proctor, who was sculpting Sundown at the time, persuaded the 53-year-old to enter the 1916 Pendleton Round-up and even paid his entrance fee. Sundown’s skill as a horseman and his exceptional rodeo prowess were undeniable the day of the competition. In the final ride Sundown drew an outlaw bronc named Angel. It is said Sundown became one with the horse. As Angel tried one last attempt at throwing him off, Sundown fanned his big hat at the horse. That ride made him a permanent legend in Native American history and Pendleton history. Pitted against him were two great bronc riders half his age, both of whom made epic rides, but Sundown’s ride so far surpassed theirs, he could not be denied. He rode gloriously into the championship amid an ovation never before witnessed, when ten thousand fans cheered themselves hoarse.

Jackson Sundown’s last public appearance was in 1917 with Idaho Governor Moses Alexander. In 1923, Sundown died of pneumonia. He was buried near Jacques Spur, Idaho, not even acknowledged as an American citizen when he died, as Congress did not vote until 1924 to recognize Native Americans as United States citizens. Native American Cowboy Jackson Sundown’s life story is epic. His striking image is recorded for history in photographs and in sculptures of bronze and stone, while his grand adventures are chronicled in museums, documentaries and books.

Stark Museum of Art – Orange, Texas
The Stark Museum of Art opened in November 1978, exhibiting the extraordinary Western American art collection assembled by H.J. Lutcher Stark and his wife Nelda Childers Stark, which encompassed art from John J. Audubon to twentieth century artists of New Mexico. The Museum is committed to preserving, researching, exhibiting, and expanding its collections. The breadth  of its cowboy holdings include bronzes by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, illustrations by N.C. Wyeth and Frank Tenney Johnson, carved caricatures by Andy Anderson, and illustrations and stylized figures of pioneers, hunters, and wranglers by William Herbert Dunton. The Museum continues to make acquisitions, including contemporary works by Robert Lougheed, Don Russell, and Thomas Blackshear. It has published research, such as its catalogue The Western Collection 1978, and an in-depth study on The Art and Life of W. Herbert Dunton. The Stark supported the publication by the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Frederic Remington: A Catalogue Raisonné II, and its online catalogue. The Museum, which has four permanent galleries that feature Western themes and collections, also makes its collections available digitally through its website and with loans to educational exhibitions at other museums. The museum curator, Sarah E. Boehme, has a long history of working to preserve western and cowboy lifestyle.

The programming and culture of the Stark exemplifies the spirit of the cowboy through exhibitions that feature and celebrate the history and mythology of the cowboy. In 2017, the Museum’s major exhibition Branding the American West: Paintings and Films, 1900-1950 detailed the rise of cowboy popularity through film, an important influence in how cowboys have been perceived over the past 100 years. The exhibition and accompanying catalog helped develop new scholarship related to cowboy culture and history. The Stark also mounted an incredible show of the work of photographer Edward S. Curtis in 2018.

In 2018, the Museum focused on two major exhibitions related to the cowboy. The first, Portraits from Cowboys of Color: Photographs by Don Russell centered on black rodeo cowboys. This exhibition highlighted the modern role of black Americans in the rodeo tradition, thus helping expand our vision of the American Cowboy. It featured portraits of contemporary cowboys and cowgirls who ride and rope in Cowboys of Color rodeos. The works reveal a tradition of black cowboy culture often overlooked in history and art. The second exhibition, Cowboy Legends and Life, explored the imagery of the cowboy and cowgirl as icons in American Western art. It presented both the idealization and the working life of men and women of the West, as seen through the Museum’s permanent collections. Both exhibits were enhanced by educational and community based programs.

The Museum has celebrated the National Day of the Cowboy for several years, and as part of its 2018 celebration, hosted a panel discussion Stories from Cowboys of Color: An Afternoon with Don Russell, Cleo Hearn, Bailey’s Prairie Kid, Myrtis Dightman, and Jason Griffin, These important African American Cowboys shared stores of their lives on the rodeo circuit and as working cowboys. This helped underscore the role of Black Americans in cowboy culture and modern practice. The Mayor attended and read the Orange, Texas, National Day of the Cowboy proclamation. Cleo Hearn, founder of the Cowboys of Color Rodeo is himself a 2011 Cowboy Keeper Award recipient.

The Stark Museum continues to strengthen its educational outreach and its commitment to diversity in interpreting the West. Its traveling exhibition Branding the American West: Paintings and Films, 1900-1950 broke new ground. Brigham Young University Museum of Art and the Stark collaborated to exhibit images of the American West as seen through the eyes of the members of the Taos Society of Artists, the artist Maynard Dixon, and films of the era. The accompanying publication served as a catalogue with essays from interdisciplinary perspectives. It received three major awards: the Mountain Plains Museum Association Publication Award for Design in books; an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History; and the 2017 Joan Paterson Kerr Book Award for the best-illustrated book on the history of the American West from the Western History Association.

A recent school outreach mural program focused on United States geography, a history of westward expansion, and an orientation to the exhibition. The Museum also holds an annual juried student art exhibition.

“I have been associated with the history and culture of the American West over the past 43 years, most recently as Executive Director and CEO of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. I believe the Stark Museum of Art is worthy of receiving the Cowboy Keeper Award and urge the National Day of the Cowboy Organization to bestow their award on the Museum.” Bruce B. Eldredge.

Marshall MitchellArkansas
Singer songwriter, Marshall Mitchell, has performed his “Cowboys for Kids” program for over 60,000 children over the course of his career. His goal as an entertainer is to teach cowboy values such as honesty, integrity and courage, using songs he has written. 2019 saw his 25th year of performing his cowboy program at the annual Stick Horse Rodeo of the Springdale School District in Arkansas. Every first grader in the eighteen elementary schools in the Springdale District has heard his message each year since he began, and there are now parents who reminisce about hearing it when they were first graders themselves. His fans believe that children who have been taught through the joy of Marshall Mitchell’s program will hang onto the lessons they learn for their entire life. Children have so much fun singing and dancing along with him, that they don’t realize they’re being taught important values at the same time. He has performed regionally in seven states, at schools, libraries and special events, in rural and urban settings. In 2010 Mitchell collaborated with Arkansas’ Jennifer Michaels, for her non-profit program, “Clean Water Rangers.” He performed a Clean Water Rangers show for over eight years, which focused on teaching young people to care for the land and water.

Other important aspects of his entertaining include performing classic cowboy songs for adults and seniors at house concerts. Many seniors who are suffering from dementia can be seen responding to his music. Marshall Mitchell and Jennifer Michaels also worked together to secure passage of the National Day of the Cowboy bill in Arkansas, which in 2019 became the 13th state to recognize the 4th Saturday in July as a day to celebrate cowboy culture and pioneer heritage.

The preservation of a heritage depends on those with a willingness to share its history and its culture. In this way, these esteemed recipients have demonstrated a commitment to the protection of this precious heritage. We are grateful for the privilege of recognizing each one with a 2019 Cowboy Keeper Award.. Montana artist, David Graham, a painter of authentic cowboy work and life, donated the image of his working cowgirl painting, “The Fencing Crew,” to be used in this year’s award. The National Day of the Cowboy takes its hat off to these remarkable Cowboy Keeper Award recipients.

Bethany Braley
Executive Director & Publisher
National Day of the Cowboy


Jun 26

The Fencing Crew

The National Day of the Cowboy is proud to announce the artwork of Montana artist, David Graham, “The Fencing Crew,” which he created in 2010, will be the image for our 2019 Cowboy Keeper Awards.

The Fencing Crew

David is a Western and Wildlife artist whose depictions of the West spring to life through his canvas. He was born in Miles City, MT, during the time his family was operating a ranch in the Powder River area east of Miles City. His family’s roots in the western way of life greatly influenced David’s art and nurtured his interest in the land beginning in his early years. David’s passion for painting the people, wildlife, and scenery of the West comes not only from the aesthetic beauty that captivates him, but also from his love and interest for the land’s history and culture..
We’re especially happy to have this iconic contribution from a Montana artist, since Montana recently became the 15th state to pass the National Day of the Cowboy bill.
Hats off to the cowboy!

Apr 12

Breaking through

The National Day of the Cowboy has broken out of the gate in a big way to kick off 2019. At 9:27 AM on March 28, 2019, the Arkansas House of Representatives voted to pass the National Day of the Cowboy bill, which had already been passed by the AR senate. Volunteers Jennifer Michaels and Marshall Mitchell traveled to Little Rock twice, to speak in support of the bill. It now moves on to the Arkansas governor for signing.

Just a few days later, we received word from volunteer, Rick Thompson at the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, that on the afternoon of April 1, 2019, the North Dakota legislature also passed the National Day of the Cowboy bill. This means we are now up to fourteen states that have passed the National Day of the Cowboy bill permanently into law. Those states are; Wyoming (#1), California (#2), New Mexico (#3), Arizona (#4), Oklahoma (#5), Oregon (#6), Mississippi (#7), Kansas(#8), Virginia (#9), Texas (#10), Idaho (#11), Indiana (#12), Arkansas (#13) and North Dakota (#14).

Our bill was also heard and voted on in the Montana legislature. The bill, SJR0010, as sponsored by Senator Kenneth Bogner, passed in their senate in March. I was later able to travel to Helena, as was Whitefish, Montana resident, Ted Valentiner, to testify in front of the House committee then considering it. A few weeks after that hearing, on April 4th, the House delivered quite a surprise to the cowboy and ranching communities of Montana (and cowboys the world over) when it voted against recognizing the Day of the Cowboy. The vote was 44 in favor, 56 opposed. This was the first time a floor vote had ended in defeat of the bill.

As luck would have it, Montana’s House vote came to the attention of Sean Gleason, the CEO of PBR. Sean was shocked that Montana, a state in which he holds a multi million dollar PBR event that has gone on for 24 years, would vote against a day to honor cowboys. He immediately wrote a post on FB in which he proposed cancelling that event in Billings in 2020. At the end of his post, he confessed he would never do that to the cowboys and cowgirls who participate in the event, nor to the loyal fans who have supported it all those years.

But the House legislators heard him loud and clear nevertheless, and soon voted on a ‘blast’ motion to reintroduce the bill and allow it to be reconsidered. The blast vote and the readings passed the second time around. The senate then had to reintroduce it and vote again as well. Finally, on the morning of April 24th, the final vote was taken and SJR0010 was passed in perpetuity, giving Montana 15th place on our list of states recognizing the National Day of the Cowboy.

At this time, our bill is also still alive in the legislatures of Missouri and Tennessee, so we’re hoping they will both pass the bill before their respective legislative sessions end. We’ve all been holding our breath hoping to have at least fifteen states to mark our fifteenth anniversary, but we of course wouldn’t be opposed to having seventeen states before July 27th. . Our bill sponsor in Tennessee is Representative Sam Whitson. The sponsor in Missouri is Representative Warren Love.

I cannot stress enough how important it is for citizens to call their legislators when they want to see a measure passed. Simply call them up, give your name, name the bill you support (including the number if you have it), and politely express at least one reason why you are in favor of the bill. Call as many legislators as you are able. Don’t limit yourself to just your own representatives.

Jul 27

True Cowboy Keepers One and All

Telling of Legends by Burl Washington


The four individuals selected to receive the 2018 Cowboy Keeper Award© bestowed by the National Day of the Cowboy 501c3 and its Board, are; John Ware (Canada), Cindy Walker (Texas), John L. Sullivan (Arizona and Washington), and Bobby Kerr (Texas). These individuals respresent a broad diversity of achievements, skills, backgrounds, talents, goals, dreams, and impacts. Yet, all of their diversity comes together in the love of cowboy and cowgirl culture, and in their avid devotion to the preservation of a heritage.

John Ware (c. 1845-1905)
John Ware was a remarkable figure in history who helped lay the foundation of the ranching industry in western Canada. Born into slavery (c 1845) near Georgetown, South Carolina, Ware worked his way up to being one of the most well-respected figures in frontier Alberta, thanks to his courage, good nature, physical strength and a penchant for hard work. Ware was an African-American cowboy, renowned for his ability to ride and train horses, and for his role in bringing the first cattle to Southern Alberta Canada, in 1882. His efforts helped create Alberta’s ranching industry, which thrives to this day.

After the Civil War, John left the Carolinas for Texas, where he quickly learned the skills of a rancher and a cowboy. His great stature and dedication to hard work made him a natural and enabled him to get work driving cattle from Texas to Montana and on into the great plains that eventually became Alberta. Upon arriving in Calgary, he found work at the Bar U and Quorn Ranches,  before starting his own ranch near the Red Deer River. By 1900, he and his wife, Mildred Lewis, had five children. They moved from the Calgary area to a place northeast of Duchess, Alberta. In 1902 their home was destroyed by a spring flood. He rebuilt on higher ground overlooking the stream now called Ware Creek. As with most folk heroes, there are varied tales about Ware. These are typically about his ability to eat, ride, shoot, and contribute to western culture. It is said that he was never tossed from a wild horse and that it was he who popularized steer wrestling, which went on to become a highlight of the Calgary Stampede. He also pioneered new agricultural techniques and was one of the first ranchers in the area to develop irrigation systems and was an early adopter of dipping cattle in a parasiticide to prevent mange.

Ware is the subject of a biography, John Ware’s Cow Country by J. W. Grant MacEwan, as well as the subject of a fictionalized account of his exploits in “High Rider,” penned by Bill Gallaher. Several geographical features near the Wares’ ranch are named in their honor, including “John Ware Ridge, Mount Ware, and Ware Creek.” Other namesakes include John Ware Junior High School in Calgary, the John Ware Building at Calgary’s SAIT Polytechnic, and the John Ware 4-H Beef Club in Duchess, Alberta. In 1958 the modest log cabin that was the Ware home from 1900 to 1905, was relocated from its prairie setting to the Red Deer River Valley, in Dinosaur Provincial Park.The Ware cabin was restored and re-dedicated in 2002. Alberta musician , Diamond Joe White, released a song entitled “High Rider: The John Ware Story.” In 2006, a fragment of wood from the Ware cabin was contributed to Jowi Taylor’s Six String Nation project. The fragment serves as the top-most element on the pick-guard of the guitar at the heart of the project.

Canada Post issued a commemorative stamp featuring John Ware, to celebrate Black History Month 2012. Ware and his remarkable achievements are also the subject of an upcoming National Film Board of Canada documentary by historian, Cheryl Foggo, John Ware: Reclaimed. Dramatic recreations are being shot on Ware’s former ranch in southern Alberta, with  African American rodeo champion, Fred Whitfield, in the title role. Singer-songwriter Corb Lund, along with others, will narrate about Ware’s life. None of John and Mildred’s five children who lived to adulthood had descendants. However, relatives of Mildred Ware still reside in New Jersey and British Columbia. Despite being a master horseman, John Ware was killed in a fall when his horse tripped in a badger hole crushing its rider. His funeral was reported to be one of the largest held in those early days of Calgary. He is buried in Union Cemetery, overlooking the Calgary Stampede Rodeo Grounds.

Ms. Cindy Walker (1918 – 2006)
If you’re familiar with classic songs like, “Dusty Skies, Bubbles in My Beer, Hubbin’ It, When my Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again, Blue Canadian Rockies, Miss Molly, Sugar Moon, You Don’t Know Me, Dream Baby, In the Misty Moonlight, I Don’t Care, Distant Drums, or Cherokee Maiden,” then you know something of the incredible song catalog of the late and legendary Ms. Cindy Walker.

Ms. Walker is an esteemed member of the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (first woman inducted) and the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame. Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys are known to have recorded 50 or more of Cindy’s songs. She had Top Ten hits spread over five decades. One wonders how many western movies were enriched with Ms. Walker’s music, since her compositions were also cut by Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, Roy Rogers, Al Dexter, Slim Whitman, Eddy Arnold, and Asleep at the Wheel, just to name a few in the cowboy western genre. Other legendary artists such as Ray Charles, George Jones, Webb Pierce, Jim Reeves, Ricky Skaggs, Elvis, Dean Martin, and Roy Orbison, recorded at least one Cindy Walker song. In 2006, American music icon Willie Nelson released an entire album of her songs only.

Ms Walker, born in born Mart, Texas, in 1918, had music in her genes, as her grandfather composed hymns, and her mother, Oree, was an accomplished pianist. Cindy displayed early signs of cowgirl grit, when at 22; she walked into the Crosby building in L.A. to pitch her songs to superstar of the day, Bing Crosby. She talked her way past the receptionist and convinced Larry Crosby to give a listen to her song, “Lone Star Trail.”  He invited her to sing it for Bing the next day. Not only did Bing record it, it became a top ten hit for him and secured Cindy her own recording contract with Decca.  A strikingly beautiful woman, she also landed a movie deal of her own. Eventually she asked to be released from both contracts, insisting all she wanted was to be a songwriter. You can see her as a singing actress in a video of “Ride Tenderfoot Ride,” performing, “Oh! Oh! Oh!”

Cindy started her songwriting day every day at 5:30 and wrote every day of her life. When she knew she had the lyrics, she would sing them to her momma and momma would play the melody on piano. Once they were finished, they would record the songs on a small reel-to-reel recorder and put them in a bag for Dickie Flatt, the local printer to pick up for the music transcriber, who created the sheet music, which would then be given back to Cindy. Her songs were often characterized as unpretentious, just as she was. “You Don’t Know Me” was such a tender song that even many years later, she cried trying to tell the story of how she came to write it. Once, when asked if it was harder being a female songwriter, she responded, “No, because the artists just wanted a good song. It didn’t matter if a woman wrote it.”

Upon her induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, renowned Hall of Fame songwriter, Harlan Howard, described Walker as “the greatest living songwriter of country music.” During the ceremony, she read a poem for her late mother, which was acknowledged with a standing ovation. She left the stage in tears after softly blowing a kiss to the guests.

An entire concert was once dedicated to Cindy’s songs at the Monterey Cowboy Gathering. Each year, Mexia, Texas, celebrates “Cindy Walker Days.” Two plays; “You Don’t Know Me, the Cindy Walker Songbook” and “Paper Babies,” have been written in tribute to her life and work. It has been estimated that more than 500 of Walker’s songs have been recorded and that her songs made the top-forty charts (country or pop) more than 400 times. In 2006, she was persuaded to record a CD of her own songs. Ms. Cindy Walker was a beloved and deeply respected legend in her own lifetime.

John Lian Sullivan (1945-2018)
Not many commercial airline pilots go on to become expert wheelwrights and devoted chuck wagon competitors, but John L. Sullivan did. When physical challenges prevented him from flying anymore, he decided it was a good time to learn to farm organic apples. After a suitable amount of research, he launched his orchards in Washington, but soon discovered apples did not afford him the kind of lifestyle he wanted for himself and his family. Coincidentally, once retired, he had also purchased some horses for use in hunting, even though he hadn’t ridden horses much. And, around that same time, he happened to see an ad for a broken down farm wagon, which he decided to buy and renovate with the tools he had just used to build his first log house. You begin to see John Sullivan was the kind of person really drawn to the challenges of learning new things.

John soon crossed paths with Doug Thaemert (former blacksmith at the Museum of the Horse in Patagonia, AZ), an expert on historic wagon restoration, who told him if he was going to fix a wagon or buggy or coach, it was imperative to do it authentically, otherwise it was just a fixed up piece of transportation. So, John bought manuals and he apprenticed himself to skilled craftspeople like Bill Twigg, to learn wheelwright and wagon restoration skills. He even took blacksmithing classes at Eastern Arizona College. Next on his journey, John met some chuck wagon folks at a western festival and soon came home with a “chuck wagon” in need of restoration. His wife, Sandy, wryly notes it was little more than a pile of wood and rusty metal. He soon traveled to the Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock, where he chanced to meet chuck wagon cookie extraordinaire, Wayne Calk, who told John “he couldn’t just stand and watch.” If he was interested, then he needed to step into camp and pitch in. This soon put John and Sandy on the chuck wagon trail, so to speak.

John Sullivan had a zest for learning and trying new things, but he also loved to share his knowledge and pass it on to others, so that history and heritage could be accurately preserved. Sandy Sullivan recalls how John sometimes hitched up one of their wagons and simply drove it up and down the dirt roads of Fort Thomas, Arizona, answering questions about it and sharing his knowledge of its history. Sometimes he would drive a covered wagon to a school just to talk to the students about the Oregon Trail. At their Arizona home, John and Sandy built a replica wagon shed where they could work on stagecoaches, horse drawn wagons, buggies, and wheels. John’s love of teaching caused him to burn the biscuits more than once, because he had this passion for preservation, so he would start talking about an artifact, or a type of wagon, or skill, and forget he had biscuits baking over hot coals in the Dutch oven. Although he was over 50 when he discovered a love for these wagons, he became dedicated to the telling and re-telling of their important role in helping settle new territory, and he worked to share his knowledge by educating the public, especially young people, about that history. A few years back, John started the “Hoorah” tradition of the American Chuckwagon Association in which they come together each year to share recipes, and swap stories around the campfire, passing important historic details on to each other, while holding a tin cup of steaming hot coffee just as the sun is rising.

Bobby Kerr
Legendary horse trainer, Bobby Kerr, resides in Hico, Texas, but grew up in Ontario, Canada. Jan Bishop, of the Canadian 4Bs Wild West Show, recalls Bobby rode his first horses at Tom Bishop’s place in Ridgeville, Ontario, and that Bobby attributes his love of Wild West Shows to his time spent at the Bishop’s as a youngster. Kerr has been riding and training horses for over 45 years. His skill with horses, especially Mustangs, is uncontested. He has trained and shown Reining, Roping, Working Cow Horse and Cutting. It was 2010 when he first attended Mustang Makeover and the following year, decided to enter the competition. He won Fan Favorite that year, and the next year, he was the Champion Trainer. The following year, he was named the 2012 Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover Champion and Fan Favorite in the Legends Division on Maypop. The Mustang Makeover competition gives trainers 100 to 120 days to tame a wild mustang.

A man with a passion for horses, Bobby is a talented competitor in a variety of equine disciplines and he travels the country, sharing his equine knowledge while showcasing the talents of rescued mustangs. Kerr partners with the Bureau of Land Management through their mustang adoption program. His mega presence on YouTube is partly due to his showing in Mustang Million and to his regular role on the Nat Geo WILD show, Mustang Millionaire. If you’ve never watched a video of Kerr on a Mustang he has trained, it is truly extraordinary to witness. His long string of awards begins with his first title in 1985 when he won the AQHA Senior Cutting Honor Roll Champion, followed by a 1993 Futurity Limited Open Finalist finish. 2013 saw Bobby winning the IPRA National Finals Rodeo Showcase Champion, in he was the 2016 winner of the NFR Specialty Act and in 2017 PRCA Dress Act of the Year. In 2001, Kerr founded the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame (TCHF), located in the Historic Stockyards in Fort Worth, Texas. (TCHF is a 2009 Cowboy Keeper Award Recipient). It’s no wonder Cinch calls Bobby Kerr a “cowboy’s cowboy.”

Texas artist, Burl Washington, graciously contributed the artwork for this year’s Cowboy Keeper Award with his iconic painting of friendly cowboys gathered around a campfire, in “Telling of Legends.”

The National Day of the Cowboy tips its hat to John Ware, Ms. Cindy Walker, John L. Sullivan and Bobby Kerr, as four remarkable individuals who have made a significant contribution to the preservation of cowboy culture and pioneer heritage. It is an honor to share their extraordinary stories.

Oct 27

Cowboy, actor, performer, Will Roberts, joins National Day of the Cowboy

Will Roberts entertaining at Rodeo Salinas 2017.

Internationally renowned cowboy, performer, actor, and speaker, Will Roberts, has joined the National Day of the Cowboy 501c3 Organization in the role of an Official Spokesperson. Roberts is well known for his high-energy entertainment, spiked with down-home humor and perceptive content, highlighted by his astonishing trick roping skills. As a former featured artist of the famed Cirque du Soleil, in Las Vegas, he brings the western arts of trick roping, gun spinning and whip-cracking alive with his intensely interactive, fast-paced performances.

Will has performed his western act on stages and venues throughout the world. He creates a stunning entertainment spectacle infused with his own brand of humor, customized to the themes and needs of each event at which he performs. Roberts says he understands each event is unique and he always works to make every event one to remember. He has been called the “modern day Will Rogers,” because of his extensive work in film, TV, and radio, as well as his syndicated daily humor. Roberts even holds a Guinness world record with his six shooters.

Will prides himself on bringing good sense and simplicity to America through his work. He has traveled the world on his “Common Sense Tour,” of which he wryly observed, “Common sense ain’t so common anymore.” Now don’t be fooled; Will Roberts is a Cowboy. Originally from Illinois, he moved to Central California as a teenager, following the directive to “Go west young man.” The values and skills of the West are in his blood and have remained his true passion throughout his life.

Will currently resides in Winchester, California, with his amazing wife and two wonderful kids. He frequently works in Hollywood as a union actor and weapons and stunt man. From theater productions, nightclubs, rodeos, and circuses, to corporate conferences, film productions and private events, Will Roberts makes the world his stage!

Roberts observes that he has invested a good twenty-something years of his life promoting the western arts and striving to keep cowboy culture alive. “The chance to be associated and work with the National Day of the Cowboy organization is the dream of a lifetime. Many hope and dream as a kid to one day be a cowboy and I am one of those kids, so to be able to focus my energy and passion in support of the Day of the Cowboy makes me feel pretty darn good. “

Will Roberts joins four other official spokespersons (Kelsee Brady Bradshaw, Lee Anderson, Dr. Buc Montgomery, and Hotshot Johnny) and one official spokeshorse (Concho) for the National Day of the Cowboy nonprofit organization, whose mission is to contribute to the preservation of America’s cowboy culture and pioneer heritage so that the history and culture which the National Day of the Cowboy legislative bill honors, can be shared and perpetuated for the public good, through education, the arts, literature, celebrations, gatherings, rodeos, and other community activities.


Aug 07

2018 Raffle for Customized NDOC Henry Golden Boy 22 Long Rifle

The National Day of the Cowboy, in conjunction with Henry Repeating Arms, is proud to offer
you the very rare opportunity to own a uniquely inscribed Henry Golden Boy rifle with a one-of-a-kind engraved receiver cover. We’ve teamed up with Henry to create this one, very special, commemorative NDOC rifle that is sure to be treasured forever by the person fortunate enough to own it. We think It makes a perfect gift for a birthday, retirement, graduations, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, military service, or just about any other special occasion. Of course, it also makes a magical gift to honor someone on the National Day of the Cowboy,  And, while It will indeed make a unique gift for a friend or family member, you could also simply treat yourself and hang on to it if you’re the lucky winner.

The Henry details include; one-of-a-kind National Day of the Cowboy engraving on this Golden Boy 22 Long Rifle, an octagonal barrel and looped lever, a personalized “13th Annual National Day of the Cowboy” receiver cover.  This beautiful piece also features a customized serial number,  “NDOC2017.”

We are launching the raffle today. There will be only 100 squares sold for $25 each. Squares are assigned after all 100 slots are sold and just before the drawing takes place. This will be the only Henry Rifle we raffle this year.

To get your name added to the raffle board, send a check for $25 per square, made out to National Day of the Cowboy. Write “NDOC Rifle Raffle” in the memo field.

Mail check to:

Darrell Wyatt
NDOC Raffle
P O Box 506
Amelia Courthouse, VA  23002-0506

All proceeds benefit the National Day of the Cowboy 501c3 organization which is working to secure permanent status for the 4th Saturday in July as a day to celebrate cowboy culture and pioneer heritage in all fifty states. The final drawing will be in Amelia Court House VA, at their National Day of the Cowboy celebration on October 13th, 2018.

Get your squares while they last. Remember, we’re only selling one hundred chances to win this one-of-a-kind National Day of the Cowboy Henry Golden Boy 22 Long Rifle.

Jun 05

Indiana loves the NDOC

Jerry Betley and Indiana State Senator, Dennis Kruse.

I am elated to tell you that on February 14, 2017 (Valentine’s Day), Indiana became the 12th state to award permanent status to the National Day of the Cowboy. Our number one volunteer there (and NDOC board member), the ever-tenacious Jerry Betley, worked on securing Indiana for over five years. In that time, he went through six senators and four representatives, and a bill that never got out of committee, before finally achieving success in 2017.  In each of those previous years, Jerry would end up requesting a Governor’s Proclamation, which was easy because it was simply a matter of going to the Governor’s website and filling out an online form. Then, as luck would have it, Rusty Lloyd III stopped by Jerry’s National Day of the Cowboy exhibit at an event one day and asked what it was all about. Once Rusty learned what we were working on, he offered to speak to Indiana Senator, Dennis Kruse, about our national effort. Senator Kruse immediately got on board. Then, with the added help of IN Legislative Aide, Zachary Eckert, the NDOC bill, SR 22, came up quickly, and passed unanimously in the IN Senate.

There was not enough advance notice for anyone to get to the Capitol in time for the floor vote, but Jerry said it was broadcast on the internet, so you may be able to watch it here, or it may have been archived as a video of SR22. Jerry was later able to meet with Senator Kruse for a joint photo opportunity in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

There are many other dedicated cowboys and cowgirls in Indiana who have been working to celebrate the NDOC and to help Jerry build support there, including Scott Beam, David Lane, Duane Jackson, Bonnie and Larry Hilsmier, the owners and staff at Moose Lake Village, and Jerry’s wonderful extended family of kids and grandkids.

The NDOC Board of Directors (Jerry Betley, Darrell Wyatt, Barb Richhart), our spokespersons and I, are grateful to the many people who stand beside us and continue to support us financially, as volunteers, and in solidarity with this effort. The NDOC was founded in June 2005, so you can see it is no small order working to get this bill passed in all fifty states. We continue to hope securing permanent passage for the 4th Saturday in July as a day to celebrate pioneer heritage and cowboy culture will go more quickly as more states join the celebration.

Thank you for standing with us as we all make history together. Hats off to the cowboys and cowgirls!

Jul 18

Inspired by Cowboy Keepers

Each year, with its Cowboy Keeper Award©, the National Day of the Cowboy nonprofit organization has the great privilege of recognizing individuals, organizations, and projects that make or have made a significant contribution to the preservation of pioneer heritage and the promotion of cowboy culture. In 2016, those who have inspired such recognition are Glenn Ohrlin, Donnalyn Quintana, Cotton and Karin Rosser, John Prather, Joseph “Jo” Mora, and the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center.

Glenn Ohrlin
Born in 1926, in Minnesota, Glenn Ohrlin heard cowboy songs on the radio and from friends and family as a boy. By age 5, he was singing himself and at 10, he learned to play guitar. He left home at 16 to work as a cowboy. He eventually lived in a stone house he built in Arkansas, where he also operated his own cattle ranch. A sold out auditorium for “The Legacy of Glenn Ohrlin,” tribute at the 32nd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 2016, was a moving testament to his extensive influence on cowboy culture. The late cowboy Glenn Ohrlin was revered by all who knew him as a man who lived at the heart of the cowboy tradition. He was known to be a genuine one-of-kind cowboy who shared his music with all. He was fondest of performing old time novelty tunes, but he had a deep appreciation for all types of songs and loved to be around young people to pass his knowledge and love for music along to them. His repertoire ranged from traditional ballads, poetry, bawdy songs, hobo ditties and Spanish tunes from the period 1875 to 1925, to country and western, and folk songs. Over his years of cowboying, riding in rodeos, and collecting cowboy music, Ohrlin wrote The Hell-Bound Train, published by the University of Illinois Press in 1973. It contained 100 of his favorite cowboy songs and poems as well as the people and stories behind them. He released an album of the same name. He was named an NEA Heritage Fellow in 1985.

For two years, Ohrlin was host and performer with The Cowboy Tour, on which he traveled 30,000 miles sharing cowboy music. During that time, he worked with other western folklorists who organized the successful Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. A remarkable man with an especially dry sense of humor, Ohrlin like to say, “The crowd might like me or they might not, but I’ll get paid anyway.” He theorized that cowboys sing because of the isolated life they lead. His legacy from a long happy life of 88 years includes stories, songs, humor, and poetry, but most importantly it includes those who have been inspired by him to carry on the cowboy music and poetry tradition. Singer Randy Rieman summed up Ohrlin and his influence beautifully with this heartfelt compliment during the tribute show, “In the 31 years of the poetry gathering, we needed to see Glenn. You just didn’t want to miss one of Glenn’s shows.”

Donnalyn Quintana
Donnalyn Quintana established her nonprofit organization, “Western Wishes,” in 1994, out of a desire to make a difference in a child’s life by “celebrating the determination and courage of those facing adversity who love the western way of life.” She recognized there are kids who dream of being a sheriff, riding a reining horse, learning to rope a steer, ride in the rodeo or simply long to be a cowboy or cowgirl in some way. Twenty-two years later, Ms. Quintana’s program continues to grow and reward kids for their fighting spirit while also communicating the stories of their determination to get back in the saddle. The Western Wishes program puts inspiring kids in the spotlight, even if just for a moment, and encourages them to reach for the stars and see their dreams come true. She has worked tirelessly to enlist the help of celebrities such as Tuf Cooper, George Strait, Stran Smith, Taylor Swift and Reba McEntire, to light up a child’s life. Over the years, Donnalyn has worked to bring life to the western wishes of hundreds of young buckaroos with life changing illness or injury, whether mentally or physically challenged. Through her kindness, she has been touching lives and healing the hearts of young people facing potentially life-threatening adversities.

Ms. Quintana’s personal mission is to leave a legacy of goodwill the cowboy way. To that end, she reaches outside her arena as well, such as taking the time to attend the hearing at the Texas Legislature on behalf of the National Day of the Cowboy bill, where she invited her friend, rodeo legend Larry Mahan to testify to the hearing committee on our behalf. Her organization is also launching a College Rodeo Challenge, spearheaded by a college intern, to encourage other college rodeo teams to “pay it forward” by finding deserving kids, executing their wish and sharing their story. After helping to make more than 600 western wishes come true, Donnalyn still views her work as blessing for her, noting, “Every time I come away from granting a wish, my life is changed for the better. I feel that this was put into my heart for a reason.” A woman who radiates warmth and kindness, Donnalyn Quintana emphasizes that ultimately the aim is to use the Western Wishes stories to inspire other children battling similar adversities.

Cotton & Karin Rosser
Cotton Rosser says the seeds of showmanship were planted in his blood as a boy, by heroes like Will James, Hoppy, Gene, and Roy. Growing up in California, he was always on the lookout for opportunities to spend time with cowboys. Following high school, he attended Cal Poly, where he served as captain of the rodeo team. He competed in Madison Square Garden in New York in 1950. Rosser won the saddle bronc riding at the Reno Rodeo in 1950. His highlight was winning the all-around title at the 1951 Grand National Rodeo in San Francisco, but a ranch accident broke both of his legs, putting him out of rodeo competition and into business as a stock contractor and producer. To this day, he delights in new ways to entertain and wow the crowds, whether with Roman Chariot Races, Bull Poker or Bull Teeter-Totter! Cotton Rosser isn’t all about the pageantry, however. He sincerely cares about the integrity of rodeo. He takes great pains to ensure that the Flying U has the very best livestock. An aficionado of bucking horses and longhorn cattle, he attends to every detail himself. He is a legendary stock contractor and rodeo event producer who has supplied bulls to the PBR during its entire history. He was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1995. In 2009, he was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum Rodeo Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

In 2014 the Reno Rodeo honored him with “Cotton Rosser Night.” It couldn’t go to a more deserving person,” said Bob Tallman, longtime voice of the Reno Rodeo. “In the past 50 years, Cotton’s changed the face of rodeo five times. He’s been so far ahead of the curve people have flown to his events just so they could steal from them and do the same things.” Speaking at California Polytechnic State University, where he had once served as rodeo team captain Rosser told the graduates, “The motto, ‘learn by doing,’ has worked for me all my life.” And, all his life Cotton Rosser has shared his knowledge and experience while inspiring generations of cowboys and entertaining millions of people.

Karin Allred Rosser
PRCA Gold Card Member, Karin Allred Rosser, has spent her life excelling in fields related to Western Heritage. Early in life she was introduced to livestock and horses, riding Shetland Ponies as a toddler and Quarter Horses as she grew. Summers were spent at flat tracks as a hot walker and pony girl, while winter afternoons involved chariot races in NM and UT, and appearances at State and World Championship meets. Her teenage years found her in the horse show arena where she excelled in Western and English Riding and served as first President of the Utah Jr. Quarter Horse Association. Her competitive spirit resulted in numerous awards from the Utah, Intermountain and American Quarter Horse Associations. Competing as a barrel racer and queen contestant in amateur rodeo turned Karin’s attention to the rodeo arena. At 19 she was crowned Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo Queen, launching her into professional rodeo. Later that year, having earned the title Miss Rodeo Utah, she was 1St Runner-up to Miss Rodeo America. The MRA scholarship money helped pay for a Fashion Merchandising degree from Weber State University. During her year-long reign she participated in western apparel markets, celebrations, and radio and TV spots, representing professional rodeo.

Rodeo also introduced Karin to her husband of 38 years, Cotton Rosser, stock contractor for the Pioneer Days Rodeo and other PRCA rodeos. Karin and Cotton were married in 1978. They moved to the Flying U Ranch in Marysville, CA, which offered them more opportunities to promote Western heritage. Her education equipped her to manage “Cotton’s Cowboy Corral,” the western retail store Cotton and Karin own and operate in Marysville. She was also introduced to rodeo production and soon received her PRCA Timer Card and Secretary Card. Karin mastered music and spotlights at some of the largest indoor arenas in the West. During the nine years the Flying U presented the opening ceremonies at the National Finals Rodeo, Karin cued spotlights and music, washed horses, and helped with wardrobe and flag presentation practices. While Cotton occupies center stage, Karin works behind the scenes as a rodeo secretary or timer, greeting dignitaries, planning events, organizing tack trailers, saddling horses, and feeding livestock. Then, they drive down the road together to the next rodeo where she may do it all again. She is a member of the women’s group HANDS, which offers moral support and financial assistance to rodeo people in need. Karin is affiliated with the Cowboy Reunion group which raises money to benefit both the Pro Rodeo Hall of Champions and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. She is known to be a poised professional woman of character and compassion who has made a lasting impression as a wife, mother, businesswoman and friend. She is recognized as a woman of principle who works tirelessly to benefit family, rodeo, ranching, and Western heritage.

Karin and Cotton have hosted school children on ranch tours and supported FFA, 4H and High School Rodeo clubs and teams. Since 2005, the Flying U Rodeo Company has participated in California Ag Day at the Capitol, where Karin and Cotton distribute copies of the Pro Rodeo Sports News, PRCA rule books, animal welfare brochures, answer questions from legislators, media, and the general public and provide information about pro rodeo. Together and individually, Karin and Cotton Rosser exemplify the essential spirit of those who work to promote and preserve the best of our Western Heritage.

Joseph “Jo” Mora
Throughout his lifetime, Joseph “Jo” Jacinto Mora embraced the rich history of the American West. From the time he wrote and illustrated stories about cowboys and Indians as a young child, to his last written and illustrated book about the history of the Vaqueros at the end of his life, Mora depicted the western lifestyle through his varied artistic abilities and by living it himself. As an accomplished illustrator, painter, sculptor, printmaker, cartographer, cartoonist, photographer, and cowboy, Jo was able to express his deep love of western history through numerous channels of creativity. His knowledge of history came from travel by horse and wagon in the early 1900s as he explored California’s missions, Yosemite, the state’s ranches, and eventually the culture of the Hopi and Navajo in Arizona. His observations throughout this time found their way into his writings and his art. Mora’s vast body of work ranges from a California 49er on a half-dollar minted by the U.S. government in celebration of California’s Diamond Anniversary, to four majestic bronzes on display at Oklahoma’s Woolaroc Museum, featuring figures prominent in Oklahoma history and the 101 Ranch of George Miller. The Levi Strauss Company chose Mora’s artwork for an extensive advertising campaign.

It is no surprise that a person of Mora’s vast western legacy would be intertwined with other honored westerners. Upon seeing Jo’s art, Frederick Remington encouraged Jo by telling him, “Son, you’re doing fine. Just stay with it.” Author Zane Grey featured Jo’s drawings in his Western Magazine. Jo’s western drawings sit perfectly alongside the work of Ed Borein and Charlie Russell. The writing of Jo Mora continues to ring just as true sixty years later as the work of Will James and Frank Dobie. Mora himself crafted a 13-scene diorama depicting the life of Will Rogers (at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, OK), as well as one featuring the arrival of John Fremont at Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento, California.

He wrote and illustrated Trail Dust and Saddle Leather about the American cowboy and Californios about the Vaqueros; both continue to be well respected accounts of their subjects. He worked with his father to create the decorative elements on the Native Sons of the Golden West Building in San Francisco, depicting various aspects of California’s history. Mora created memorial sculptural work in honor of Bret Harte and the decorative elements on the Monterey County Courthouse in Salinas, California. His iconic work, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” was featured on the 2011 National Day of the Cowboy commemorative poster. Mora was a member of the prestigious National Sculpture Society. He was a prolific creator and his incredible and varied works of art can be found in museums, libraries, private collections and public places all around the country. Jo Mora is one of only eight persons included in each issue of Who’s Who in America since the publication’s inception. One of the rare artists able to make his living by his craft, Mora was a gifted artist, and an amazing person able to accomplish anything he set his mind to. While his list of accomplishments and accolades seems nearly endless, Jo Mora was the consummate husband and father who listed his family at the top of his life’s achievements.

John Prather
In this fast moving world where technology emphasizes forward strides, we sometimes lose touch with historical milestones that form the foundation on which we stand today. New Mexico rancher, John Prather, serves as one of those milestones. Although he died in 1965, Prather and his story still resonate as an example of the cowboy ethics and principles of a man willing to stand up for what he believed was right. Born in Van Zandt County, Texas, in 1874, nine year old John and his family were one of the pioneer families moving to the territory of New Mexico in 1883. John started breaking horses when he was 12, charging a dollar per year of the horse; thus a two year old colt cost $2.00 to break. He saved his money, eventually married, and with his bride, homesteaded on the unsettled grasslands of the Otero Mesa where they lived in a tent until they could get a home built. Working behind a team of mules pulling a fresno scraper, they constructed dirt tanks and made water where there was no water. During World Wars I and II John gained fame as the Mule King, having one of the largest Army mule breeding programs in the country. Afterwards he ran a successful cattle ranching business introducing the first Angus cattle to the area. John became widely known so it was not uncommon to see an interesting roster of people at the ranch looking to purchase from his renowned stock. Visitors and clients included Tom Mix, Gene Autry and Dizzy Dean. He enjoyed going into town to do the shopping and often would stop for someone on the road who seemed to be in a tough situation and ask if he could help. Some of the old timers in Alamogordo still tell of times as a young child when they remember John buying expectant mothers a basket of baby clothes or an older person a new set of dentures. Most recipients of his acts of kindness were strangers to him, but he always said there is no excuse not to help someone one when you can. Although always a gentleman John could push boundaries when needed. During war time he often had only lady cowhands working for him because he felt they could use the income and satisfaction of providing for their families while their men were away. The ladies with children were even invited to bring the youngsters to the ranch so he could teach them about life outdoors.

The Cold War turned the attention of the U.S. military to the southern part of New Mexico where expansion of the McGregor Missile Range was seen as a necessity in the race against the Soviets. Buyouts of ranchers with the threat of condemnation worked well in acquiring 99% of the land, with one exception…John Prather. Even though he was 82, Prather refused to be cowed or intimidated and stayed firm in his resolve to keep his ranch. Understanding the need to prime our military’s force he offered to lease it to the Army for $1.00 a year, indemnity free. His offer was rebuffed and legal proceedings were initiated. Negotiations continued for a year with John graciously meeting several generals and inviting them to his place to see the fine beef he was raising to feed the boys in uniform. He was civil, but resolute in his stand to preserve what he had built with years of sweat and tears. Eventually the threat of force was employed and sheriffs’ deputies were sent to arrest the old rancher. Again, John was gracious but firm, saying he understood their job and hoped they understood his. He would not be moved unless it was forcibly. Two days passed ending with three deputies driving back to town with an empty back seat. Newspaper coverage from Alaska to Germany lauded the old cowboy. The Today Show quipped that the Army might want to use John Prather to negotiate with the Soviets on their behalf. The writer, Edward Abbey, penned the book Fire on the Mountain based on John’s determination to keep his land. The book became a made-for-TV film, starring Buddy Ebsen and Ron Howard. Within the year, juke boxes across the country were spinning “The Ballad of John Prather,” by Calvin Boles. John threatened to live to be 100 but passed away at 91. He is buried there where he took a stand for what he felt was right. His ranch is now part of the McGregor Missile Range, but they didn’t take it until a month after his death. He continued to work his ranch until the day he died. He held no grudges and often invited passing soldiers to the house for brisket, beans, and a dip in the cool waters of the steel tank. He was a class act until the very end. John Prather proved by example that being a cowboy is about far more than working with livestock. It is also about strength of character, integrity and true grit.

Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
In the early 1990’s a group of citizens from Duncan and southwest Oklahoma, and northern Texas, formed a partnership to increase the quality of life in their region, help educate people on the courage, struggles and successes of settlement in the area, and provide an information stop on the route of present day explorers of the historic Chisholm Trail. From the beginning, the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, Oklahoma, hosted visitors with the highest quality educators and exhibits to celebrate the men and women who rode the Trail, settled the area, or were indigenous peoples forced to alter their lifestyles due to the encroachment of travelers and settlers. The Center’s mission is, “To celebrate and perpetuate the history, art and culture of the Chisholm Trail, the American Cowboy and the American West.” As a nonprofit, world class museum inside and out, the Center enriches its community as a renowned destination that brings alive the heritage of the American West, inspiring and educating present and future generations.

The museum serves the United States and International communities as well. The staff estimates fully ¼ of visitors are international. Past, present and future museum exhibits are as diverse as those who traveled the trail, including The Long Ride Home – The African American (cowboy) Experience in America” a photographic exhibition by Ron Tarver, a Grand Ole Opry tribute, a comic book artist’s exhibit, a chuck wagon exhibit, the art of Donna Howell Sickles, and even a vintage apron exhibition. Art lovers will delight in the Garis Gallery of the American West where they can view prized works of George Catlin, Frederic Remington and Charles Russell. Cowgirl artists in the Garis Gallery include KW Whitley and Marjorie Reed. Local and regional artists are also on display, including the work of Gay Faulkenberry and Oklahoma notables Paul Moore and Harold T. Holden.

The Chisholm Trail Center’s annual National Day of the Cowboy celebration continues to thrive and grow each year, bringing hundreds of excited attendees to celebrate and honor the role of the cowgirl and cowboy in the American West. They strive to include activities for young folks as well as adults, including educational programming and artist exhibits. At their always exceptional NDOC celebration you can rope a Longhorn, ride a buckin’ bronc, create your own brand, and watch the cattle stampede in the 4D Theater while you cool off during a summer thunderstorm on the Oklahoma prairie. At the Campfire Theater you can listen to Jesse Chisholm and Tex share campfire tales in spite of a ruckus in the wagon as cowboys try to get comfortable for the night.

The Chisholm Trail Heritage Center has received numerous awards as a result of the quality of its exhibits and programs, including in 2014 “Great Expectations Model School” certification (the only non-profit to hold this title consecutively for eight years). In 2005, the “American Cowboy Culture Award” for Western Museums from the National Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock, Texas and in 2003, the “Community Improvement Award” from the Duncan Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Chisholm Trail Heritage Center is one of three organizations working to create national involvement in celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Chisholm Trail in 2017.

Cowboy Keeper Awards are always unique because each year a different artist or photographer contributes the artwork for the award. Renowned Prix de West and multiple award winning artist, Scott Tallman Powers, graciously provided the NDOC with his gentle image of “The Wyoming Storyteller,” for the 2016 Cowboy Keeper Awards.

The National Day of the Cowboy tips its hat to Glenn Ohrlin, Donnalyn Quintana, Cotton and Karin Rosser, John Prather, Joseph “Jo; Mora, and the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center, our 2016 Cowboy Keeper Award honorees. These esteemed recipients have not only made a substantial contribution to the preservation of our pioneer heritage and cowboy culture, they have inspired untold others to do the same.

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