New Mexico History Museum

Wild West Weekend: Unleash your inner cowboy

July 22, 2013


Immerse yourself in cowboy culture August 9—11 at the New Mexico History Museum’s Wild West Weekend, a special event celebrating the exhibition Cowboys Real and Imagined. Cowboy musicians and poets join trick ropers, saddle makers, silversmiths and more to provide three days of hands-on fun for the whole family. The events are free; the exhibition is by regular admission (Sundays free to NM residents, Friday evenings free to everyone, children 16 and under free daily).

“We’ve seen in the exhibit how people make a connection to another way of life when they hold a lariat, hear a cowboy singer, or try to rope a dummy calf,” History Museum Director Fran Levine said. “This weekend is a chance to make even more of those connections and to experience the artistry that accompanies the practical tools of a cowboy’s life.

“Besides that,” she added, “we strongly encourage boot-scootin’.”

The weekend kicks off at 6 pm Friday, August 9, in the History Museum auditorium with music historians Mark Lee Gardner and Rex Rideout. Using vintage instruments and historic playing styles, the duo will present a close approximation to what N. Howard “Jack” Thorp heard out on the range that inspired him to write the 1908 classic, Jack Thorp’s Songs of the Cowboys. Come back on Saturday for a one-hour family workshop on traditional cowboy songs and some talk about the New Mexico cowboy lifestyle as presented in song.

From 10 am to 4 pm Saturday and Sunday, August 10 and 11, the Palace Courtyard comes to life with demonstrators and performers sharing traditional knowledge and entertainment with roots in the past and branches in the present. Performers include the Buckarettes and the Tumbleweeds, along with cowboy poets Mike Moutoux and Peggy Godfrey. See a Dutch-oven cooking specialist at work, check out some fancy roping skills in front of the Palace Portal, and try your hand at making a leather stamp and braiding a cinch.

Visitors can interact with Scott Green, curator of education at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, as he re-enacts the life of a historical New Mexico cowboy. Some of the finest artisans practicing old-style techniques will set up shop to show how history still sings across the wide open spaces of New Mexico. The schedule:

                              Friday, August 9

► 6 pm, History Museum Auditorium

Mark Lee Gardner and Rex Rideout on Jack Thorp’s Songs of the Cowboys. Music historians who perform on vintage instruments, Gardner and Rideout play and discuss the cowboy ballads collected by N. Howard “Jack” Thorp, who published the very first book of cowboy songs at Estancia, NM, in 1908. Reception following in the Meem Community Room to celebrate the Palace Press’s new edition of Jack Thorp’s Songs of the Cowboys. Illustrator Ron Kil will be on hand to sign copies of this collector’s book, available for purchase.

                              Saturday, August 10

► 10 am to 4 pm, Palace Courtyard

Clint Mortenson demonstrates trophy belt buckle carving. A silversmith, artist and horseman, Mortenson has crafted buckles for ranch families, celebrities, rodeo champions, even England’s Royal Family. A recreation of his Santa Fe shop is in the History Museum’s front window.

Wes Mastic demonstrates leather carving and saddle making. An award-winning saddle maker at Mortenson Silver & Saddles in Santa Fe, Mastic has a flair for the fine art of tooling, or flower carving.

Rebecca Morgan-Albertson and Cybele Geidemann demonstrate rawhide/horsehair braiding and cinch making. Since the early 1980s, Morgan-Albertson has helped rekindle the cowboy craft of hand-braided horse gear and cinch weaving. She and her daughter, Geidemann, help others learn the craft in Santa Fe.

Deana McGuffin demonstrates boot making. McGuffin learned her craft from a true master, her dad, L.W. McGuffin, of Clovis. She’s charted her own custom designs for the last 25 years in Albuquerque.

O’Farrell Hats hat-making demonstration. See how staffers at this Santa Fe business create hats that are worn around the world.

Bert Ancell demonstrates Dutch oven cooking. The former manager of the legendary Bell Ranch, Ancell lives on the Ojo Feliz Ranch near Wagon Mound and caters events with his chuck wagon.

► 10 to 11 am, Palace Courtyard

Rex Rideout and Mark Lee Gardner present a cowboy-music workshop for the whole family. Show up and you might learn how to play the harmonica – or even the bones. From 11:30 am to 1 pm, Rex, Mark, illustrator Ron Kil, and printer Tom Leech will chat with visitors about the new Palace Press book, Jack Thorp’s Songs of the Cowboys. Copies available for purchase.

► 11 to 11:30 am and 1:30 to 2 pm, Palace Courtyard

Peggy Godfrey offers a cowboy poetry reading. Pull up a hay bale and hear this longtime rancher from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains relate her adventures and the roles that ranch women play.

► 12 to 1 pm and 2:30 to 4 pm

The Buckarettes get you tapping your toes with their western swing, eclectic selections from the 1940s and 1950s, and modern-day compositions. Dancing is welcomed.

► 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 1 pm and 2 pm, Palace Avenue

Julio and Reynaldo Maestas show off roping maneuvers in front of the Palace Portal. The Rociada, NM, brothers grew up fixing fences, cleaning stalls, changing irrigation water, and participating in high school and college roping competitions.

                              Sunday, August 11

► 10 am to 4 pm, Palace Courtyard

Stewart Williamson demonstrates silversmithing. A ranch kid from eastern New Mexico, Williamson runs a shop in Portales.

Tom Schatzinger demonstrates saddle making. A Los Lunas craftsman, Schatzinger also does cowboy poetry and has worked at numerous ranches.

Rebecca Morgan-Albertson and Cybele Geidemann demonstrate rawhide/horsehair braiding and cinch making.

Deana McGuffin demonstrates boot making.

O’Farrell Hats hat-making demonstration.

Bert Ancell demonstrates Dutch oven cooking.

► 11 to 11:30 am and 1:30 to 2 pm, Palace Courtyard

Mike Moutoux offers a cowboy poetry reading. A poet and cowboy singer from Silver City, Moutoux is known as “New Mexico’s Enchanting Cowboy,” sharing stages with Western music greats.

► 12 to 1 pm and 2:30 to 4 pm, Palace Courtyard

The Tumbleweeds tune it up for some traditional country, western swing, and honky-tonk music. Again, dancing is welcomed. Make that urged. Grab your partner!

► 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 1 pm and 2 pm, Palace Avenue

Julio and Reynaldo Maestas show off roping maneuvers in front of the Palace Portal.

Cowboys Real and Imagined explores New Mexico’s cowboy legacy from its origin in the Spanish vaquero tradition through itinerant hired hands, outlaws, rodeo stars, cowboy singers, Tom Mix movies and more. The exhibit grounds the cowboy story in New Mexico through rare photographs, cowboy gear, movies and art. It includes a bounty of artifacts ranging in size from the palm-sized tintype of Billy the Kid purchased at a 2011 auction by William Koch to the chuck wagon once used by cowboys on New Mexico’s legendary Bell Ranch.

High-resolution images of some of the performers and participants can be downloaded by clicking here (or go to

Cowboys Real and Imagined is generously supported by the Brindle Foundation; Burnett Foundation; Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation, Houston; Candace Good Jacobson in memory of Thomas Jefferson Good III; New Mexico Humanities Council; Newman’s Own Foundation; Palace Guard; Eugenia Cowden Pettit and Michael Pettit; Jane and Charlie Gaillard; Moise Livestock Company; the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association; and the many contributors to the Director’s Leadership, Annual Education,

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