High Noon is very honored to have the country’s finest dealers in Western Americana as part of our family. They are what make the High Noon Show the most spectacular Western shopping experience! Each month in Smoke Signals, High Noon’s eMagazine, we take an in depth look into one of our “family” members, highlighting their expertise, their passions and their collections that make them the best of the best. The dealer spotlights are the perfect way for you to know who has what you want, or want to learn more about.
"The kind of addict we love!"
By Jayne Skeff
For 35 years, "I've been seriously addicted to Western and California art. It's a serious problem but one I really enjoy!" Virginia comments with a laugh.
It all really began in 1978 when she met her husband Bill Hilligoss in Northern California. They were both passionate about art and had collected some pieces but together they took their addiction and their passion to new heights. They had been primarily collecting Northern California landscapes until, one day they discovered Edward Borein and that changed everything.
Edward Borein led to Western art which led to Cowboys and Indians which led to a collection so large they had to open a gallery so they could continue buying, selling and feeding their addiction. And so, Larkspur Fine Arts was born. They had galleries in both Larkspur and San Francisco for a number of years then moved to Palm Springs in the late 1980s where they operated a gallery until the mid-1900's.
Their passion and interests continued to expand and today Virginia (Bill passed in 2001) has narrowed her favorite artists to Henry Balink followed by Will Sparks, Gunnar Widforss and J R Willis. But these pieces do not include the 10 years she and Bill spent compiling an incredible 20 volume set of books on the works and photogravures of Edward S Curtis.
But there's a whole lot more to Virginia than art collecting. Her addiction runs to promoting and sustaining art for generations to come. Almost 28 years ago, Virginia joined the Western Art Council at the Palm Springs Art Museum. She has served as the Chairman, Membership Chair and silent auction organizer to name just a few positions. As she says it though, "I'm there to make sure that Contemporary Art doesn't overrun the Museum. I think they think I'm a bit of pain in the butt but I get things done." Well, the Palm Springs Art Museum must not think she's such a pain, because last year in 2012 they honored Virginia with the coveted George Montgomery Award for her 28 years of unwavering commitment, dedication and service to the Museum and the Western arts community at large. Well done Virginia! "It was so nice to be honored and finally be recognized for all my hard work."
Virginia's next project at the Museum will be helping coordinate the 30th Anniversary Celebration of the Western Art Council at the Palm Springs Art Museum. While the Museum is also celebrating it's 75th anniversary, Virginia is very excited to announce that a special exhibit of the works of George Catlin will be opening at the end of October.
When Virginia is not holding court at the Art Museum, she's the "Otis Spunkmeyer Queen" in Palm Springs. She giggled at that one... By day, Virginia works with the Otis Spunkmeyer Company and Helen Grace Chocolates, coordinating the sale of these (also) addicting yummies to help schools raise money for special projects.
From the finest Western art to the decadent chocolates, Virginia has her hands full either fighting or feeding addictions from both sides. She's our gal and so happy she's part of the High Noon family.
Larkspur Fine Arts
Palm Springs, CA
An Artist and Creator of Bits and Spurs
Los Osos, California
by Jayne Skeff
As is so often the case with contemporary artisans working and creating the new legacy of heritage arts, they didn't start out that way. And, so is the case with Bruce Haener, creator of some of the most exquisite bits and spurs you will find today.
"I grew up in San Diego and was an art major in college but didn't see that as a profession that would make much money so I became a carpenter and did that for most of my life." From the time he was a kid, Bruce always loved history and he really loved horses - everything about them - and in 1971, he met and married his wife Cindy, who just happened to own horses. Well done Bruce!
Along the way, he began to be a bit of a collector of early spurs and bits but designing them and creating them hadn't even entered his radar - he was a carpenter, not a bit maker.
He remembers with a great smile the first time he met Linda and Joseph Sherwood while he was out, going to shows, seeing what he could find. "It was way back in the late 1970s and I met them at the Pomona County Fair. They had a table set up and were selling Mexican hats they had bought at an auction. It was friendship at first site - boy, things have sure developed for all of us!"
It was in the early 1980s when creating and designing bits and spurs fell into his radar. He and his family moved to San Luis Obispo, located in California's central coast. It was living in this area, steeped in early Spanish and Mexican history that really captivated him and his attention to the bits and spurs created by the illustrious Mardueno. He set out to learn everything he could about making bits and spurs and would, relentlessly he admits, visit the "old makers" in Santa Paula (California) asking questions and more questions. "I was a pest, no way around it," he recalls. "Eventually they tired of my continual hounding so I went back to being a carpenter... but I knew I was good with tools." His desire to create art kept running through his blood as well. He painted and made beautiful jewelry.
Then, he started picking up some work repairing old bits and spurs. Being rather new to the trade, he recalls with amazement, "I worked on some really expensive pieces and this is when I began to appreciate the artistry that really went into this stuff. I was in awe of the craftsmanship and design."
As time went on, Bruce began the transition from repair to creation. The bits and spurs (I really make more bits than spurs, he notes) he designs and creates are completely steeped in the traditions and are a reflection of the work of the Marduenos. "I still use their measurements because they are perfect." The engravings and inlays on his spurs are stunning even though, humbly, he believes he is not a "great engraver." Engraving on bits and spurs in the old days was really done to hide the dirt and wear from daily use."
"I guess creating things has run in my family for generations. My grandfather was a blacksmith in Los Angeles who designed and made the iron gates that still grace the entrance to the famous Huntington Museum in Pasadena. I've never even seen them - I need to do that one day."
Today, Bruce and his wife Cindy, who have two wonderful grown sons, still have horses and Bruce is a bit and spur maker full time with "more orders than I know how to fill." If, as you've read this story, you conjure an image of Bruce in a cowboy hat and jeans - don't. True to his San Diego roots, you'll find his uniform of choice a Hawaiian shirt and flip flops.
Want to get in touch with Bruce? Don't even think about email... he doesn't have a computer. Blame it on his traditional side.
Bit and Spur Maker
Try him in the evenings at: (805) 461-0046
"My posters are my own version of a herd of cattle - I get them, get them ready and take them to market."
by Jayne Skeff
Tony grew up in Hartford, Connecticut and recalls spending his childhood watching Cheyenne (his hero then) on the black and white TV his father had bought and playing cowboys and Indians with his siblings in the streets of Hartford. "The buildings were our mountains, the streets were our dusty trails... I always wanted to be a cowboy!"
But, life in New England took a different turn and Tony, who was born to art, went on to earn his Masters degree Fine Arts and spent 35 years as both Professor and Head of the Art Department of Asnuntuck Community College in Connecticut. "That was a dream job and life for me. I founded and developed the department, its programs, spending all those years working with such talented students. I'm retired now but still teach part-time because I still love it so much."
Not only was Tony art educator extraordinaire, he is also a sculpture, painter, and photographer with several commissions in his repertoire. As a sculpture, one of his proudest was an 8 foot high abstract he created for the City of East Hartford. "That one I'm very proud of," he admits.
A quick Google on Tony Cirone finds many wonderful stories about him including one about his new gallery in Windsor, which is both a studio and a gallery. In Cirone style, he found a beautiful 1895 Victorian that needed restoration, completed that, and now Cirone Studios stands like an artsy jewel in Windsor (CT). It contains three floors and twelve rooms, each filled with exceptional art, his own charcoals and sculptures, a framing studio and yes, of course, those wonderful Western movie posters.
How did you get into collecting Western movie posters he was asked. "It was about 10 years ago I stumbled across a couple of old Western posters and it brought back my love of the West and my dream of being a cowboy. I had no idea how the rich colors, design and graphics that were created in these posters and began to really be captivated by the early posters from the turn of the century to the early 1930s. Cheyenne may have been my hero when I was a boy but now it's all about Buck Jones, Tim McCoy and Ken Maynard - they are my heroes now."
Tony began doing shows and selling his posters and his collection now spans more decades and price ranges. "High Noon and other shows have finally given me the chance to spend time out West where I've always wanted to be - I just love it. My posters are my own version of a herd of cattle - I acquire them, get them ready, then take them to market." he says with that classic Cirone laugh.
A passion for style, an eye for composition, and a natural artist at heart, anyone who knows Tony has no doubt that his life is one he truly enjoys. He's always smiling and laughing. When he's not though, he's on his cell phone. (Yea, we've seen that Tony - is it permanently attached to your ear?)
Though a Yankee geographically, Tony is as passionate about the Western lifestyle and the art that goes with it as any Western-born cowboy could be.
40 Bloomfield Avenue
Windsor, CT 06095
1. Tony Cirone, Cirone Studios
2. Lufia, an original bronze sculpture by Tony Cirone was created from one of his charcoal portraits.
"I may have a '9-5' job, but I eat, sleep and drink the Cowboy and Indian thing..."
by Jayne Skeff
It was his '9-5' that had me feeling like a stalker trying to wrangle him in for an interview. After several reschedules, we finally got it done and he was so much fun to talk to!
Intrigued at first without knowing what his '9-5' was, he began by saying, "everyday I wake up wondering what I'll find today." But as the conversation went on, turns out he has the perfect job to continue his hunt. More on that a bit later...
Let's go way back (well, not that far, Darryl's only in his 40s). "When I was a little kid growing up near Longmont, Colorado, there was this little Indian trading post near us where I used to spend a lot of time. This is where I got my first taste of Western stuff. I just loved it then as I do now."
Growing up where he did and influenced by the richness of the west, Darryl admits he always wanted to be a cowboy. Well, as the old adage goes, "be careful what you wish for..." When asked if he ever had the chance to live his dream, own a horse, be a cowboy? "Well, actually I did - for about a year and a half and then I was done," he says with a chuckle. Turns out his aunt and uncle had a ranch in Colorado so, when he was about 14 years old, Darryl went and spent this year and a half as a cowboy on their ranch. "They had cattle and hay and I quickly realized this was not for me. Let me put it this way, the only rest and break you got was going to church on Sunday. That was a lot of work." Okay, we can check Darryl Abernathy, career cowboy off the list and go back to Darryl Abernathy collector and definitely a bit more of a city boy.
Recovering from his stint on the range, Darryl went back into being a mainstream teenager but never lost his interest for the art and artifacts from those that came before him. Now finished with school and in his early twenties, "I got back into it. I began to do wholesale jewelry, Indian in particular and that was it, I was addicted." He met his wife about this time who wasn't as passionate about collecting as Darryl but she did love the jewelry (he says with a laugh) and decorating the house with some of his particularly beautiful finds.
"I love all things cowboy and Indian but am partial to things indigenous to the Southwest where I live." Navajo rugs and weavings, baskets, pottery, kachinas - I love them all but my real passion lies in bits and spurs. When I saw my first pair of good spurs I was taken by the craftsmanship - it was something I could truly relate to." It's the very early Mexican spurs and bits that has Darryl's heart. "They are the best ever made. When you look at the work, the art, and realize this was done with rudimentary tools they become even more beautiful."
When talking about how he got into not only collecting but selling as well, Darryl candidly comments, "I came from a family of 'have-nots' so I learned pretty quickly that if I was going to be able to afford my passion, I would have to start selling as well." High Noon was one of the first shows he did some twelve years ago and has added a few to his repertoire but his '9-5' keeps him pretty busy. Now, what about that '9-5' that enables him to wake up each morning wondering what he'll find? Well, turns out, Darryl works for UPS and is out in the field delivering everyday. "The job is perfect, I never miss the opportunity while out on the field, to meet, talk and hunt for another treasure."
Now, for every serious collector, there are always those few things that are never for sale. When asked what those are in his personal collection, Darryl replies, again with that great sense of humor, "Well, I used to think so but now I think the one thing would be a real early Spanish gold chest, that's the one item I think I'd hang on to. My wife likes this one too."
As for family, Darryl has two "wonderful children." Neither his son, who is 27 nor his daughter who is 21, seems to be following in dad's footsteps in terms of collecting. When asked if his kids have picked up the cowboy and Indian collecting bug, he immediately replies with a large laugh "NO! My daughter routinely asks me 'Dad, why is everything in the house so brown?' " Brown or not, Darryl further comments with his wry humor that he does notice his kids tracking values and prices on the brown stuff in the house..."
Darryl brings such great passion and energy into our world of collecting and we look forward to having him as part of our family for many, many years to come.
Sonora West Trading
"I've made a living looking people in the eye since I was nine years old..."
by Jayne Skeff
...which was when he started trading horses with his father and he's been trading ever since. "I've always hated bosses and never wanted one so I haven't had a real job in 45 years but I think I've done okay without one."
It was Larry's horse trading career that led him to the rich world of collecting and trading bits, spurs, saddles and, most important, meeting his fabulous wife Cindy. But let's go back to the bits and spurs first. As Larry recalls, "When you're trading with the cowboys as I did, you always have to throw something in or get something extra in the deal. This is how I accumulated quite a plunder and when I stopped trading horses in the 80s, I looked around and realized I had over 100 head of horses and a plunder of bits and spurs. The horses needed food and water, the bits and spurs didn't." And so, Larry Peck, bit and spur expert and trader was born. "I guess I've learned a few things about bits, spurs and saddles over the past 65 years. I'm partial to Ortega but I also have real appreciation for the work of Adolph Bayer, one of the original Texas spur makers."
By 1990, Larry decided to start taking his "plunder" and try selling it at a show. The first show he did was Western Heritage in Abilene in 1990. "It was amazing," he recalls and has been doing shows ever since. He still does about 20 shows a year but would love to start cutting back a bit but we're guessing he probably won't.
Now back to how Larry met his lovely wife Cindy. He, in fact, was still doing a bit of horse trading in Texas in the early 1990s and a gal was bringing about six horses over from Nevada for trade. He recalls the truck pulled up to his ranch and out popped two women, one of which was Cindy, who had come along from Las Vegas for the ride. "You just never know when the love of your life is going to pop out of a truck..." And so, as they say, the rest is history. They traveled back and forth between Texas and Las Vegas visiting each other until one day, Cindy just moved to Texas and they've been together ever since.
"She didn't know a thing about saddles, bits or spurs but when she went to a show with me for the first time, she decided she wanted to start collecting and trading. I told her absolutely not! I didn't need to be competing with her," he says with a laugh. So Cindy decided to go another route and begin collecting things that would appeal to the feminine side of the Western world. She began collecting and selling Beacon Blankets which then led to a whole collectible design line that today, has made her both an expert and author in the field. Go Cindy!
The word "plunder" is a great word and Larry uses it with great skill. He, through his tenacity, diligence and sincere caring has parlayed his "plunder" to presidency - President of the NBSSCA for 2012, a role he is very honored to have.
Larry Peck has been a driving force is building and preserving the awareness of the heritage of the works by the masters of years past but is also the biggest advocate of the contemporary masters creating these works of art today. "Today's bit, spur and saddle makers are true artists and what they create are works of art. I have had the opportunity to see this first hand at many shows when I've sold and I've seen these makers sell their works to people you know don't have a horse. They buy them as art pieces for their mantles in their homes."
As President of the NBSSCA, Larry has several goals he is committed to achieving. "In the beginning, the NBSSCA was just a small group of guys trading among ourselves but now we've grown to over 1500 members and things have changed and splintered a bit which is natural. I want to reinstate the strong cohesiveness in the organization, bring all the groups together because we will have more impact as a group than as individuals.
Key to Larry's mission is to do everything he can, along with all members of the NBSSCA, to ensure that show promoters are successful. "Shows are our lifeline. We have to do everything we can to support promoters of these events whether it be consulting and supporting in advertising, publicity, scheduling or location selection." To that end, he has already assembled a special advisory group of long time promoters and makers to do just this. Linda Kohn Sherwood was very honored to have been chosen as a member of this special advisory board.
"The country needs to be educated and see both the historic and contemporary works so that this heritage and our future can be preserved and shows are our primary way of getting our message to the people."
It's Larry's humor but his genuine soul that comes through in everything he does and says. This is really evident when he's asked about his children. He just beams at the success of his two sons, Ryan and Randy and his daughter Kathy.
Ryan, taking a completely different route than his father, finished his masters degree in Texas then, much to dad's dismay, headed for Hollywood to become an actor. Terrified at this thought, Larry called Linda and Joseph who came to the rescue and had Ryan safely stay with them until he could get his feet on the ground. That didn't take long as Ryan has been contracted by an agency, is off on his own and recently appeared in the TV show The Mentalist and is beginning work on a major motion picture that will start filming soon.
He refers to Randy as his jet-setting banking son who currently holds the position of President of two banks, one in Arizona and one in New York. His daughter Kathy, the proverbial apple of daddy's eye, lives a wonderful life in her hometown of Oklahoma City.
by Jayne Skeff
"I was born too late, I should have been born a 100 years ago so I could have been a real cowboy," says Roger Jack...and Kate concurs.
At the forefront of this effervescent couple's desire, is that the legacy of the American West be sustained and live on for generations to come. "It worries all of us that none of the younger generations have the interest or desire to learn about and own pieces of our Western and cowboy heritage. It was such an important part of our history and it just can't be forgotten," implores Jack. "We have to protect that bridge that connects the generations and if we want to preserve these values, we all have to get involved."
And protecting that bridge is how Kate and Jack became so integrally involved in the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City where they live. "We lived here when the Hall of Fame was first coming to fruition and have watched it grow and expand its reach in so many important directions to attract and sustain interest on all levels," says Kate. "They really are trying to be the bridge this country needs - they best reflect the nucleus of who we are," says Jack.
But where did it all begin for these two individuals so committed to helping build that bridge? Well it began in a completely unrelated world. Jack was a tennis pro at a country club for years and Kate worked there as well. Not so cowboy.
Now Roger had always loved cowboys, growing up with a family heritage of farming and ranching. But Kate was not really born to the passion of collecting. She rather romantically envisioned herself riding across the range on horseback, inspired by the Roy Rogers era of television.
But they stumbled into the world of Western collecting together and it changed their lives. Moving on from their country club careers, for over 20 years they operated a target gun business, where the Western connection occurred. "Back in the day, we'd attend target gun events where we would meet people collecting and trading antique and collectible guns. And that was where it started!" recalls Jack. "I became interested in the Winchesters and Colt Single Actions and began collecting them." Guns lead to saddles, saddles lead to chaps, reatas, art and then sculpture. "If you see our house, it's like a museum itself. We live in what we sell."
Again that word museum, which is what bridged them to the Cowboy Hall of Fame. (actually called the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, but often shortened to as the Cowboy Hall or the Cowboy Museum). They realized the Cowboy Hall was a larger version of their own home-museum and had to get involved. "It's been so exciting to watch the Cowboy Hall develop to host the Prix De West art show and now the TCAA (Traditional Cowboy Artists of America) and CAA (California Artists of America) event. And the people involved are just wonderful and truly passionate about what they do."
Kate and Roger have been married now for 22 years and have four children and six grandchildren. When asked the big question, "So, are any of your children interested in the world of Western Americana?" Both Kate and Jack jump in with "Well... not really. But our daughter who lives in New York, a Vice President with Sephora, has one of our horsehair-on-hide pillows sitting on her very contemporary red sofa in her Manhattan apartment so maybe there's hope."
Hope, commitment, the love of history, cowboys and the West and, in addition to the people who are involved, is what inspires Jack and Kate to continue to be at the forefront of the task to ensure this legacy lives on for many generations to come. We at High Noon feel very fortunate to have them in our lives and know that their passion and energy is out there doing something so important. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts and cheer them on for keeping the cowboy spirit alive.
Kate and Roger Jack
Far View Out West
by Jayne Skeff
As it goes in our world of Western Americana, so many of the couples who work together side-by-side in the business came together through their like passions for the genre. Well, not Bob and Charla. When asked, "How did you and Bob meet?" I fully expected her to say, "at such and such show..." But, oh no, her response was, "We met in a bar." Right then, a woman we can all relate to. "I was at a sports bar in Cheyenne watching a Rockies playoff game and there were no seats left except one at the table where Bob was sitting. I went up and asked him if I could sit there and he said, 'Yes'." So it was Baseball, not Bohlin or Borein that brought them together. Thirteen years later, they are an unstoppable team with an infectious passion for what they do.
Charla talks about how Bob's passion for what he does is infectious and apparently so because her life before Bob was completely unrelated to this world, and what a talented woman she is. Music has always been her true passion and since the age of 10 she's been performing as a singer, pianist and organist. Her most memorable public appearances have been two concerts at Carnegie Hall (WOW!) and one tour in Italy. She also had a fairly important day job. As a CPA by profession, Charla held the position of Bank Accountant in the Treasurers Office for the State of Wyoming. "I handled and arranged short term investment portfolios for the state for ten years. It was a fabulous job," she recalls. Okay, so now we're getting the idea that Charla's the kind of woman who knows how to get things done.
Bob's passion has always been collecting and by the age of nine he had already acquired some pretty important stuff. Coming from humble beginnings and a very loving family who encouraged his interests, he went on to become a successful self-made man. "He's the visionary, he has incredible ideas and goals," says Charla.
Bob spent 26 years practicing law in Wyoming when the whole legal process began to change and he just wasn't thrilled about changing with it. So he began to look back on his collecting, started making trips to Santa Fe, buying and selling and soon had a gallery, an auction and was opening the Nelson Museum of the West in Cheyenne. That was 25 years ago when he held his first Montana auction, now known as March in Montana. Hard to believe this year's event will be the 25th anniversary. Bob is committed to preserving and educating about our rich Western American heritage. He truly is an ambassador for this mission.
Anyone who knows Bob knows his passion also includes big game hunting and he has hunted on every continent in the world. When Charla was asked, "What do you and Bob do to escape and have play time?" her response was, "We love to travel. It used to revolve around Bob's hunting but since he's hunted all over the world, we took our first river boat cruise for his birthday up the Danube and it was our best trip ever!"
While Bob and Charla may come from completely different backgrounds, they are both Wyoming born and raised and both love art and the beautiful West. "Most people don't know Bob has a music background too," comments Charla. He attended Bethany College in Kansas and was a key member of the choir that toured the country. "He has several albums that he produced from that time." Can we get him to sing for us some time?
While Bob may be the visionary, Charla is the infrastructure that brings those visions to fruition. Since they've been together, they've opened two Manitou Galleries and an auction in Santa Fe.
Bouncing between Santa Fe, their Cheyenne and Montana auctions and the Nelson Museum of the West, well, these two are high-energy smart and absolutely delightful individuals that fuel our world with infectious passion. But, in between all the craziness and busy schedules they have, their real root and fun revolves around their nine grandchildren - 5 boys and 4 girls, the apples of Charla and Bob's eyes.
When chatting with Bob and Charla at the High Noon show in January, Bob and I had arranged to have this interview. I told him it would be about 30 minutes - light and breezy. His response was, "I was an attorney for 26 years, I can't say anything in 30 minutes, plan on two hours." Braced with a cup of coffee, I called at the designated time and was greeted on the phone by his secretary who said he was delayed in Colorado and would not get back in time. Deadline looming, she gave me Charla's number who picked the phone right up. When I told her I'd love to interview her, as Bob was delayed, she said, "Fine but let's make it short." The woman who loves baseball, Bob and brevity - now she's a keeper!
On behalf of all of us at High Noon, we want to send our congratulations to Bob and Charla on the 25th Anniversary of March in Montana and hope it's a grand success as always.
Wisenheimer and Cowboy Collector Extraordinaire
"I was going to save the world
one city at a time"
by Jayne Skeff
Two years ago when Smoke Signals was just in development, Linda Kohn Sherwood thought it would be so neat to be able to find out who the people really were behind the ones we know in their High Noon booths. We've had a lot of fun doing this but interviewing Jim Hislop really exemplified what behind the booth really means.
"I've always had a theme to what I wanted to do. When I was a boy, I wanted to be a pirate but Dad didn't think that would work out too well. Then I wanted to be a cowboy which I was for a while until I realized the horses (mine was named Pig) were really just trying to kill me. Then I thought about being a surfer but Dad really didn't think that would work out well living in the middle of Texas. One thing that wasn't on the list was joining Lyndon Johnson's party in Southeast Asia. But, I did that too."
The story about Jim's draft experience is really quite something. In 1966 he got the letter and dutifully showed up in San Antonio. At that time, all draftees queued up in a line and, one after another, you either went to the right which was the Army or the left which was the Marines. Well at Jim's turn, he went to the left and encountered a gunnery sargeant who took one look at all 6 foot 5 inches of him and said "Boy, in about 4 weeks, you are going to be on point in the jungles of Vietnam and I can tell you that looking at you, I give you a life expectancy of about 3 weeks. What I suggest you do is step out of line and go over to the Air Force and the Navy where you have a chance of survival." Jim was a bit offended at the time but then quickly realized he "somehow knew I was an idiot so I went and joined the Air Force. He saved my life." And the stories keep unfolding from there.
While Jim was always trading and collecting from boyhood on, marbles, comics, you name it, he also always loved the cowboy world but it wasn't until years later that it became his livelihood. The road to Cowboy collecting took several detours along the way.
Tenacious? Oh yes. Jim actually calls himself mercenary at heart. Jim was the youngest City Manager in the history of Texas. At the old age of 28, he became the City Manager of Round Rock, a position he held for five years until two politicians actually got on the city council. He quickly resigned. The games of politics - definitely not his thing. "I was going to save the world one city at a time - then the politicians jumped in and I jumped out."
Then in the early 1980s, he decided to start an oil company. He had several accounts, mainly towns and school districts that would buy oil from him. Problem was that he had $10,000 but needed $5 million to really run with the big dogs at Exxon. "They wanted to be paid each week about $4 million but I was net 30 from the cities and towns. It was a problem and Exxon just didn't have a sense of humor." Okay, check oil baron off the list.
Then he decided to get into real estate development and moved to Dallas where things were exploding. "It was crazy there at the time. There were so many developers, everyone was stepping on everyone else and anyone with a pick-up truck called themselves a developer." He rode the Dallas development wave until the late 80s then said, "I'm done with this." Always in the back of his mind was his love for Cowboy collectibles and antiques. He started going to gun shows and general line antique shows as those were the only options at the time to buy and sell cowboy stuff. Then he met Joseph, Linda, and Brian Lebel and knew these would be the events that would really solidify his cowboy livelihood endeavors. And that's what he's been doing since the late 1980s and loving every minute of it.
"For myself, I collect steer horns, old ones. I have furniture and mounts made from them which fill my house." When asked how his wonderful wife Kat feels about the furnishings he replies, "She's real tolerant." Another note on the family side - he has two grown daughters but no grandkids yet. 'They're too mean to have kids!" he comments with a belly laugh.
Jim loves what he sells and what he collects. He's particularly partial to the finest Navajo rugs and the really good marked leather pieces. "It's the story behind these pieces that I really love. Heck, make a story up about the pieces, I don't care - it just adds character to the piece."
Jim is passionate about this country, understanding the richness of our Western heritage and the artifacts that remain to tell the story.
You can contact Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org
by Jayne Skeff
Nary three minutes into the delightful interview with JoAnn Roll, the word love quickly became her signature. Just chatting with her, the passion she and Dick feel for what they do kept the cell signal alive from their remote ranch in Fallbrook, CA - the ranch she grew up on as a child and still lives on today. "We just love what we do but it's really because we just love all the people that are part of this world. We love, love, love doing the shows because of everyone there. If we sell something - great, but if not, we are still just so happy to be part of all of this."
The world of Cowboy and Western was not something Dick and JoAnn began their life together doing. When asked, "So, how long have you and Dick been married?" "Forever, absolutely forever," was JoAnn's response with a giggle. I never did get an answer other than they have two daughters and three grandchildren who "aren't little kids."
Dick and JoAnn's life together has been a journey of discovering what it is they really love to do. They made a decision early in their lives together that if they got up Monday morning and didn't look forward to the day, they needed to make a change. Over the years, they owned seven different businesses together, everything from a motorcycle shop, a machine shop, a brake repair service... the list goes on. Then they discovered Cowboy and Western collecting and they knew they had finally found what they loved to do. And here they are, some 20+ years later, still doing and loving every minute of it.
It's a bit of the typical story as to how they go into doing High Noon and other shows. They were so taken by Cowboy and Western antiques and collectibles that they quickly found they had run out of room. So, they decided to try their hand at selling at a show to lighten the load so to speak. That was it. Now, not only were they hooked on Cowboy collecting but they were completely hooked on doing shows. And that's what they do all year long.
High Noon was one of the first shows they started with over 20 years ago and it's a weekend they still look forward to all year.
When it comes to the collection of Cowboy and Western, it's very important to both Dick and JoAnn that what they sell is the real deal from working cowboys. "I don't want it to be perfect. Everything we sell and collect has a history, has a story to tell. The pieces come alive in your hands and you can imagine the person way back when that might have used it, made it or rode it. This is what makes it rich for us. To learn the stories behind the stuff and share that with others."
There's another side to JoAnn that most High Nooners might not know as she doesn't bring them to the show. "We're too busy at High Noon for me to bring my hats, Dick needs my full attention in the booth when we are in Mesa."
Custom hats? Yup, JoAnn designs and makes custom hats for men and women. "I was a sun worshipper for many years and completely destroyed my skin. So, I began wearing hats whenever stepping outside to try to save what I could of my skin. I could never find big, wide brim hats that fit me, were comfortable and that I actually wanted to wear. So, I began making them for myself." JoAnn learned the craft of hat making, and now makes many designs sporting 4 or 5 inch brims, each one fitting so well that you don't even know you're wearing them. JoAnn's custom hat business has expanded their repertoire of the shows they do outside of the Western world. Her hats are a hit at car shows, golf courses and horse shows.
Dick and JoAnn Roll. Living life on their ranch, and spending their livelihood on the road sharing their passion for Cowboys and custom hats with the people in their life they "treasure so much - we just love them all."
And we love and treasure them right back. Contact them at email@example.com
by Jayne Skeff
That's because, according to Joe, if you "arrive early, stay late and love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life." And that's pretty much been Joe's life - he just loves what he does - cattle ranching since 1957 and spur collecting since the age of 10 (we'll get to that story in a minute)... the only other job he's had for the past 45 years is a Farm Bureau Insurance agent. "This job has pretty much taught me the truth factor has vanished. My advice? Trust everyone but brand ALL your calves."
Now, back to spur collecting, which is how we all know and love Joe Flores. It started when he was 10 years old growing up on a ranch in Stratford, TX. His father wouldn't allow him to wear spurs, he said it would make the horse buck him off. But Joe wanted spurs. He found his first pair in an old burned out barn. They were a pair of McChesney ladies spurs and they fit him just fine. He kept them and used them everyday while riding but would hide them in the bushes outside the house and put them on so his dad didn't see. Perhaps it was that typical defiance of the young boy wanting what he wasn't allowed to have, that created his addiction to spurs that would last his lifetime. Regardless, his collections have spanned the best makers in the world.
"I became a full fledged addict to collecting spurs," Joe recalls. "I had to have every spur in the Kelly catalog and racked up credit card bills to prove it! I think I even lost wife #1 over them," he recalls with a smile. And collecting Kelly spurs became his life addiction. At any given point, Joe had 300 to 400 spurs in his collection, many of them he used on his ranch every day. There is one pair though, after all these years, that he will never part with. It's a pair of Crockett spurs his wife gave him in 1958 as they were just building their cattle ranch business. "Those spurs built my ranch and I will never let them go."
It was in the late 1980s that Joe began to work the show circuit with the man he considers his mentor, Jim Statler. As Jim was getting older at the time, he invited Joe to ride with him across the country, doing show after show. "What I learned from Jim was invaluable," he recalls. It was Jim that got Joe his first table at High Noon in the mid-1990s. Now with the shows, his collecting addiction was really getting worse, he laughs. He finally did break his addiction just last year when he sold one of his collections of 30 spurs for a nice sum. "I could finally start paying off those credit cards bills!," he laughs again.
The day of this interview, Joe, who is 80 years young, complained he was a bit stiff as he was hauling bails of grass hay for the one horse he has left. "You know those bails of hay are $8 a piece? But, I love my horse so he's worth it every penny."
Today, Joe still has a collection of some 300 Kelly spurs. He also has a collection of about 80 spurs from makers including Randy Butters, Tom Johnson and Bill Adamson. This collection is on exhibit at the National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock, TX in the Joe Flores Family Gallery. "There's even an oil painting of me in that gallery. Some guy painted a portrait of me. Heck, I've never even painted my house!"
And this is why we love Joe Flores. Outspoken, funny but oh, so genuine.
If you want to contact Joe, try his email: firstname.lastname@example.org
129 years in the making...
by Jayne Skeff
"The only thing we get is raw material and when it leaves, it's a work of art." And that has been happening for 129 years at R Schaezlein & Son of San Francisco. Works of art in silver and works of art in gold.
Talking to Rob Schaezlein, fourth generation silversmith in a line of masters, you are immediately taken with his passion for history and passion for the heritage arts. It's a history that goes back to 1882 when his great-grandfather, German born Robert Schaezlein I, set up shop in San Francisco creating society badges and flatware. Quickly gaining a reputation for impeccable silverwork of the highest caliber of the day, his business thrived and grew in tandem with the legendary era of San Francisco when the finest craftsmen settled there to satisfy the needs of the gold rush barons. Almost destroyed by the major 1906 San Francisco earthquake which left their shop in rubble and ruins, he salvaged what he could and moved his shop by horse drawn wagon to the basement of his home where it remained for the next 57 years. By this time, Rob's Grandfather, Robert F Sr., had begun working with his father, taking their work to another level and creating their now recognizable style and high standards of art for saddle makers such as Visalia Saddlery and the legendary Levi Strauss Company.
After World War II, Rob's father, Robert F, Jr., joined the family business training under German master engraver Fred Newmeyer. Taking their work and designs to yet another level, fine hand-cut lettering and ornamental engraving became the hallmark of their impeccable work.
"I used to spend a lot of time with my dad, helping out in the shop in small ways doing basic stamping and a lot of cleaning up," recalls Rob about growing up. "I went away to college and when I returned in the 80s I had a choice - to pursue a career in business or join my father at R Schaezlein & Son. I realized, in my heart, that if I didn't join my father, that the business would likely eventually disappear - I didn't want that to happen. So, I began to learn from my father and as I did more, he did less."
Learning from three generations of masters definitely has its reward and today Rob Schaezlein is regarded as one of the finest silversmiths in the country if not the world. He's not comfortable with the accolades though, and he's wonderfully humble about the works he creates. Humble to the point where he feels art is his weakest talent yet what he designs and what he creates is most certainly art. "That's actually the hardest part of this - often the design takes much longer than the actual product. It has to be perfect down to the tiniest detail. I'm obsessive about doing a really good job and I hope people will notice."
Notice indeed! Rob's work is featured in many of the finest shops in the country, all done one at a time and all done by Rob. No mass manufacturing here. "That is a problem, I just won't go there, I won't sell out. It's not who I am nor who I ever want to be."
Rob's designs are typically rich in tradition but lately, he's been stretching the envelope a bit with some more contemporary designs. "That has been fun, stretching my creativity, but my heart still goes to tradition."
Is he still in the basement of his great-grandfather's house on Clay Street? No. After all, some traditions do eventually have to change.
Whether contemporary or conservative, it's his world-class designs that make him such a treasured tradition for the High Noon family.
Visit Rob on Facebook at R. Schaezlein & Son or his website: www.handcrafted-belts-buckles.com
The Gentleman of Breckenridge
By Jayne Skeff
We're going to flash forward to the end of the interview with Jim Nicholls as his closing comments are the best place to start. At the end of the interview, soft-spoken Jim said, "If I can say just one more thing... Aside from hunting big game, the experiences I've had at these shows are some of the highlight of my life. If I can count 100 true friends, 90 of them are in this room." That's one of those statements that gives you goose bumps, that makes all of us remember that it's not just about the "stuff" but, at the core, it's about the people and the journey along the way. For Jim, it's been a journey that began as a boy growing up in Gary, (IN). (Please don't start whistling that song, it's been in my head since the interview)
"I was always interested in history growing up and started collecting as a kid," he recalls. He also always had the "West" in his roots. His family founded the town of Fruita (CO) in 1885 so he was destined, by heritage, to eventually end up immersed in the world of Western Americana. As soon as he finished high school, he "bolted" for Colorado where he earned his degree in forestry and wood management. After a short stint for the US Forest Service, he quickly found that he was an entrepreneur at heart with strong creative abilities. He began to parlay these skills into architectural design then real estate development. It was Breckenridge (CO) that would capture his heart in the early 1960s. It was a historic town at the time on the verge of development. His passion for history and preservation would influence the city's development and his footprint there is very evident today. His heart was captured in Breckenridge in another way as well. It was on the slopes of a Breckenridge ski area that he met Maureen in 1965, the love of his life. They've been inseparable since then, now married for over 40 years.
Maybe we'll just call Jim and Maureen, "Mr. & Mrs. Breckenridge" because they have been instrumental in the careful development of that beautiful Rocky Mountain community. She's renowned as the city historian and Jim does what he can to ensure that old historic buildings are conserved and new buildings keep the same historic flavor. "So many new buildings are being constructed with wood. The reality is though, that in the 1800s, Breckenridge quickly discovered that these buildings burn and brick became the building material of choice," says Jim. It's the wonderful old brick buildings that are the true look of Breckenridge and you'll find any new buildings Jim has had his hand in designing, to be brick and solid brick.
Well, enough about Jim the developer, let's look at Jim the collector. He admits in his early days of collecting, he really didn't know what he was doing or collecting, just that he loved the process. He also admits he made a lot of mistakes but, that through those mistakes, his knowledge has made him an expert. His true love goes to Navajo weavings (he estimates he has bought and sold some 700 over the course of 20 years) and horsehair bridles but it was his gun collecting and collection that put Jim "on the map." He was one of the original founders of the Colorado Gun Collectors Association and is still active today as a life member of the NBSSCA.
His early years in gun collecting taught him some very important lessons. "The first gun I bought was a Flintlock pistol for $150. I thought I had the real McCoy here. I took it to a show and was quickly told it was a Japanese version valued at $39.95. I still have that gun hanging in my office as a reminder to always question, to never stop learning." And learn he did. At one point, Jim owned what could likely be regarded as one of the most valuable and extensive collections of Marlin Lever Action rifles. "I still have 4 or 5 left, but have sold all of the rest over time. Now, I'm at a point in my life where I buy and collect to keep, not to sell. It's a nice change of pace."
Jim and Maureen are on the go and on the move constantly. When Jim is not in his shop in Breckenridge called "Cowboys & Indians Antiques" he is busy restoring and maintaining the charming original Victorian home in which it is located and the shopping complex he built to complement it.
Jim is truly one of the High Noon "originals" as well. He's been with us since the very first show that was held at the Holiday Inn in Phoenix - wow, now that's history.
Cowboys & Indians Antiques
226 S. Main Street
Breckenridge, CO 80424
I guarantee everything I make:
Guarantee #1 - You'll never get saddles sores from any of my miniature saddles unless you ride them
Guarantee #2 - All of the woolie chaps I make are guaranteed not to fit
And there's the perfect insight into the infectious and perhaps a bit naughty personality of master leather carver and designer Casey Jordan. And indeed, there's a bit of his mother in his flip funny way. When Casey was just 13, he needed a new belt. His mom didn't have time to make one for him so, she tossed him a book and the tools and challenged, "make one yourself." And he did. It wasn't great but the seed was planted. And boy did that seed grow.
It took some time. Life, marriage and family interceded but in the mid-1990s, Casey resumed what was his true passion, creating the finest leatherwork in the form of saddles, bags, chaps and holsters.
Anyone who knows Casey knows he loves creating his miniature saddles the most. "Maybe it's because I have a small shop or a small brain," he comments. "Which ever it is, my wife would agree with both." But, all kidding aside, Casey is a master at what he does. His carvings are laden in rich traditional floral designs but he is moving more and more to pictorial carvings. "The pictorial work has endless possibilities. Give me a picture and I can replicate it in leather."
Casey is a self-taught perfectionist. As an example, while his leatherwork is the best, his silver engraving is not up to his own expectations so he collaborates often with master silver designers and engravers, Silver King of Los Angeles. "Why would I want to ruin my beautiful saddle with my own silver engraving?" is his reasoning. "I leave that to the experts in that craft."
What motivates Casey to keep raising the bar, is by not only appreciating what others are doing, but constantly challenging himself to make his own better each time. Competitive? Maybe. But in reality, it's what drives all master artisans. They all watch each other, learn from each other and together, they keep reaching new heights in design and quality.
Casey is much more than a master leather carver and designer. He is also a champion for carvers and designers around the world. His goal is to bring their work to the forefront so they will be recognized for the work they do. He was instrumental (well, it was his idea) in the creation of the annual event, Art of the Cowboy Makers held in Loveland, CO each June. Every year, contemporary makers are invited to bring their best work to compete for silver trophy buckles, cash prizes and ribbons. The makers are judged by both their peers and the public. Following the event, their work is displayed at the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and American Cowboy Museum in Colorado Springs. This year, Casey is very excited to have two saddle makers from the Czech Republic making the trip to compete.
Casey is inspired by the heritage and history of the American cowboy and prodded on by his wife LeEllen, two sons, Quaid and Kegan and now two grandsons, Cameron and Anthony. One must ask though regarding Guarantee #1.Will you make miniature saddles that don't give you saddle sores for your two precious grandsons?
It's this personality, tenacity and passion for what he does that continues to drive the dreams of contemporary masters working in the traditions of the great American west.
"It's the mystery and history of the west that fascinates me," says Scott Hardy renowned master silversmith. "I'm inspired by the works of Tiffany and I study fine art extensively to bring a level of sophistication into all of the work I do."
In a wonderful conversation with Scott, he gives a glimpse into his passion for what he does and his commitment to ensuring that master trades live on for generations to come. "What we do is steeped in the rich traditions from European masters of centuries past." The West was a melting pot, he remarks, of tradespeople from all over the world. They came here in pursuit of their fortune during the Gold Rush years, most, in the end, having to rely on their original skills to earn a living. By default, North America, particularly the West, became populated with master craftsmen from Europe practicing their mastery in silversmithing and leather working. It's this heritage and inspiration that lives on today in the soul of Scott Hardy.
It goes back to his childhood and his great-grandmother. Growing up in Alberta, he recalls his great-grandmother, who was from England, had a beautiful silver tea set. He would stare at the finely engraved teapot and wonder, "How could man make this?" He never forgot that and didn't realize at the time what an important role that teapot would play in his life.
His original goal was to find a trade, make some money, buy a ranch, become a rancher and let the trade fall by the wayside. Well, it seems his life worked in reverse. He found that trade - silversmithing but he became so captivated by the creativity and self-expression, that today he has a few head of cattle and some horses, but it's all about being the master artist he is. And what a master he is. His work is seen in the Smithsonian and owned by the finest collectors worldwide.
At the soul of Scott Hardy however, is his unstoppable passion and respect for the power and raw beauty of the North American West. It inspires him to raise the bar at every turn. He sees his work as a way of taming and transforming this raw power into usable art. Elegance and tradition is at the root of everything he creates.
"I have a real soft spot for High Noon," said Scott. "They continue to celebrate and educate people about our Western heritage." And we at High Noon have a real soft spot for Scott. His work as a master silversmith and his role with the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA) is invaluable to our culture now and the legacy that will live on forever.
Scott Hardy was one of the original founding members of the TCAA. Now serving as its President, Scott is committed to ensuring that the skills of saddle making, bit and spur making, silversmithing and rawhide braiding live on for generations to come. Through the TCAA's mentorship, educational programs and appearances throughout the country at special events, Scott and his organization continue to strive to maintain a seamless link between the past generations of these craftsman and future generations who aspire in their footsteps.
And, speaking of aspiring in their footsteps... Scott is father to twin boys (26 years old) Tyne and Colter. Colter is currently apprenticing as a silversmith and engraver but with an eye to a bit more modern styling than Western. Tyne is working full-time right now, saving money to go back to art school. Gee, wonder where they get their affinity to create and design? Could it be their dad Scott? Well, it's likely from their mom too. Leslie, Scott's wife of 33 years, is a pencil and pastel artist. A family full of artists? Scott's comment on that: "Yea, we are a pretty nutty group, but we're happy." You can view Scott's video for an insight into his art. Please visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRQ652l2pFc
The home page of Larry Carpenter's website says it all in just a few words, "I'm always in the mood to buy guns." And Larry's been in the mood since he was a young boy growing up in eastern Tennessee.
As a young boy, a neighbor of his family was a gun collector. Larry took to antique guns like a fish to water and his neighbor took him under his wing, educating him, taking young Larry to shows, mentoring him and fueling his passion for what would become his life-long career.
Larry then knew what he wanted to do. He graduated high school, did a stint in the military then graduated college in 1976. Within a year, he had opened his own gun shop in Kingsport (TN) called Lock, Stock & Barrel. Could he have called it a better name?
His true passion always ran to the antique guns like Winchesters and the real cowboy guns. He kept Lock, Stock & Barrel for 20 years until he decided to close the shop and focus entirely on buying, selling and trading the finest antique firearms at shows across the country.
"It's a close knit family of collectors in this business. And, even through this recession, the value of fine antique firearms hasn't diminished, but rather keeps increasing. This says a lot about our appreciation for history and fine craftsmanship," commented Larry.
He has also seen a solid increase in values over the last 20 years. "Oh boy, sometimes I wish I hadn't sold a couple of the guns I did, when I did," he says. They'd be worth a whole lot more now." There are still a few in his personal collection he is slow to part with. "That's my retirement bank account."
Today, he and his girlfriend of 12 years travel the country, selling at shows in their motor home, which they really bought for their dogs. "It's all about the babies," he admits. While Virginia is their home, their life is on the road buying, selling and trading what he loves the most and spent a life doing. "I have customers that want to buy the best, so I have to keep looking. And I need to keep that motor home going for those babies."
Larry began doing the High Noon Show the first year it opened in Mesa and has been part of our family ever since. He'll be there this month, looking to buy so he can sell to keep that motor home running...
Larry W Carpenter
The New Englander Turned Cowboy
So, when asked how a young man born and raised in Massachusetts ends up, first in Cody, WY then in Denver, CO as a show and auction promoter..."Ever since I was six years old I wanted to move to Wyoming and be a cowboy," was Brian Lebel's response. Was your family an influence? Was your dad into the West? "No, not at all. Quite the contrary actually," he furthered. So, all we can assume is Brian Lebel was "to the West born" and here today he thrives and lives the life he loves. And, he made his dream at 6 years old a reality. Let's take a look at how this all happened.
It all started with guns and a generation of family employed by Smith & Wesson in Springfield, MA. So, in family tradition, Brian, just after graduating high school, went to work there as a fitter. On the side, he started doing gun shows in 1972, dealing in both contemporary and antique guns with a particular affection for Winchester Lever Actions. He also began to collect antiques with a keen interest in advertising. Juggling his full-time job, he managed to set-up at 30 shows a year where he began to meet people who would become his life-long friends and colleagues. "In those days, there were only two Western shows in the country, one in Loveland (CO) and one in Amarillo (TX). So, if you wanted to buy and sell Western antiques, your choices were the gun shows or general antique shows."
But it was Brian's passion for Winchester guns that would end up fulfilling his boyhood dream. He attended a Winchester Gun show in Cody (WY) in 1981 and fell in love with the town. He returned to Springfield, gave two weeks notice to Smith & Wesson, packed up and moved across the country to Cody, WY. He landed a job as a ranch hand doing everything from running horses to guiding groups in the mountains. "It's not as glamorous as it sounds, that's for sure," was his comment on that career move. But he lived his cowboy dream for a couple of years until he married and knew he needed a more serious and stable way to earn a living. So, in 1987, he opened Old West Antiques in Cody, WY, a gallery and store that thrived until 2003 when he moved to Scottsdale (AZ).
It was just about that time, 1990 to be specific, that is he started the first Cody Old West Show and Auction. At first, he thought it would be a great way to get all of his friends and colleagues who he hadn't seen in a long time up to Cody. The doors opened to the first Cody Old West Show 21 years ago to 35 dealers. "The show was so small at the beginning, that in the evening for the auction, we had to move all the dealer tables out and move chairs in for the auction. When it was over, we moved all the tables back," he recalls with a smile. That's a far cry from the scene now, walking into his Denver Old West Show and Auction at the Merchandise Mart. While Brian's passion and commitment to ensure the rich legacy of the West continues to thrive, there's certainly more than 235 dealers at his show and he doesn't have to move tables around anymore.
Yes, the Denver Old West Show and Auction is world class, but for Brian, it's always been and still is about the people who share his goals and dreams. It's about the relationships he's developed over the years, the sharing of knowledge and the quest to never stop learning and promoting our Western heritage for generations to come. It's the mutual support and friendships that he treasures, and he feels so lucky to be able to share these common goals and dreams. And speaking of generations to come, there are another couple of generations of Lebels behind the scenes. Brian is grandfather to 5, ranging in ages from 5 to 12. When asked if they're into the Cowboy and Western thing? "Well no, not really." Sometimes Brian can be a man of few words. But as we know, sometimes less is more and those rivers run very deep.
Today, Brian shares his life with Melissa McCracken, an absolute dynamo in her own right. As the saying goes, "behind every happy man is a..." and in this case, it's Melissa - and we at High Noon think she is as great as he does.
Anyone with roots in the East Coast, New England in particular, know that people generally don't leave, much less to become cowboys in the West. For Brian, his roots still go back there, his family is still there, a mom whom he treasures and the lobsters that he still yearns for. But Brian has swapped his New England roots and set them down, deeply, in the West. And we are grateful he has done so!
Any interviewer can get the flavor of an interviewee fairly quickly but with Elmer it was immediate. At the beginning, when he was asked, "How did you end up in this world of Western Collectibles?" his response was - "Well, that would be my mother's fault." Dead silence followed as more information was anticipated...none came until he said, "She birthed me..." Okay. Got it. He's gonna make us work. In the end though, as they say, "Payback's a b..." So, when, at the end of the interview he asked if he would see this story before it ran, our response was "Absolutely not." Our turn for dead silence. Then he boomed with laughter. When it was then revealed that the name of the antique mall he and his wife Jan own in Big Timber (MT) is called Raging Bull Antique Mall it was too tempting not to say (and we did), "Raging Bull..., that's a good description of the story we're going to write about you!" And on it went but in the end, we were able to glean some bits of information in between giggles and guffaws.
Okay, back to Elmer, who left Aurora (IL) years ago burned out by his real job(s) and the big urban environment. He began by collecting guns in the 1970s, which he still loves but soon found the other genres of Western Americana even more intriguing. He blames this on Brian Lebel whom he met in the early 1980s at a show in Montana. Brian was set up and Elmer became fascinated by what he had. The rest, he said, was "proverbial history." Out with the guns, in with the chaps, bits, spurs and saddles and a wealth of knowledge in all areas of Western collecting.
He's extremely proud that he has been able to make his livelihood today doing what he loves. In the beginning, he'd do over 40 shows a year but now he's slowed down to only about 30. Tireless he is. Shows, along with The Raging Bull Antique Mall, keep him busy only 365 days a year.
When asked if there is anything he has acquired in his years of collecting that he just couldn't part with? "Heck no - it's all for sale!" (We should've known that would be his response.)
He's done High Noon since show #1 and will be there as long as they last. And we wouldn't want to have a show without him.
Elmer and Jan Diederich - just so fun and just so important to us!
Raging Bull Antique Mall
Big Timber, MT
Owner of Cowboys & Indians Antiques and Producer of Great Southwestern Antique Shows
Tracking down Terry for an interview wasn't the easiest thing to do. She runs at mach 20 everyday and, in typical Terry style, Smoke Signals finally tracked her down on her cell phone as she was pulling her Airstream across New Mexico on her way to set up at Round Top. “I’ve never done Round Top before! I am so excited. I’ve been on the waiting list for years because I need an indoor space. I finally got one and this year I'm going to be in the Big Red Barn!” She doesn't stop. Passionate about what she does is an understatement and it all began when she was just a little girl.
Growing up in Chicago to parents who were “big on education and history” her weekends were spent with her sister Janine scouring the Field Museum in Chicago. She spent her summers with her family in the Wisconsin Dells, an area rich in Winnebago history and heritage. We camped, we canoed, we learned to start fires with a single match, we even got to know the Chiefs of the Pow-Wows by their first name. She completely embraced the culture and heritage of the American Indians. As a young girl, she was one of those Girl Scouts who had badges that wrapped all the way around her entire sash– the envy of those of us who couldn't even make it halfway around. Her sister Janine, who actually wanted to grow up to be an American Indian, had to get a second sash to hold all her badges...well, enough of Girl Scout badge envy...
Flash-forward to high school by which time her family had moved to Southern California. It was her senior year in high school when Terry began buying and selling American Indian art and artifacts, earning money to help with her college tuition. Between her success at selling and grants (cause she was such a smart kid) she put her self through CalPoly in pre-med. She applied and was accepted to medical school but in the eleventh hour, decided to pursue her real passion and opted not to attend. Instead, she went the Social Services route, working groups of young girls and women, and yes, teaching them all the wonderful skills she learned as a child. She was passionate about sharing her love of nature and the culture of the American Indians. “If we don’t keep their history and culture alive, I'm afraid it will be lost forever.”
On the weekends, she was bidding and buying at Ron Munn’s Auctions and was often the first in line at the American Indian Markets in Santa Monica (CA). “Those were the days when the line to get in was wrapped around the building,” Terry recalls. Her entrepreneurial side started to kick in and she opened her first store in Pasadena, a shop she successfully ran for 13 years. “The market in Los Angeles began to change and more and more, when I found a piece or collection that was particularly important, I found myself heading to Santa Fe or Albuquerque to sell it. There just wasn't the appreciation or market in LA.”
It was at this time that Terry, along with her sister Janine, (who didn’t actually grow up to be an American Indian but as close as she could come) traveled to New Mexico in search of the perfect location for their new store. They found the building, completely restored it themselves and opened the doors to Cowboys & Indians in Albuquerque.
Along the way, Terry was also doing shows. She jumped into the High Noon shows in year two when she met Linda and Joseph. She blames Linda in particular for her next professional hat she wears as show promoter. “Linda coerced me into starting a show, she laughs.” “Oh, you’d be great, you need to produce a big show...” Okay, Terry finally gave in but wanted to produce a show that was open to everyone, not just American Indian dealers. And, thus was born the Great Southwestern Antique Show, a truly grand affair and the virtual go-to kick-off for the following weeks in Santa Fe. Well done, Terry! “I had no idea it would become as big as it has. We are working now on some exciting changes to our (new) May show to make it a bit different from our August event.”
Back to her roots and her parent’s commitment to education, Terry’s shows are all charity events. Proceeds from the shows are donated to numerous New Mexico education and art programs. “We’ve donated close to $100,000 over the past 7 years. I feel very proud that we are able to support the enrichment of children so that they can go on those field trips to museums like I did when I was young, that they can see Broadway plays and broaden their lives. There’s nothing more important than educating the children.”
Terry Schurmeier is one-of-a-kind and we are so proud and honored to have her as part of our High Noon Family.
Does she still have that Girl Scout sash? Yes she does... and she knows exactly where it is.
Cowboys & Indians Antiques
4000 Central SE
Albuquerque, NM 87108
The Great Southwestern Antique Show
Cowbilly? "Well, I was born and raised in the Ozark Mountains, so at first I was a hillbilly," recalls Gene. "When I was 15, I moved to Oklahoma and became infected with the cowboy craze and became a cowboy. So now I just call myself a cowbilly," he says with a laugh. Well, whether you call him a hillbilly, cowboy or cowbilly, one thing's for sure, this man makes beautiful spurs and is a valued member of the NBSCCA and the world of Western Americana.
It's so often by fluke that the best of the best end up doing what they do and Gene Rogers is no exception to this. His cowboy experience started at the age of 15 when he worked on a friend's ranch in the glamorous role of stall cleaner and manure shoveler. But that didn't stop him from being a cowboy in his dreams, even though perhaps he wasn't a world class rodeo rider.
What he was, however, was fully captivated with the lifestyle and culture of the cowboy. He rode some and it was on a ride one day that his spur-making career began. "I was riding one day up in the hills and I lost a spur. I couldn't find one to replace it so I decided to figure out how to make one myself." A pipe fitter by trade, working with metal and welding techniques was a natural for him.
Bob Hall helped in the beginning and Gene worked to emulate his fine designs and techniques. Later, Bill Adamson was his mentor resulting in a friendship that has sustained the years. "I've been trying to catch Bill for years but I still haven't gotten there yet," Gene remarks with a twinkle in his eye.
Now, 26 years later, Gene is still designing and creating some of the most exquisite spurs there are. He embraces passing on his craft and skill to future generations so this art continues to thrive. His apprentices range in age from their 60s to their 20s and he just loves what he does and all the people involved.
The "star" angle. Well, this "cowbilly" has made spurs for some very familiar cowboy and western types including James Drury of the Virginian, Stuart Whitman, Johnny Crawford and even Steven Seagal.
Oh yes, and those spurs that he made for the Roy Rogers Museum. Those spurs that just happened to sell well at the July Christie's auction... "The most any spurs I made have ever sold for were $3,000. But to me, it's not about what they sold for, just having my spurs in that auction and in that catalogue...well, it's like having something you've done exhibited at the finest museum in the world."
Gene's wife Donna "keeps him in line" as do his two children, Dirk and Cindy. Both have inherited a bit of the cowboy from their dad. Dirk is a firefighter in the US Forest Service and Cindy is an avid rider.
Gene took a break from doing shows for a while but we look forward to hopefully having him back in the High Noon family this January in Mesa.
What is likely one the world's most extensive and important cowboy and gunfighter collections had been on display at the Museum of Northwest Colorado for a number of years. Bill Mackin, owner of this collection, was preparing to retire from his "real" job as a mental health counselor and started dropping hints to the museum that he would need to begin liquidating, a.k.a. selling, some of these pieces. Well, the Museum and Moffat County was having none of this! They were not about to see their pride and joy and the perfect representation of a region built on the gritty history of the west, be relinquished elsewhere. Moffat County, home to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid among other notorious types, is all about cowboys and gunfighters and the collection was going to stay where it was. And yes indeed, it has. The local government and community raised the money to buy this amazing collection outright from Bill and Mickee and, as Bill puts it, "Now I can have my cake and eat it too! Everyday, I can go see it and be part of it but I've got the money in the bank."
It's this delightful humor and tenacity that makes Bill such a treasure in the world of the Wild, Wild West. But how did it all begin? These are always the best parts of the story.
Well, for Bill, it began at the age of 9, growing up in the Salt Lake Valley. He had a belt with a silver buckle, which a schoolmate coveted. His schoolmate had a Top Break pistol which Bill wanted - the trade was done and Bill's life of collecting began. It was at the age of 15 that Bill stumbled upon a gun which now resides in the permanent collection at the Museum. He was in a bar (I didn't inquire why he was in a bar at the age of 15...) and saw a very rare 15 inch barrel highwall Winchester Rifle under the cash register. It was illegal to own this weapon at the time and it took Bill another 15 years to be able to buy it and another 7 years to clear the ATF - that's dedication to collecting.
While over the past 50 years Bill has amassed this amazing collection, for him, it's always been about the story behind the pieces, the research, the owners and the makers. Even as a young boy, his thirst for knowledge of the authenticity and history of gunfighter gear made him a bit of a Hollywood movie critic or, as he puts it, the smart Alec in the front row of the theater who could tell you that there was no way that gun even existed during the Civil War - they're using the wrong gun in the movie...He has story after story about Hollywood's mistakes.
Bill has spent a life collecting but also sharing his knowledge with the world. In 1989, he published the most comprehensive book on the subject entitled Cowboys and Gunfighter Collectibles. A quick search finds this book available at Amazon, et al. He has written over 100 articles for national magazines and for 5 years had a regular column in Trail's End Magazine.
While his massive collection may now reside in the Museum of Northwest Colorado, his passion for the life of the gunfighter and cowboy still remains.
Among the many pieces housed in the permanent collection is the finest known Bridgeport Rig on a J.S. Collins Cheyenne belt and a very rare Mexican loop holster by E.L. Gallatin. Oh yes, and the 15" barrel high wall Winchester that took him 22 years to own is there too.
Craig, Colorado is where you'll find the Museum of Northwest Colorado, located in famous Moffat County, today, home to world-class dude ranches and hunter clubs. Yes, the West still lives on in Moffat County and Bill Mackin's collection is an important part of that world and ours.
The Museum of Northwest Colorado
590 Yampa Avenue
Craig, CO 81625
Is there anything quite more infectious than the full belly laugh of Norm Moldenhauer? Sunny. Charming. Genuine. That's Norm and wife Jeanine and, for over 14 years, High Noon has been honored to have them as treasured members of our family.
But don't let that "sunny" disposition fool you. Norm is, hands down, one of the foremost experts in Indian baskets and the world of Western and Cowboy collecting. Ask Norm about art or arrowheads and his astounding in-depth knowledge casually comes to the surface.
Norm opened his first store, Treasure Trails Indian Shop, in 1966 inside the Disneyland Hotel. But that was just the beginning. In 1967, he opened Norm's Trading Post in South Laguna (CA) where he acquired his first major collection of 360 Indian baskets. This was one of the largest and most important collections to ever come on the market and Norm jumped at the opportunity to own it. He purchased the collection for $11,000, then sold it for double the price...Today, that collection would easily fetch $300,000!
In 1974, Norm opened Southwestern Antiques & Gallery in Laguna Beach. It was during this time that he was able to buy the Eugenia Foster Collection of 1,800 baskets - the largest private collection to have ever been sold.
Norm may be all about baskets, but Jeanine holds her own chatting expertly about beaded Indian dresses, saddles, bits and spurs. An unstoppable team for over 27 years.
What a life they have had, the people they have met and adventures experienced, all which have fueled their passion and their knowledge.
For 28 years, Norm was a member of the Rancheros Visitadores. His role as saddle repair expert gave him the opportunity to know and share the experience of the 18-mile journey with the likes of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Ronald Reagan to name just a few. While Norm stopped riding "the ride" about 5 years ago, it does his heart good to know his son Hal has stepped into his "un"fillable shoes. Hal's been on the ride for 13 years now and counting.
While today Norm and Jeanine are "retired" (that just means they no longer have a store) their schedules are full, doing shows across the country sharing their knowledge and their amazing collections. When asked if he loves to dance? Oh, there's that belly laugh and a story behind it that he's just not sharing...
From all of us at High Noon, we look forward to at least another 14 years of Norm and Jeanine and their infectious energy and pure sunshine around them.
Mary Nyholm-Vidano has an enchanting way of bringing refinement and elegance into this rough and tumble world of the Great Wild West.
Mary's love and appreciation of Native American works goes back to her childhood. Her grandparents would spend their summers on a Navajo reservation working with the Indians and Mary would wait impatiently in Seattle for their return. She loved the materials, textiles, fabrics they would bring back for her. While her life evolved into other directions, that being a professional tennis player, her heart always went back to her love of the American Indian and the American West.
Post the pro-tennis circuit and now married and living in beautiful Boulder, Colorado, as she tells it "I needed something to do." "I started collecting the finest Western antiques I could find and then, as so typically happens, I became a dealer." Mary joined the "show circuit" doing Brimfield, Heart O' Country and yes, High Noon. She's been part of our family for 15 years. Each year, she comes to the show with her beautiful Bohlin buckles, Native American textiles and a wealth of finely selected and finely crafted Western antiques and artifacts.
Mary also specializes in old hickory furniture and a look at her website shows a wealth of hickory furnishings from chairs to tables to the very unusual.
The show bug captured her to an even greater extent. Mary partnered with long time friend and fellow dealer Cynthia Brooks who specializes in early Americana. Together, they decided to produce their own shows and created MC Presents. Today, as a team, they produce six art and antiques shows a year in locations such as Vail, Jackson Hole and Sun Valley.
When Mary's not doing producing or exhibiting at shows, she's traveling the world with her husband of 21 years whose career takes him (and her along) to the far reaches of the globe. Last year, their travels took them to Cambodia, Thailand and Dubai.
She's elegant, she's smart, she's fun and she's a true treasure of our High Noon family.
When you step into the Roadside America booth at the High Noon show, walls dripping in fine Native American textiles and exquisite early California antiques, you wouldn't suspect that 28 years ago, Ted was selling advertising and toys at the Dallas Fair Park Show where he met Sandy who was peddling early Americana and painted furniture just a few stalls down from Danny Neill. The stories are always so interesting and the evolution of lives inspiring. But the name Roadside America is most befitting of the 28 years Ted and Sandy have shared a life together and built a thriving business collecting, buying and selling along the two-lane blacktops that criss-cross this country. "In the early years," Ted recalls, "we'd run the roads buying from local collectors and doing shows like Round Top when there were only 25 dealers."
Yes, they've done their time at Brimfield and shows across the country, from Nashville to the Rose Bowl, along the way, refining their direction and their passion. Spending the majority of their time in the East, most snowbirds went to Florida but they chose Southern California finally landing in Los Angeles where they established themselves as experts in the genres of Native American, and California antiques. "As anyone in this business knows," says Ted, "you have to continually re-invent yourself, be a chameleon, to survive." And survive they have, from roadside collectors to a thriving Los Angeles business where they developed A-list clientele to producers of the elegant Golden California Antiques Show.
Well, anyone who knows Ted and Sandy, won't be surprised to hear that moss won't be growing under their feet anytime soon! Santa Fe has always been in their hearts, particularly Sandy's heart, who has repeatedly stated, "Someday, we're getting out of LA and moving to Santa Fe." Well, that day has come and a very exciting one it is.
In a move that seemed destined to be, Ted and Sandy have pulled up their LA stakes and have moved to Santa Fe where, in late April, they will open the doors to their new gallery - The Americana Trading Company - located in the heart of Santa Fe's new trendy arts and entertainment district. Featured in a January issue of the Sunday New York Times travel section, Santa Fe's Railyard District is where you can find them now.
The Americana Trading Company is a very exciting partnership between Ted and Sandy and Eliot and Toni Michael of Rumble Seat Music, Ithaca, New York. The gallery will be an entirely new experience, fresh and exciting, incorporating the finest American Indian and Southwest art and furnishings and fabulous vintage guitars and exquisite decoratives and jewelry.
Yup, the chameleons are on the move again and we can't wait to see the magic they create when the doors to The Americana Trading Company open. Watch out Santa Fe - here come Ted and Sandy!
Ted Birbilis & Sandy Raulston
The Americana Trading Company
340 Read Street (corner of Guadalupe & Read)
Santa Fe, NM
Walk into Reggie and Kay Sawyer's booth at the High Noon Show and you immediately feel embraced by a genuine warmness - it's like you stepped into the coziest of living rooms where everyone is welcome. Kay's soft-spoken demeanor complemented with Reggie's mischievous twinkle make them a most engaging pair, two people passionate about what they do and what they collect.
Art from deceased New Mexico artists such as Ben Turner and contemporary artists such as Hector Morales fill their walls. They both have the amazing ability to look at one of their paintings and imagine the story it's telling. They thrive on the life the scenes and characters play in these works - no, you won't find any abstracts in their gallery...
It all began after Reggie retired from the military in 1980 when they moved to New Mexico. Kay had always been an antiquer specializing in traditional furniture until they became enamored with the culture and heritage of New Mexico, the Native Americans and the American West. They switched their "collecting gears" quickly focusing on Cowboy and Indian, from fine art to artifacts.
They look for things that reflect the heart and soul of the person who created it. Whether it's an Indian basket or painting of a village in New Mexico, "every piece is one of a kind and we can't replace what we sell. That's what makes this so important to us and so special," says Kay.
Married 39 years, Reggie and Kay have two children and 3 grandchildren with one another on the way. They love their life and their work. If ever in Old Town Albuquerque, make sure to stop into Hanging Tree Gallery. Pottery, Navajo rugs, fine art and yes, that embracing warmness will make you glad you did.
They've been part of our High Noon family for over 10 years and we look forward to sharing our 30th Anniversary with them!
Reggie & Kay Sawyer
Hanging Tree Gallery
416 Romero N.W.
Old Town Albuquerque, NM 87104
In doing an interview for Smoke Signals, there's a certain format we writers try to adhere to in gleaning the pertinent information we need to create a story. Just 30 seconds into the phone interview with Danny, it was clear those guidelines were going to be tossed out the proverbial window. Rarely in life, does one get the opportunity to feel the energy and passion an individual has for what they do, literally electrifying the phone line. That's Danny and his wife and life partner Dina.
Danny's been a centrifugal force in the last 20 years of High Noon. Dealer yes, but so much more than that. Many know Danny for his world-class collection of Mexican Charros, but it's his passion behind what he sells that sets him apart.
To Danny, it's not the specific pieces or stuff, it's what they represent. Danny's real goal in life is to educate people about and preserve the rich Mexican history, which is the foundation for the American Cowboy and its legacy. Few people really know that it was the Mexican Vaqueros who were the original cowboys. They brought horses from Europe, they brought in the cattle and they created the foundation of the craftsmanship used to create the saddles, the bits and the spurs. It's this history and the preservation of this heritage that is center most to Danny's heart.
For the past 40 years, he has been collecting, buying and selling, visiting Mexico 5 to 6 times each year. "These aren't trips where you run down, buy stuff and come back and sell them. It's a process of relationship-building with the people: staying in their homes, getting to know them and their story." It's the stories that hold the key to the value of the stuff - otherwise, it's just stuff.
Danny has had many enriching and also frightening travel experiences which he felt best not to share, other than one time when he had to change his shorts. We can only imagine. He did mention one trip, hours and hours long on a bus through rural Mexico, where he shared his seat with a goat and had to hold a woman's chickens...
His experiences, his knowledge and his commitment to furthering a deeper understanding of Mexican heritage is what has finally brought him national recognition. In the fall, he was invited to be a guest lecturer at the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City and he was a smashing success! Museums across America and Mexico have been in touch with him since to participate in their educational programs, and he recently got a call from the Smithsonian who is interested in working with him on a special exhibit of Mexican Charros - congratulations Danny!
And then there's his fabulous wife Dina. Vintage clothing diva, and dealer, who draws buyers from around the world for her spectacular collections of cowboy and couture vintage fashions. You can catch her each month at the Rose Bowl where the "Hollywood" types race to buy her latest offerings.
It was her Cowboy clothing that led to Danny and Dina meeting. Over 20 years ago, Danny would buy from Dina and, lo and behold, that was kismet. Four years later they married. Not your typical wedding either. They married in Cody, WY during Brian Lebel's Cody Old West Show. A whole entourage assembled at the Cody Court House to share this event and Brian Lebel was Danny's witness. When vows were said and the marriage license was signed, the judge looked at Brian and told him he signed where the groom should. So, the question remains, is Dina married to Danny or Brian?
Danny and Dina Neill, an unstoppable team, of the highest integrity, passion, and, oh yes, spectacular stuff.
All of us who were at the High Noon Auction last February in Phoenix were no doubt taken by the warm and embracing speech given by Bill Reynolds who recounted the life and legacy of his father, John T Reynolds, whose life and work was devoted to ensuring that the integrity and traditions of the West remain alive. Perhaps his father was known as an ambassador for the Western lifestyle but today, William C (aka Bill) Reynolds has not only stepped into his father's shoes, but has taken those shoes (or, ahem, boots) to a new level for cultivating that legacy.
Bill's father taught him at an early age that "passion is the wood putty of life." Talk to Bill for just a few minutes, and his passion for the West and the people who drive that culture today is magnificent and infectious. His energy is unstoppable and his mission admirable.
Bill grew up in Los Angeles and spent a good deal of time as a boy with his grandfather who - in the early 1900s - ranched in Tucson where he worked side by side with the Papago Indians and came to quickly love and respect their culture. As a young man back in Los Angeles, Bill met Edward Bohlin, an opportunity he directly attributes to his father's position in the TV industry. While Bill recalls, "Bohlin could be a cranky fellow," he persisted in developing this relationship and through it, became deeply involved in the traditions of the American cowboy craft. So much so, that by the early 1990s, Bill and his father John bought the Bohlin Company. They eventually sold it but that experience catapulted Bill deeper into the world of the Western Lifestyle, which has become not only his work but his life.
It was in the early 1990s that Bill met Robert Hartman whom he helped grow an ad base for Hartman's then groundbreaking Cowboys & Indians magazine, a publication that would bring to the forefront, the "high-end" world of the Western Lifestyle. Bill fulfilled the role of Associate Publisher at Cowboys & Indians from 2000 to 2007. It was then he was approached by the Paragon Foundation in New Mexico, whose sole mission is to support the true meaning of the Constitution and protect the right of those individuals who continue to sustain and create a living in the Western traditions of the cowboy against incredible odds. To that end, the Paragon Foundation, with Bill's energy behind them, launched The Cowboy Way magazine in the Fall of 2008, a stunning yet important quarterly publication that honors and supports the American Cowboy. Bill Reynolds is proud to be the editor of this magazine, which, in short order, has won national awards.
Bill Reynolds knows that the integrity and traditions of the American Cowboy have reached the hearts and souls of people across this planet. It's not region specific for Bill, but rather it's the culture of a people who, as single individuals, build a relationship with the land and the animals - and that influence is worldwide and world-embraced. The traditions of the Western American Cowboy and the Western American Lifestyle "make the world a smaller and much richer place."
Bill Reynolds, Proponent and Supporter of the Great American West, lives in Southern California with his beautiful family: his wife and two daughters.
For over 20 years, Jacqué has been creating the most beautiful jewelry, incorporating her eye for high design with her passion for heritage and history. She’s pure Oklahoma-born-and-raised and her designs are influenced by her deep Western roots. But what they truly reflect is her unstoppable energy to create pieces to be worn by the most stylish women world-wide. From Sydney to Paris to New York, necks are dripping in Jacqué Smiley designs.
It doesn’t take but a minute of talking with Jacque’ to know she’s all heart and soul. One look at the home page of her website reveals a woman whose family roots is center to her life. She may be the creator of sterling masterpieces but the background on her website is the hand-tooled leather from the saddle from her “granddaddy’s daddy”, the very one on which she learned to ride.
So how did Jacqué begin creating jewelry from china and antiques? “I married a Yankee” she says with an edge. “We ended up living in the antiques capital of the country, Lancaster County, PA, for 10 years.” While living there, she spent time learning about antiques from the wealth of experts in the area who were more than eager to share their knowledge. She began to look at the beautiful old traditional china patterns like Flo Blue and Transferware. Inspired by their delicate patterns and beautiful designs, she began to create a line using tiny pieces from these china patterns as the “jewels” in her jewelry.
To further her work, she took silversmithing classes and became a master engraver and designer. The combination? Jacqué Smiley’s signature and original line of charm-laden necklaces and bracelets all created using pieces of china and sterling. Her signature “spoon” bracelets are another drop-dead gorgeous creation from her endless creative mind. Wonder what to do with the sterling silver flatware you inherited or really don’t use anymore? Have Jacqué create jewelry from these pieces — fabulous bracelets, watch bands — they always turn heads. Jacque’ will also create pieces just for you from your family china or sterling. A perfect way to preserve your heritage while looking high fashion at the same time.
Now, safely back from “Yankee world” and working in her studio in Oklahoma, Jacqué’s line of jewelry designs is extensive. Pages of spectacular designs fill her website with new creations continually added. Her newest line called “Bad to the Bone” is rock star worthy and very cutting edge. Beyond her website, Jacqué’s work is featured at top boutiques across the country from New York, to Jackson Hole to Los Angeles. But her success hasn’t changed her in the least. She’s still that embracing Oklahoma girl whose genuine energy is infectious, who is always looking to mentor an up and coming artisan and who is one of the best ambassadors for the Western Lifestyle.
PHOTOS: Always a show stopper at the Western Design Conference in Jackson Hole, WY, pictured here are two of her competition pieces from the 2009 and 2010 event. These are fine examples of her ever-evolving designs to captivate stylish women worldwide.
Perfection with an eye to the classic Western floral style, that is what goes into the works of art created by Howard Knight. Works of art that we see as boots, purses and belts but what he sees as his passion and life-long dream.
Today, one of the country's best leather toolers, he began his journey as a young boy in 4-H learning leather craft. With an obvious natural ability and artistic talent, he then trained under master leather carver Ray Pohja, perfecting his skill. For several years, Howard did this only as a hobby as his "real job" as an electrician consumed most of his time. A work related injury took Howard out of the electrical game for a while. To fill his time off, he began designing and creating his leather works of art we know today. Soon, he had so much business that he said good-bye to "Howard the electrician" and hello to Howard Knight, Rocking K Custom Leather. Woo-Hoo! - and the world is a more beautiful place because he did!
It was about this time 8 or so years ago that Howard realized he needed to get out in the show world to market his amazing creations. He had heard of the High Noon Western Americana Show so he flew down to Mesa and checked it out. Taken by the quality and energy of the show, Howard knew this was a good fit for him and he's been part of the High Noon family ever since.
Howard's artistic creations in leather are inspired by his love for nature and fly-fishing. It's the natural rhythms and elegance of the water that are reflected in what he creates. "It's hard to explain" he says, "but it's almost like the designs just come out of my hands." A look at his work reveals those hands are pretty amazing.
Howard is also inspired and thrives on collaborating with other artists on projects such as Lisa Sorrell, Susan Adams and Doug Magnus. Everything Howard does is original and meticulously done by hand. His work is featured in shops in Vail, Santa Fe and Jackson Hole where our own Mary Schmitt features him at Cayuse (we just love these connections and our High Noon family!) It was his exposure at the shop in Vail however, that put Howard over the top. A rather wealthy gentleman noticed his work there and Howard received the commission to create a special pair of boots for him. 780 hours later the masterpiece was done and Howard hit the six-figure mark for a single pair of boots! Well done!!
We don't have to worry about that going to his head though. Howard is one of the most genuine and genuinely original Western men.
Briefcase: This fabulous briefcase is destined for its new owner in Dallas for a cool $18,000
Pure Luxury: These boots are the result of the collaborative effort between Howard Knight and Lisa Sorrell. Good team effort indeed!
Cowgirl, Collector and Conservationist
Each month Smoke Signals gives special focus to one of our High Noon dealers in our Dealer Spotlight feature. In our Inner Cowgirl column, we take a look at the women who help drive the energy of our Western world. Well, this month, we feature someone who fits both. If you believe in past lives, you can be assured that Mary Schmitt was one of those daring and dedicated women who, along side their cowboy counterparts, helped tame the Wild West in the 1800s.
Southern California born and raised to parents who were antique aficionados, Mary was no stranger to collecting. She attributes her passion for history and antiques to her mother Barbara (who we all know from the shows) and her father Jim (whom few have ever seen and most believe really doesn’t exist - Mary assures us he does).
Mary lived the corporate lifestyle working for high tech companies as a marketing executive for several years. Funny, she reflects, that by day she was part of creating products that would be obsolete in 6 months but on the weekends, she spent her time passionately searching flea markets and antique shows in the quest for treasures that have endured the years.
The beauty of Western Wyoming was always in her dreams. She and her family would vacation often in Jackson Hole and she knew, somehow, some day, that would be her home. Her parents had that same dream and they moved there in the late 1980s.
So how do you make the switch from high tech exec to cowgirl extraordinaire? Out antiquing in L A one day with her mom in the 80’s, they stumbled upon a spectacular vintage cowgirl skirt. It was love at first sight and her career in cowgirl, cowboy and American Indian collecting began.
She started by buying and selling and educating herself on the weekends at markets in and around Southern California — embracing the history and amassing all the knowledge she could about this collecting genre. And then it happened, as it does to most of us, she couldn’t live the “double life” anymore and new it was time to live her dream.
With her parents and family already in Jackson Hole, she took the plunge, said goodbye to corporate America and joined them in Jackson. Beginning first by working out of her home she quickly knew she had to get a gallery to really make her mark. Cayuse Western Americana opened its doors in 1997 and it has become life, her passion and her livelihood.
She attributes her success to understanding that being a retail location in a tourist city does not necessarily guarantee success. She actually attributes her ability to survive the early years to the High Noon Show and the Cody Old West Show where she networked, made the contacts and met the buyers that sustained her. A funny note she recalls was at the first High Noon Show, she was in her booth and a gentleman was looking around. He then excused himself explaining he would return when her father was there. She laughs at this – just one of the many reminders she was treading into male dominated territory.
Flash forward 13 years later, Cayuse Western Americana is thriving and Mary is considered one of the country’s experts in cowgirl, cowboy and Native American antiques. Her personal cowgirl collection is now part of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Ft Worth, TX.
She also is very proud to represent some of the finest new artisans in the Western tradition such as Clint Orms and Susan Adams. Cayuse represents the best of the old and the finest of the new.
Mary’s life has been enriched through her life in the world of Western Americana. “I respect the people who originally owned these pieces.” She also comments that everyone in our Western family are just truly wonderful and genuine people.
When she’s not at the Gallery? Mary is a cowgirl herself. She spends as much time riding her horse Gambler with dog Pearl alongside. She is part of the Jackson Hole “Citizens Mounted Unit” which supports law enforcement on horseback. She just loves wearing her uniform, riding Gambler proudly for the tourists to enjoy. Mary also spends a great deal of her free time working with handicapped children employing Pearl as her sidekick.
She’s living her dream, both where she lives and what she does and she wouldn’t change a thing.
Cayuse Western Americana
255 N. Glenwood Avenue
Jackson Hole, Wy 83001
“It was about twenty years ago, I was at this show in Amarillo, TX and this girl came up to me. She had this look in her eye and in her very convincing way, you know how she can be, she asked me if I wanted to head up the membership committee for the NBSSCA. I didn’t know anything about bits, spurs or saddles but there I was, agreeing to head up the membership committee for an organization I knew nothing about. That girl? That girl was Linda Kohn.” And there was born the beginning of John’s lifelong relationship with High Noon. That brief meeting pretty much changed the direction of his life. And, apparently John picked up some information about bits, spurs and saddles along the way for today, he’s serving his fourth year as President of the NBSSCA. Pride twinkles in his eye when he talks about the Association, the work they do and the role he feels honored to play.
Born and raised in Lamar County, TX, John (as one can only imagine) was a bit of a wild child. He loved riding bareback, loved rodeos and would compete in a circuit of weekend Jackpot Shows, winning some and losing some but having the time of his life. His “mamma” who wasn’t overly thrilled at the idea of his activities, would pretend she didn’t know where he was going but always on his return, she’d ask how he did.
Well, he had to grow up sometime so he put his tenacious ability to sell anything to anyone to good use. He became the leading salesman for a well-known women’s clothing company, JH Collectibles of Milwaukee, WI where he had buyers from top retail chains like Marshall Fields, Macy’s and Gimbles clamoring for his product. Hard to envision John in the hard-core corporate role but oh, he did it very well. As he tells it, eventually JH Collectibles sold themselves to another company and the new management “fired my ass.”
Now John had always been a collector of Western antiques and hats in particular so this was his chance to go off on his own and turn his hobby into his work — he never looked back. Today he lives in Dallas with his collections for sale at the “Lost Antiques Mall” there and works tirelessly in his role as president of the NBSSCA.
John exhibits at shows across the Western US (including High Noon) and has a ball doing them — selling dirty hats and “holding court” with insatiable conversations. And you’ll always see him with “the girl he runs with whose name is Maddie” – she’s absolutely charming with her four legs and wagging tail…”
So, what’s a dirty hat? “Well, I buy real cowboy hats, give them to real cowboys to wear for a while, they give them back to me and I sell ‘em.”
The dirty hats are real and so is John Upton Holden — real cowboy, real gentleman and REAL’ important to us.
Auctioneer, Savvy Indian Collector and Great Teller of Stories
After chatting with RG about the life and times of RG Munn, one’s ribs hurt from laughing so hard. His experiences are vast, his collecting knowledge rich – 40 years in the business and 40,000 stories to share. So many it’s hard to choose so let’s begin and set the tone with the one about Olaf Weighorst…
Years ago, when RG’s shop was just 3 blocks away from Olaf Weighorst’s gallery, Weighorst would frequent his shop trading RG sketches for Indian items at $35 a pop. On one occasion many years ago, Weighorst did a water-wash sketch of Munn. Well, as things happen, along the way, he had to sell it. Years later, RG made a visit to Olaf’s studio up the street to see if he could possibly get another. Olaf quickly and curtly notified him that he already did one and that he’d never have another. OH MY. To add salt to that wound as RG tells it, Olaf’s wife, who was there at the time and nearing her 80s, came traipsing into the studio from their home in her bikini — “I didn’t know a body could wrinkle that much”— he recalls in near hysterics. No, he never got another sketch from Olaf Weighorst but he did get one he has treasured forever from Ace Powell on one of his trips to Montana (that’s yet another story for another day…)
It was 40 years ago and RG was a gun dealer on the gun show circuit, earning a living for he and his family. On one occasion, a buyer wanted to trade some Indian goods for one of his guns. Okay, done. Well, it turns out that people wanted to buy this Indian “stuff” so RG quickly figured there’s money in this. He started running ads to buy Indian collections and voraciously began studying everything he could about collecting in this field. Goodbye guns — hello Indian artifacts.
As RG recalls, he got extremely lucky with one collection that would set his career in stone. It’s always a fluke that seems to get the ball rolling. His daughter’s Sunday school teacher called one day to say his father had an enormous Indian collection and would he be interested. His father had been a wood inlayer and the collection included an inlaid trunk containing all of his tools and, oh yes, a fully quilled Sioux cradle.
“Yes, I’ve found some treasures along the way. Some I’ve kept, some I’ve sold.” The treasure for all of us is that he’s part of our family. When RG arrives, the show begins. It’s his infectious personality, always sunny disposition and serious depth of commitment that makes us proud that he’s part of High Noon.
When he’s not High Nooning? RG’s busy running auctions from his Alamagordo, NM gallery — about 18 a year is what he hosts. With wife Julie at his side, son Ronnie Guy and his wife Christy, daughter Bambi and husband Mark and a virtual bevy of grandchildren, RG Munn Auctions is truly a family affair. In between all this, you’ll find him at other shows including Marin and Del Mar – enlightening and enlivening these events with those stories and that smile.
RG Munn Auction, LLC
1000 Zuni Drive
Alamogordo, NM 88310
It’s no surprise to us that a practicing attorney (Ilene) and daily newspaper executive for 28 years (Bruce) are the foundation behind Mystic Warriors — one of the country’s most renowned resources for Northern and Southern Plains Indian art, antiques and artifacts.
Well, everyone has to have a “day job” but their passion for Native American culture goes back over 30 years. Bruce first became interested in collecting and trading during his college days in Montana where his roommate was a Crowe Indian. Immediately following college, Bruce took a teaching job on the Crowe Indian reservation where he worked for two years before moving back to his native Illinois to begin his newspaper career. It was at this point, back in Chicago that he met his wife Ilene. Mainstream professionals by day, their first dates were arrow hunting excursions (how romantic Bruce). Lucky for him, his passion for Native American culture became hers, so much so that she went on to obtain her Masters in Indian Studies and today routinely consults with several museums. Bruce took a position with the Rocky Mountain News bringing them to Colorado where they live today. (He’s now retired but she still practices law.)
Together, 20 years ago, they formed Mystic Warriors – their true mutual passion. Their focus is on authentic Sioux, Comanche and Apache art, antiques and artifacts and their clients span the globe. As members of the Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association, ensuring the authenticity and integrity of their collection and offerings is of the utmost importance to them. Their gallery in Evergreen (CO) is just 30 minutes outside of Denver and they still enjoy doing the shows including High Noon, Cody Old West, Marin and Santa Fe.
High Noon is honored that they have been part of our show and family for 15 years and we look forward to many, many more.
Bruce & Ilene Johnson
P.O. Box 3353
Evergreen, CO 80439
We just call him " Lew-Bob"
Lewis Bobrick, "Lew-Bob" to us at High Noon, has been an integral part of our family for a very long time (well, not that long, we're not old enough☺). While he's only been doing the High Noon Show for five years, we met Lewis over 15 years ago "setting up in Santa Fe" when he was just getting into the business, selling Indian rugs and jewelry.
How he even got into the world of collecting Native American was a bit of a fluke. As he tells it, he was originally a Persian rug dealer. Along his hunts he kept finding Native American rugs and realized "they were really cool." And the rest, as they say, is history.
Flash forward to 2009 and "Lew-Bob" is known nation-wide for his fine Native American and Mexican jewelry, and for the two things he is most passionate about - Indian beadwork and textiles. His gallery in Denver is filled with fine pottery, baskets, art, folk art and yes, that exquisite jewelry.
What started out by accident has become not only his livelihood but his life. Lucky for him for as he tells it: "The only two things I know how to do are build houses or be an antiques dealer - I'd be in real trouble if I had to be building houses right now."
When asked how he feels about the High Noon Show? "I always have so much fun and my expectations are always exceeded." Yes, we love you Lew-Bob!
Lewis Bobrick Antiques
1213 East 4th Avenue
Denver, CO 80218
High Noon Dealers and Newlyweds!
First, from all of us at High Noon, we want to wish Roger and Carolyn the warmest of congratulations on their wedding! Roger and Carolyn were married in December after nine years of developing a friendship that would last a lifetime.
Roger has been part of our High Noon family since the first show. He admits to being "addicted" to just about everything that represents the history of the Wild West but he tries to limit his selection to the best of the best - sterling silver match safes to cigar cutters with fine spurs in the mix as well.
And Carolyn? Always a lover of history, hanging out with Roger for the past nine years has put the antique bug in her as well. Carolyn's passion lies in music however. She both writes music and plays piano with several recordings in her repertoire.
As for Roger, his reel love is " chasing big fish with small bugs" aka - fly fishing. Whenever you see him at a show he is either coming back from or planning his next fishing expedition, always with a big smile on his face!
Together? They love spoiling their two dogs, Spikey and Hobo.
Congratulations again Roger and Carolyn!
Roger and Carolyn Baker
Antiques of the West
P.O. Box 716, Chicago, Park, CA 95712
The Dealer | The Historian | The Gentleman
Jack has been part of our High Noon Family since our first show in Mesa 19 years ago. Jack is known nation-wide for his knowledge and collection of antique guns – specifically Colts and Winchesters. With his reserved demeanor, he keeps his passion for his field of expertise quietly under wraps until you start asking some questions then his face lights up with that elegant smile and the stories begin to unfold.
Jack’s entry into the rich history of the West started as a child when his family moved to New Mexico. He “rodeo’d a bit as a child” but ultimately became an electrician spending a good deal of time on a Navajo Indian reservation. It was during this time when he began to acquire an in depth knowledge of fine Native American crafts, jewelry, horse accoutrement and yes, antique guns. He opened his first trading post in Gallup, NM in 1968 right along Route 66. One thing led to the next and Jack opened one of the first antique shops in Santa Fe, NM which he kept for many years. The store, named Gallery of the West, was located in the richly historic Candelaria Building in Santa Fe, the site of the oldest trading post in the United States. It was the perfect location for a man so respectful of the history and heritage of this country.
1980 was a particularly busy year for Jack. He was instrumental in founding the Colt Collectors Association that year and is one of its first 50 charter members. That same year, Jack was also involved in starting the NBSSCA and is also one of its original founding members.
1984 was another banner year for Jack, the year he married Rita, who’s been at his side at almost all of the High Noon shows. Jack and Rita have two children and one granddaughter whom they adore.
Jack’s appreciation, knowledge and commitment to preserving the legacy of the American West are what makes him such an endearing member of our High Noon family.
Gallery of the West
P.O. Box 5582
Santa Fe, NM 87502
High Noon Dealer | High Noon Staff | Artist Braider
Ray has been an integral part of the High Noon family since 1991 when he first started exhibiting at the 2nd show in Arizona in 1991. At that time, Ray was primarily a trader in “Cowboy” antiques. The name Broken Heart Trading reflects the personality of pieces he sells, many of which honor the “Cowgirl”. Behind the scenes however, he was practicing the art of braiding, studying under the best including Ed Pass. Today, Ray Huffman, while still a “Cowboy trader” is known nation-wide for his braided reins, quirts, hackamores and other horse accoutrement. His braid work hangs in private collections around the country and are also on display at the Don King Western Museum in Sheridan, WY.
It’s that natural artist in him that, his eye for design that is invaluable to the High Noon auction. Each year, it’s Ray who helps takes “all this stuff that arrives in boxes” and creates and auction preview room as beautiful as any museum exhibit.
When Ray’s not “High Nooning?” He’s living the life he loves in the cabin he built in Athens County, Ohio, raising horses, braiding leather and “riding and roping” with a close circle of loyal friends. Ray’s braided gear is only available by special order and his website is a wonderful representation of the products he creates. But note, he prefers a call over an email. As he states on the home page of his website: “I’m a braider, not a typist.”