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Playing Cowboy

Best ways to feel like a true Texas cowboy in rodeo season
Written by Sofia Sokolove. Photographs by Courtesy of San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo.

cowboy familyTexans known better than most: there’s something romantic about playing the part of a cowboy. Clint West of Wildcatter Ranch muses that maybe old westerns are to blame.

The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo was voted the PRCA Large Indoor Rodeo of the Year 12 years in a row. Cody Davenport, San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo president, says visitors can rest assured they will “experience one of the best rodeos in the country.”

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Whatever the reasons, he’s happy to help folks saddle up — as a real life cowboy at Wildcatter Ranch, Clint spends his weekends giving folks the most authentic cowboy experience he can. “We get people from Germany, from England…” he explains, “even as far as China and Japan.” Of course, as Clint points out, “there’s a difference between someone that puts on a hat and someone who gets out and does it,” but we love the idea of taking a break from our dayjobs to try on the hat — and part — of a cowboy for a day or a weekend. Just in time for rodeo season, we rounded up some of the best ways around the state to feel like a true Texas cowboy.

Dress the Part

Before you embark on your cowboy adventure, it’s important to look the part. Across the state, authentic Western Wear stores are outfitting cowboys. Here are a few of our favorites.

Allen’s Boots in Austin

Located on Austin’s iconic South Congress, Allen’s has more than 4,000 cowboy boots lining its walls. Bonus: Last March, the legendary Texas-based bootmaker Lucchese opened up shop inside of Allen’s. There also are stand-alone Lucchese shops in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas (which has includes a custom showroom).

Harry’s Boots in San Saba

Established in 1939, Harry’s now spans across five historic buildings in downtown San Saba, dedicating 12,000 square-feet to high quality Western Wear, plus an entire floor dedicated to cowboy hats.

Resistol Cowboy Hats in Garland

Visit any rodeo, and you are likely to see rodeo competitors in an iconic Resistol Cowboy Hat — the company has even introduced a safety “helmet” version for rodeos that still has the iconic look. Every Tuesday and Thursday, the Resistol manufacturing plant offers behind-the-scenes tours of how their famous hats get made. Afterwards, wander next door to their outlet to buy one for yourself.

Wild West Store in Wimberley

Home of the legendary “boot whisperer”, expect above-and-beyond customer service at the Wild West Store in Wimberley. Rumor has it you’ll find the pair of vintage cowboy boots destined for you, just by showing your feet to owner Ulli Johnston. It’s open by appointment only, so make sure to call ahead: 512-847-1219.

Hit the Town

Saddled up and ready to hit the road in your new wares? Here are a smattering of experiences across the state that are sure to give you the full cowbooy experience.

Tyrell Larsen026San Antonio

Since 1948, the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo has been drawing crowds for an authentic rodeo experience. “It’s the real deal,” promises Cody Davenport, San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo president. The rodeo is set for Feb. 9-26, 2017.

While there are plenty of opportunities to see rodeo action, including an all-new expanded college rodeo this year, Davenport says the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Large Indoor Rodeo is the “bellringer.” It’s also award-winning. The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo was voted the PRCA Large Indoor Rodeo of the Year 12 years in a row. Whether they’ve experienced a rodeo before, Davenport says visitors can rest assured they will “experience one of the best rodeos in the country.”

You’ll also likely have a great seat. While San Antonio's Spurs are off on a “Rodeo Road Trip,” a whole lot of dirt moves into the AT&T Conference Center for rodeo madness. “The way the center is built,” Davenport explains, “no matter where you are, you’re up close and personal on top of the action.”  

Kingsville

You’ll learn the colorful Texas story of iconic cattle farmer and ranch founder extraordinaire Captain Richard King at the legendary King Ranch of Texas in Kingsville. Start with a ranch tour and meet the horses, longhorn and wildlife that exist as part of the ranch’s daily operations. Meanwhile, learn about advancements made at the ranch, such as South Texas brush clearing equipment, developed to clear mesquite and huisache from the pastures.

Then go back in time at the King Ranch Museum, where permanent collections include saddles from around the world and Toni Frissell’s award-winning photographic essay of life on King Ranch in the early 1940’s. There are also full-scale replicas of historic Texas flags, antique carriages and vintage cars.

Inspired by all the live animals and lore? Gear up at the King Ranch Saddle Shop. Just a few minutes away from the museum and visitor's center, the shop features high-quality leather goods to take home.

Fort Worth

This year, the famous Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is happening Jan. 13 through Feb. 4, but year round you can see an authentic herd of longhorns strut their stuff in Forth Worth. After all, they don’t call it cow town for nothin’!

Twice a day, at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the Stockyards National Historic District in Fort Worth, you’ll see a diverse herd of 15 Texas longhorns, of all different colors and markings, barrel down Exchange Avenue. The twice-daily cattle drive, which takes about five to 10 minutes, started as part of the city's sesquicentennial celebration and has continued since.

“Cowboys are lined up as though the whole street was full of cattle, as they would during a normal cattle drive” explains Wanda Helms of the Stockyards Visitor Center. “They take this very seriously.”

Stand on E. Exchange Avenue in front of the Stockyards Visitors Center (make sure to pop in for a map!) or on the lawn in front of the Livestock Exchange Building for optimal viewing. Want to know more about the cattle drive? Chat with the cowboys, riding horseback around Exchange Avenue, about the experience before or after the cattle drive.

Cuero

Curious about why the folklore of the Texas cowboy is so enduring? The Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum, established in 2000 to help recognize the ranching and agriculture heritage of DeWitt County, may be a good place to start. Besides, what better place to celebrate the 150-year anniversary of the Chisholm Trail?

See how cattle ranchers lived in the Guadalupe valley, and compare what changed before and after the legendary Great Cattle drives of the late 1800s — the time when the American cowboy came into consciousness and longhorns became the symbol they are today.

The museum, itself, is historic. It’s housed in a fully restored 1903 Knights of Pythias Hall that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.         

Bandera

Whatever you’re doing in Bandera, there’s no doubt you’ll encounter some authentic cowboy culture. “People do ride horses in town,” confirms Patricia Moore, the Executive Director of Bandera County Convention & Visitors Bureau. And often, the riders are happy to let you in on the fun. “If you see someone around a horse, you’ve got a 75 percent chance of interacting with that person, and of climbing on their horse, and getting your picture taken,” says Moore. It’s authentic experiences like this — “not structured and planned, they just happen” — that no doubt helped Bandera earn its nickname: “The Cowboy Capital of The World.”

If you’re looking to get on a horse yourself, check out Bandera Historical Rides, customized private horseback rides that take you through Bandera. Or BYOH (bring your own horse!) and saddle up to 11th Street Cowboy Bar where, on Wednesday nights, you’ll feel like a true cowboy when you bring your own meat to grill on the restaurant’s large barbecue pits. They provide the fixins’.

From the February 2017 issue.

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