“Cowboys ain’t easy to love, and they’re harder to hold,” according to a country music song.
Nevertheless, I’m trying my best to get my hands on one and haul him home with me. I’ll even buy his plane ticket.
Ethyl, aka Annette, and I are in Las Vegas, and this is the week of the National Finals Rodeo. This place is crawling with cowboys and lots of cowboy wannabes. The two in the photos accompanying this post are the real deal. I found both of them at Cowboy Christmas, a humongous indoor bazaar of western tack, apparel, boots and doo-dads at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The young hottie at left is Sage Kimzey. At 23, he’s a three-time world champion bull rider. I told him people who ride bulls are just plain crazy. They have no saddle, no rope, nothing to hold onto but a silly little string. On top of that, they must keep one hand in the air during the entire ride. He laughed and said he had always liked bulls. To each his own.
The other guy with whom I’m pictured (right) is Buck Taylor, a 79-year-old actor and western watercolor artist. I recognized him immediately as he walked by pushing a dolly loaded with some of his art work. I stopped him and told him I had one of his paintings, and regaled him with the story of how I had talked his wife, Goldie, into selling it to me without its gosh-awful cowhide frame at the Pendleton Roundup (Oregon) a few years ago.
When I told him I was from Alabama, he said he was there recently making a movie with John Travolta. Didn’t tell me the title. Folks might remember Buck’s recurring role as Newly the gunsmith on TV’s “Gunsmoke.” He has appeared in more than 50 movies, including “Tombstone” (1993), “The Alamo” (2004) and the CBS mini-series, “Comanche Moon.” His art includes portraits of some of his fellow “Gunsmoke” cast members, such as Jim Arness (Marshall Dillon) and Milburn Stone (Doc Adams ). We stopped by his booth and talked to Goldie, who said she had something she wanted to give me. It was a print of Buck’s watercolor of another character actor, Morgan Woodward, whom she said had appeared on ‘Gunsmoke” more often than any other actor besides the main cast. Woodward had signed the print for Goldie. She rolled it up and gave it to me. How sweet.
Several of the rodeo riders are showing up at Cowboy Christmas and other venues during the week to sign autographs. Tomorrow we’ll meet team roper Patrick Smith at one session, then up-and-coming country music singer Aaron Watson at another. Sunday we’ll meet rodeo champion Trevor Brazile, who has been called, “the world’s best cowboy.”
Meanwhile, tonight and Saturday night we see George Strait in concert. That’s the main reason for this trip. Sunday night we’ll see Reba McIntyre and Brooks and Dunn at Caesar’s Palace, and Monday night it’s Ronnie Milsap at the Golden Nugget. Tuesday night we go to the NFR.
I’m in cowboy heaven.