Sunday, September 8, 2013

National Cowboy Symposium

"Lone Star Historian 2" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas during his second year. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College ( in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by his alma mater, Texas A&M University - Commerce.

Bill with Monica Hightower
Lubbock's fabled National Cowboy Symposium celebrated its silver anniversary throughout the first weekend in September. The Symposium opened in 1989 and rapidly became one of America's most important and enjoyable cowboy events. 

"Cowboys of the American West developed a `Cowboy Culture' of their own with values and traditions such as self-dependence, individualism, work ethic, personal honesty and a brand of western chivalry," explains Monica Hightower, the lovely and efficient boss wrangler of the National Cowboy Symposium and Celebration. Hightower has served for eight years as executive director of the Symposium, and she emphasizes what the public expects. "Passing along the cultural traditions, values, and history of yesterday, and keeping the modern culture alive are what make this unique event an important part of today's `Cowboy Culture.'" 

Billy Huckaby, Western book publisher
The Symposium is held at Lubbock's vast Memorial Civic Center, which offers ample space for more than 200 exhibitors, comfortable performing areas, and a grassy outdoor section where more than 20 chuck wagons are parked, with nearby cooking fires and tents. At previous Symposiums my wife Karon shopped successfully for Western clothing and jewelry. She found for me a set of leather coasters personalized with my Circle N brand, a blue cap with my brand, and a canvas ranchman's vest which I've worn in countless presentations. I found for myself numerous autographed copies of valued books. Together we enjoyed excellent chuck wagon meals, as well as live western music that is performed in the halls throughout Friday and Saturday.
This year's Symposium opened Thursday evening, September 5, with a banquet featuring American Cowboy Culture Awards presentations. There was an attractive variety of programs throughout Friday and Saturday, as well as evening concerts starring Waddie Mitchell, Mary Kaye, R.W. Hampton, Larry Maurice, and other western performers. On Saturday morning "The Parade of the Horse" featured handsomely mounted riders, miniature horses, carriages, wagons - and the Texas Tech Masked Raider! Following an action-packed Friday and Saturday, on Sunday morning there was a chuck wagon breakfast, followed by a Cowboy Devotional Service. 

Western authors Jan Devereaux and Bob Alexander
At past Symposiums in Lubbock I've manned publishers' tables to sign such books as Historic Ranches of the Old West and my biography of rancher-feudist-trail boss Pink Higgins. One year a Symposium program theme was western music, featuring the Sons of the Pioneers and other noted groups. I had recently published a "biography" of The Sons of the Pioneers, and it was a privilege to present a program on this iconic western singing group.

Tai Kreidler, Symposium advisory board; Bill;
and authors Norman Brown and Chuck Parsons
The program theme of this year was Outlaws and Lawmen of the Old West. I felt certain that this theme would be attractive to Symposium attendees. Nothing is more dramatic than life and death conflict. and when that conflict is set in the frontier West, involving gunfighters and shootouts, there is a special appeal. Monica Hightower assembled such noted authors in this field as Bob Alexander, Bill Neal, Chuck Parsons, and Norman Brown. I was elated when Monica contacted me about presenting a program on what I call my "Wild West Soap Opera," The Johnson-Sims Feud: Romeo and Juliet, West Texas Style. Two prominent ranching families - in the region south of Lubbock - intermarried, but the marriage tragically led to the last old-fashioned blood feud in Texas. The Johnson-Sims Feud was published in 2010 by the University of North Texas Press, and it has led to a popular series of programs. Monica Hightower emphasized my position as State Historian of Texas in the PR and in the Symposium Souvenir Program. My  time slot was three o'clock on Friday afternoon, and there was a large turnout. The audience was responsive, and the presentation triggered a lively question and answer session that was gratifying. 
Bill with Linda Puckett,  director-curator of the
Garza County Historical Museum in Post
The Silver Anniversary of the National Cowboy Symposium and Celebration was great fun. It is an event not to be missed, and next year it will be held September 5-8 in Lubbock. 


For more information: 

Part of the audience at my presentation