Thursday, July 23, 2015

Wild West History Association

"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. 

Buffet line at opening reception
The Wild West History Association held its 8th Annual Roundup in Amarillo, July 15-18, at the Wyndham Gardens Hotel. I am a charter member of the WWHA, and Texans comprise the largest membership group. But there are members throughout the nation, and we have held Roundups in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, and, next year, Oklahoma. We had excellent attendance in San Antonio a few years ago, and more than 200 Wild West enthusiasts met together in Amarillo.

Bob McCubbin of Santa Fe is a noted expert and collector of Western photographs. Bob was a founder and the first president of WWHA, and he remains a force in the organization. Roy Young, of Apache, Oklahoma, is an author, book review editor of the WWHA Journal, and the resourceful, tireless program chair of our Roundups. Bob and Roy asked me, as Texas State Historian, to suggest program topics and field trip possibilities. I lined up certain speakers, and happily accepted several assignments on the program.
With board member Kurt House, Karon, and WWHA
founding father  Bob McCubbin

Our opening event was a Wednesday evening reception. There was an excellent catered meal, along with entertainment from WWHA President Jim Dunham, Arizona State Historian Marshall Trimble, and Michael Wallis, award-winning author and the voice of the Sheriff in Cars and Cars 2.
With Bill and Gayla Neal

On Thursday morning it was my privilege to present the opening program on “Tascosa: Cowboy Capital of the Panhandle.” The site of old Tascosa is only 27 miles northwest of Amarillo, and features one of the most haunting boot hills in the West, as well as a stone court house built in 1884. A strong interest of most WWHA members is gunfighters and shootouts, and during Tascosa’s 1880s heyday, I tried to show that this wolf-howl of a town could just a well have been called the “Gunfighter Capital of the Panhandle.” My wife Karon helped me put together a PowerPoint presentation that illustrated old Tascosa.

Program chair Roy Young
When my program ended, it was a pleasure to introduce Bill Neal. A native West Texan, Bill was raised on a ranch south of Quanah. After graduation with honors from the University of Texas Law School, Bill launched a 40-year career as an attorney. After he retired, Bill began writing a series of books on the colorful and flamboyant lawyers and court cases of frontier Texas. His WWHA program was delightful, and it was followed by other excellent presentations.

At noon our Awards Luncheon honored several fine writers, including Larry Ball, whose superb biography of Tom Horn was announced as WWHA Book of the Year. That afternoon there was a field trip to the magnificent Panhandle-Plains Museum in Canyon, 18 miles to the south.
On Thursday evening Bob McCubbin interviewed Karen Holliday Tanner, a descendant of Doc Holliday, who wrote a delightful biography of the dentist/gunfighter. The event was our annual “Evening With…”, and Bob and Karen provided us a memorable and informative hour.

WWHA President Jim Dunham
On Friday morning we boarded three buses for a field trip to Adobe Walls, site of important battles against Comanches and Kiowas in 1864 and 1874. Adobe Walls is on private property, and this field trip was a premier attraction of the 2015 Roundup. Every seat - 168 – on three busses was occupied, and another bus from the Hutchinson County Historical Society met us at Adobe Walls. I was one of four speakers asked to deliver a brief talk on site. “Billy Dixon” was my assigned topic, and I spoke standing no more than 20 feet from his grave. Adobe Walls was an unforgettable experience for all of us, and it will be the subject of next week’s blog.

Speaking on "Tascosa"
Back at the hotel in late afternoon, there were more programs, and that evening our annual business meeting was conducted. On Saturday morning the slate of programs included archaeologist Alvin Lynn on “Adobe Walls 1864” and Brett Cruse of the Texas Historical Commission on “Adobe Walls 1874.”  It was my privilege to introduce Brett,  who was followed by Dr. James Bailey, who provided a fascinating analysis of Billy Dixon’s legendary  shot from a Sharps Big Fifty at the 1874 Battle of Adobe Walls. Later in the morning  I was part of an Adobe Walls Panel; which featured Alvin Lynn and Brett Cruse, as well as moderator Clay Renick, Director of the Hutchinson County Museum.

Vendors packed up during the afternoon, and Saturday evening the Annual Boots and Spurs Banquet provided a stage for the Silent Auction and for the auction of donated artifacts. The keynote speaker was Paul Andrew Hutton, who has appeared on more than 200 TV documentaries and has been a historical consultant for a number of motion pictures. A five-time winner of the Spur Award of the Western Writers of America, Dr. Hutton is Distinguished Professor of History at the University of New Mexico. He provided a brilliant and thought-provoking presentation on Kit Carson, recounting his adventurous career, then offering thoughts about Kit’s recent fall from favor as a popular hero in the context of Political Correctness. This superb program from one of the leading frontier historians of our time gave a fitting close to one of the most notable Western events of 2015. 

For more information:
Panhandle-Plains Museum

Larry Ball and his wife Ruth after receiving
the Book of the Year Award

With Arizona State Historian Marshall Trimble

Bob McCubbin interviewing Karen Holliday Tanner

Four buses at Adobe Walls

Marker for 1864 battle

Dr. James Bailey

Adobe Walls Panel: Brett Cruse, Alvin Lynn,
Bill, and moderator Clay Renick

Saturday night banquet

My sister and brother-in-law,
Judy and John Smith

Keynote speaker Paul Andrew Hutton

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