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Home News-Telegram News Old West reenactment group performs Saturday

Old West reenactment group performs Saturday

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Ever wonder about the Old West –  those days gone by of frontier justice, gunfights and early pioneers in what has become the Southwest?

Wonder no more. On Saturday, you’ll have an opportunity to glimpse some of our early history during National Day of the American Cowboy, which is being observed at Hopkins County Regional Civic Center.
While most activities are more modern like the Stock Horse of Texas competitions and entertainers, others are more traditional to the heart of the cowboy spirit, including a chuckwagon breakfast and free, authentic “cowboy coffee.”
Think of cowboys and it’s a natural jump to the Old West. That’s where Texas Pistolaros come in Saturday. Several members of the group will be on hand in period costumes enacting skits designed to educate the general public about the history of the Old West, particularly from 1865 to 1899. The act includes gunfighters, saloon girls and Wild West characters.
Formed in 1999, Texas Pistolaros is now headed by Bobby “Lone Star Shorty” and Lillie “Diamond Lil” Farmer, with James “Doc” Davis serving as marketer, all of whom put a lot of research and care into the information they present as well as the way it’s presented. All are also quite knowledgeable in Old West reenactments. In fact, one such reenactment was responsible for bringing them all together as adults.
Davis and Bobby Farmer were “buds” who grew up together in Winnsboro, living about half a mile apart, and each went into the military in the 1960s. But at one point, Davis was told his longtime friend had died in Vietnam.
So imagine Davis’ surprise when a chance meeting while walking the streets at Wyatt Earp Days in Tombstone a few years ago put him in contact with his old pal “Shorty” Farmer and Shorty’s wife, “Diamond Lil.” The pair didn’t recognize each other at first, but after confirming Farmer was indeed alive, both cowboys shed a few tears on the streets of Tombstone, the pair recounted earlier this week.
Meanwhile, both Davis and his wife Carla, or “Angeline” as she’s known in “Old West” reenactments, and the Farmers were already involved in reenactment.
Davis, whose Texas roots date back to the late 1800s, had moved to Arizona, where he formed Southwest Legends Gunfighters in 1996, a natural continuation of his love of the Old West, as well as a natural jump for the son of a 1950s California stuntman.
“It’s in my blood,” Davis said.
Carla met “Doc” in 2000 and joined the troupe. Together they designed and built Jamestown Wild West Town in 2006 in Arizona, where they do reenactments, weddings, special events, touring, hold field trips for school children and camps such as those for children with disabilities.
Carla’s research into the “characters, life and suffering of the women back then is an important part of writing scripts that are used for some of the shows and historical lectures she does,” notes Texas Pistolaros’ official website.
Shorty and Diamond Lil joined up with Texas Pistolaros about 10 years ago. More recently, the folks running the group turned over the reigns to the Farmers, who in time hope to be able to hand over the organizational duties to other enthusiasts.
Texas Pistolaros has performed all over Texas, and made appearances in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and Arizona over the past 10 years. Texas Pistolaros can boast of membership in Texas Rangers Law Enforcement Association, Winnsboro Center for the Arts and the Reenactment Guild of America, to name a few. Some of their more memorable outings include one- act melodramas in Bastrop, performing at “one of the oldest and still operational opera houses” around; and at the Texas Rangers’ reunion in Waco three years ago. They perform at all kinds of events, big or small, to share the spirit of the Old West — in fact, they were headed to a local nursing home for a visit in costume after media interviews in town earlier this week!
In 2008, Doc and Carla visited Doc’s hometown and bought some property with the intention to relocate. Doc returned to Texas in July 2008 after signing over SLG to a friend in Arizona. Keeping in mind Farmer’s offer for him to join Texas Pistolaros if he ever returned to Texas, Davis got on board with the group. His wife Carla will remain in Arizona until her son finishes his last year of school, and is trying to sell Jamestown so she too can join her husband in Texas.
Saturday, the trio will join as many of the other 20-plus members who are able to give three performances during National Day of the American Cowboy Saturday at Hopkins County Regional Civic Center. They are tentatively slated to perform 15-20 minutes during each hour starting after 8 a.m. Tentatively, they are slated for 8:15 a.m., 9:15 a.m. and 10:45 a.m.
“We want to support the American Cowboy heritage, this is cowboy country,” noted Davis. “We have a membership of 25 and still continue to grow. We have a good base group to work from for a quality show. We have people from Lancaster to New London.”
“Since Jim’s come back, he’s been promoting us well. We’ve even had to turn down a few things,” Shorty Farmer said. “We try to stay busy.”
The show is very family and community oriented. And, while there will be at least one “gunfight,” no real bullets will be used, only blanks. Safety of the crowd, Cowboy Day participants and Pistolaros members is the first concern and consideration for Texas Pistolaros.
“Before each show, we do a safety talk, emphasize to children that they should not touch weapons. Their mom and dad, if they choose, will teach them to handle them. We pretty much follow the Eddie Eagle Safety Program of the NRA,” Farmer said.
“We do have a lot of fun, but we are very responsible, very safety conscious. That is our biggest thing,” Davis said. “We’d rather stop and not do a show if there’s any risk. We want all workers and the community to be safe.”
“We try to do some comedies, to make it fun and really come alive,” Diamond Lil Farmer said. “We even have children involved. They play with us some, usually our grandchildren. This is a way to keep history alive and continue this for other generations.”
Lil Farmer said that one of her grandchildren indicated a desire to continue the reenactment tradition even after she and Shorty are long gone.
They have been working closely with Enola Gay Mathews to tailor their acts for National Day of the American Cowboy, and also are working with Mathews and officials in Winnsboro for “East Texas Wild West Fest” benefit on Oct. 17 during Winnsboro’s 52nd Annual AutumnTrails. The East Texas Wild West Fest benefits Morgan’s Mercy Mansion For Women, Northeast Texas Child Advocacy Center, Winnsboro Center for the Arts Children’s Program grants and Safe Haven Equine Rescue.
“When we put on the clothes, it totally changes us,” Lil Farmer said of the costuming the women research and often design, and the Western gear the men don for their assignments.
“The ladies really work hard researching and trying to keep it as authentic looking as we can. It’s a lot of hard work. They do research into all of it, gloves, hats, everything. We’re not as critical as some. We don’t count stitches in the seam of a dress. We try to keep it fun,” Davis noted.
“If we ain’t having fun, we don’t do it,” notes Farmer, in character as Lone Start Shorty.
“This is our outlet. We want to keep the Old West alive and be entertaining, too. We teach history to see the smile on kids’ faces,” said Davis.
They recalled a visit to a hospital, where just seeing “a little spark” in the eyes of a terminally ill child happy to see a “real cowboy” was such a big payoff.
“That’s why do it,” they said.
For more information about Texas Pistolaros, visit the website: www.crossroadsvigilantes.com.

 

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