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Honoring those who shaped the Old West

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

When I was 5, 6 and 7 years old, I wanted to be a cowboy. Not a cowgirl, mind you, because they always depended on cowboys to rescue them from trouble. I aspired to be smart enough to stay out of trouble. Oh, and I also wanted a horse - a shiny black horse with silver mane, tail, hooves and star on its forehead. The horse's name would be Starr, of course.

Things didn't quite work out as I had hoped. I'm not a cowboy; I've seen my share of troubles; and I don't have a horse named Starr. But I do live in Texas and work in the official Cowboy Capital of the World - and that's good enough for me!

The morning of Saturday, August 31, Bandera reveled in its new-found celebrity with the dedication of a historical plaque approved by the Texas Historical Commission and given imprimatur by the Texas Legislature. As part of Celebrate Bandera, the ceremony took place at the Western Trail Heritage Park, with prime movers Elenora Dugosh Goodly and Roy Dugosh looking on proudly.

As a great-grandson of a Texan who drove cattle up the Western Trail, Bandera County Judge Richard Evans noted that being a cowboy "wasn't necessarily about horses, hats ropes and boots. It's more of an attitude of self-sufficiency and being able to take care of yourself." Amen to that.

Clearly enjoying himself, United States Rep. Lamar Smith shared the story of his most unforgettable lunch in Bandera that happened several years ago. Seated by a window looking out on Main Street, Smith was enjoying his barbecue plate as an errant longhorn steer hot-footed it up Main Street, followed by a host of would-be wranglers determined to lasso the bovine.

"A few minutes later, the longhorn turned around and came back down Main Street, still being followed by the crowd of cowboys, police officers and firemen," Smith said.

When the longhorn was finally corralled coincidentally in front of the building where Smith's town hall meeting was scheduled later that day, the Congressman was good-naturedly accused of arranging the whole episode to ensure a good turnout. "Only in Texas and only in Bandera," Smith said.

After reading the resolution that officially proclaimed Bandera as the Cowboy Capital of the World, Texas District 53 Rep. Harvey Hilderbran noted that the state representative from Stephenville - an upstart village now relegated to being a "self-proclaimed" pretender to the title - apparently failed to put in motion the steps necessary to block the now-controversial legislation. "Even if he had fought me on it," Hilderbran assured everyone, "it wouldn't have made a difference. I'd have won that (battle), too."

Hilderbran went on to say both the town and county of Bandera embody the spirit of Texas and the American cowboy. He also evoked its many celebrations, including deer season with Evans adding, for Hilderbran's benefit, evenings spent at the old Purple Cow Saloon.

Donning their gift cowboy hats, Smith and Hilderbran were designated "Honorary Cowboys" of the city and county of Bandera.

At the unveiling of the historical plaque, it was noted that Bandera remains a "living testimony to the courage, talent and vision of the men and women who shaped the Old West."

Underscoring that sentiment, a proclamation from the City of Castroville stated: "The Cowboy Capital of the World is not just about putting pen to paper, but about putting men in saddles and boots on the ground to work the range."

And regarding that town up north that's still whining about the legislative resolution, Dugosh pointed out, "Well, Stephenville will just have to call itself the 'Rodeo Cowboy Capital of the World'."

Pictured: Photos by Judith Pannebaker
On a hot and happy morning of Saturday, August 31, from left, Judge Richard Evans, Roy Dugosh, Cecil LeSturgeon, US Rep. Lamar Smith and Elenora Dugosh Goodley, among others, unveiled the historical place that officially designated Bandera as The Cowboy Capital of the World.

Although both are multi-generation Texans, pols, Harvey Hilderbran and Lamar Smith are now officially "Honorary Cowboys" of the city and county of Bandera. The official hats were donated by Mary Stein of Stein's of Bandera.

This Texas trio included Bandera Councilman Maggie Schumacher, Miss Rodeo Texas Stephanie Revels and Special Ambassador Elenora Dugosh Goodley.