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The Single Action Shooting Society Recreates the Old West in New Mexico on June 24

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Any fan of the Wild West will recognize the classic line, “You sons of bitches have been looking for a fight, well now you have it.”

Once upon a time in the far away never-land of Tombstone, those immortal words were uttered by Morgan Earp on October 26, 1881. The Earps – Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan – and Doc Holiday were getting ready to face off with the Clantons – Ike and Billy – and Frank and Tom McLaury in the most famous, or infamous, gunfight in American history, and arguably in the history of western civilization. For its time, the aftermath of the shoot-out made Wyatt Earp something of a celebrity and media darling. It also fated him to be portrayed time and again on the silver screen.

And, just like in any self-respecting Never-Land, little boys never really grow up. They just get taller, have a bigger allowance, and their toys become more expensive and more lethal. Some of the little boys sorta’ grown up like to dress up like Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and miscellaneous Klingons. Still others play knights in shining armor and stroll around with their lady fair to the tune of a roaming minstrel. There are a few who constantly fight the Civil War, while others battle the Redcoats. Then there are the guys who still want to play cowboy complete with 10-gallon hats, spurs, boots, a horse or two, and six shooters.

When the adult boys and girls want to have a responsible grown up outlet for their fondness of the Wild West, there is a responsible grown-up organization for them – The Single Action Shooting Society. Not only do they promote responsible gun ownership and highly competitive shooting events, but they also work to secure the 2nd Amendment rights of all gun owners. The group is dedicated to history, the Wild West, and the glorious legend and lore that has come out of Hollywood. Members must create an alias and a very detailed, accurate period costume from the late 19th century or Hollywood westerns.

They call it “The Spirit of the Game” where members must, like their counterparts in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), adopt an alias, which is in play during a sanctioned SASS event. They become their character. And – they play with guns, big guns, little guns, fancy guns, Hollywood guns, historical guns – as long as the guns are accurate. And, they sponsor shooting matches “drawing” some of the finest shootists in the country. These shooting matches occur locally, statewide, and then on a national level.

Every summer they gather about forty miles east of Albuquerque, New Mexico for the annual End of the Trail, which attracts well over a thousand participants that include costumers, shooters, merchants (well over 100 vendors), movie stars, musicians, and authors (which is where I fit in). This year’s festivities, which begin on Thursday, June 24, will include a special appearance by TV’s classic Wyatt Earp – Hugh O’Brian, and a display of six gun choreography by World Champion marksman and fancy draw expert Jim Dunham. His name may not be familiar, but if you’ve ever seen the movie Tombstone, you know his work. He is the expert who choreographed the Oriental Saloon scene where Johnny Ringo and Doc Holiday were trying to one-up each other, Ringo with a gun and Holiday with his sterling silver sippy cup. Even a person who isn’t interested in guns and gun play will find Dunham’s reenactment of the scene to be fascinating.

If you are interested in attending the event, festivities get into full swing on Friday, June 25, at the Founders Ranch in Edgewood, some seventeen miles from Moriarty. Currently all lodgings in the nearby area are booked. The nearest available rooms are in Albuquerque. The usual event food will be available on site as well as in nearby Moriarty, but the culinary highlight is the Chuck Wagon Cooking and Judging. And, trust me, people in New Mexico take their chuck wagon cooking seriously, so plan on BBQ!

Bob Boze Bell of True West Magazine will be showing his art. There will be cowboy swing music, mariachi, and free margaritas! Hurdy Gurdy women will can-can and Soiled Doves will strut their stuff. For the un-informed, ‘soiled dove’ is the polite, Wild West euphuism for prostitute. Basically it gives women an opportunity to wear something other than the ever-tacky and always-constricting bustle.

The dirty little secret about Wild West costuming is men look great in historic fashions that were popular from the 1860s until the turn of the century. When you add the macho look of the cowboy, guys who are just a little mediocre looking don spurs, jinglebobs, cowboy hat, guns, vest, and a great-coat and even they look like they could buckle a swash or two. But women’s clothes (sigh) post-bellum were just plain old, downright ugly. Imagine living in the southwest where summer temps like to hover in the high 90s (and don’t give me that old quip, "but it’s a dry heat"). Imagine lacing up a corset, over light-weight woolen long undies, stockings, then a petticoat, camisole, and finally topping it off with a long-sleeved, high-necked blouse and long skirt. Now you know why women in those old photographs look so grim and men look so good.

Founder’s Ranch, where the event is being held, is one of the premiere movie sites in New Mexico.

The event is open to the public Thursday, June 21 – Sunday, June 24 from 9AM to 6PM. Evening events are for members only. Admission is $10 per day.

Future events include the national convention at Las Vegas, Nevada in December.

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About SJ Reidhead

  • mary

    I love Cowboy Action Shooting!!!!!