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Merry Christmas!

To all of our readers, we wish a very merry Christmas and prosperous New Year!

Bennett Owen

Credit: Stan Lynde:

This print is the most beloved Rick O’Shay print of all time and has been etched in my memory ever since the first time I saw it as a young boy. For its use as part of My-West’s first Christmas celebration we gratefully thank our friend and supporter Stan Lynde, a most talented artist and award-winning author. What he doesn’t know about the old west isn’t worth knowing. See for yourself at


Sunday Funnies

By Bennett Owen

It’s said the world is divided into those who can wear a cowboy hat and those that can’t.  Have fun sorting them out, and send us your additions!

The Dalai Lama.  Credit: thieu_y

Pope John Paul II, with a Mariachi sombrero, in MexicoCredit: endlesscancun

John Lennon. Credit: celebseniorlaundry

William Shatner. Credit: generaltomfoolery

President Gerald Ford. Credit:

Marilyn Monroe. Credit:

Burt Reynolds in Smokey ad the Bandit. Credit:


Hollywood Hats of Fame

By Bennett Owen

It’s said the world is divided into men who can wear a cowboy hat and men who can’t.  Still, most of Tinseltown’s elite has donned one at least once in their careers and sometimes the headgear became just as legendary as the person wearing it. Even Fred Astaire got in on the act…

Credit: ebay

…although he probably should have stuck with the tails and top hat.  Cowboy hats have been an integral part of Hollywood since 1903 and what’s commonly referred to as the world’s first feature film, The Great Train Robbery.


The folks at ‘The Last Best West’ have replicated some of the most famous cowboy hats in movie history, right down to the sweat in the band if you desire. But be warned. If you go to the site, be prepared to spend some time because it is a treasure trove.  Here’s our personal short list of favorite Hollywood headgear:

Clint Eastwood – Pale Rider

Said to be a mockup of the original Stetson “Boss of the Plains” hat.  This preacher’s method of conversion was to shoot first and let God sort ‘em out.

Credit: fridaynightboys300

Money Quote: Coy LaHood: Do you imbibe?

The Preacher: Only after nine in the morning.

Brad Pitt – Legends of the Fall

Widely considered the movie that put Pitt on the A list. His role as Tristan has been described as ‘female Viagra.’ For my money the hat should have won an Oscar…

Money Quote: Samuel Ludlow: Still hung over?

Tristan Ludlow: Still drunk!

Credit: nadinejolie

Val Kilmer – Tombstone

Kilmer channels Doc Holliday in one of my favorite westerns.  The experts’ take on the hat:  “The fedora working to the crown suggests culture and education, and the left turn up on the brim infers a dangerous bent to his personality.” 

Money Quote: Why Johnny Ringo, you look like somebody just walked over your grave.


Clint Eastwood – Outlaw Josey Wales

The hat might not quite fit the Civil War era but it sure does fit Clint’s head to a Tee.  Eastwood has said this is his favorite western and it certainly makes my top five.

Money Quote: Jamie: I wish we had time to bury them fellas.

Josey Wales: To hell with them fellas. Buzzards gotta eat, same as    worms.

Credit: alsolikelife

Robert Duvall – Lonesome Dove

Simply the best western movie, adapted from the best western book ever written.  Duvall’s hat actually started a western cowboy craze with the up front crease.

Credit: 317am

If you’re a My-West regular you’ve seen the following clip before and you’ll see it again. Humor me.


All Hat and No Cattle

By Bennett Owen

Tom Mix, 1931.  Credit: the circus blog

Five things you probably didn’t know about Cowboy Hats –

  • The high crown serves a purpose, trapping a layer of insulating air above the head. 
  • The original Stetsons sold for five dollars in 1865.
  • The official flag of Calgary, Canada features a cowboy hat.
  • A 10-gallon hat holds about three quarts of water.
  • It’s considered bad luck to leave a cowboy hat on a bed.

Credit: Newworld encyclopedia

One of my favorite Rick O’Shay cartoons featured Rick and his cowboy hat in action. In one frame he fans the flames of a campfire. In another he uses it as a dipper for creek water. It shields him from the sun, keeps him dry in a cloudburst, helps him round up ornery cattle. And when Rick returns to town, a ‘city slicker’ comments that ‘those hats are just for show.’  Well, if there’s no telltale ring of sweat the city slicker is probably right.


One theory of cowboy hat evolution traces back to the Vaqueros of Mexico with their broad-brimmed hats and sombreros.  They favored a high peaked crown and the brim was measured in ‘galleons’, which the American cowpunchers soon distorted to ‘gallon.’    Hence Tom Mix’s 10 Gallon Hat… a model made purely for the movies.

Credit: liveauctioneers

Credit: liveauctioneers

Cowboys in the early west were essentially lowlifes on a totem pole of rank and privilege that put the ‘cattleman’ up top, followed by his foreman, referred to as ‘Top Hand.’  Cowboys of the antebellum west tended to be drifters and malcontents who wore any kind of cover that would keep the sun out of their eyes. One turn of the century newspaper mogul even anointed the bowler as ‘the hat that won the west.’  

Credit: consombrero

Once the cowboy hat gained popularity, lawmen like Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp saw it as a signal of trouble waiting to happen.

Credit: kpbs and the Craig Foults Collection

Another vein of hat history takes us to the gold fields of Colorado and a young man named John B. Stetson and even this story has multiple interpretations.  In one version Stetson fashioned a hat from a Beaver pelt to shelter him from the elements while panning for gold.  Another has him bragging to fellow prospectors that he could ‘make cloth out of fur without weaving. ‘

Credit: thelastbestwest

What is certain is that the first Stetson hats were sold in Colorado in 1865 and the single model was called the “Boss of the Plains.” It sold for five dollars and became THE prototype for all cowboy hats to follow. The Montgomery Ward catalogue fanned the hat’s popularity and by 1886 Stetson was the world’s biggest hat maker.   The rest is what legends are made of.

Credit: ©

Credit: ©

Western wear has its own mystique and Calgary, Canada hands out exquisite white hats to visiting dignitaries. We mention this only because it gives us a reason to show the Duchess of Cambridge wearing one.  I mean, how often do we have the chance at My-West?  

Credit: Pacific Coast News


The Navajo Code Talkers

By Jim and Donna Poulton


They were at Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, Okinawa .. They were in every assault the U.S. Marines conducted in the Pacific theatre from 1942 to 1945. The idea to use them came from Philip Johnston, the son of a missionary to the Navajos and one of the few non-Navajos who spoke their language. Johnston, a World War I veteran, knew of the dilemma the U.S. forces were facing: During the early months of World War II, Japanese intelligence experts broke every code the U.S. had devised. With access to the codes, and with plenty of fluent English speakers, the Japanese were able to use the U.S. communications to their own advantage – sabotaging messages, setting up ambushes, issuing false commands.

Photograph of Navajo Indian Code Talkers Henry Bake and George Kirk. Credit: Still Picture Records Section, Special Media Archives Services Division (NWCS-S)

Credit: US Navy Museum Web site. Photo #: USMC 127-MN 89670

In response, the U.S. devised more and more complex codes – to the point of absurdity. At Guadalcanal, military leaders complained that they now required more than two hours to de-code a single message. Something had to be done.

Private First Class George H. Kirk, USMC and Private First Class John V. Goodluck, USMC. Credit: Photo #: USMC 127-MN 94236

Philip Johnston believed that the Navajo language answered the military requirement for an undecipherable code because it is extremely complex, tonal (in that high and low tones of the same phoneme can mean different things), and has no alphabet or symbols. Needless to say, speaking and understanding Navajo requires extensive exposure and training. In 1942, it was estimated that only 30 non-Navajos in the world spoke Navajo – none Japanese.

Private First Class Alec E. Nez, USMC, and Private First Class William D. Yazzie, USMC. Credit: U.S. Marine Corps. Photo #: NH 107263

Johnston convinced the U.S. forces to give the Navajos a try by demonstrating that they could encode, transmit, and decode a three-line English message in 20 seconds, increasing the military’s efficiency by a factor of 360,000 – or something of the sort. Within a matter of weeks, 200 Navajos were recruited.

Credit: U.S. Navy Museum Website

Private First Class Hosteen Kelwood, USMC, Private First Floyd Saupitty, USMC and Private First Class Alex Williams, USMC. Credit: U.S. Marine Corps Photo #: USMC 129851

The rest, as they say, is history. The Navajo code talkers accrued praise throughout the war for their skill, speed and accuracy. At Iwo Jima, six code talkers working around the clock sent and received over 800 messages in the first two days of battle. The 5th Marine Division signal officer said of their dedication: ‘Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.’

Airman Jose Porcayo, assigned to USS Constitution shares a laugh with veterans who served in the U.S. Marine Corps as Navajo Code Talkers during World War II at a book signing during Albuquerque Navy Week. Navy Weeks are designed to show Americans the investment they have made in their Navy and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence, 4 October 2009. Photographed by MC1 Eric Brown, USN. Credit: U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photo #: NH 107218-KN (Color) Navajo Code Talkers

The Japanese never cracked the Navajo code.


In 2001, President George Bush spoke at a ceremony honoring 21 surviving Navajo code talkers: ‘Today, America honors 21 Native Americans who, in a desperate hour, gave their country a service only they could give. In war, using their native language, they relayed secret messages that turned the course of battle. At home, they carried for decades the secret of their own heroism. Today, we give these exceptional Marines the recognition they earned so long ago.’

President George W. Bush presents Congressional Gold Medals to four of the five remaining former Navajo Code Talkers who served during World War II in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, 26 July 2001. Credit: U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photo #: NH 107229-KN (Color). Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

Navajo Code Talker Monument, Window Rock, Arizona. Photo by Tom Grier/Winona, Minnesota:

Sources for more information about the Navajo Code Talkers:

Official site of the Navajo Code Talkers

Naval History and Heritage Command