Cowboys. Their lifestyle has inspired filmmakers, artists, and authors for generations. Their images evoke a nostalgic feeling in the hearts of many Americans. They’re a rare breed today, but cowboy spirit is still alive,well and one of main attractions in Las Cruces. The New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum pays tribute to cowboy heritage and the state’s ranching traditions each year with its annual Cowboy Days celebration. The event blends the mythic, romanticized version of the cowboy often seen in the movies with real deal cowboys who spend long days doing less-glamorous chores like fixing fence and doctoring cattle. First held in October 1999, a little more than a year after the museum opened to the public, Cowboy Days marked the museum’s first annual event. Originally, it was more of a cowboy poetry gathering followed by music and a dinner. The festival was moved to the springtime in 2008 and, over the past 16 years, Cowboy Days has grown into an event for the whole family with a wide variety of activities and demonstrations. The museum’s 47-acre campus offers plenty of room for the large event. Pete Paulson’s horse-drawn stagecoach circles the parking lot offering free rides, and horseback rides are offered for people of all ages. There are even ponies for the youngest attendees. Demonstrations are a big part of the annual festival and usually include everything from roping and horseshoeing to chuckwagon cooking and much more. New to the 2014 Cowboy Days: cowboy mounted shooting, featuring the Border-land Pistoleros Mounted Shooting Club. Riders on horseback demonstrate the fast-growing sport, weaving quickly through a course firing at balloons with rifles, shotguns, and pistols loaded with black-powder blanks. “It’s the Old West,” said Borderland Pistoleros member Jim Huff, when asked why the competition is so popular for spectators. “It’s as John Wayne as you can get … riding fast and blasting away with a smoking six-gun.”
Speaking of six-guns, Flying Cloud Productions returns each year to perform gunfight re-enactments, as well as an Old West medicine show and a 19th century fashion show. Museum staff and volunteers add to the authenticity offering interactive, living history fun featuring historical characters. In past years, the living history scenarios have included a wedding, a funeral, and a trial. Visitors are invited to interact with the characters and become part of the show. Children also have the opportunity to attend Sheriff School, where they go through a brief training to see if they have what it takes to be a sheriff in the Old West. Another popular event, The Parade of Breeds, showcases real cowboys on horseback. The cowboys bring each of the museum’s six different breeds of beef cattle into the round pen, where they talk about the history and specific characteristics of each breed. Other demonstrations include Pat Howard’s herding dogs, blacksmithing, sewing, weaving, and dowsing for groundwater. Some of the top cowboy singers and musicians from the area provide entertainment members of the Western Writers of America are usually part of the event as well.
Cowboy Days is Rootin’ Tootin’ fun for
the whole family. Don’t miss the 16th
Cowboy Days March 7-8, 2015.
The museum is located at 4100 Dripping
Springs Road. For more information,
call 575-522-4100 or visit
Top: Experiencing history and interacting with the characters is just some of the fun attendees have at Cowboy Days. Photo by Paul Shelton Middle, left: Miniature ponies, owned by Robert Bruce of Deming, offer children their own chance in the saddle. Photo by Dawn Santiago Middle, right: A little cowboy takes his turn at roping, one of the many children’s activities offered. Photo by Dawn Santiago Bottom: Cowboy musicians and singers caught pick’n ‘n grin’n. Photo by Elena Valdez Background: Old western windmill, a Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum visual staple. Photo by Elena Valdez