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Cowboy Tales
by Andrea Tyrell
Sep 26, 2013 | 1006 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Students at the Fernley Elementary School library received books donated by the Will James Society.
Students at the Fernley Elementary School library received books donated by the Will James Society.
Nevada is known for its cowboy culture, from summer rodeos to the various country music stations. But with that culture, some portions of cowboy history have slowly gone missing, like knowledge of author, illustrator and local legend, Will James, who was the creator of the first Reno Rodeo sign in 1917. Cowfolk looking to get lost in yesteryear have the opportunity to learn about James and his legacy on northern Nevada at the Will James Society’s annual gathering this weekend at John Ascuaga’s Nugget.

“It’s going to be a great event, full of rich history” said Sharon DeCarlo, editor-in-chief of “Cowboys North and South,” the magazine the Will James Society, the gathering’s sponsor, puts out quarterly. “Our main goal is to introduce people to Will James literature, and his art. He was forgotten for a while. As an association, we’re trying to bring his books back to life again.”

The weekend also includes day trips to the Reno Automotive Museum and Virginia City and a silent auction, selling James paintings and first edition copies of his books, as well as saddles and other western-inspired art. Reno Rodeo Foundation president, Steve Brown, will be the guest speaker at Friday’s cocktail reception, speaking about the impact James work has made in the Truckee Meadows. The highlight of the weekend is the Cowboy storytelling segment Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m, which is free to the public.

Ranchers and cattlemen from northern Nevada will share tales of cowboys past and present. Dave Seacrest, author of “The Long, Winding Trail” will be the key storyteller and Gardnerville poet, Ken Gardner, will MC the event.

“These are older folk who love to tell stories,” said DeCarlo. “They’re former cowboys and cowgirls who have some interesting tales to tell.”

Proceeds from the gathering will benefit the Will James Society’s charity mission to place James’ books in schools.

“We want to get him into the schools and promote the positive legacy he has made,” said DeCarlo. “I feel like the reading material now isn’t good for kids but the books we donate are. They teach the cowboy way, good morals and about how to care for animals.”

The Will James Society provided 13 school libraries across the country with Will James books and it’s hoping to donate more to Washoe County schools this school year.

“Although we’re headquartered in Elko, any school can apply, elementary through high school, and we do our best to provide what we can,” said DeCarlo. “We ask the librarian what is best for the students and we provide books based on what is needed.”

The Will James society also gives books to hospitals and assisted-living homes.

“We had a couple of men serving overseas in the Middle East ask for copies of Will James’s books and we shipped several copies out to them there,” said DeCarlo. “Absolutely everyone adores his books.”

Known for his Reno Rodeo illustration and for the picture book, “Smoky the Cowhorse,” James is also considered the first wild horse advocate. He began drawing in prison upon his arrest for cattle wrangling. He lived in Washoe Valley from 1913 until his death in 1942, building a home that still stands and is available to tour.

“Will James is part of our history, part of our legacy,” said DeCarlo. “I hope he’s introduced to everyone.”

For more information about the Will James Society and its annual gathering, visit
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