Discovering the Old West in the New

When asked to write this blog by old friend and colleague Mike Harris our first thought was “cool”, we saw a chance to express ourselves and chat with you about issues that concern all of us who love the West and find it an endless fascinating place to explore.

But then we thought of the reality of the West today. As boomers we’ve watched the West change faster than any part of North America.

We remember the scent of orange blossoms when Orange County really had thousands of acres of orange groves, even after Disneyland was built. We remember the endless swaths of farm and ranch land ringing the west’s cities where today the endless parade of “Little Boxes” as Malvina Reynolds song goes creates visual blight while robbing the nation of some of its most productive land. And we’ve noted the demise of the multi-generational ranch families uprooted by new owners bent on transforming centuries old ranches into designer retreats.

Yet as we thought about the new west we also realized that much is being preserved. Bodie in Northern California is protected in a state of “arrested development” as a State Historic Park. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City works to preserve Western traditions and culture. The Western Folklife Center in Elko, Nevada will hold the 25th anniversary of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in January of 2009. And in Southern California, the great megalopolis, there is the famed Autry National Center of the America West. These and dozens of other major museums around the country preserve and protect aspects of the reality and myth that is the West.

And in addition to museums and cultural centers, there are literally hundreds of shows and festivals celebrating Native cultures, cowboy crafts, and even Western cooking. In short as we really thought about the topic, we came to realize that the West of reality, myth and legend is not only being preserved but is thriving. This doesn’t mean that any of us who love the West can be complacent. It’s constantly under siege by those out to make a buck and for whom tradition and history are meaningless bumps on the road to riches.

So for us this blog is about the West, its reality, history and myth and places and ways we can all celebrate it today. We’ll try to bring you our insights into what makes the West special and ways to celebrate it. Roundups, rodeos, festivals, Pow Wows, shows and special events are all part of this mission. And while some of the beauty of the West has disappeared under concrete much remains and we’ll do our best to point out places where the unspoiled beauty of the West prior to the population boom can still be seen and enjoyed.And of course you are a very important part of Old West New West Travel and History Magazine so we hope you’ll join us in posting your thoughts and suggestions on capturing the West though it’s special places and events.