We no longer eat hardtack – a cracker only a dentist could love – but, a century after achieving statehood, Arizonans still celebrate life on the range.
Rugged outdoor clothing, humorous poetry and trail rides through towering stands of cacti are among our popular modern spins on Old West traditions.
Cowboy Poetry and Ballads
The melodious side of ranching life takes center stage during several annual Arizona events.
February boasts the Cochise Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering in Sierra Vista, and Western songsters and versifiers converge on Prescott for the Arizona Cowboy Poetry Gathering in September.
The legacy of the singing cowboys of the silver screen is recalled during September’s Rex Allen Days in Willcox.
November’s Tombstone Western Music Festival is held within spittin’ distance of the OK Corral, but the only showdowns at the event are battles of the bands.
Also in November, the Arizona Cowboy Symposium holds its tuneful sessions at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds.
Created by Arizona Official State Balladeer Dolan Ellis, the Arizona Folklore Preserve in Ramsey Canyon, which lies just south of Sierra Vista, offers live performances on weekends year-round.
For a visual celebration of the West, pay a visit to any of the numerous museums around the state exhibiting fine cowboy art.
Along with its impressive permanent collection of Western art, The Phippen Museum in Prescott hosts several visiting shows and sales, including “Trappings of the American West.”
Wickenburg’s Desert Caballeros Western Museum is renowned for “Cowgirl Up,” the country’s most important annual showcase for female artists of the West.
In the fall of 2011, the Phoenix Art Museum debuted “The West Select” sale, with more than 30 leading Western artists working in a variety of media and styles.
The Tucson Museum of Art’s excellent American West collection is supplemented by an annual “Friends of Western Art” exhibit, highlighting one notable American artist each year.
You could also choose to raise a glass and toast art history at Sedona’s Cowboy Club restaurant, site of the founding of the celebrated Cowboy Artists of America.
Contemporary Cowboy Digs
Arizona’s guest ranches come in all sizes and styles, but horseplay and hospitality are common denominators.
Some are still working cattle ranches: Flying E Ranch in Wickenburg and White Stallion Ranch in Tucson let their guests look at – and sometimes partake in – traditional cowboy activities.
Others have added modern amenities, including a spa at Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson and a golf course at Wickenburg’s Rancho de los Caballeros.
Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch in Yucca, south of Kingman, provides barrier-free Western experiences for people with physical disabilities.
While horses are the main attraction at Circle Z Ranch in Patagonia and Rancho de la Osa Guest Ranch in Sasabe (south of Tucson), birds also vie for guests’ attention at these avian havens.
The Arizona Dude Ranch Association offers a list of additional premier places for cowpoke wannabes to bunk.
Get a real feel for ranching life at Scottsdale’s Arizona Cowboy College, where roping, branding and penning are among the skills taught, hands-on.
Just want to drink in spectacular scenery for a few hours? At Arizona Horseback Stables you can cap your ride through the high grasslands of southeast Arizona with a wine tasting at Sonoita Vineyards.
A Day in the West in Sedona lets you enjoy both four-wheeled and four-footed adventures with a combined horseback and Jeep tour.
If you don’t have your own cowboy gear, Cave Creek Trail Rides, north of Phoenix, will lend you a hat, chaps and boots for cantering through the cacti.
Don Donnelly’s D-Spur Ranch & Riding Stables in Gold Canyon specializes in rides through the rugged Superstition Mountains, home to the Lost Dutchman Mine.
Visiting dudes can find Western duds in nearly every part of the state.
Top stops include the huge Double D Western World in Wickenburg, carrying everything from horse-themed jewelry to shoes for your horse.
The “safest place to trade since 1880,” the Willcox Commercial Store, is still a great source of denim and leather goods, but you’ll have to buy your flour elsewhere.
Family-owned since 1927, and with several locations throughout Greater Phoenix, Saba’s not only purveys high-quality Western wear but also instructs customers on how to keep it in top shape.
Paul Bond Boot Company, in Nogales, Arizona, since 1928, and Stewart Custom Boots, opened in Tucson in 1940, stand out for their handsome custom-made footwear.