Notes from the Saddle Bench

Greetings from Far West Texas!

We are having a beautiful early spring this last month. A little cold, a little wind, but mostly mild for February. The loco weed has started blooming, the cotton woods and fruit trees are putting out. We have had enough moisture to start a little green coming up. Bob Hayter west of Fort Stockton said the weeds are sure coming on and looking like a good spring in the making.

We can tell at the Shop that the spring works are right around the corner, lots of saddles have come in to be repaired and conditioned. But the way we can really tell is by the bedroll sales. They have been flying out the door.

We have had a lot of cattle people from up north in the shop this month. They try to stay gone out of the cold weather until it warms up just a little. One rancher and his wife wanted to stay for the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering last weekend, but their heifers were supposed to start calving this past week and they had to get home to get after it.

The Poetry Gathering was last weekend, Trappings of Texas is April 11th-13th, the Western Heritage is in Abilene May 9th-12th. Hope you can make one or both of these great shows.

We are just about finished with our first strip down saddle, with more in the works. These are going to be very lightweight. We are hoping around 25 pounds. But they will still fit, ride, and be as stout as any other bench made saddle. Sure will be handy for us older guys, now if I can just find a 14 hand cowhorse.

The Sul Ross Rodeo Team continues to amaze me. The University can’t afford to build some much needed stalls, so under the leadership of their coach, CJ Aragon, they are getting oil field pipe donated and they are building the stalls themselves. My kind of kids! If you have any building materials laying around you don’t need, give me a call at the Shop and I will put you in touch with CJ.

Kevin Norell, an old Sul Ross Rodeo Ex, came by the shop this week to visit while he was passing through on his way to Fort Worth. His daughter Kathi has qualified for the Junior American Rodeo. Kevin and his cousin Kirk came to Sul Ross to rodeo in the late 70’s from Rifle, Colorado. They sure won their fair share back in the day! Good luck to Kathi. Hope to see you advance to the American this weekend!

Hope this note finds everyone happy and in good health. Take care and God bless!

Gary Dunshee

February 28, 2019

Hi Folks!

Hope all is well in your part of the world. We are enjoying a fairly mild winter here in far west Texas. Seems like the cold weather comes in spurts, then it will be 70 degrees for a day or two. I have seen Spanish Daggers blooming for almost a month now. Not all of them, but one or two here and there. Not sure what that means, but I bet it is an indicator of some weather phenomenon. Hope it doesn’t mean dry weather is coming. Haven’t seen or heard anything about the loco weed this year. We have had enough winter moisture that it could really be a problem if it decides to be. Seems like the years that loco is a problem it’s not reliant on how well the loco is doing , but how bad the cattle are doing. Doesn’t seem to matter how much grass is available or not available. For some reason the cows will just go to it some years but most years they don’t.

Lots of calves hitting the ground right now. I’m glad we don’t have the extreme weather they are experiencing up north. Pulling a Charolais calf coming backwards out of an angus heifer at 2:00 a.m. when it is -27 below doesn’t sound like much fun. We have been using 1/2 Angus 1/2 Corriente  bulls on our heifers for several years now, and have had good results. The calves don’t show much Corriente until they get up around 375 lbs. This year we are using muley 3/4 Angus 1/4 Corriente bulls on the heifers. I think the calving ease will still be there, but with a way better calf to boot.

The Shop decided this week to go to the Arizona Cowpunchers Reunion in Williams Arizona this summer. We will set up a booth in a tent at the fairgrounds, similar to what we do in Abilene. We have lots of customers in Arizona and this will be a great opportunity to show them our wares in person and meet some new folks as well. The rodeo is Friday, Saturday, and Sunday June 21st, 22nd, and 23rd with a team roping that Thursday.

We scouted the Dallas Safari Club convention a couple of weeks ago to see if it would work for a show for us to go to. I’ve never been to a show that big. You could book a hunt to just about anywhere in the world. Buy a fur coat or your own operational military tank. If the feral hogs keep rooting up our place, I may buy a tank next year to do battle with them. Can’t seem to stay ahead of them by trapping.

Hope this note finds you warm and happy.


Gary Dunshee

February 1, 2019

Hi Folks!

Hope all is well with you and yours. We just finished up with our busiest Christmas run ever. Sure glad there are people out there who appreciate the quality we try to put into our products. Thanks to all of you for trading with us over the years.

We are in the process of  updating the website. We are trying to get the vast majority of items we sell in the store on the website. If you are looking for a specific item and can’t find it on the website, just call and we will let you know if we have it or not. If we don’t have it, maybe we can make it up as a custom order.

I am sure seeing lots of Ranch trucks with their cake feeders mounted on them around town. Guess it’s that time of year. I talked with Rob, our local taxidermist, the other day. He was saying that he is getting lots of bull elk to mount, but not many deer. He had a nine by ten bull elk from Sanderson there to mount that was mighty impressive.

I talked to Dr. Charlie Graham today. What a fine character he is. He told me quite a story about Harley May winning the All-Around at Texas A&M when Charlie was the president of the Rodeo Club. They gave a colt to the All-Around Champion back then. What an interesting individual to to visit with, as well as being one of the most knowledgeable Equine/Bovine veterinarians in the country. Thank you Dr. Graham for all you have done for the world of Agriculture over the years.

We are going to Gonzales, Texas tomorrow to bring a load of weaned heifers back to Alpine to grow out and breed. The old timers say you can move cattle west, but you can’t take them east. I am sure that is generally true, but I remember taking some corriente cross cows from Brewster County to Gonzales several years ago when it was dry in West Texas and grass was knee deep east of I-35. Those cows never did complain at all about their move east.

Hope this note finds you looking forward to a 2019 where we can live in peace and enjoy each day as it comes to us.

Take Care & God Bless!
Gary Dunshee
January 2, 2019

Hi Folks!

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. We sure did. We all have so much to be thankful for.

The weather has been mostly beautiful here in the mountains this month, just a few days of cold. The hunters are here now enjoying the hunt and everything that goes along with it: good friends, beautiful scenery, relaxing in the mountain air, no traffic. Whatever seems to bother a feller in the city doesn’t happen out here. A lot of guys have tried to explain it to me but without much luck. One guy from Dallas said “When I turn south off of I-10 headed to the mountains something just changes my soul.” Whatever it is that brings you to this part of the world, we hope you enjoy it and feel better when you head home.

Everyone is about done shipping. Time to make sure the old trip-hopper is working! The grass hopefully has some protein in it this year. I can remember when ranchers sent off grass samples to Texas A&M in the fall for an analysis of the nutrition in the grass and the report would give a negative nutrition analysis. When asked what was meant by a negative analysis, they explained that the cow would expend more energy eating the grass than she received from the grass she ate. It’s sure hard to make things work when you are already behind before you start.

I got to spend a few days with some friends in the Panhandle going to some of the historical sites, including Comanche camps, Texas Ranger camps, Cavalry camps, and a place where Coronado camped. We saw incredible artifacts at the Crosbyton Museum. If you’re ever in the Lubbock-Crosbyton area and have some time, you need to go. Especially if you are an Indian Artifact nut like I am.

Jim Bret Campbell and Scott White from the National Ranching Heritage Association joined our group for the tour and then gave us “the tour” of the Ranching Heritage Museum in Lubbock on the Texas Tech Campus. I have been there on many occasions and enjoy going every chance I get. Things are always changing. They do more than anyone to preserve the ranching heritage of this great nation. Not just Texas, but the entire country. If you are not a member of the National Ranching Heritage Association, you need to be. Their publication, the “Ranch Record” (which you receive with membership), is well worth the dues you pay. It is chock-full of great historical stories and info about ranching in each publication.

We have had a lot of requests for lightweight saddles the past few years. After the first of the year, we will be stocking a “Strip Down” saddle. It should weigh about 25 pounds and be “hell for stout”. We have made them for customers with back problems but never kept them in stock. They should work great for those who need a light weight saddle.

Hope this note finds you all in good spirits and your country in good shape.

Gary Dunshee
December 3, 2018

Hi Folks!

Hope this note finds everyone in good shape going into the Fall. Most of the ranches in this part of the world are through with their fall works or are just now finishing up. After a sharp cold snap last month that abruptly ended summer, we are having our normal fall weather. Beautiful days and chilly nights.

We have started seeing the elk again finally. They usually disappear for the rut in September as they did this year. But they did not resurface again until a few days ago on us. The deer hunters will be moving in the week of Thanksgiving for a month or more of hunting. The mule deer season is 2 weeks long, but with the management hunts, co-operating ranches can hunt into January sometimes. All of the ranchers I have talked to out here say their mule deer numbers have never recovered from the fires and drought conditions of recent years. The aoudad on the other hand, seem to be doing quite well. People talk about seeing bunches with over 100 head in them. There are several good outfitters booking hunts as do many of the ranches. They are harvesting some really nice rams in the 34″ range.

As I write this note I can hear the non-stop flow of Chili Cooks in their RV’s leaving Terlingua, going past our cattle guard. Guess they had another successful Pachanga down south.

Big Bend Saddlery leaves Tuesday on our way to the World Championship Ranch Rodeo in Amarillo. This is the best show we have ever been to. Is is put on and run by a dedicated Board of Directors and a great WRCA Staff. The WRCA is all about the working cowboy, and its Foundation is a great benefit to ranch cowboys and their families who might be in need. If you have never been to the World Championships you should try to make it. You won’t go to a better Ranch Rodeo anywhere and you will meet some of the finest people from all phases of the ranching community.

In addition to the nightly rodeo, there is one of the best Trade Shows you can imagine. A Youth Ranch Horse Show, an RHAA sanctioned Ranch Horse Show, Budweiser Clydesdales, Singers, Cowboy Poets, and specialty acts to boot. If you are interested, there is more information elsewhere in the Big Bend Saddlery Newsletter.

Hope you have a good Fall and Happy Thanksgiving!

Gary Dunshee
November 5, 2018

Hi Folks!

Hope all is well at your place and you have had some rain this past month. Most of the people we have talked to across the state have had good rain. 13″ to 16″ in some places. That will grow some grass! It sure looks good here in West Texas. Lots of ranches are weaning and/or shipping cattle now. With grain prices down, the feedlot boys should do well for now.

The Permian Basin oil fields are rockin’ and rollin’. We are happy for the ranchers who benefit from that, but it sure makes traveling through there a pain in the butt! They are drilling within 25 miles of Alpine as the crow flies. I hope it plays out at the mountains. I would hate to see the Davis Mountains scarred by the oilfield. On the other hand, a wise old rancher once told me “The best thing you can do for a cow is to let her rest in the shade of a pump jack”. Might be some truth to that.

Peter Flores was just elected State Senator of District 19 (from San Antonio to El Paso County). We are sure proud to have him represent us. He is a retired Game Warden and a true Statesman, not a politician. He is the first Republican  senator from this district in 139 years.

We just returned from the Tejas Vaquero Annual Trek on the Felix Fisher Ranch outside of Hunt, Texas. Sure a great bunch of guys who know how to have a good time and celebrate our ranching heritage.

Sul Ross State University had its 73rd annual NIRA Rodeo this past weekend. The Rodeo Program, under the leadership of C.J. Aragon, put on a tremendous Rodeo! The Friday night performance was one of the best (most fun) I can remember. It’s great to see young kids participating in the rodeo programs and putting out some work and effort to put on such a successful Rodeo.

Christmas orders are starting to come in to the Shop. If you know you are going to need something made for Christmas, let us know as soon as you can. We can do a lot of hand made items right up ’til a day or two before Christmas because we make them up ahead of time and can add personalization at the last minute. But not everything will be available at the last minute, so the sooner the better!

If you want to see this part of the world with its Sunday clothes on, this next month is the time to do it! Nice days and chilly nights. The buzzards will be headed back to Mexico in a couple of weeks, guess I better go to.

Take care and God Bless,
Gary Dunshee
September 30, 2018

Hi Folks!

Just a line to let you know what’s going on in the Big Bend Region of Far West Texas. We have had good rains for the most part, but there are a few places that can’t seem to buy a rain. Some folks are lush and others have had to move cows off because it is so dry. It was unseasonably hot the first part of the summer but is more normal now with highs in the upper 80’s and cool nights.

The Walker Ranch we (the Dunshees and Baldwins) have leased for the last 35 years has sold to Will & Jenny Wood. We are proud to have them and their family back in this area. They are really fine folks.

Big changes at the Animal Science Department of Sul Ross State University. Bonnie Warnock is the new Dean. She has rolled up her sleeves and is making some needed changes.

C.J. Aragon was hired as the new Rodeo Coach at Sul Ross. He and his wife Tiffany and daughter Lauren come here via Mesa Lands College in New Mexico and Odessa College in Texas. He has had multiple champions at both places and was named the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association “Coach of the Year” in 2010. We are thankful they chose Alpine as a place to build a rodeo program and to raise a family.

Let us know what you would like to hear about from this part of the world and we’ll try to include it in our next note. In the meantime, pray for rain for everyone.

Gary Dunshee
August 29, 2018