Cowboy Jam: Wrangler Awards honor stories of the American West
Sixteen Wranglers were presented during the 53rd Western Heritage Awards April 12, at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Okla. Not to be mistaken for the jeans, the Wrangler Award is an impressive bronze sculpture of a cowboy on horseback presented for achievement in music, literature, and film and television.
I make the distinction because the late cowboy singer Kyle Evans confused the two. Recounting the day in 1989 when a caller told him his South Dakota centennial tribute album, Celebrate the Century, had won the Wrangler, Evans initially declined the honor. He said, “I told the caller I already had lots of Wranglers in my closet, and I wasn’t going all the way to Oklahoma for another pair.” After a bit of explaining, Evans acquiesced. (For a listing of all past winners see Information-Awards at nationalcowboymuseum.org.)
Additional categories have been added since Evans’ album was recognized as the lone music winner.
“Portrait of a Cowgirl,” written, performed and co-produced by Canadian recording artist Eli Barsi (elibarsi.com/) won for Outstanding Original Western Composition. The title track from Barsi’s 13th album, it is a touching tribute to her prairie-born grandmother. The album was previously highlighted in the July 2013 installment of this column called “If You Ever Plan to Motor West.”
Don Edwards (donedwardsmusic.com/) took home his eighth Wrangler for “Just Me and My Guitar,” which won for Outstanding Traditional Western Album. The New Horizons Wrangler Award went to 17-year-old Mikki Daniel (mustangmikki.com/), the youngest ever Wrangler recipient, for her album “Gotta Be A Cowgirl.”
Seven literary awards were presented. The Outstanding Photography Book went to “A Family of the Land: The Texas Photography of Guy Gillette,” written by Andy Wilkinson. The collection of black-and-white images dating from the 1940s chronicles a half century of ranching and small-town life in East Texas. Shot in and around Crockett and Lovelady, I was drawn to the photos and accompanying text of this University of Oklahoma Press publication. My ancestors lived for a brief time in Lovelady, and Wilkinson’s narrative helped me understand the climate and the culture they would have experienced.
Philipp Meyer won for Outstanding Western Novel with “The Son,” a multi-generational saga that follows the rise of a Texas family, from the Comanche raids of the 1800s to the oil booms of the 20th century.
A book that examines a century of travel writing won for Outstanding Nonfiction Book. “Global West, American Frontier: Travel, Empire and Exceptionalism from Manifest Destiny to the Great Depression” was written by David M. Wrobel.
The award for Outstanding Art Book went to “Karl Bodmer’s America Revisited: Landscape Views Across Time,” co-authored by Robert M. Lindholm and W. Raymond Wood. Juxtaposed with contemporary photos, it examines how areas have changed since Bodmer documented Prince Maximilian’s 1832–34 North American expedition.
“Grandma’s Santo on Its Head: Stories of Days Gone By in Hispanic Villages of New Mexico” won for Outstanding Juvenile Book. Written by Nasario Garcia, it is a collection of bilingual short stories based on popular children’s tales told in rural New Mexico.
Top honors for Outstanding Magazine Article went to “Coyote: An American Original.” Written by Dan Flores, it was published in Wild West Magazine.
“Brushstrokes and Balladeers: Painters and poets of the American West,” a compilation of 84 poems and 80 paintings, won for Outstanding Poetry Book. It was edited and published by CJ Hadley of RANGE magazine and the Range Conservation Foundation.
Three film and television awards were presented. A feature-length motion picture, “The Cherokee Word for Water,” won for Outstanding Theatrical Motion Picture. It was inspired by the struggle of a rural Cherokee community to bring running water to their families. “Behind the Gate,” which examines the horse racing industry, won for Outstanding Documentary. And, the Wrangler for Outstanding Fictional Drama went to “Hell on Wheels,” a television series centered on the construction of the first transcontinental railroad.