Tyler Beard


1954 - 2007

. Author .
. Western Historian .

. Cowboy Boot Collector .

Photo: Skip Conkling


Vintage Nocona Cowgirl Boots

Miss Enid Justin and the boot makers at Nocona worked hard to make a Western boot that deserved to be called "The Better Boot". They did a darn good job of it too.

The Nocona Boot Co. Catalog No. 77 offered many styles of Cowboy boots from Nocona's Golden Age. I've started to digitize the catalog and will publish it when I've finished.
Speaking of catalogs... I've finished digitizing the 1948 Blucher Boot Catalog. I'll publish it here in the next week or two.

These are "stock" Nocona Cowgirl boots from the 30s. They belonged to a San Angelo cowgirl and are as fine a pair of boots as any "factory" Cowgirl boots I've ever seen...

1940s Nocona Cowgirl Boots. Custom order. High style from Nocona's "Golden Age". Beautiful boots that speak to me of different times.

By the way, the Blucher Boot Co. web site is back up and running. Check it out.

Photography: J. Davis


Vintage Nocona Cowboy Boots

When it comes to “factory” made vintage Cowboy boots I’ve always favored the Nocona brand. Can’t really say why... Nocona Boots from the 30s and 40s “speak” to me, and I find them to be more than the sum of their parts.

These are my personal boots... nothing fancy. Working Cowboy boots made for working Cowboys. I kicked around in them for awhile. Never lost a stirrup.

1930s Nocona Cowboy Boots

1940s Nocona "PeeWee" Cowboy Boots

"Retired" these bad boys awhile back. Still wearable, they're as tough as the Cowboys they were made for. They don't make 'em like these anymore...

Photography: J. Davis


Charlie Garrison, Roy Rogers' Bootmaker

I wrote about this pair of Cowgirl boots several weeks ago. The boots have no signature and were attributed to Texas bootmaker Jack Reed. I received an email from another self-confessed “Boot nut” who suggested that perhaps these boots were actually made by the late Charlie Garrison... I agree.

Rex Allen and Charlie Garrison talk Cowboy boots.

Charlie Garrison was regarded by many as one of the world’s top bootmakers during his lifetime. He learned bootmaking as a young man in Oklahoma and moved to San Angelo, Texas around 1930 where he opened the Texas Boot Shop. Charlie soon established a name for himself and was well known in the San Angelo area.

Garrison decided to move and set-up shop Los Angeles in the late 1930s. Charlie was a master bootmaker and his talent for making intricate Cowboy boots didn’t go unnoticed in Hollywood. Roy Rogers, Rex Allen, Clark Gable, Johnny Mack Brown and Chill Wills were among his clients.

Roy Rogers & Nudie Cohn. Roy's wearing Charlie's Double-Eagle boots.

Roy Rogers was one of Garrison’s biggest fans. Charlie designed Roy’s famous “Double-Eagle” Cowboy boots and Roy hired Charlie to make all the special order Cowboy boots for the Roy Rogers Ranger Posts. Clarence Garrison, Charlie’s son and a bootmaker in his own right, worked with his Dad during those days and recalls:
“When they ran the Roy Rogers Ranger Posts, they’d broadcast a radio show every afternoon right there from the store on Ventura Boulevard. If Roy was there, he’d sing. Or it might be Dale Evans or the Sons of the Pioneers. It was all open to the public and people would come in to watch.”
Charlie also made boots for Nudie Cohn, the original “Rhinestone Cowboy” and proprietor of Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors. Below is a photo of Nudie’s wife, Bobbie, dressed to thrill in Nudie’s finest and sporting a pair Charlie’s boots.

Rhinestone Cowgirl Bobbie Cohn

Garrison took great pride in his work and enjoyed working with his famous clients in the 1940s. He also knew some of his customers just by their boots.
... one morning in Hollywood in 1949, a train collided with a car not far from where Charlie and Clarence were.
After the wreck, Charlie strolled over to the wreckage of the car and saw a dead man’s boots sticking out from the mass of twisted steel.
“Son, I know who that is,” the veteran boot-maker said.
“You do? How? And who?”
“That’s Chuck Balda,” he said, referring to the actor who often called square dances in western movies. “I’d know his boots anywhere.”
Charlie Garrison left Hollywood and ran a boot shop in Llano, Texas in the 1950s. He continued to make Cowboy boots there until he died in 1955.

This vamp tongue is Charlie’s “signature”. He made this pair of boots. More photos of these boots are included in my "Stitching That Can Kick You Sideways" post of October 7, 2007.

Charlie Garrison Cowgirl Boots: Collection C. Fant
Rex Allen, Charlie Garrison photo: Courtesy J. June
Clarence Garrison references: B. Whitaker
Roy Rogers, Nudie photos: J.L. Nudie
Many thanks to M. Fletcher for helping set the record straight!


Evan Voyles on Vintage Cowboy Boots

Artist. Vintage Boot Collector.

A man whose opinion about the history and art of the boot I value.

Enough said.


Max Kegley, Desert Rat

Max Kegley was a “Desert Rat”... which by definition is “one who habitually and of his own free will frequents the desert.” He was also an extraordinary photojournalist. His curiosity and passion for the state and citizens of Arizona knew no bounds.

Not much is known today about Max Kegley, but his published photographic essays. Loot of a Desert Rat and Rodeo, The Sport of the Cow Country, are important works. More than the sum of their parts, these books help us understand our heritage.

I admire this man and his work and feel it most appropriate to let his words tell the first part of his story. His photographic essays can tell you the rest.

"Arizona became my adopted state in November of 1926 when having foresaken the chill of a snowbound country, I stepped off the train into a land of sunshine. Palm trees silhouetted an early dawn and a mocking bird’s cheery song sounded a royal welcome. I felt sure that I had found a spot that I should enjoy always, and a decade has confirmed that belief.”
“Being a lover of out-of-doors, I have taken full advantage of my opportunity to be with nature. (A borrowed camera, and later my own photographic equipment, have added to my enjoyment of her wonders.)”
“It is my hope that this work may influence others to leave the beaten paths and to seek the beauty found by the by-ways that wind through this picturesque state.”
Kegley’s portrayal of Arizona and her people is straight forward and informed. Cowboys. Indians. Rodeo. The Round-up. Sheep Drives. Desert Life. Cacti and the wonders of Arizona’s landscape. Not much escaped his curiosity or eye.

The photos and captions below are from his book Rodeo, The Sport of Cow Country.

"Cowboy "trappings", hats, boots, chaps and other accessories, are a cowboy's greatest extravagance. Fifty bucks is not too much for a pair of boots he likes, but he usually rolls his own cigarettes."

"Celebrities of Rodeo. Left to right: Fritz Traun, World's Champion, 1940, Paul Carney, World's Champion, 1939, and Burel Mulkey, World's Champion, 1938. They are great pals. With no rodeo scheduled for a few weeks, they were at Paul Carney's place roping calves and matching their ponies for side bets."

"If the Judges were looking at this second, G.W. Cox would score well - his spurs are deep in the bronc's shoulders."

"Fritz Traun stopped at the soft drink stand back of the chutes. He is seriously studying the program and not much aware of this feminine admirer."

Arizona Highways selected some of Kegley’s cacti photographs to use when they first decided to reproduce color photographs. Loot of a Desert Rat was self-published in 1938. Rodeo, The Sport of the Cow Country was published by Hastings House in 1942. His work can be found on many postcards depicting the Southwest.

Portrait of Max Kegley: Frank Coffin
All other photography: Max Kegley
Max Kegley quotes from Loot of a Desert Rat


Paul Bond, Master Bootmaker

A legendary man. Paul Bond made his first pair of Cowboy boots in 1929 when he was working as a cowboy on his father’s ranch in Carlsbad, New Mexico. He started busting broncs for the U.S. Cavalry at the age of sixteen and moved on to rodeo. Mr. Bond excelled at Bareback Bronc and Trick Riding. He scored high. Very high.

In 1946 he had an opportunity to buy into an El Paso, Texas boot company. Mr. Bond did so and soon opened his own shop back in Carlsbad where he made boots for Great Basin cowboys and cowgirls. In 1957 he moved the shop to Nogales, Arizona.

Celebrities who wear Paul Bond boots include Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Monty Montgomery and Barbara Mandrell. That’s all well and good but Mr. Bond is quick to point out that his "first love is making boots for ranchers and cowboys. Not much has really changed out here. Ranchers and cowboys love cattle and the country life. It's simple and satisfying. I make a lot of boots for those folks."

Here’s a pair of my Paul Bond boots... Bob McLean worked with me on these. Took about nine months to get them. Bob called them the Yellow Tops. I call them perfect. The toe style is based on a pair of 1940s Teitzel-Jones Cowboy boots in my collection.

The Paul Bond Boot Company is still in Nogales. Bob has moved on to the J.B. Hill Boot Company in El Paso. Spider has returned as Mr. Bonds' right hand man. He and a talented team of boot makers, carry on the Bond tradition of making the finest Cowboy boots you can buy. By hand. One step at a time.

Mr. Bond will be 92 this December. He’s in the shop nearly every day. Things are as they should be.

I have two pairs of vintage Paul Bond Cowgirl Boots available for purchase on my website. Check them out if you’re so inclined.

Paul Bond photo: Bob Trebearne
Photography: J. Davis


"Stitching That Can Kick You Sideways"

Circa 1930s Cowgirl Boots made by Charlie Garrison at the Texas Boot Shop in San Angelo, Texas.

Charlie Garrison was a master bootmaker. This pair of Cowgirl boots is a single-needle stitching tour de force. Loved by a long forgotten Cowgirl, well worn and well cared for, these boots are an exceptional example of Garrison’s understanding and mastery of the Art of the Boot.

This vamp tongue is Charlie’s “signature”.

To find out more about Charlie Garrison, his life and his times check out my November 11, 2007 post, Charlie Garrison, Roy Rogers' Boot Maker.

Boots: Collection of C. Fant / Photography: J. Davis


Blucher Boot Website

1948 G.C. Blucher Boot Co. Catalog No. 30

The Blucher Boot Company website is no longer published. A friend and fellow collector asked me if they’re still making Cowboy boots. I talked to Smitty a couple of weeks ago and yes, they’re still doing what they do best. Making the finest Cowboys boots one pair at a time.

Smitty’s not much on computers, email or the web. “Show me a computer that can make a pair of boots. Maybe then.” I don’t think renewing the Blucher website is at the top of his list. I doubt it’s even on the list.

Understandably so. Blucher is a small shop. They make Blucher Cowboy Boots. Favored by cowboys from the Great Basin, Smitty and crew continue to make the same cowboy boots Gus Blucher made famous many years ago. Smitty understands and has a deep respect for the tradition and history of the “brand.”

Here’s some boots in the G.C. Blucher Boot Co. Catalog No. 30. The catalog was included in a Self-Measuring Kit mailed in 1948. I'm in the process of digitizing the entire kit and catalog. I'll post it when it's complete.

"Tested and Proven by Stirrup, Weather and Time."

Blucher Boot Company still makes these styles...

and all the other styles in this catalog.

"Shop Made Expressly For You!"

Interested in a pair of Blucher Cowboy boots? Classic Traditional Cowboy Boots. They're the Best. Talk to Smitty. He’s a helluva nice guy. He'll "boot you up" right.

G.C. Blucher Boot Co. Catalog 30: Collection: J. Davis


Hank Williams & Dixon’s Boots

Hank & Audrey Williams with The Drifting Cowboys

Hank Williams was a star. He admired Ernest Tubb, especially Tubbs' Cowboy boots. Hank had the money and could make the time and he told Tubb that he wanted some Cowboy boots like his. Tubb loved Dixon’s Cowboy boots... wore them all the time. Tubb replied that Hank was welcome to come with him when Tubb picked up his new custom boots in Witchita Falls.

Ernest and Hank walked into Dixon’s Boots on a fine Saturday morning. Saturdays’ were busy days at Dixon’s. That was the day cowboys, ranchers and their families came to town. Hank was excited, he started going through boxes of boots like a child on Christmas morning. Cowboy Boots and empty boxes were scattered all over the shop.

Downtown Saturday Afternoon Show

Andy Dixon, a man known to have a short fuse, was getting irritated by the mess Hank was making. He told Tubb he’d best “reel that little Alabama roughneck in before I do.”

“That boy never had two nickels to rub together but all of his pockets are filled with cash today. And he’s going to spend it on Dixon's boots.” was all Tubbs had to say.

Andy managed to rein in his anger. Hank bought the best Cowboy boots Dixon’s had that day... and kept coming back for more.

Honky Tonking in his Dixon's Boots

Here’s a pair of PeeWee style Dixon’s Cowboy Boots made when Hank Williams and a host of other Grand Ole Opry stars bought their Cowboy boots from Dixon’s.

The boots are still with us.

There's more about the Dixon boys and their boots in these archived posts. 9.08.07: Dixon's Boots and 8.10.07: Andy & Noble Dixon.

Photography: J. Davis


Long time coming…

Finally, a bootmakers take on the art and craft of Cowboy boots. In the forward to her new book, Cowboy Boots: The Art & Sole, Jennifer June suggests that we "Walk loud. Stand tall. Step forward." and she does exactly that.

June’s a Cowboy boot nut. She’s also an accomplished bootmaker and an ideal author for such an epic of the Cowboy Boot. She knows. She has lived the life of which she writes. She’s worked and played in Cowboy boot land; it’s people are her friends and it’s ways are hers. She understands the Cowboy Boot intimately, not only as an observer but as a participant.

Straight out and well written, this book is crammed with excellent photography by Marty Snortum. Dwight Yoakkam’s appreciation is informed and sets the tone for what’s to come. Vintage boots. Custom boots and their makers. Factory boots. They’re all here.

Most importantly, June shines a deserving light on many lesser known master bootmakers. Duck Menzies, Richard Cook, McGuffin Custom Boots and Riff Raff Leatherworks are just a few that come to mind. All are artists in their own right.
They deserve your support.

Jennifer Junes’ passion for bootmaking combined with her love of Cowboy boots is obvious throughout her book. I’m not an easy critic… this book earned its’ place on my book shelf. It should be on yours too.

My hat’s off to you Jenn... you walk like you mean it.


Dixon's Boots

Andy and Noble Dixon learned the craft of bootmaking from their father Henry J. Dixon, a preacher and part-time bootmaker. In 1946 the two brothers set up shop in Wichita Falls, Texas.

The Dixon brothers started off making baby and children's shoes. West-Tex Boot Company was across the street from their shop. Andy bought the West-Tex scrap to make “kiddie” shoes... premium hides were reserved for their Cowboy boots.

Andy was the “front man” and fitter. Noble was the bottom man. Both took pride in what they made. They soon established themselves as quality bootmakers of classic Cowboy boots.
With over thirty different kinds of leather in stock, Andy and Noble created some very fancy Cowboy boots. Their “Hollywood” toe was the best pointed toe ever. Still is as far as I’m concerned.

Many top bootmakers practiced their craft and earned their rep at Dixon’s. James Edward Smith, aka Smitty, and Jay Griffith are two that come to mind.

Here’s a pair that were made when Smitty and Jay Griffith worked for Noble. Andy had retired and Jay was pretty much running the business. Noble sold the business in the late 60s. Jay moved on to Guthrie, Oklahoma and set-up shop. Smitty moved on and runs Blucher Boot Company these days.

Dixon’s Boot Company clients included Gene Autry, Ernest Tubb, John Wayne, Jack Dempsey, Patsy Cline, Hank Williams Sr., Cowboys, businessmen and a host of other Nashville and Hollywood celebrities.

Check out my 8.10.07 post for more Dixon's Boots...

Photography: J. Davis


1930s Acme Cowgirl Boots

An excellent pair of PeeWee cowgirl boots from the mid to late 1930s. Made in the day when Jessel Cohen and Acme made an outstanding Cowboy boot. Beautifully proportioned and very well made, these boots are a great example of the high quality boot Acme Boot Company produced back then. Boots like these, along with some savvy marketing, made Acmes’ "rep". By the early 40s, Acme was the largest manufacturer of Cowboy and Cowgirl boots. It remained the largest manufacturer of Western boots style until the 1980s.

Acme remained the largest manufacturer of Western boots until the 1980s.

World War II created a dilemma for Cowboy boot makers. The finest hides were destined to become boots for our troops. The shortage of high quality hides forced Acme and other boot makers to work with lesser quality hides and incorporate “new” materials like cardboard and metal nails into their manufacturing process.

Some did it well. Some not so well. And some chose not to do it all.

Photography: J. Davis


Kirkendall Cowboy Boots

Three things I know about Kirkendall Boot Co. Their shop was in Omaha, Nebraska. They made a darn good pair of Cowboy boots and Nebraska cowboys wore Kirkendall cowboy boots.

Cowboys at the Spade Ranch

Northeast of Ellsworth, Nebraska ca. 1903

I've owned several pairs of Kirkendall Cowboy boots. All have strong lines and are well proportioned. The undershot heels taper perfectly, they were made to hold a stirrup. The "tongues" are big and wide, designed for wearing spurs.

Early 1940s Challenger Pee Wee Cowboy Boots

Kirkendall's "stock boot" was the Challenger. Good looking and well made. Nothing fancy. Utilitarian Cowboy boots comparable to any stock boot made by Hyer or Justin. Service grade shoulder leather. Bold inlays. Simple stitch patterns. Square toes. Double thick soles and Kirkendall heels. The Challenger was the Nebraska cowboys' working boot.

1930s Diamond K Cowboy Boots

Kirkendall made custom boots for cowboys too. Alternately referred to as "Diamond K" or "Bench Made", these boots were hand made and are top quality Cowboy boots. Beautifully hand-crafted using premium grade hides. Classic 1930s inlay patterns and hand stitched. Perfectly tapered undershot heels. Masterfully crafted toes.

1930s Bench Made Cowboy Boots

Kirkendall created the ultimate "Nebraska" Cowboy boot. Appreciated and loved by hard-working cowboys who wanted the best.

Photography: J. Davis
Nebraska Cowboy Line Photo: Collection J. Davis
1930s Diamond K Cowboy Boots: Collection B. Cowan