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