1950s Custom Cowboy Boots

Made by Dixon's Boot Company. Wichita Falls, Texas







These are looking for a new home... see my Vintage Cowboy Boot Exchange for details...


The Straight Shooter

...another good cowboy gone west...

Joe Bowman

April 12, 1925 - June 28, 2009



Joe Bowman - Straight Shooter


Men in the rough - on the trails all new-broken -
Those are the friends we remember with tears;

Few are the words that such comrades have spoken -

Deeds are their tributes that last through the years.

Men in the rough - sons of prairie and mountain -
Children of nature, warm-hearted, clear-eyed;

Friendship with them is a never-sealed fountain;

Strangers are they to the altars of pride.

Men in the rough - curt of speech to their fellows -

Ready in everything, save to deceive;

Theirs are the friendships that time only mellows,

And death cannot sever the bonds that they weave.

Men in the Rough by Arthur Chapman, 1917


Acme Custom Cowgirl Boots

Sweet pair of 1950s Acme cowgirl boots.

Made for Acme by the Lucchese Boot Company in San Antonio.

Lucchese made a damn good boot in those days.


Single needle stitching


Cowgirl Boots: Collection J. Davis
Photography: J. Davis


Vintage Cowgirl Boots

Great old cowgirl boots. Bench made. No makers mark. They remind me of boots made by C.H. Hyer, Kuykendall and Starnes.


Heart Stitched Cowgirl Boots

Maker Unknown. ca. 1900


Bootmakers and cobblers set-up shop in communities along the early cattle trails. Cattle drives in the 1850s could take as long as five or six months. Most started in San Antonio or Fredericksburg. The drives followed a southern route through El Paso to San Diego or Los Angeles and on north to San Francisco. Cattle were trailed to West Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Kansas... beef for the frontier forts and Indian reservations.

By 1866, ranching and cattle trailing was a thriving, growing business. The Chisholm Trail. The Goodnight-Loving Trail. The Western or Dodge City Trail. Trails that would come to define the face of the American West as we know it today.

The bootmakers, known and unknown, who lived and worked along those trails and the boots they made would come to define the Art of the Boot as we know it today.

Cowgirl Boots: Collection J. Davis

Photography: J. Davis


Rodeo Roots: Saddle bronc riding

John Jordan on Strawberry Roan, 1941. Photo: J.A. Stryker

Saddle bronc riding is a "roughstock" event, both rider and horse are judged. Many cowboys will tell you that Saddle bronc riding is the toughest event in rodeo. I believe that to be the case as well. The technical skills are hard to master. The rider must mark out his horse on the first jump from the chute. To score requires strength, style, grace and precise timing. To score well? Rider and mount must be 100% at odds with each other... yet each must leave the arena a winner. It is the classic rodeo event.

The Saddle bronc riding event as we know it today evolved from "busting"... old timer cowboy slang for breaking and training wild horses to work the cattle ranches in the Old West. It was hard and dangerous work.
"You know if you get a name for doing something they will always put you on it. It's like these fellows that don't mind riding broncs. Once it get known that they're willing to do it, if there's a mean horse in the outfit they'll get him in their string every time. I was good at wrastling calves even if I was small, so I'd always get the job. But I didn't like to ride broncs - said I was afriad of them. Well, I was. Lots of them were the same way. No good cowhand would work on a horse that was going to go to bucking with him in the middle of the herd. A green horse was all right for a long ride. But not when you were working with cattle."
- Teddy Blue Abbot

A cowboy who broke horses was a "buster". A specialist, he traveled from ranch to ranch every spring, breaking and training horses. Usually for $5.00 a head. The "busted" horses were destined to become cow ponies. A cowboy's livelihood and his life depended on his string of horses, the cow ponies in his string were the most important tool he had when working cattle.

One cowboy who didn't "mind riding broncs" was Lee Warren. Photographer and journalist L.A. Huffman captured Warren working the round corral on the Box and Arrow Ranch in Montana. The year was 1904.

"While we waited for the horses, Warren took stock of his outfit. Just a plain, ordinary, cow-saddle, bridle, and lariat, spurs, quirt, and some short pieces of grass rope for the cross-hobbing... The big gate is swung open, and the day's work is corralled. An inner gate swings, another swift rush and the six beautiful beasts are bunched, snorting and trembling, in the round corral..."
- L.A. Huffman

The Flying Noose Falls True, c.1904. Collotype. L.A. Huffman

After roping a bronc, Warren would bridle his catch. Next came a saddle blanket, then a forty-pound cow-saddle, Warren's slicker rolled under the pommel.

The First Pull at the Latigo, c.1904. Collotype. L.A. Huffman

Twisting the bronc's ear, Warren would mount the bronc. Eight hundred pounds of horse flesh and muscle ready to go off like dynamite, still for for the moment...

The Ear Twist, c.1904. Collotype. L.A. Huffman

Set in his saddle and ready, slicker for hazing in his right hand, Warren would grasp the rein in his left hand while releasing the bronc's ear. Then all hell broke loose.

Bucking Broncho, c.1904. Collotype. L.A. Huffman
"... one or two quick, short, nervous steps he discovers that his legs are once more unshackled. Up he goes in a long curving leap like a buck. Down goes his head, and he blats that indescribable bawl that only thoroughly maddened, terrified bronchos can fetch, something uncanny, something between a scream and a groan, that rasps the nerves and starts the chill hunted feeling working on your spine... as round and round he leaps, reined hard, now right, now left, by his rider. Again and again, he goes high, with hind feet drawn under, as if reaching for the stirrups. Fore-legs thrust forward, stiff as crowbars, driving hoofprints in the packed earth, like mauls as, as he lands; yet light and tight, seeming never to catch the brunt of the jolts, sits his rider."
- L.A. Huffman

The quirt. The spurs. The slicker for hazing. They were the ools that gave the cowboy an edge. But it was grit and mettle that prevailed in the end and the cowboy almost always won out. And the beautiful beasts that refused to be broken? They were called Outlaws and Killers. Cowboys from near and far tried to ride them for eight seconds at ranch rodeos... few met with success.

Bucked Off, c.1890. Photograph. L.A. Huffman

Cowboys today continue to break horses much the same as Lee Warren did in 1904. The outlaw horses are called roughstock now.
They will test the most able cowboy's grit... in the round corral and in the rodeo arena. Some things remain the same... as it should be.

We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a Cowpuncher. E.C. Abbott And Helena Huntington Smith. Farrar & Rinehart, Inc, 1939
Before Barbed Wire: L.A. Huffman, Photographer on Horseback. Mark H. Brown and W.R. Felton. NY: Henry Holt and Co., 1956

Collotypes & Photographs: Collection J. Davis


Vintage Justin Cowgirl Boots

Post World War II was an extraordinary time in bootmaking history. Leather and thread no longer rationed. Inlays and exotic hides started to show up in factory made boots. Flamboyant designs quickly replaced older, conservative designs. Hollywood stars. Western style. Savvy marketing. The Golden Age of Cowboy Boots was in full swing.


The Justin Boot Company in Fort Worth, Texas made some extraordinary cowboy and cowgirl boots in those days. Earl and John Justin, Jr. were proud of Justin's innovative designs.
Justifiably so. Elaborate inlays. Bright colors. Fancy stitching. Underslung heels. Wing tips. Justin made some stunning cowboy and cowgirl boots.

The Little Cowpoke

1948 Justin Cowgirl Boots

The Art of the Boot
Western fashion as art by the Justin Boot Company

Justin Cowgirl Boots: Collection J. Davis
Justin Advertising Art: Collection J. Davis
Photography: J. Davis


Jack Reed

Cowboy. Rodeo Star. Civil Engineer. Bootmaker. Artist. Teacher. Not much I can say about Jack Reed that hasn’t been said better before... the man and his work are legendary.

Jack Reed in his Llano, Texas shop

An intelligent man who enjoyed conversation, Reed learned from the best. Leno Trujillio, Rios of Raymondville, Lucchese, Ray Jones. I don’t think it irrelevant that Reed and Jones were both interested in engineering. And like Ray Jones, Reed was a perfectionist, a man committed to his art.
"Some folks like to play golf or fish, but I enjoy the 372 steps of boot making." - Jack Reed
Mr. Reed made this pair of Cowboy boots boots in the late 1970s, a few years after his decision to "return" to making custom boots. Like the man who made them they are remarkable. The art of the Jack Reed. The art of the boot.

Bespoke Cowboy Boots by Jack Reed


Mr. Reed organized the first Boot, Leather and Saddle Makers Roundup. It was held in Burnet, Texas over twenty years ago. Kathy and Eddie Kimmel carry on the tradition. The 21st Annual Boot and Saddle Makers Roundup will be held October 2nd & 3rd 2009 in Witchita Falls, Texas. Tip of the hat to those good folks.

Reed also taught boot making... a one-week long 40-hour crash course in the finer points of making western style boots. More than thirty students studied under Mr. Reed. Many took to the work, and it is hard work... they continue to make custom boots in the tradition of their teacher.

Jack Reed died in 2004. He was 81 years old and had spent over 40 years making custom boots for cowboys, ranchers, businessmen and celebrities.
"They are a part of our life in Texas. We wear them because our daddies wore them, and everybody around you wears them. They go back to the days of the cattle drives, and they are still used as work boots today." - Jack Reed
Seems to me that the hereafter must be a darn good place to get yourself that pair of custom boots you've always dreamed of...

Richard Cook was Jack Reeds' last student. He bought the business when Mr. Reed retired in 2000. Cook, a former Texas Ranger and a fine artist, takes pride in his Texas heritage and promotes Reed's belief that when cowboy boots are made right, they are works of art and engineering. His shop, Richard Cook Custom Boots, is in Seguin, Texas.

Boots: Collection J. Davis
Photo of Jack Reed: Jim Arndt
Photography: J. Davis