Two men stare each other down on a dirt street, lined with saloons and brothels, waiting for a distant clock to strike noon. Both prepare for death in a classic western duel. A scene from a movie? Yes. Reality? Not so much. That doesn’t stop Texas Bill Kenney and the rest of the Guthrie Gunfighters from recreating history with a little iconic flair.
“More often than not, when the sheriff came to arrest somebody, he brought four or five men with shotguns and told whoever they were after ‘Put your hands up or we’ll bury you’, and there wasn’t much of a gunfight,” Kenney says. “That’s not as fun as the Hollywood version.”
With pastel calvary shirts for the men, and split riding skirts for the ladies, the Gunfighters do more than shoot one another in the name of protecting honor. They educate. “So many people think that history is nothing but a bunch of dusty old books,” Kenney says. “What they don’t realize is that history is who we are. It is our job to show that history can be as much fun as it is educational.”
Pushing cattle north out of Texas was the occupation of the frontier cowboy. Kenney explains the reality of the cowboy was closer to owning the shirt on his back and maybe one more in his saddlebag. The cowboy spent months guiding cattle to Kansas, and then as far north as Montana and Idaho. It was his hard work and dedication that built the old west. But where is the fun in that?
The real fun is performing for the crowds gathered around Main Street, and watching the reactions from the crowd. At least that’s what Gunfighter member Lori Kent says, “I remember one instance, a little boy followed us around a festival for quite some time before he finally got up the courage to talk to my husband. He asked if he was a real cowboy. Of course, my husband said yes. He then asked if we used real bullets in our guns. My husbands reply was ‘Well, son, we used to, but we started getting short on Cowboys, so we had to change to blanks.’ That just made that little boys day. That’s the best part of what we do.”
Teachers, college students, EMT instructors and security guards are but a few of the professions held by Gunfighter members. Answering to names like Sundown, Ivy Mae Fox and Five Finger Phil, these re-creators of history shoot ‘em up all over the state.
Performing just about every weekend in the streets of Guthrie, and annually for the Victorian Walk, the Gunfighters keep it fun. Catch a show and learn a little bit about how the Oklahoma cowboy really lived.
Log onto www.guthriegunfighters-inc.org to learn more about history coming to life in the streets of Guthrie.