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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Sunland

Cowboys Hanker for Simple Ways of Past at Spring Event

May 17, 1999|ART MARROQUIN

In remembrance of simpler times, about 40 members of the Chuckwagon Trailblazers gathered Sunday at Sunland Park for a Western-style barbecue.

The nonprofit group, formed 90 years ago to preserve the ideals of the Old West, sponsored the Spring Roundup fund-raiser.

The organization was formed by longtime cowboys who rode the range. In later years, the Hollywood actors who portrayed them on film also joined the group. Former members include Iron Eyes Cody, Will Rogers and Jimmy Dean.

At its height, during the 1930s, the Chuckwagon Trailblazers drew more than 300 people to its spring events, said J.D. Sylvester, president of the organization for the last two years.

"If you wear a cowboy hat, you've got to be honest," Sylvester said as he touched the brim of his own cowboy hat. "We believe in the traditions of the cowboys."

Nostalgia for classic Western television shows, such as "Bonanza" and "The Lone Ranger," was mentioned throughout the day by members of the Chuckwagon Trailblazers.

Sylvester said he has been a fan of the Old West since he watched the cowboy-themed television shows as a youth. He paced the stage, regaling the crowd about the history of the organization.

"I love coming to these events to relive the Old West days," said Janet Schwartz, 38, of Sylmar. "Things were so much simpler and easier back then."

Country music played in the background as some people danced--some dressed in jeans, denim shirts, cowboy hats and boots.

Hand-drawn pictures of cowboys and horses were sold. A gunfight and demonstration of 19th century shotguns and pistols were held in front of the wooden facade of a ghost town, complete with a saloon, bank, hotel and jail.

Those with a hankering for beef slathered with country gravy and a helping of baked beans had plenty to eat. The food simmered overnight in large black pots over an open pit, its aroma permeating the park air.

"We believe in preserving the legend of the cowboy, because it's part of our American heritage," said Kathy Miller, 50. "No matter if the cowboys are Spanish, Japanese or American, they all helped to build the West."

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