Cowboy event offers peek into past

CNJ staff photo: Gabriel Monte During Saturday’s Running Water Draw Cowboy Symposium, Sam Bass, an Amarillo optometrist and apprentice blacksmith, said blacksmithing uses basic elements of fire and strength to create art.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Sparks flew as Sam Bass hammered the glowing steel rod. Wiping his brow, the optometrist from Amarillo examined the rod to see if it was starting to resemble the arm of tongs.

Seeing he was still a long way to go, the rod went back into the 3,000-degree Fahrenheit kiln and Bass cranked up a blower to feed the fire.

An apprentice blacksmith, Bass was part of an exhibit during Saturday’s Running Water Draw Cowboy Symposium just east of Ned Houk Park.

“The artistic side of creating something is probably the most appealing aspect,” said Bass who started learning the skill less than a year ago.

In its first year, the three-day symposium was arranged to demonstrate what life was like during the 1880s, according to organizer Annette Taylor.

Saturday’s events also included a chuck wagon cookoff, long horn steer on thread and yarn spinning demonstrations, according to Taylor.

“Hardware and tools were a lot harder to come by back then so blacksmiths could make it or fix it,” according to master blacksmith Terry Birdwell of Seneca.

Birdwell said he does iron work for the chuck wagons at the symposium. The chuck wagons are judged for authenticity so modern techniques such as arc welding can’t be used to fix it.

Elida resident Deena Kinman said she was impressed with the exhibits and the entertainment.

“It helped people get a better idea of what it is to live in the West,” she said. “The more we understand about agriculture and the western way of life, the more likely we are to support it.”

Taylor said by Saturday afternoon attendance was about 1,000 for the first two days.