The Legend of Tough Luck Cowboy

 

Every good cowboy store worth its Western roots claims its own legend. Tough Luck Cowboy is no different, except that owner Shari Ross swears this legend is absolutely true – well, at least the parts that aren’t entirely made up.

 This legend begins during the war that sundered The States in two, with a man named Henry Dewitt Clinton Cowles. Henry had an itch for digging in the ground and fancied himself a diviner of precious metals. But Henry never mined much; he just liked to find the stuff and let someone else do the dirty work.

After moving his family from the great state of New York (and spending a spell in Missouri), Henry made his way to the Colorado Rockies and fell in love at first sight. The stratified pitch and swell of the mountains, for a man of Henry’s passions, was a metallic dream come true.

Matter of fact, the first thing Henry discovered in Colorado was the largest silver deposit ever found in our fine state – the Ida Lode. He named the lode for his daughter, who fell in love with the gleam of silver at a young age; folks in the know say she used to walk the length of the lode every day singing ballads to its untapped riches.

Shortly thereafter, Henry and some other folks from New York founded Empire City – named after the Empire State – which is now known simply as Empire. In its heyday every rancher, hustler, prospector and outlaw from the Rio Grande to San Francisco knew of Empire’s silver and gold. Henry discovered much of it. He served on the mining court, raised his family in the ways of the West, and died a satisfied man.

But life in Empire had its roughness, too. Georgetown was nearby, on the other side of Union Pass, and while the war was still on gunfights broke out on a regular basis between the Union supporters of Empire and the Southern sympathizers of Georgetown.

In lieu of any real law, many disputes were decided over the crack of gunfire. Henry’s youngest son, Harvey, was involved in just such a dispute and was forced to leave the state after he shot and killed a man over a business deal gone bad. Later, Harvey was accused of robbing a bank at gunpoint.

Life continued on in Empire, though the population dwindled over time, and Henry’s family continued to live the way of the West. In fact, it was Henry’s granddaughter, Agnes, who wound up being the most Western of them all. She lived and died on her horse, busting wild broncs and living off the land. Agnes taught Shari, her granddaughter how to ride, and even gave Shari her first horse, a wild Pinto named Rex, when Shari was four years old.

Young Shari fell in love with Rex and began competing in the Little Britches Rodeo, right here in Boulder County. Before her grandmother passed, she taught Shari the laws of the West, important codes that cowboys (and cowgirls) lived and died by. Chief among these were: A cowboy doesn’t talk much – he saves his breath for breathing; never pass anyone on the trail without saying “Howdy”; always fill your whiskey glass to the brim; cuss all you want, but only around horses and cows; and your word is your bond.

Shari knew from a very young age she’d always be a cowgirl. But as people are wont to do, she grew up. She sold Rex and went off to college and got married and forgot, for a bit, about being a cowgirl. Then one day several years ago at a rodeo in Nevada, Shari witnessed a bronc rider struggling to calm his horse. The horse head butted him square between the eyes and knocked that rider clean off his feet.

“Oooh, tough luck, cowboy!” the announcer called from his perch above the stands. The crowd chuckled, but failed to notice that one of the rider’s spurs had flown up into the dusty air and landed right in Shari’s lap. The spur gleamed in the noonday sun and suddenly an idea came to her: she’d open a store that sold not just cowboy memorabilia, but the cowboy lifestyle – a store in honor of her cowgirl roots.

And so, when you make your way down to the store, keep in mind being a cowboy or a cowgirl isn’t just about wearing a pair of boots, riding a horse, roping cattle or carrying a gun. It isn’t even about talking with a drawl. It’s a code of the West, a silent respect for the grandeur of the range.

It is, simply put, a way of life.