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Adirondack Attic: dude ranches, rodeos, wranglers

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Pick an object, any object, and let's see what stories it can tell. Andy Flynn visits the Painted Pony Rodeo in Lake Luzerne for a look at the history of dude ranches in the southern Adirondacks.

Andy speaks with the Grandma of Painted Pony Pam Morin and local historian Cindy Cameron, specifically about the history day on Sunday, July 28th at the Ranches, Rodeos, and Wranglers weekend.

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Pam Morin, left and Cindy Cameron. Photo:  Andy Flynn

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Andy Flynn
Adirondack Correspondent

Andy: So Pam, tell me a little bit about this history day.

Pam: A daydream of Cindy and I was to help pull together our wonderful, wonderful 90-year-old history of the dude ranches, the trails, the ranches, and the cowboys. Starting on Friday we’re going to "meet and greet" as people are coming in from all over—California, Maryland, Texas—and we’ll meet and greet the cowboys. They will go to the rodeo, begin to get acquainted again. Same on Saturday. And then on Sunday from 1-8 you’ll be able to meet and greet with your old friends, meet Wildhorse Don Baxter—and we’ll talk about him in just a little bit—say hello to old friends. There’ll be on-site book sales and author signings, live interview recordings. If you have wonderful, wonderful photos, bring them on in. We’re not taking them from you, but we will scan and be able to keep them for documentation of our history. There’ll be a group photo, there’ll be storytelling and a wonderful homemade chicken-and-biscuit dinner. We’ve got guest speakers; after diner we’ll have some music, dancing, and our very, very wonderful life achievement awards for those who created, founded, supported, and still continue to keep us in the dude ranch industry.

Andy: So this is the first year you’ve held this event. Tell me a little about why you’re doing this?

Cindy: Because no one has ever really put it into words or documented the history of the local Adirondack cowboy. So for us we thought it was something that needed to be done and we felt this was a way we could do that. I am local and met a cowboy and Pam is local and met a cowboy and we’ve kind of been around it our whole lives, and we just think it's just part of our lives. But for a lot of people it is their life.

Andy: At southern Warren County in the town of Lake Luzerne—this was really the epicenter of the Adirondack cowboy movement. And it dates back to about when?

Pam: Well for us we’ve got ourselves back to 1923 and the story of the famous "Baron of Bolton Landing"—Earl Woodward. A visitor from Forest, Ohio who came here, he saw a world to be entrepreneured, and just took off in the Stony Creek area—brought family and friends from home, and worked his way down to Hadley, Lake Luzerne, and back up the Bolton Road buying and selling, wheeling and dealing, and pulling together the era of highlighting tourism through the dude ranch industry, into Lakeside, to motels and the visitors coming from the city, and that was his focus.

Through the support the town of Lake Luzerne and Stony Creek, their town boards have welcomed this opportunity and supporting us with the backup and the little bit of promotional ability that we can do to pull this 90 year history together and get a sense of place and put it all together.

Andy: So you have some artifacts here, what are we looking at?

Pam: Well to start off we have a collection, it’s an excerpt from the Baron of Bolton, and it talks about Earl Woodward coming from Ohio and then—very descriptive—was written by Carolyn Hart Towers in 1992 to be part of the book that was being done about Earl. And it’s a wonderful capture and been a pleasure to read his life going from 1891 to 1954. And there’s a few pictures here and this was shared to me by B. Evans, our Lake Luzerne town historian, who, by the way, came here as a city girl to stay on vacation and she met a townie and she stayed and she’s been the town historian and we just love her and she has a wonderful passion now for the dude ranch history.

Then we move on the ranches themselves and the first one he sold to his brother Jay and it's called the Lazy J Dude Ranch out there in Stony Creek and family members are still here. Mrs. Mildred Morrie will be joining us and sharing that story. And collecting stories from people that was their livelihood. They were the waitresses, the bartenders, the wranglers meeting the guests, and all different parts of the businesses we’re looking forward to meeting them. Including, by 1953 when Painted Pony started, also many many others were starting at the same time—Storytown, Charlie Wood, who became friends with Earl Woodward and then all the way up to Frontier Town—so many people.

Route 9 runs from Manhattan to Montreal, any front-door attraction facing route 9 was a major stop in the station wagon with 6 kids looking for wonderful things to do in the '40s, '50s, and '60s. Frontier Town was a major component. The same year, Don Baxter, who was a Lake Luzerne native, Painted Pony was sold by Earl Woodward to Mr. and Mrs. Walt Isaacson, and had a beautiful, beautiful daughter named Betty Jane, and Don married Betty Jane, and so Painted Pony was up and running!

Betty Jane taught herself to trick ride, so she was a major part of the attraction and wonderful, wonderful gal, and also barrel race. And Painted Pony began in ’53. Don and a few cowboys, I believe the other one’s name is Jim Flanagan that year went off to, I’m sorry in ’52, they went off to Montana, to the Wheeler farm, and they broke 50 horses that winter. And spring came, and they sent them by train to the Hadley Station. And that’s how the livestock got to Painted Pony. And when that cattle drive and all of those horses came through town and I think we’re still looking for some. But they made it to Painted Pony and thus the rodeo began and the history of Painted Pony, 1953, thus we’re celebrating our sixtieth anniversary this year.

Cindy: And if someone would like to see the picture of Don driving the horses down in front of Stones Pharmacy in Lake Luzerne, they can come that day and see it it’s a wonderful picture.

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