Guns, spurs tell story of West

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Bill Mackin was not your typical teenager. He found his lifelong passion early while watching Western movies. His favorites starred the handsome Randolph Scott.

But while the rest of the teens imagined themselves on horseback with the cowboys on the screen, Mackin found himself getting frustrated.

Bill Mackin will speak about "Historic Gunfighter Gear" as part of the continuing Brown Bag Lunch Lecture series When: Noon to 1 p.m. Friday Where: Tread of Pioneers Museum, 800 Oak St. Cost: Free Call: 879-2214

He examined the spurs, saddles and guns, and he knew Hollywood had it all wrong. He critiqued the films, and while his friends re-enacted gunfights, he railed on the sidelines about the fake Henry rifles he noticed.

By 9, Mackin had started his first cowboy gun collection with the acquisition of a top-break pocket pistol he traded with a friend for a Western belt with a silver buckle. By 13, Mackin was known throughout his town as a child who bought or traded old guns. By 17, he sold his first collection of 40 Winchester rifles.

In those days, there wasn't much literature about cowboy and gunfighter collectibles. Mackin spent his adolescence searching the shelves of the public library in Salt Lake City looking for information, to no avail.

As an adult, he took it upon himself to fill in the gaps.

Mackin is the author of "Cowboy and Gunfighter Collectibles: A Photographic Encyclopedia with Price Guide and Makers Index" and more than 100 magazine articles about Western lore and collectibles. His collection of guns, spurs and saddles, which he donated to Craig's Museum of Northwest Colorado, contains more than 1,000 pieces and is "the finest collection of Western gun leather (holsters, belts and fast-draw devices) on display in the United States," he said. He donated his extensive collection in May 1992. "After that, I was going to have a lot of room in my house, but it wasn't long until I was collecting again."

To Mackin, collecting guns, spurs and leather goods from the 1800s and early 1900s is about more than just the acquisition of the items. It also is about the stories of the West.

"The development of the firearm and the exploration of the American West went hand in hand," Mackin said.

Mackin will be at the Tread of the Pioneers Museum on Friday to show some cowboy and gunfighter collectibles and talk about the Western lore that goes with them. He also will be happy to informally look at and help identify any Western artifacts and firearms people bring in.

-- To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210

or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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