By Sharon DeCarlo
I haven’t been doing much writing lately, just haven’t been inspired to communicate my ideas or observations for some time until now given the status of our crumbling, troubling world and frankly the decay of so much of our traditions and American way of life. But I think when that happens we must find something in our souls that still make sense and make us happy and I have such a venture. I and the Will James Society want to share that with all of you!
I am the humble President of the Will James Society. What is the Will James Society you ask? Well, it is an organization that was formed in 1992 by a group of Will James’s enthusiasts who love the west and its history concerning cowboys, horses and good powerful western art and reading material. These folks grew up reading the wonderfully illustrated books Will James wrote. They felt that he and his story were important, and that James had somehow been forgotten with the onslaught of a fast-changing world in the late 30’s and early 40’s. His early death in 1942 seemed to be the death of his notoriety as well.
So, they set out to find others that felt that way and formed the Society that would work to keep his legacy alive, bring his books and great artwork out of obscurity and convey James’ contribution to the world, in essence they wanted to bring his talents and history back to the forefront. They also wanted to find likeminded individuals to visit and socialize with and have a yearly gathering to do just that. Many were collectors but most were just lovers of the American west and all that means and continues to mean. The Society has been successful at informing those willing to listen and learn about James, his genius, and his many accomplishments.
Will James and his life story are ever evolving as more and more is learned about this interesting and remarkable individual. Some of us can’t get enough, we appreciate his love and amazing understanding and interpretation of the horse, the life of a real working cowboy and of course his love of his wife, Alice Conradt James. We can find it in the illustrations and words in his books, we see all of these things portrayed with authenticity and the natural talent he possessed.
Will James was a Nevada cowboy for much of his life, he came here to do what he loved, break colts and ride our sagebrush alkaline covered terrain, be free and find his place in the community of cattle ranches and wild horses. He so loved and respected the wild horses of Nevada!
Make no mistake Will James was no saint. As many know or may not know, he spent a little over a year in the Nevada State Pen for rustling cattle with another fellow who got away scott-free. This too however helped make James a better person as it gave him the time to improve his artistic skills and his writing abilities. After getting out of prison, James went back to what he knew best and that was breaking colts for our local cattle ranchers. Will James worked for some of our most notable cattle ranches in this area and was well known for his illustrations that he left everywhere
he went, drawing on almost any surface with an old simple tool called the pencil.
Will James is part of our history here and many of us don’t know that, so it is with great pleasure that we are able to hold this wonderful event called Chautauqua of Will and Alice James. Alice was his beloved wife who he married when she was just 16-years-old. She and her family were from Reno and while James was 26-years-old they had so much in common, both loved horses and the rugged western way of life that existed in this area. After marriage the couple lived off Franktown Road in a modest but well-built cabin. This is where Alice was able to harness James talent and encourage him to write stories and illustrate them into 25 books, published by Scribner & Sons. The most well-known award winning book Smoky the Cowhorse was written at his Washoe Valley home in 1926.
The Will James Society has grown into a 501c3 organization that raises money in the memory of Will James; they have purchased hundreds of his still in publication books for the purpose of gifting them to school libraries, county and state libraries, assisted home living and nursing home libraries as well as the military here and abroad. Recently the WJS has formed a Scholarship award program in which they award one girl and one boy a year a scholarship for those youngsters seeking careers in ranching, farming, veterinarian, horse health, training or therapy work as well as those seeking a career in creative writing and art. These are the things Will James represented and we think he would be pleased we are supporting them.
The June 26th event we are holding in Minden is to inform the public of who Will James is and to raise money for our scholarship fund while having a great evening out. We are having a wonderful Silent Auction as well. Don’t Miss This!
We are so thankful and pleased to have Kim Harris and Mike Olsen play the parts of Will and Alice James. They have put an enormous effort and many hours into researching and studying these two historical figures. We know it will be an unforgettable performance. To open our show we are going to have local cowboy poets Richard Smith and Harold Miller. Both have written poems about Will James and both are accomplished and well know poets. Richard and Harold both write poetry for Horse Tales Publications and have published Poem books. Our music comes from two local accomplished cowboy singers and musicians Tony Ilardi and Garn Littledyke. They will sing Ean Tysons song “Will James”. An Open Bar will be available, all monies earned will go to the WJS Scholarship fund.
Tickets are $25. $20 for seniors and $10 for kids under 16.
Please get your tickets ASAP as they are going fast.
Call or e-mail me at 775-265-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or send checks or money orders to:
1444 Glenwood Drive
Gardnerville, Nevada 89460
For more information about the Will James Society and its programs go to www.willjamessociety.org to download scholarship, membership and book-gifting applications.