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A very British Wild West.

The Wild West, of American legend, was a era as well as a real place. A time starting around the American Civil War, on to the turn of the century, some where west of Kansas, Missouri to the Pacific Ocean. There have been countless films, stories & myths of this lawless place inhabited by pioneers of a kind, who have now passed us by. Many British people no longer dream about their interest in this period, they actively re-enact it with a dedication & enthusiasm. Not only re-living their heroes in real life but  sharing it with all who come to see them while raising money for charity.

My friend "Badger" & his companions, from the Redditch Westerners, are such people. They travel all over England to join like-mined folk with a common interest. Often setting up a Western town's main street to entertain the public with their show, they are with Civil War Re-enactors, Native American villages (the people we innocently called Red Indians in our youth), mine shack & homestead tableaus'. There are fast draw competitions where the ladies join the men, Native American dancers communicating with their spirits & the air is filled with the smell of black powder, as all the muskets fire off from a line of Company E of the 1st. Maryland Regiment! Its not just cowboys either. All those characters you saw in "The unforgiven" or "The outlaw Josey Wales" are there. Miners for gold, sheriffs, dance hall girls, Sioux Indians & mountain men. Here is the freedom to live your fantasy. You can research a person, a lifestyle or just walk around armed to the teeth with knives big enough to chop down a pine tree. Peacemakers, Winchesters & muskets are everywhere. People drink beer & take Country & Western music intravenously & there is peace & welcome everywhere! In a period where knife crime is reported as being rife, lager louts abound & we think gun crime stalks the towns, come visit a happy crowd of Westerners. See the original Bowie knife hung on a handmade leather belt, gaze on a man with a Smith & Weston on one side, a Navy Colt on the other side & a Henry Rifle in his hand. They do all the things the West did! Eat, drink & make very merry, only this time there is gun smoke  without a hint of violence. I did see, at the Blue Rodeo show in Stratford-upon-Avon,  a horse thief dragged out of his wife's arms & shot on the spot. Of course, I suspect it was more for his dress code than any actual horse! I bet there are many wondrous arguments in the beer tents or round the camp fire in the evening. Was John Wayne's "The Searchers" better than "The Wild Bunch". Someone will be telling someone off for wearing a time peace that didn't come out till 1909 & he is dressed in 1889 garb. And someone will be glowing in the knowledge he beat his best time in the Quick Draw earlier that day.

The is an air of obsession for accuracy. The people seem to be immersed in a real single person. As if they know their name and where they came from. And there they are, re-born & walking tall before you. Stroll by an Indian Tepee & hear all about Running Dog & his Crow Indian family. Walk down the picket line of the American Civil War Society members. They will be delighted to talk till dawn about the life on either side of the conflict. You can hear of the real hardships of settlers from Europe trying to make a better life for themselves in a truly wild land. Battling against odds that would daunt all but the brave & dedicated.

Many are there to see if they could beat Shane to the draw. I think there is a huge admiration to the simpler way of life where Westerners overcame unbelievable hardship & raised families. I suspect that the book, "Bury my heart at Wounded Knee", inspired many an attempt to re-create an Indian way of life. I also think that many, like me, were raised on "Cowboy" films. We read books about Tom Horn, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, of Wild Bunch fame & Geronimo. Its just that these guys have the bottle to wear a tee shirt with "Custer had it coming" & live the life for our entertainment (& definitely theirs!).

In an early life I sold plastic kits & saw people who were dedicated to producing a perfect model of an crashed Me 109. They knew who flew it, where it came down & who shot it out of the sky. I have witnessed people giving every spare moment to restoring steam trains & running them on branch lines. Well people all over the country are like that about the Wild West of America. We would be a poorer country without the efforts of the Redditch Westerners, The American Civil War Society & their kind.


Links for information:

The American Old West

Redditch Westerns                                       

The American Civil War Society

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument                                           

Who else does re-enactments?