The Wild West History Association throws a Roundup in Idaho

This year’s event takes place Wednesday through Saturday in Boise at the Riverside Hotel and in Idaho City.

awebb@idahostatesman.comJuly 8, 2013 

  • The Idaho Roundup

    The 2013 Wild West History Association Roundup runs from Wednesday through Saturday at the Riverside Hotel, 2900 W. Chinden Blvd., Boise (with some events in Idaho City).

    Prices range from $60 for a single day to $185 for the entire event. Check the website for more details and registration or call Mike Youngman at 358-4168.

Mike Youngman, College of Southern Idaho art teacher by day, Old West history enthusiast around the clock, is one of the organizers of this year's Wild West History Association Roundup.

This year's event takes place Wednesday through Saturday in Boise at the Riverside Hotel and in Idaho City.

Youngman, a past board member of the association, said the four-day extravaganza will include lectures, re-enactments, panels and presentations on topics ranging from Wyatt Earp's time in Idaho to authenticity in western art and movies.

What kinds of people join the association?

The group has 600 members from all across the United States, as well as England, Germany and New Zealand.

Many of the members, in addition to being Old West enthusiasts, are also writers, researchers and biographers.

What is it about the old West that makes it alluring to so many people, even non-Americans?

Some of it has to do with genealogy, people in Europe finding out they're connected to characters in the American West.

A lot has to do with American Westerns - Clint Eastwood. Italians, French and Germans love Westerns. Some of the largest numbers of visitors to Wild West locations are from Japan.

After the 1980s, there was a resurgence of interest in the Old West thanks to movies like Tombstone (1993). That film was a turning point. It was historically accurate when it came to costumes and the events portrayed. There was no attempt to sugarcoat the West or make it worse than it was. People who are afficionados appreciate that.

And there's always an appeal to characters that are so bad they're good.

Has the association ever held its roundup in Idaho before?

This is the first time. Idaho is sometimes underrepresented. People aren't as familiar with Idaho's stories, even though they're as important and interesting as stories that happened anywhere.

For example, Bob Sobba (who worked in law enforcement for 36 years, including serving as the chief of police in Caldwell) will give a talk about Idaho's "Trial of the Century" after the assassination of Gov. Steunenberg in 1907.

Many people don't realize that characters like Butch Cassidy and Wyatt Earp have ties to Idaho.

Butch Cassidy robbed a bank in Montpelier, Idaho. One of his descendents will talk about that robbery during the roundup. (Earp served a stint as deputy sheriff in the Idaho Panhandle in the 1830s).

Is the roundup more for academics or casual enthusiasts?

It's for anybody who's interested. There's even a mix of interests within the association. We have to satisfy a wide range. There's no doubt, though, that we focus on the "sensational."

We won't be talking about who bought land where and who was the wealthiest citizen. We'll talk about outlaws and lawmen. Almost everyone in this group grew up on stories of heroes, villains and those who straddled the line.

What is a must-not-miss event for a serious student of Western history?

I have friends who are farmers who can't get away for the whole roundup, so they're coming to the talk by (former Boise Rep.) Max Black, "The Legend and Myth of Diamondfield Jack."

One of my friends runs cattle on the property where sheepherders were killed. Diamondfield Jack got the blame. He spent years wasting away in an Idaho prison before two cattlemen confessed to the killing.

Is there anything extra special this year?

Historian Arthur Hart will give a talk on legendary lawman Rube Robbins. Robbins had a 30-year career in law enforcement beginning in the 1860s.

He never returned an arrest warrant without his man.

Are there any stories about the Old West that might surprise people?

The story of Polly Bemis. She was brought to an Idaho gold rush camp in the 1890s and forced into prostitution, basically slave status.

A gambler, Charlie Bemis fell in love with her and won her in a poker game. Later on, he was shot. A doctor diagnosed his case as fatal; she rejected the diagnosis. She dug a bullet fragment out of his body with a straight razor - saving his life.

What story or figure are you most passionate about?

Wyatt Earp. Some historians won't agree, but I think he was as important to the West as George Washington was for nation.

He started his career as a saloon man, a member of the sporting class, involved in shady occupations. But he became an amazing lawman in Kansas, Arizona and in the Idaho Panhandle in 1833. (Earp single-handedly turned back lynch mobs on more than one occasion).

How did you fall in love with the Old West?

I'm an Air Force brat. When I was 12, my dad was stationed in France, I got the chicken pox and my mom brought me a 500-page book about the Civil War. I didn't have anything else to do, so I read it. It realized I liked it. I moved on to Billy the Kid, then Wyatt Earp and others. Pretty soon, I was exhausting my supply of well-known names in the Old West.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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