Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wandering Around Willcox

If you follow Interstate 10 across New Mexico into Arizona driving towards Tucson or Phoenix you're going to pass the town of Willcox.  In the past, Denny and I have driven to the Cider Mill in Willcox from St. David, Arizona to purchase frozen apple cider but we never really looked around the town while we were here.

This year I decided to arrange a stay of a week's time so we could play golf in Sunsites and check out the Rex Allen Museum and get some cider.  Well, two out of three is not bad.

It seems the town of Willcox has been hard hit by the recession and a lot of the local restaurants and motels have closed down.  The Cider Mill was victim to the economy also, shutting down after selling locally grown apples and apple products for twenty-plus years.  When you ask folks where to eat they recommend the Big Tex BBQ place or "The Plaza" which is a little restaurant at the truck stop along the interstate.  Driving through downtown there are almost as many empty storefronts as there are those still in business and there's not much traffic on the roadways.  It only takes a few minutes to navigate most of the town, so after driving around a bit one day we stopped at the Rex Allen Museum.  

Growing up in the 50s and 60s my heroes were cowboys: Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, Gene Autry, the Rifleman, Sugarfoot, Sky King and more.  Rex Allen wasn't a name I was familiar with but I figured he was a contemporary of Roy Rogers and that was good enough for me.

Located on N. Railroad Avenue near the middle of town, when you pull up to park across the street you discover a statue of Rex Allen himself as well as a separate memorial to his horse, KokoOnce Denny and I went inside the museum, we were immediately informed by one of the staff there that Rex had been cremated upon his death and part of his ashes were scattered by Koko's memorial at his request while the other half were scattered at Rex's parents' gravesites. 

It will cost a couple all of $3 to tour the museum; $2 if you are a single.  On the day Denny and I visited we were met at the door by two employees who had obviously worked together a long time; like an old married couple they finished each others statements and bantered back and forth like an amateur comedy team.   It turns out that one of the men was from Ohio originally while the other was a native of Willcox.  Denny and I chatted with them almost as long as we spent wandering the small museum.
Real cowboys wear spangles.  Most of Rex's outfits were created by Nudie, while his boots were by Tony Lama.   In addition to being in movies, Rex Allen had a long recording career and worked in radio, making many public appearances, usually with his beloved horse Koko (nicknamed the Miracle Horse of the Movies.)

The minimum requirements to be a cowboy, as posted in the museum.

The museum is divided into several sections dealing with Rex Allen's various careers, family and life growing up in Willcox, but the room I found impressive was the one dedicate to the local cowboys--those ranchers and farmers of Willcox.  Most of the portraits here have been painted by very talented local artists and show the determination and true grit it takes to carve out a life here in the high desert.

It's not going to take you a long time to cover the entire museum, but it was an interesting way to spend the morning and bring back memories of sitting in front of the TV on a Saturday morning enthralled by the cowboys racing across the small screen.  And that was certainly worth the $3.  


Anvilcloud said...

A very interesting preservation of bygone days.

Arkansas Patti said...

I remember Rex Allen as the narrator of a lot of the early Disney TV wildlife shows. He was the one to let us know that the bobcat just missed catching the rabbit. Maybe the next time----? Loved those bloodless Disney days and Rex Allen's soothing voice.

natdalton said...

Love your blog! I want to get my own RV and do something similar. Do you guys have recommendations on a great RV dealer?

RV Vagabonds said...

Natdalton--depends on where you are. RV Capitol in Elkhart, Indiana is good. Lazy Days in Tampa, Florida works for a lot of folks. I know a great salesman in Foley, Alabama at Camping World. In Arizona La Mesa is popular.

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