I ran into an old co-worker the other day. He was asking if I still worked for that college “what’s it called?” and I asked him if he was still working at that crappy electronics company that laid me off, “what’s it’s name?”. The conversation started out awkward but turned around after I asked what was new. He said that he was involved with Cowboy Action Shooting and was having a great time. He told me all about the clothing, the camaraderie, and of course the target shooting. Before I could get in a word edge wise said he had to get going, and to look it up on the net and get more information. I happen to own a replica of an 1860 Army .44 cap and ball revolver that I picked up from a friend that was moving to California, so my interest was peaked.
I googled cowboy action shooting, and can tell when something is popular by how many sites are devoted to a subject. SASS has a huge amount of pages devoted to the old west, guns, clothing, and such. It’s kind of a goofy pastime but so are a lot of things that people do for fun. There also appears to be a local club in the Northern Colorado area, with photos. Ugh, the costumes were atrocious; did people really dress that way?
On the surface it would seem to be something that I would be interested in. I like the independent spirit of the old west, I like shooting guns, and I like silly hats. One problem, I am not much into the whole cow boy, wild west, esthetic. I enjoy the west, and I like the prairie, but do not particularly like cowboy hats, western boots, and I am un-easy around horses, cows, bulls, and most other animals too big to pick up and throw. I also like gadgets and gizmos but the western era didn’t seem to have much to play with. I like the era that is supposed to be reenacted, I just would rather it be a little less primitive and the clothing to be a lot less, well, stupid looking.
So I looked around the web to get a better feel for the era, that’s when I found Steam Punk. It’s a fictional representation of the same general era, around the turn of the century, but with a more technological feel to it. This is Kind of the difference between Matt Dillon and Jules Vern. They both represent the same timeline, but Jules Vern had a style that I can more identify with. From what I gather the era that both Cowboy action and Steampunk define themselves is the Victorian era, from 1837 to 1901. Cowboy action can go earlier and Steampunk extends a bit later, but the overlap is defiantly there.
I have found that in the entertainment industry (Which is where Cowboy Action Shooting is styled around) seems to make a division between the industrial revolution and the Wild West. In the movies the steam technology was only for quant locomotives that visited small towns with dirt streets, rough wood structures never more than two stories tall, and the height of technology was the wind up pocket watch. In reality, while Matt Dillon was shooting in out with mustachioed men in black, in big cities workers were building Brooklyn Bridge, surgeons started to use rubber gloves and masks, the telephone, light bulb, and electric motor were in use, and the first hydroelectric dam was under construction.
As you can see many people my age slept through high school history and learned most of my American history from Hollywood. I include my historical knowledge among these fine individuals.
Anyway, the thought of Steampunk brightens up my whole idea behind Cowboy Action shooting. I wonder if I can attend a shoot in period costume but in a Jules Vern or Thomas Edison kind of look. I like the role of eccentric inventor in the steam driven world. Maybe I could be a character in the spirit of Allan Quatermain from the same era. Then I could dress in a manor that is authentic and at the same time respectable. No leather tassels, no rhinestones, no chaps, spurs, or big belt buckles.
How would that kind of variation to the theme be received? Would I be ostracized as not acting in the way that cowboys were depicted in Hollywood westerns? Should I care about that? Maybe I would be welcomed in the fold as an eccentric but historically accurate new member. I would rather be Artimus Gordon than James West. Is there room for an Extraordinary Gentleman in the Wild West?