Friday LOL: a Jewish cowboy

October 14, 2011 • 3:00 pm

I don’t know who this person is, but this is a photograph of a photograph that I found hanging on the wall at the Eastern California Museum in Independence, California.  If you’re ever in the area, say driving on Route 395 down the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada (I consider this the most beautiful stretch of highway in America), do stop in Independence and visit this small but fascinating museum of Owens Valley history.

And be sure to stay at the Winnedumah Hotel, an old and atmospheric place where the cowboy movie stars like Gene Autry used to stay while filming in the nearby Alabama Hills.  (Right across the street is the Inyo County Courthouse, where Charles Manson was arraigned for the murders of Sharon Tate and several others.)

At any rate, hanging on the wall of the museum for many years was this photo of “Hominy’s famous Jewish CHAMPION of the Lariat and Saddle.”  A Jewish cowboy! But I had to laugh, for he looks just like a yeshiva bocher stuffed into ill-fitting cowboy clothes.

Sadly, when I went back to the Museum several years ago, the photo was gone, and nobody remembered it. I begged them to find it so I could have it, but no dice. The Jewish Champion Cowboy is lost to history.

27 thoughts on “Friday LOL: a Jewish cowboy

  1. … or you could go to Colma, California, to a Jewish cemetery, and view the graves of Josephine Sarah Marcus, and her husband, Wyatt Earp. Leaving aside the story of Levi Strauss selling his specially-designed jeans in the Gold Rush, you could also move on to the recent, and quite plausible book “Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean”.

  2. I know that stretch of highway very well, traveled it many times. And yet, I have never stopped at Independence. Next time I’m out there I will be sure to stop if just to have a coffee.
    Indeed, I second the recommendation, some of the nicest scenery west of the Rockies. The bristlecone pine in the White Mountains are easily accessible, just a short mile from the parking lot. Head east at Bishop.
    (When I was on the east side of Sierra Nevada I was often on foot. That locale is on the trail from Kearsarge Pass and I never crossed that one. I like coming out at 108, 120, or Lone Pine, more traffic for hitching a ride.)

  3. Maybe try the library in Hominy, Oklahoma (just NW of Tulsa) which may be the place referred to. I notice that the picture is also casually used (with no additional information) in a book “Challenge and Change: History of the Jews in America”, in Chapter 8 (I found this one line). So it must be floating around somewhere. You can see the picture in the chapter sample on the web site of the publisher, Behrman House.

    1. The author of that book is Shelley Kapnek Rosenberg. I’ve been doing a Google search to
      see if I could find some contact information for her in order to email her and ask if she has any more information. No luck so far. Anyone else have any ideas how to locate her?

  4. “Cowboy” shtick/gimmick? This poor pathetic guy’s interpretation of cowboy clothing is a-duds already, a Hollywoodian distortion of a working man. I wear 501’s almost every day; my favorite “duds” of all. When I was a kid growing up in Texas, we went to the B-movie cowboy flicks because they were hilarious in their absurdity–and the more serious they were the funnier. Comical, but not humorous.

    That hotel is clean, but a firetrap. The restaurant a short walk north is excellent, and is often filled with Hollywood types and well-heeled “locals.” The Alabama Hills are scenic rockpiles, and are a well-worn cinematic cliché.

    Real cowboys were not like any I’ve seen in the movies, but “The Last Picture-Show” (Ben Johnson) came close, at least for forties-era cowboys. “Tender Mercies” (Robert Duvall) was rather true-to-life. Even though those actors were not “cowboys” in those movies.

  5. My dad used to drive me on that road every year so the two of us could fish the Owens Valley, Bishop, and the June Lake loop.

    there’s actually a good trout hole just outside of Independence, IIRC.

    Or maybe it was Lone Pine?

    It was a long time ago.

  6. And, for the record, there were a few Jewish cowboys, ladies and gentlemen.
    Big guys who were great shots and spent money freely.
    — Mr. Bergstrom’s lesson on the American West, “Lisa’s Substitute”

  7. Great picture!

    Texas musician, writer and gadfly Kinky Friedman is often called a Jewish Cowboy. Used to really enjoy the guy until his vanity run for Governor helped elect Rick Perry. Now he’s even endorsed Perry for president, so he’s just a schmuck as far as I’m concerned.

    As far as lariats and Western arts and all that; there’s Karen Quest, a “Jewish Cowgirl” (though she doesn’t bill herself as such) working right now in 21st Century America.
    I think she’d do “Hominy’s Famous Jewish Champion of the Lariat and Saddle” AND Will Rogers proud! (

    ….by the way, I’m not pimping for a friend here; I don’t know her, I just like to promote interesting art!

    1. Damn. I thought I was going to get the first Kinky Friedman message posted.

      I was going to suggest that Jerry get in touch with Kinky. After reading your post… not so much anymore.

  8. “Sadly, when I went back to the Museum several years ago, the photo was gone, and nobody remembered it. I begged them to find it so I could have it, but no dice. The Jewish Champion Cowboy is lost to history.”

    I must be seeing things.

  9. In the Toronto reference library I found the book for the exhibit that Ant Allan referenced above, and there was our hero’s picture on the whole of p.6, with this description:
    ‘ “Hominy’s famous Jewish champion of the lariat and saddle.” Courtesy of High Noon Collectibles, Los Angeles. ‘
    The book is Jewish Life in the American West: Perspectives on Migration, Settlement, and Community, ed. Ava F. Kahn (Los Angeles, Autry Museum of Western Heritage, 2002).
    I couldn’t find a search feature on the High Noon website, so I only got this far. The photograph may still be around in a private collection or in an exhibit curator’s records and not lost under the Independence museum’s floorboards.

    1. Yes,

      We owned this photo for many years and sold it to a collector from Connecticut about 8 years ago. Unfortunately, we don’t have any info about this Yiddisha cowboy.
      ……another Cisco Yid

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