Welcome to Westerners International
This is a club like no other that I know of. Instead of chapters we have “corrals” or “posses.” There are no presidents or other such officers. The designated leader of each corral is the Sheriff and the other officers are Deputy Sheriff, Keeper of the Chips, Recorder of the Marks and Brands, Chuck Wrangler, Inkslinger and so on. We begin each gathering with a ritual salute: “Hello Joe, you old buffalo!” addressed to some depiction of a buffalo skull (ours is painted on a leather scroll), the origin of which is lost to the mists of time. Read More ▼
You may have guessed by now that the organization was started by a few homesick souls from the western part of the country who found themselves stranded on the shores of Lake Michigan in decidedly mid-western Chicago, and wanting to maintain their birthright, founded the group in 1944 on a lark. Two of these, Leland Case and Troy Parker, had roots in South Dakota and it wasn’t long before groups around the country started asking permission to establish their own corrals.
I’ve enjoyed the monthly get-togethers to learn about various—and often obscure—aspects of western history. I have even on occasion, visited other corrals during my travels and am always, of course, welcomed with typical western hospitality.
Some corrals have websites, some even publish, but most are much more informal. Ironically some of the largest and most active corrals are located outside of the United States.
Westerners International, which is a foundation, enjoys a symbiotic relationship with the Western History Association, a much more conventional organization of professional historians which sponsors a fairly substantial annual history conference. Westerners traditionally sponsors a reception at the conference where members from across the country get a chance to salute Old Joe together, witness the presenting of our annual awards and bid on donated books on a western theme to help pay for the awards.
Eventually the founding fathers scattered from Chicago and the headquarters, called the Home Ranch, landed in Tucson, Arizona, where Leland Case had retired, and stayed for many years. Today it is headquartered – appropriately – in the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
If you are interested in perpetuating both the myth and the reality of the Old West you may want to locate a corral near you and join up. There is very little demanded of members other than extremely modest annual dues and the obligation to participate occasionally in the western hospitality of monthly meetings where you are sure to know more after attending than you did going in.
By Shebby Lee, past Sheriff
Black Hills Corral, Rapid City, SD