(Another name that fast draw cherishes is that of Clyde Lovellette, a massive and belligerent man who plays center on the St. Louis Hawks basketball team. Lovellette, though not a competing gunfighter, fancies guns and their manipulation. Once, after being particularly displeased with a referee's call, Lovellette confronted the official in a hotel. Snarling a threat, he whipped out a six-gun and fired on the ref, who was horrified when the gun went off and only mildly amused to discover that Lovellette was using blanks.)
Though he lays no claim to Lovellette, Dee Woolem does claim the title of "The Father of Fast Draw." At various other times, he describes himself as "World's Fastest Gun" (which he may not be) and "The Daisy Kid" (which he is—Daisy now retains him full time to promote their various BB guns). But most modern gunfighters prefer the patriarchal image of Woolem. Says Bud Young, the editor and publisher of the Gunsmoke Gazette in Chicago: "Every sport needs a father figure, or Great Man, who functions as a figurehead and can be turned to with respect by everyone. I think Dee Woolem fulfills this role admirably."
Another major influence in the spread of fast draw was the interest of the Colt works, which awoke to the sport in 1957. "All that time we'd been asleep," says President Roff, "when one day I was invited to attend a fast-draw contest. I didn't even know what it was all about." He discovered soon enough that, in one respect, it was all about buying pistols, and he sent salesmen all over the country with orders to do their utmost to help organize fast-draw clubs. "We got going like hell," says Roff. "We provided rules for contests and how-to-do-it instruction booklets. Of course, we also provided [for $125, blued; $137.50, nickel] the famous old Colt Peacemaker. Before we came in, there were fewer than 100 fast-draw clubs, and we estimate we have been responsible for forming 500 to 600 more. We think, too, that 35% of the Peacemakers we're putting out annually are going into fast draw."
As fast draw has grown, so, of course, have divisive ideas grown apace. Woolem, for example, is opposed to face-to-face walk and draw, arguing that it is unsafe even with blank ammunition. Others say its customary two-out-of-three scoring is implausible when compared to the live ammunition used in the good old days. On the other hand, certain walk-and-drawers consider the use of wax bullets against balloons and other targets dull and undramatic. Even so, there seemed to be several common denominators binding together the men and women who came to the walk-and-draw contest at Las Vegas. Nearly all of the 185 on hand were born in the West, were high school-educated and hold jobs as tradesmen or skilled and semiskilled workers—locksmiths, auto mechanics, salesmen and the like. One or two professional men, including a dentist, were there, too; but in fast draw, social status, like sex, is of minor importance since nobody is ever very far from his equalizer. All shared an abiding earnestness for the business at hand, and all looked thoroughly at ease in the western costumes they wore—straightforward tight-fitting cowboy pants and checked shirts for some, frilly shirts, foulard vests, cutaway coats and tin badges for others.
The only gunslingers who seemed at all uncomfortable in this bizarre environment were two young men from Rochester, N.Y. who lamented their geographical isolation. "There are only two of us in the whole city," said Ian Woodard, a printing plant ink weigher. "Every year we come out to the Nationals, and we realize we're a year behind the times. Last year it was double holsters, and everybody was thumbing his gun. So we got double holsters and practiced thumbing. Now too late we discover single holsters are the style, and everybody's fanning. Last year I got some ideas for a costume and had a tailor back home put it together. Now they're wearing something else."
Few of the fast guns, despite the late-hour lures of Las Vegas, dared stay up past 10 p.m. for fear of damaging their chances for the $1,000 first prize put up by Colt and by Las Vegas' splashy Hotel Sahara, the cosponsors of the Nationals. Among the more earnest and intriguing of those who shot for the money were:
Jack Sims, 24, a Mountain View, Calif. millwright who won the 1960 title, but finished fourth this year. On his wife's advice, Sims put down motorcycle racing and took up fast draw six years ago. Pleasant and cordial, he takes his shooting quite seriously—he and fellow members of his club study motion picture films of past performances in an effort to shave hairbreadths of time from their draws. Sims wears an outfit of forbidding black and suffers indulgently the ribbing frequently accorded gunslingers in costume. "You don't get mad at outsiders, because they don't understand—so what's the use," says Sims. "Just as a fencer would look ridiculous in a swimming suit, a man would look silly firing a six-gun in a sports jacket and slacks. Western clothes are simply a part of our sport." Like nearly every gunfighter one meets, Sims carries business cards identifying him and his club, in this case, the Sidewinders of Los Altos, and will proffer one to a stranger almost automatically.
Claude Keunes Wiley, 32, a missile technician for Convair from Hobart, Okla. Fifty percent Comanche Indian, his middle name means Lame Wolf, he can't imagine why. Wiley designed and made his own costume, an outlandish, beaded suit of black-dyed elkskin and red velvet, with a black hat topped by an eagle feather. He carries his Colt .45 in a silver-ornamented holster. Once Wiley had to make do with less: his first pistol was a cap-and-ball muzzle-loader he picked up in St. Louis for $32, and his first holster was fashioned of cardboard and safety pins. His father taught him to shoot, and his Irish mother, he says, gave him a fast temper. Not fast enough—he finished out of the money.
Carole Hall, 24, the California women's walk-and-draw champion. Carole claims to hold a world record for her sex of .36 of a second, which is right fast for walk and draw. A housewife in Whittier, Calif., she practices fast draw an hour or so every day in her den or on her patio. Other times she helps her husband Robert edit and publish their magazine, The Gunslinger's News.
Curt Blakemore, a floor tile salesman in Westminster, Calif. He has won so many trophies (100 this year, including 26 first prizes in his last 29 contests) that his name strikes dread whenever it is mentioned amongst a group of other gunfighters. A founder of the Southern California Single Action Fast Draw Club—chartered in 1955, its members proudly proclaim it the oldest fast-draw club anywhere—Blakemore says he holds the world's record for outdoor walk and draw with a time of .27 of a second. An amateur gunsmith, he is so exacting about his guns' feel, balance and tuning that he modified the hammer on his favorite Colt four times before he was reasonably happy, once spent seven hours with a leather worker before he was satisfied with the fit of a belt and holster. Counting traveling expenses and ammunition costs, Blakemore spends $2,500 annually on fast draw; and because he works so hard at his play, he has developed a fine set of ulcers at age 26.