I've let this blog slide over recent years, but I'm trying taking it up again -- as I just paid a visit to Pullman City, the "living western town" near Eging am See in Bavaria, for the first time in years!
It was fascinating to see how much remains the same, but also what has changed. And it was wonderful to be able to hang out with Willie Jones, probably the first person I met and made friends with in the European country music/imaginary wild west scene.
|Me and Willie, Pullman City 2023|
We met on my first -- or maybe second -- visit to Pullman City in the summer of 2003, amazingly fully 20 years ago! Willie then was the "singing cowboy" of Pullman, strolling around the Main Street and making music as he strolled.
We had a memorable adventure, driving from Pullman into southern Bohemia for a country night at a wild west road house....where I heard my first Czech country band, playing Okie from Muskogee, in Czech....
I wrote my first Imaginary Wild West article after those visits -- for the New York Times. Click HERE to read it.
This time Willie had an evening outdoor gig at Pullman's Hudson's Bay bar, in the so-called Authentic section, where hobbyists have permanent set-ups.
He played gentle duets with his friend Wolfie, a frequent musical partner, whom I had met back in 2004, at Dobrofest in Trnava, Slovakia, when they were playing in a trio with John Ely
|Dobrofest, Trnava, 2004|
At Pullman this time, it was a special old-time hobbyist weekend, and many people were dressed up in Period styles.
There were trappers, clerks (or bankers? doctors? carrying what looked like briefcases or medical bags), elegant gambler-types, cowboys, etc.
A big innovation that I didn't remember as being too popular in earlier visits were huge crinoline skirts. One woman I ran into en route to the ladies room had such a hard time maneuvering that she seemed almost trapped in the toilets!
The Hudson's Bay bar area seemed like a "safe space" -- maybe like a gay bar -- where hard core hobbyists could gather in their costumes and live their lives (and dreams) away from the commercialism and "family fun" tourism of the Main Street.
The main structural novelty of Pullman is the new (since I was there) Karl May theatre, an outdoor stage in an arena-like setting, similar to other wild west theme parks, where they are now staging plays etc based on Karl May's stories and characters. This summer they're doing Treasure of Silver Lake -- which I may have seen a Karl May festival years ago, in Austria or Germany.
Pullman's "American History Show" is now performed in the Karl May arena stage, rather than on Main Street, as before. Alas I couldn't see the whole show to see how it compared with past versions, as a huge violent storm blew up right in the middle, and sent everyone running for cover.
|The storm's a-coming!|
One of Pullman's "stars" when I used to go there years ago was "Hunting Wolf," billed as a half-Cheyenne shaman. His act entails dealing with bison.
When I first saw him, his long, flowing hair was black.... he still runs with the bison, and his hair is still long and flowing, but now it's white.