Fast draw gunslingers love the old West

Reach for it!

The inaugural Cowboy Fast Draw competition in Amarillo is underway.

“I’ve been shooting fast draw for over 20 years,” said Jerome Price, president of the newly founded Texas Panhandle Pistoleros.

“When I moved here [10 years ago] I was missing it, so we decided to start a club here.”

Price, whose gunslinger handle is “Amarillo Sundance,” played fast draw as a child, growing up trying to beat the actors on TV

He knew people in this area must have done the same, so six months ago he started the club.

“I know there’s a lot of people around Amarillo that wish they were born 100 years ago; they love watching the Western movies and would like to be [a Cowboy],” Price said. “We’re looking for folks who want to grow a good club in Amarillo.”

And, he said, nothing extravagent is required in order to compete.

“You don’t have to get anything fancy and spend a lot of money buying a professional gun. You can get something stock and it will do just as good.”

Stephanie Price said she’s been competing since she was eight.

“I used to shoot in world fast draw,” she said. “It’s more sporty, and the guns are tricked out, whereas here … it’s got to be more authentic.”

“If you love the old West, that’s really what we’re here for,” Price said, “to kind of get the feel for squaring off against somebody but you’re standing side by side rather than actually shooting them.”

Wax bullets are used instead of lead. Competitors shoot at round metal targets tethered to a stop watch that clocks the time it took for the bullet to hit the target.

“You can shoot in your own age bracket or you can shoot in one bracket where everybody shoots against everybody,” said Wa-hoo Keeper, who came with his wife from Wisconsin just for the competition.

Keeper began competing three-and-half years ago and got his handle from his animated antics.

“I use Wa-hoo because I started hootin’ and hollerin’ many, many years ago and it just stuck with me all of my life,” he said. “I was in Deadwood, South Dakota and I was disappointed it was turning into such a gambling mecca and not so much cowboy stuff.”

The fast draw competition, in its first trip to Amarillo, presents an unusual opportunity for competitors and spectators alike.

“It’s a unique spectator sport,” said Eric Miller, director of communications for the Amarillo Convention &Visitor Council. “It’s our spectator sport, it’s western. It goes with rodeo and cattle drives and horse shows and all of the other things we have here. It’s perfect.”

On the afternoon of the event’s first day, a VIP competition saw Mayor Paul Harpole, Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas, Amarillo Police Department Sergeant Warren Gross, KVII anchor Anthony Pittman and Working Ranch Cowboys Association manager Leman Wall compete against each other.

Wall, who came in third, said he grew up shooting long guns and just started shooting handguns within the last five or six years.

“It’s painful [to lose],” he said. “Three is not number one, but it was a lot of fun. It’s real safe, and they have a nice set up.”

“They think I’m a celebrity,” said Sgt. Warren. “It was a lot of fun, I had a good time.” But the lawman was bested in the final round by Mayor Harpole.

“I don’t like losing, but he’s a good dude,” Warren said. “I beat Brian, thank goodness.”

Harpole, who served the U.S. Army, has been pointing a gun since a very early age.

“Our dad taught us to shoot a pistol when we were five and six years old,” he said. “He wanted us to be safe…he put a tomato up on the fence and had us shoot it. Then he said if you shoot your brother, his arm is going to look like the back of that tomato. We got the point pretty quick.”

Kaycee Hooper of the Working Ranch Cowboys Association was the winner in the women’s VIP competition besting – among others – Carol Lovelady, director of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum.

More than 100 shooters were signed up to participate in the opening phases of the championship competition.