Museum of Northwest Colorado: A Western kind of guy
May 22, 2015
"Familiar Faces" was a cartoon column produced by nationally noted cartoonist Chester Klock for the Craig Empire-Courier newspaper in 1956. The first cartoon article of this brief series highlighted local saddler Conway Irick who operated his saddle shop at 577 Yampa Ave. for over 40 years. Conway had moved to Moffat County when he was 6 years old with his parents, J.S. and Ina, who took up a homestead north of Craig. They later moved to town and operated a saddle shop until J.S. died suddenly in 1943. Conway was serving in World War II with the 10th Mountain Division at that time, but the local populace petitioned for him to be released from active duty on a hardship plea, as a saddle shop was an absolute necessity in any agricultural community at that time.
Conway not only built and repaired saddles but he carried a large stock of tack, cowboy paraphernalia and western clothing, boots and hats. He was active in the local community in many ways and was a member of the American Legion, the Chamber of Commerce and the Kiwanis. He actively promoted the Ride 'n Tie Rodeo events and served on the sheriff's posse. Conway retired in 1986 and lived in Craig until he moved to the Colorado State Veterans Home in Rifle shortly before his death in 2011. He left behind a legacy that is fast fading as the western saddleries disappear leaving behind only memories of the wonderful smells of canvas and leather that permeated those shops.
The Museum of Northwest Colorado has an amazing collection of saddles and cowboy gear that is the finest on public display in the world. There is a pair of chaps made by Conway Irick on exhibit as well as a pair of saddle tags bearing his stamp. The museum might lack the authentic aroma of a saddle shop, but it offers visitors a full array of historic western gear and guns in the display. The museum is open Monday through Saturday with free admission. Call 970-824-6360 for more information.