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Lost Trails: Old and Modern Western Home Décor


Decor from a New Western Land

Western decor from the early days of the American west celebrates the pioneer times of our country. As I look out onto the Arizona mountains I am always reminded of those that came before. The cowboys and mountain men traveling through the valleys, sitting around a campfire drinking coffee under a roof of stars, swapping tales. The Apache who moved silently through the same ranges to their hidden hideaways. The risk-takers and gamblers, the lawmen and lawbreakers, and the ranchers and miners who made their way out to this new wild land.

These are the people who settled a rugged land. From the early Native American tribes who first explored these areas long before, to the railroad men who built links between the towns and settlements and helped bring people from all over the world who wanted a fresh start and freedom. The pioneers who forged ahead on now lost trails seeking their destiny. Seekers of gold pushed their way west, exploring places that were rarely traveled.

The décor we shall see here celebrates the history of our western states, and reminds us of the ones that came to the west by horse, by wagon train, or on foot long ago to look in awe and wonder at the new world they had found. Even today in the modern west with it's large cities, it is still easy to find places of total solitude where you can look upon the land as though yours are the first eyes to lay sight of it. The decor can be southwest oriented, or old west town/cowboy oriented, and includes everything from Native American items and turquoise, to old lanterns and rifles.

The Old West

The wild west has been immortalized in film, television, and the written word. Western décor dealing with the old west gives you a feel for what the old time ranch hand, or cowboy experienced while living in an untamed land. Many young men and women grew restless with the stale confines of the east, and came west to seek their fortune or experience adventure. Others simply went westward to get away from the law. There was plenty of open space to explore and opportunities to be had in this new land, but there was also an element of danger.

It was an era when everybody and their brother were armed and potentially dangerous. The image of gunfights on a dusty western street is cemented in our minds due to more movies than I can count. Horses were extremely important to the western traveler. You could die on the trail without your horse. As a result stealing a horse was a serious offense that could get the culprit a "necktie party". Bringing the guilty back to town and waiting for the district judge to show up was typically too much trouble. Better to find a tree and a rope and take care of things right there and then.

The western look can be adapted for outside in your garden or inside in your den. You can have just a general western room, or specialize in a specific place such as the southwest. Or simply a few accents such as old lanterns, or saguaro cactus items spread here and there. A rustic old west style gives a close to nature look which can enhance any home.

The Mysterious Southwest

The southwest is a land of legends. The Spanish conquistadors chased their dreams of the Seven Cities of Gold in these mountains. Jesuit missionaries explored these new lands, and started missions while they mined for precious metals. A Native American tribe called the Hohokam lived where Phoenix is today, and built canals all over the desert for irrigation. And soon pioneers would arrive in wagon trains to settle the area much to the chagrin of local tribes.

It is a mystical area of old ruins and puzzling mysteries. A land of scorching heat where many have died attempting to explore it, tame it, or simply cross it. The beautiful Gila Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico give mute testimony to those who had lived here long before us. And the places of desolation like the Superstition Mountains where the death toll has reached hundreds over the centuries.

The southwest look tends to run heavily towards Native American designs, and usually has at least a bit of turquoise included.Turquoise is a mineral which has been prized for it's bright colors. Like most western themed décor the more open and rustic the better. Throw in some ranch or cowboy décor with it and your all set.

Giant Saguaros

Saguaros are the magnificent lone sentinels watching over the Arizona desert. The giant cactus are somewhat rare, only native to Arizona, northern Mexico, and a small part of California. They have become a trademark image of the west. The largest of the saguaros are thought to be over 200 years old, so they were the same cactus that the cowboys, ranchers, and Native Americans of the old west saw as they rode through Arizona.

The saguaro has large flowers with white pedals that open at night to attract night fliers such as bats. They tend to close once it gets hot during the day. The Native Americans would use the saguaro fruit to make a fermented drink for special occasions.

You rarely see any saguaros without scattered holes in the trunk where numerous creatures (mostly birds) make their home. They really are a unique sight as they tend to tower above all the other desert plant life. It's hard to think of these areas of the southwest without immediately bringing to mind the giant saguaros.

The Barbary Coast


The Barbary Coast was an infamous red light district in San Francisco. After the gold rush of 1849, the area flourished. Around that time there were 30 to 40 men for every woman. It was estimated that two thirds of those women worked in the red light district. Gold dust and gold nuggets were accepted currency. Eventually the name worked it's way into general use for the entire region, much to the disgust of city planners I'm sure.

However the Barbary Coast became notorious for something even more insidious. It always had the reputation for being one of the worst places to be shanghaied. An unsuspecting gent would enter one of the establishments for a little fun and entertainment, and either have a drink too many and pass out, or be helped along with a conk on the head from a blackjack. He would wake up the next morning on a ship headed for distant horizons.

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There were no appeals. Complaining and whining would be met with laughter and insults from the other sailors (many of whom had been shanghaied themselves). If you caused too many problems, the captain could make life very, very difficult for you. He was the ultimate authority on the ship and his word was law. If you worked hard and kept your head down, you could possibly get back to San Francisco in a year or two.

The Superstitions

The Superstition Mountains

The Superstition Mountains are one of the strangest places in Arizona. It is a barren, rugged group of mountains with the large city of Phoenix just down the way. The range is well known for being the location of the legendary Lost Dutchman's Mine. Gold was found there in the mid 1800's by the Peralta family of Mexico; however, the Apaches ambushed the Peralta group and killed most of them. Since then gold has been hard to come by....unless you believe one of the many legends of lost treasure.

Even with the big city right next door the Superstitions have lost little of their reputation of mystery. The Pimas and Apaches had numerous stories and legends borne in these harsh mountains. The Apache considered the mountains to be the home of an entrance to a lower world. Many have perished here over time, mostly by violent means. The hostile land certainly hasn't helped, but people are still being found dead here, often when searching for the "dutchman's gold".


The Modern West

In the modern west with it's large cities and booming populations, it can seem difficult to still get a look at the country as other eyes saw it long ago. However there are still areas of solitude in every western state where you can look over the country as the pioneers did when they first arrived. There are still large ranches, and wild areas which are rarely visited.

Places like Guadalupe Mountains national park, or Yosemite national park are wonderful places to get away from everyday life. There is also a place just outside Benson Arizona where round boulders are piled on top of each other. Looks like a giant was making a fort. And of course there are the well known western sites such as Little Big Horn in Montana. Lots of beautiful areas to see.

Public Domain Photo

Make a Rustic Wood Sign

Old West Guestbook

WriterJanis2 on June 21, 2013:

You've created a very fun tour.

shewins on May 17, 2013:

I love the Gold Country of California. The Sierra Foothills have been my home for 30 years.

anonymous on May 06, 2013:

The Barbary Coast is fascinating. Thanks for the lens.

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