In 1989 Bill
Blattler (March 21, 1943 - March 19, 2011) began holding impromptu cowboy matches at the Ben Lomond Gun Club
which was located on land leased from the town of Palmer Lake. As these
impromptu matches gained attention and interest, the Board of Directors of
the Ben Lomond Gun Club took notice and decided to encourage this new
shooting sport on the range. Bill recalled that it came as a surprise to him
when at the very end of a board of directors meeting a motion was made and
quickly passed to make cowboy action shooting a discipline at
Ben Lomond and to name Bill as the match director. The
meeting was immediately adjourned and before he realized what had happened
Bill found himself heading up a new cowboy action shooting discipline
at the club.
Shaketails In The Early Days At Palmer Lake
Whatís in a
Bill needed an
alias. At the time he and his wife Jan lived on the plains east of Colorado
Springs. A mountain lion became a regular visitor to their home, often
sleeping on the roof and picking its claws on the window screens. Jan was not
entirely comfortable with their frequent visitor but Bill would often take
walks along the road with the mountain lion following behind him. Bill
gained local notoriety as he was regularly seen walking with the big cat
trailing behind. Since his home was such a frequent place for the big cat to
visit and snooze, it became the cathouse and so Bill had an alias Ė Cathouse
Bill (SASS #405). His wife Jan, always at his side helping to organize
things, adopted an alias appropriate to living in a cathouse - Dirty Dove.
Since the cowboy
group was now a formal entity, a name had to be chosen. Cathouse Bill enjoyed
reading the Saturday Evening Post, a venerable publication with roots
that can be traced back to well before the cowboy era. The Saturday
Evening Post often featured stories as an installment of a serial
appearing in successive issues. Cathouse Bill recalled reading one such
story that referred to rattlesnakes as shaketails and so the idea for the
groupís name and mascot were born.
The Shaketails did
not get to spend much time at the Palmer Lake range. By late 1990
anti-gunners had convinced the town council to not renew the lease so a new
range had to be secured. In 1991 the Ben Lomond Gun Club purchased a 560
acre ranch north of Ramah. Bill, now a lifetime member of Ben Lomond, played a
role in closing the deal on the new ranch. Cathouse Bill recalled
that a Shaketails shoot was the last event held at the Palmer Lake range
before it was closed and the first event to be held at the new range after
closing the deal for the purchase of the ranch.
As a result of the
need to relocate, money was tight and slow in getting approved for funding the new discipline.
Consequently Cathouse Billís commitment to the sport went beyond his time to
include his money as he found it necessary to supply the targets. Many of those
targets were still in use decades later.
At Palmer Lake
House At Ramah Before The Shaketails Fixed It Up
The Shaketails have
always been a hardy bunch, holding shoots year-round in all but an active
snow storm. Cathouse Bill recalled one January shoot when a group of
them joined the "20 Below Club."
Billís stewardship, the Shaketails matches gained a reputation as being
unique. Cathouse Bill liked to make the stages challenging. Targets tended
to be a little farther and a little smaller. Stages frequently had storylines
that required a stopwatch to time because part of the action would occur
after the last shot. He also enjoyed throwing in complex sequences to cause
some confusion, what Cathouse Bill jokingly refered to as FTUís (translation
left up to the reader). He was also proud of the fact that a big part of that
reputation was that safety was always first and that there was an openness
to help new shooters to the sport.
It did not take long
for cowboy action shooting to catch fire and become the fastest growing
shooting sport in the world. The Shaketails certainly benefited from this
enthusiasm for playing cowboy. Shooters from around the state participated
in Shaketails shoots. Several other clubs were started by shooters that got
their initiation and training for the sport from the Shaketails.
Legacy Lives On
Shaketails, the oldest cowboy action shooting society in the Colorado
Territory, has moved on to Frontier Sportsmanís Club and has evolved over the years but much has carried forward.
director still delights in making the stages a bit more challenging and the
tradition of safety first and open arms welcoming new shooters remains.
Saloon At Ranch
Shaketails After Moving To Ranch Near Ramah
Shaketail City Jail At Ranch
Building The New