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The Boss of the Plains



BIG SKY – Wear a cowboy hat, win a cash prize.

Jan and Jim Cummings have spent four to five months a year in Big Sky since 1989. Back then, everybody wore cowboy hats, Jan recalls.

“They were more in the Western mode, but as years go on we lose that,” she said.

Clyde and Marge de Shields, who’ve also been in town since the ‘80s, owned the first equestrian center in Big Sky, down by Ramshorn.

But last year at the Professional Bullriding Tour event in Big Sky, Jan noticed that “not too many people were wearing cowboy hats.

Together, in an effort to promote and encourage cowboy tradition, the Cummings and the de Shields are putting up $500 to be split into three cash prizes and raffled off during this year’s PBR.

Anyone wearing a cowboy hat at the entrance gate will get a free raffle ticket, and the Cummings 7-year-old granddaughter, who also loves cowboy hats, will pick the winners from—yes, a hat.

The Cummings got the idea from the Calgary Stampede, which is the largest rodeo in the world, Jan said.

During the parade at Calgary, vendors give out coupons to discounted items and giveaways—but only to attendees wearing cowboy hats.

“It’s a recognition of those who came before us,” Jan said. “The West was won by a certain type of person who was strong and courageous and participated in the outdoors. All of those things are people who love Big Sky.”

Hatmaker John Stetson dubbed the original cowboy hat the “boss of the plains.” This lightweight all-weather hat was built to be durable, waterproof and elegant. “He saw it as the embodiment of the spirit of the West,” Jan says.

“You come out here because you like the feel of the West, the openness, the wildness, the contact with nature. All those were reasons the cowboys, the 1800 Gold Rush people came out here. The cowboys were an integral part of that. I think big sky is part of that, and we should continue the tradition.”

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