Since the 125th Anniversary of Payson Committee put out the call for Western storytellers and people who would be willing to dramatically portray the Old West, several people have stepped up.
Captain Dredge River was one of the first.
Dredge is gathering his fellow Cowboy Shooters in the Tonto Rim Sports Club to present an exhibition as part of October's Western heritage activities.
Captain Dredge is played by cowboy shooter Charlie Thompson.
When he gets into character, he wears pinstripe gray pants and a maroon vest. He tucks his black duster back and reaches for his two-holstered .38 caliber revolvers. A steely glint comes into his eyes.
In October, during the 125th Anniversary celebration, he will stage a showdown with "Rye Creek Roberts," aka Tonto Rim Sports Club president, David Palmateer.
"It won't be a competitive shoot and we are all sticklers for safety, so we will be shooting with blanks at the exhibition," Thompson said.
Shooting with blanks, bullets loaded with black powder and paper, is still dangerous at close range, but it makes the requisite noise and smoke for the audience.
Thompson grew up watching 30-minute Westerns on television, starring Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. His favorite spaghetti Western is "Once Upon A Horse."
Rodeo Week was a big event when Thompson attended Tempe High School.
He used to come to Payson and the Rim Country to fish and hunt in the late 1950s.
"Payson epitomized an old Western town," he said. "The roads were dirt and there were no stoplights."
His fascination with all things cowboy went by the wayside with career, marriage and family.
Thompson retired two years ago from the Salt River Project, where he spent the past 22 of 37 years on a dredge boat on the Salt and Verde rivers -- hence, the choice for his character's name.
"I am a 65-year-old playing like I was 12," he said.
But at 12 years old, he could not have grown the beard and moustache that complete his character.
"We hope to have at least two dozen TRSC cowboys shooters walking around in costume at the exhibition for the 125th," Thompson said.
Besides promoting historic fun, activities at the Sports Club range promote improved marksmanship, safe weapons handling and proper care.
Each weekend, members of TRSC practice at their range South of Payson with different kinds of weapons and targets.
Thompson actually shoots in four disciplines -- cowboy, IPSC pistol, small bore and silhouette.
"I am not very good at any of them, but I have fun," he said.
And, club members take the time to teach the next generation.
"We take the time to let young people shoot under supervision and that staves off their curiosity about guns," Thompson said.
If you cannot wait for the 125th to see what cowboy shooting is all about, visit TRSC's Web site calendar at www.tontorimsportsclub.com.
The club is holding a grand opening for its newly remodeled facilities and archery range from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 6.