by Nick Pernokas, Senior Feature Writer
Weatherford, Texas, has become a bedroom community for nearby Fort Worth with commuter traffic jamming the interstate twice a day. Weatherford was at one time, however, a hub for many ranches that grazed cattle on the rolling prairies surrounding it. If you look hard enough, you can still find traces of the old West that haven’t been paved over. One of these is on the southern edge of town. An old, white frame ranch house and a stone horse barn that looks at least a hundred years old sit high enough on a hill to give a beautiful view of the rangeland to the southwest. If you step inside the house, that sense of the West continues. In the living room, faded photos line the walls. They begin with old time working cowboys and progress up through Hollywood cowboys. There is one other cowboy in all of these photos of celluloid heroes who is unmistakably the real thing. He welcomed me into his home and pointed to one of the photographs.
“My Grandpa was an old time cowboy,” explained Moe Headrick. “He had twin brothers, and at one time they received an award for being the oldest working cowboys in Orange County, Texas.”
With this family background, it was only natural Moe started riding by the time he was four. When he got bigger he was roping wild cattle in the brush. By the time Moe was in his teens, he was learning how to repair his own saddles.
“That’s really how I got started in the leather business. It wasn’t making belts but by working on saddles.”
Moe’s dad wasn’t a horse person. All of the cowboys were on his mom’s side of the family. She even exercised race horses for Moe’s grandfather.
“We always said Dad’s side of the family were civilians.”
Moe’s dad encouraged him to go to school and do something besides cowboying, and Moe did try some different occupations, but he kept falling back into the cowboy lifestyle. He worked on ranches, broke horses, worked on saddles, and shod horses. Moe worked on a lot of ranches that were isolated from a local saddle shop so he taught himself to pull saddles apart and work on them. Eventually he began building saddles as well.
In the 70’s, Moe became interested in the buckaroo craze and liked the reemergence of old time cowboy gear. So he decided to specialize in vintage saddles and gear. Over the years Moe had saddle shops in McKinney, Bonham, and Springtown, TX.
In 1984, the TV show “The All American Cowboy” was being shot in McKinney, and Moe had a friend who was a security guard on the set. His friend overheard the producers talking about the need for horses so he told them about Moe. As a result. Moe ended up supplying nine horses to the production. It was his first job as a wrangler. During his career he met many of the old cowboy actors like Chuck Connors, James Drury, Clint Walker, and Ken Curtis. Moe made a lot of connections.
“I realized as I was sitting on my horse watching everything going on, all the cameras and lights, that I could do this.”
Moe met the stuntmen that were working on the show. In the ‘80’s, stuntmen had gotten away from horse stunts and were using motorcycles and cars; Moe, however, had a solid background in riding horses and driving wagons. They talked him into joining the stuntman’s association, and, for the next twenty years, Moe worked as a stuntman. He did fights, horse falls, and saddle falls from the horse. Moe also drove wagons and stage coaches.
Moe performed stunts or arranged special effects in “The Alamo,” “American Outlaws ,” “Problem Child,” “Texasville,” “Pure Country,” and “Walker, Texas Ranger” among many others. Looking to the future, Moe also tried to hone his acting skills.
“The hardest thing I had to do was to go from being a stuntman to being an actor.”
Many casting directors didn’t believe that a stuntman could act. But as he slowed down on his stunts, more acting roles were available for him.
“I preferred to play bad guys because they’re the most fun,” laughs Mo. “I’m a very gentle person so sometimes it’s hard for me to really get mean.”
Moe was an outlaw three times in “Walker, Texas Ranger” as well as driving a wagon a few times. He was a bad guy in a TV show pilot “West Town” opposite Randy Travis. Moe played another bad guy in “Oklahoma Marshall,” a film about legendary lawman Bass Reeves. In “Texas Dick, Bard of the Prairie” Moe was a biker who ends up getting stapled to a boxcar.
Moe also appeared in commercials for companies like Pace Picante, Rooms to Go, and Chick-Fil-A. He’s also been in several music videos including Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Poncho and Lefty” by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.
Moe always liked doing something different though, and as he moved into his sixties he began to write and produce a few short films. In 2015 he produced, and directed, a feature film, “Headin’ for Mexico”. It won awards at both of the film festivals it was shown at. HFM is a family-friendly film like most of Moe’s work. Moe supports a lot of Christian based projects, but he really doesn’t talk about it much. If you’re around him though, you’ll notice that he’d rather “walk the walk” in the way he treats others.
During all of this time, Moe has continued doing his saddle work. The income has allowed him to pursue the film business which can be fickle. Today the Old West Saddle Shop #1 is located in his home. Moe only builds old high back saddles for the public, and he also builds a lot of period holsters for cowboy guns. The film business overlaps into reenacting, and Moe has become involved in this as well. His wares are popular with the reenactors who put on gunfights and shows in nearby Fort Worth as well as other places. Many of these folks are extras in Western films and need historically correct gear. Moe is well known for providing good gun belts and holsters that look great on film. Single action shooting contests as well as cowboy mounted shooting have been increasing in popularity, creating another market for cowboy style holsters.
Frequently a customer will send a picture of a holster that he wants duplicated. A single action Colt is pretty standard but if a customer has an unusual gun, Moe tries to borrow it so the gun will fit perfectly in the holster. He builds a lot of lined holsters for the single action competitors so they have a smoother draw, but for the reenactors it really doesn’t matter.
At 69, Moe has been the barn manager for Weatherford College for the past ten years. He still trains his own horses, and he and his wife, Wanda, still ride all the time.
“I’ve been so fortunate to have been brought up a cowboy, and then to go to being a movie cowboy, that’s been a dream come true.”
To find out about Moe Headrick’s saddles and holsters, you can call him at (817) 988-5805.
These chaps were made by Moe in 1986 in his shop in Bonham, TX. In 2015 someone found them on a street in Weatherford. They saw Moe’s name stamped on them so they brought the chaps to his shop to find the owner. Moe found a picture of the chaps and the order for the in his records but the customer’s name had been torn off over the years.