Dallas/FW Through the Eyes of ‘Wild Bill’

Want the proper Western 'tude for your trip? We went straight to longtime boot/apparel entrepreneur 'Wild Bill' to help us walk the walk.

For more than 50 years, locals and visitors from around the globe have been moseying into a circa-1800s redbrick building in Dallas’ West End, accepting a cold beer and getting gussied up by the man and owner of this establishment himself, Wild Bill. From cowboy boots to hats, belt buckles to shirts, Wild Bill’s sells everything you need in order to call yourself a Texan.

What is essential for channeling a Western attitude?

I feel that creating a Western attitude is more than a statement; it’s a state of mind.

The Western attitude can be different to each individual. When you say channeling a Western attitude, it conjures up all kinds of perceived images. Images of cowboys standing in the street at high noon, to bronc busters riding those untamed horses. It conjures up dusty cattle drives, chuck wagons and even barn dances on a Saturday night. It’s about a love affair with a time and heritage of the past where people relied on one another for their survival; for a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. 

To me, having a Western attitude is about living in honesty and integrity. It’s coupled with the courage that it takes to stand up for what’s right when others around you may be taking an easier path. I have a personal philosophy that says ‘do what’s right and fear no man.’

The Western attitude is shown through caring about your neighbor and when needed, being there to give them a hand up. Never taking anything for granted and enjoying any blessing that you receive along the way. It’s about the work ethics that says the harder you work the luckier you get. This is a place and time where people would stand for what is right because it was just the right thing to do. It was not just accepted, it was demanded. They demanded this of others and they demanded it in their own lives as examples as a way of living. This is an attitude where no contract could hold the strength and security that was simply given by a person’s word and commitment. This attitude is about hopes and the possibilities tied to a can-do attitude. It’s also about willing to take a risk and probably a little showmanship mixed in for that Western flavor. Of course it helps to have a little common sense and good humor along the way. I’ve noticed that people are hungry for that full yet simple lifestyle.

For many years, I have personally seen the excitement as people start moving toward this Western-attitude transformation. I have watched as people slip off their Nikes or their Italian slippers to adorn a pair of beautiful cowboy boots. I have seen their reserved smiles turn into an uncontrollable contagious beam of light that shines so brightly on their faces. Their eyes light up, twinkling like sparks from a campfire against the dark evening sky.

You can feel their excitement as they are finally getting to try on their first pair of boots and or their first cowboy hat. They are excited! This is where I’ve seen the western attitude starting to give birth. They are starting to experience firsthand that Texas and Western friendly spirit. It’s as though a switch has been turned on in their personality, as well as to the possibility of what the western attire represents. In their mind they have stepped back into a historical time. It’s not the wardrobe within itself. It’s the bonding of the historical Western image and what that image means to them personally. They are now walking around with their head help up high. They are now personifying the attitude for which cowboys, cowgirls and Western heroes are known.

Through the many years of personal experience, I’ve come to the conclusion that hidden inside most every person, there is a little cowboy or cowgirl trying to get out. They’re looking for the opportunity to stand tall and to be proud. By looking the part they’re starting to experience the attitude. This Western attitude apparently comes from a heart’s desire to go back in time, where truth and honesty was just a way of life. I feel it starts to come alive as an individual associates themselves with this Western heritage.

You might also be surprised to know that the service you receive when wearing a Western hat and boots may be improved. Both in my personal experience as well as what has been reported to me on many occasions, is that once per person adorns their Western wardrobe, they received better service. So it’s not only the person wearing the Western attire that generates an attitude, I feel the attitude can be contagious and can spread to those in close proximity. If you haven’t experienced this already, I hope that it in the near future you’ll have the opportunity to experience this firsthand.

What are your favorite places in town to visit?

It would be my pleasure to tell you of the many wonderful places that are nestled in the heart of the DFW area. I would love to say that I can tell you about all of them. The only fly in the ointment of covering all the many places to visit and experience is due to the fact that the DFW area is changing on a daily basis. There are so many destinations in the DFW that are worthy to visit. With each location you’ll see history along with a new vision of improvements that are on the horizon. Places such as the Ballpark to the Cowboy Stadium, Victory Park, the new Trinity Grove district, just over the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the expansions and renovations of the Trinity River projects.

Downtown Dallas is full of activity and excitement. Of course, there are many locations that are close to my heart as well as close to my West End location.

The historical West End District has been a great part of my life for many years. It’s been my privilege to say we have helped to host street events for several thousand people all at one time. This has made for some exciting times and great adventures.

The Historical West End District has to be one of my favorite places due to the fact that this is where Dallas got its start. Behind every brick there’s a story!

I’ve been amazed at some of the private institutions in West End Historical District. Places like The Dallas (World) Aquarium, the Sixth Floor Museum and many others.

Many people know that I like to play guitar and sing a little. If you’re looking to find me, you’ll probably need to go to Gilley’s down on South Lamar or you’ll find me just a few blocks north in the West End at the House of Blues. You might find me sitting around the store playing guitar with someone that just came to the store. So if you get a chance, come join me. We might do a little pickin’-and-a-grinnin’ or making a few blues runs on the guitar. My daddy used to say a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. So this is my invitation for you to come on down and join me for some good times.

Gilley's in Dallas

Where do you like to eat out?

As far as the places I like to eat, there are so many I hesitate to mention a few. Of course there are world-renowned steakhouses like Del Frisco’s or Bob’s Chop Steakhouse. However, there are several wonderful places to eat that are close to my establishment. I don’t think you’ll find a better chicken fried steak than what you will find at Hoffbraus Steakhouse next  door. Just across the street you will find some of the best buffalo you will ever put a fork in. This is the famous Y.O. Steakhouse. Now for some great steak and lobster, I have to say it has to be The Palm on Market and Ross. It’s my privilege to announce that Wild Bill has been inducted on to their wall of fame. At the Palm, my picture has been placed just to the left and above of the cash register. What a great place to be! I get to see everyone coming in. 

What is your favorite Dallas or Fort Worth landmark?

When I was just a little boy, my family and I would take visits out of town. When we did, I would make sure that my mother or father would promise to wake me up before we entered into the city of Dallas. I was awestruck at the beauty and majesty of the Dallas skyline. The lights looked as though they were the crowning jewels of the well-dressed lady going to her ball. I remember returning from the war. One of the things I was so looking forward to was flying into Dallas to see the beauty of my home city. Today it’s no different. I’m just as excited see the skyline today as I was when I was a little boy. Yes, the images have changed; however, the excitement is still there today.

Please accept my personal invitation to come visit the DFW area. I would also encourage you to come to the West End historical district and to Wild Bill’s Western Store, (where) you’ll always find warm Texas hospitality and a cold beer at the bar.

I want this to be your home away from home. I look forward to seeing you there. Adios!

 The Dallas skyline