The Southern California region used to be part of the Old West, alive with cowboys, herds of cattle and campfires.
On December 14 part of that heritage will return in the form of Stan Kruml’s “From the Heart of a Cowboy: A Cowboy Christmas Show” at Rawhide Ranch in Bonsall.
The show includes stories and poetry told by Kruml of his memories of Christmas on the family ranch and of his life.
His stories include one of his boyhood wish to meet Santa – who wears spurs, as it turns out – and if the crowd is lucky, he may just tell the tale of a ruckus in the henhouse, his father with a shotgun and a cold dog’s nose in the trapdoor of his dad’s long johns.
“We had chicken for dinner for a week,” Kruml remembers with a laugh.
Kruml isn’t the Hollywood version of a cowboy. He’s the real deal, raised on a Nebraska cattle ranch, working other ranches in the west as a young man, riding the rodeo circuit and eventually becoming a Hollywood stuntman.
The now-64-year-old bears the deep scars of that life.
It was in 1980 that Kruml, who was trying to earn some much-needed money, appeared on the network television show “That’s Incredible.” His stunt was to run through a 150-foot burlap and wire tunnel as it was set ablaze.
The stunt ended tragically on national television when the wrong gloves were given to Kruml and his hands were burned, leaving them 95-percent disabled.
Today, the fingers of his left hand are about one-third of their length. His fingernails sit above the first joint, nubs that are scarred and thick.
“I use 100 percent of what is left,” he states.
His stint as a stuntman over, the former cowboy returned in his mind to his roots. During his two-year recovery, he began researching equine behavior by reading books on the subject from his hospital bed.
Almost 30 years later, Kruml has created a life that involves educating people about their horses and he has become a storyteller, filling the air around campfires with the entertainment of the ages.
His clothes, while seeming to come from a Western movie costume company, are what he wears all the time.
“I don’t own a pair of shorts,” said the man who might not own a pair of sandals or tennis shoes either.
His attire is ‘Western gentleman,’ including a coat and tie, vest, knee-high lace-up Western riding boots custom-designed for him and a tall black hat that frames his Wild-Bill gray locks, mustache and goatee.
A watch chain and coin fob and a horse-head stickpin accentuate the outfit.
Kruml’s voice is tailor-made for storytelling, deep and rich as he recites a poem he wrote. The words slip into the ear and relax the listener, whether horse or human.
There is comfort in his presence that there are good things in the world and that the measure of a man is important.
Kruml’s show will be in the picturesque setting of Rawhide Ranch, 37 acres of Western-themed buildings. The corrals and covered wagons have been the backdrop of children’s camping fantasies since 1963.
The show will be presented in the ranch’s Trophy Room adjoining the “saloon” unless the weather and the crowd can dictate moving the event outside, said a spokeswoman for the ranch.
“We are hoping to accommodate 100 but may have to move it if we get more people,” Val Ewan, co-director of the ranch, said.
This will be Kruml’s first show at the ranch but he is no stranger in this Western town.
“Stan has done a couple of horse training events for us,” Ewan said. “We are happy to welcome him for the show.”
The ranch will open on December 14 at 1:30 p.m. and the show will begin at 3.
Those attending are encouraged to explore the ranch and see the animals – goats, sheep, llamas, cows and horses – before the show.
Holiday refreshments will be available for purchase and Ewan stressed that the dress for the day should be dictated by weather and ranch conditions.
The cost of the event is $10; children ages 5 to 12 are $5; and younger than 5 are free. For reservations call (760) 758-0083.
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