A story of Service, Quality, Honesty & Integrity…the Western Way of Life, How You Wear It and How to Preserve It.
In 1952, Nat Fleming, a young, North Texas Bootmaker, Rodeo Announcer, and entrepreneur, in Wichita Falls, Texas, had a dream. The Cow Lot was where essential work was done on the ranch, where cowboys worked their cattle. Nat dreamed of providing the cowboys who worked there with two must-have tools of their trade, a good hat and a pair of boots that “FIT”. That dream manifested into an all-out Western retail store, the Cow Lot. A 54-year body of work began, dedicated to Service, Quality, Honesty & Integrity…i.e. the Western Way of Life and How You Wear It.
You can tell by lookin’ it came from the Cow Lot
To enter the doors of the Cow Lot was to enter Nat’s dream. The scene emulated the American West and its way of doing business. Product quality
was second only to the integrity of the personalized service. Each salesperson was an actual cowboy, passionate to serve you, their guest. Whether you were the President of the bank or the bank held the mortgage on your property, you were treated like you were the King of the Cowboys, or the Queen of the Cowgirls, as the case might be. Art was created before your very eyes by one of Nat’s hired cowhands posing as a salesperson. Hats were shaped to best serve your lifestyle and personality. Boots were fitted. Fit was guaranteed. Prices were affordable. Customer satisfaction was the order of the day.
Together with his longtime friend Gene O’Brien, and later my father Dewey Orms, they built the Cow Lot into one of the finest Western Stores in North Texas, winning several awards including the Wendy Ryon Western Retailer of the Year. Nat met his life partner and wife, Tawana, at the store when she happened in for a new pair of Levis. The likes of legendary Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove, whose family ranched in the nearby town of Archer City, Texas, would stop and have a cup of coffee and visit and maybe buy a new pair of boots or a new hat. Nat was a pioneer in TV and Radio. In the early ’50s The Nat Fleming Show was one of the first on local TV providing 30 minutes a day 5 days a week. A big deal then because TV was only on 3 hours a day. He started broadcasting a weekly Saturday morning radio show from the store, The Nat Fleming Horn Honkin’ Show. When he saw a car drive by he would ask, ‘Honk your horn if you are listening .” 90% of the time the driver would honk and wave. The store grew and so did Nat’s inventory. Boot sizes ran from AAA widths to D. Fit was of utmost importance. Nat believed, ‘If you have to have a license to cut hair, you should have to have one to sell shoes.” People came from all over the United States to buy boots that “Fit”, the same was true with hats. Longtime Cow Lot general manager, JR Gahagan, shaped and fit most of the cowboys who were shooting the then popular and now famous Marlboro Man advertisements on a nearby ranch.
Growing up in the Cow Lot, I was officially hired on in my Junior year of High School, where my skills in the art of boot fitting and hat shaping were fine-tuned. Just as importantly, I advanced my education in Nat’s University of Down Home Business, majoring in Homespun Philosophy and graduated with degrees in Service, Quality, Honesty & Integrity.
After 54 years of service to his customers, Nat closed the doors to the great retail icon of North Texas and retired to work the real Cow Lot at his ranch in Byers, TX, where he was born and raised. He passed away in 2018 at the age of 96 leaving behind his wife Tawanna and his son Marty, who still run their cattle operation.
So now what?
In 2013 I found myself presented with an opportunity to re-open the Cow Lot. With Nat’s blessing, my wife, Karen and I took on the Cow Lot brand and created a hybrid version….an event based retail Western Hat store, the focus being on the hand shaping of quality name brand hats.
Our travels kept us on the road 300 days a year. At every event we were invited to attend another event and another and another. Pendleton, Prescott, Denver National Western, Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo to name a few and of course the NFR and World Series of Team Roping where we set up at South Point’s Cinch Western Gift Show.
In some areas the gobbling up of the local Mom and Pop Western Store by the big box stores has made it almost impossible to find a properly hand shaped Cowboy hat. In 2018 we quickly came to the realization the only way to increase our reach was to create theCowLot.com, an online version of our traveling store. It’s been quite the process (and is always a work in progress) to duplicate the person to person experience but we truly believe it’s possible. Our online store receives rave reviews. Expect the same unbelievable customer service on line from today’s generation of Cowboys that work at the Cow Lot. Tragic as the outbreak is it’s opened new doors that we intend to keep them open along with our online events as they begin to open.
IT’S NOT JUST A HAT
It’s not just a hat. It’s your lifestyle that dictates the way you wear your hat. We get it. Our commitment is to you, your hat and the way you wear it.
Our mission is to continue Nat’s dream of Service, Quality, Honesty & Integrity…the Western Way of Life and How You Wear It by bring the ways of the past to you today and perpetuation them into the future.
Our story continues with you the main character always in mind.
What customers are saying...
"Hi! LOVED your "about me"! I moved to Vernon in '04 and was lucky enough to stumble into The Cow Lot on my adventures in downtown WF. WOW! I knew I was "home" when I took one step inside. The expansive collection of retired hats, each with their own nametag as to where they came from and the sweeping horizon of styles, shapes and conditions and stories that they could tell, kept me in there for nearly 2 hours! I SO WISH I had known the owners, after learning about them in your account! Really cool place! On my next trip to WF, of course it was on my list of stops, but sadly, I had waited too long, as it was closed down. My heart ached for the owners. I didn't know what had happened and only knowing the spirit of that place once, I knew the owners' hearts were aching too. I will never forget it. Fast forward 17 years and I have taken that fascination with retired hats and now, at my ranch house bedroom, they line the massive picture windows, (no curtains or drapes needed way out there) and the perimeter of the room, hanging side by side like soldiers at their guard post. They too, hold their stories from the ranch and represent several owners over the years. I never forgot my experience at The Cow Lot and never will. The smells, sounds and sights of that place are absorbed in my soul. I'm so glad I found your site! God bless, stay safe and healthy and if you're ever in the Vernon area, look me up! ~Su"