Some people love Westerns for taking them back to a simpler time -- a time when men were tough, women were modest and enemy combatants always wore black. But many of the best Westerns, on film and in print, show how heroes wrangled with history and won or got trampled in its path.
The authors of Westward: A Fictional History of the American West set their stories in the midst of such struggles, from settlers' first arrivals to the battle for the Alamo. The first tale takes place in Kansas in 1541; the last is set in a Utah copper mine in 1913. In between are 26 other stories that cover more history than Stephen Ambrose (may he rest in peace) could shake a fist at.
Five of these authors -- best-selling Don Coldsmith, Michelle Black, Emery Mehok, Mission Hills native Cotton Smith and Kansas Citian Lenore Carroll -- hang their hats in these here parts to cover whatever ground they didn't get to in the book and to sign copies at Bloomsday Books (301 East 55th Street) on Saturday at 3 p.m. The event, like the book's publication, celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Western Writers of America. For information, call 816-523-6712.-- Gina Kaufmann
Young artists earn midday props.
Some local artists have dedicated their summer to helping high school apprentices learn job skills, create art and earn paychecks. Studio150 is an effort to foster visual artistry among a generation schooled during a time of budget crises and program cuts. The idea is to round out potentially uneven public education by creating a community of extracurricular support. Studio150 provides employment and training to budding artists, advocates arts education and fosters cultural awareness. Between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. every Friday through August 1, people can brown-bag it and head to 1706 Baltimore for presentations by student artists or informal tours of the operation. Those impressed by the program, which is organized by the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City, can schedule a time to volunteer, or just give the kids props. For more information, call 816-221-1777.-- Sarah Smarsh
Water gardens are backyard oases.
Kansas Citians will have a chance to snoop around their neighbors' yards this weekend when keepers of backyard paradises throughout the area open their gates to the public. The Water Gardens Tour is a celebration of cascading waterfalls, exotic plants and giant goldfish. Each site will have hosts on hand to answer questions about how they keep their bamboo fountains so clean. Most of the featured gardens were created by regular folks, though designs by professional landscapers and public sites like Powell Gardens are also on the tour. Tickets cost $10, and profits go toward building water gardens for nonprofit organizations. For a list of sites, see kcwatergardens.com or call 913-599-9718.-- Smarsh
La Bodega (703 Southwest Boulevard) is trying something different: live flamenco performances, or Flamenco Vivo. The Thursday night tradition began just two weeks ago, with Miel Castanga dancing to Beau Bledsoe's Mediterranean guitar solos. The first show starts at 7 p.m., and the second begins at 8. Only the dinner crowd gets to sit at tables, but you can see from the bar, too, if all you want is a sangria. For information, call 816-472-8272.-- Gina Kaufmann