Cowboy Willy – Willits, California - Atlas Obscura

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Cowboy Willy

Willits, California

A giant fiberglass Muffler Man found new life as a rodeo guardian. 

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Ever since 1926, Willits Frontier Days has been keeping the tradition of the old-fashioned American rodeo alive in California. But before spectators can gawk at the horse shoes and country music performances, they’re greeted by the penetrating stare of Cowboy Willy, a 20-foot-tall fiberglass mascot standing by the entrance.

Cowboy Willy has lived several lives. Before his rodeo days, the figure was one of more than 250 “Muffler Men” once found scattered along Route 66, among other places. Like his fellow Muffler Men, this cowboy has a distinctly square jawline and a hollow interior.

The figure was purchased for a modest $50 in 1967, given a fresh coat of paint, and a new identity. Soon, Cowboy Willy traded his muffler for a Willits branding iron and he sports a belt buckle commemorating the famous race horse Seabiscuit, who was retired nearby at a local horse ranch. 

Know Before You Go

Cowboy Willy is easily visible even if the gates are closed.

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April 26, 2023

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