MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. --
One weekend a month and two weeks out of the year, he is a weekend warrior. The other 327 days, he is a warrior of another kind. Trading in his BDU cap for one of the ten gallon kind and switching an M-16 for a Colt .45, Senior Master Sgt. Roughsedge Higginson escapes into his Wild West gun slinging alter egos -- Concho Creek Kid, Luke Short and his own comic book character, Deputy Marshall Wayne Potter.
"This has always been one of my childhood dreams," said Sergeant Higginson, better known as Skip, a traditional reservist with the 56th Aerial Port Squadron. "I always liked cowboys and Indians. I loved the Old West and the Old West movies like the Lone Ranger. This was always a dream of mine."
Born in Trumbull, Conn., a small suburban town known for its 1989 Little League World Series championship team, this cowboy at heart didn't make it to the west until 1990. He joined the Air Force in 1975 and after eight years of active duty, entered the Reserve and eventually made his way from Maryland to the Gold Coast. Though he approves of the weather, it's not exactly the Old West from the John Wayne days -- hence the reason he prefers horses to most people.
"Horses aren't as needy as people. They're not as big of a pain in the (behind)."
Sergeant Higginson would know, being that he himself has several horses, as any bona fide cowboy should. He even married his wife for one - or at least that's what she likes to tell people.
"I had a horse and a pickup truck and I tell everyone that is why he married me," said Jodelle Higginson, who married Sergeant Higginson nearly 14 years ago after he proposed to her with a sandstone on the beach.
From there, their happy little abode grew as the Higginsons began to acquire even more livestock. First it was one more horse, then a couple, next a stallion and before long they owned a breeding ranch in Yucaipa, Calif., that they named Halo Ranch.
Sergeant Higginson had been a long time card holding member of the Single Action Shooting Society but since moving to Yucaipa, near Oak Glen, he became involved with the Oak Glen Gunslingers. They are a group of modern day cowboys who participate in Ol' Western reenactments at Oak Tree Village, also in Oak Glen.
"He got into gun fighting because he gets to play," said Mrs. Higginson. "He really is a cowboy at heart and he enjoys this and being around the people. This is the first time I have ever seen him get to relax."
Finally getting to fulfill his childhood fantasies, he now dresses from head to toe as either his character Concho Creek Kid or Luke Short.
"Concho Creek Kid is my alter ego," said Sergeant Higginson. "He isn't a bad person, but he does go against the law."
The Kid is a fictional character who Sergeant Higginson created and named after the 39 acres he owns in Concho, Ariz. Born in 1953, the Kid's father was killed by a shady sheriff who was being paid by a cattle baron. The sheriff came to take the father's land and when the father held up his rifle to get the trespasser off his property, the sheriff shot him.
Shortly after, the Kid's mother died of heartache. Concho Creek Kid promised his mother he would avenge his father's death and that is where the character is now.
His other character for the reenactments is based on a real person. Luke Short, born in 1854, was the gambling king of Fort Worth and owner of the White Elephant Saloon. He was friends with William Barclay "Bat" Masterson and Wyatt Earp and well known for two gunfights, one against Charles "Charlie" Storms.
According to Sergeant Higginson, Luke Short wasn't a gunfighter, he was a gambler. But on this particular day, he was forced into defending himself and ended up getting the best of the infamous Storms. The Oak Glen Gunslingers are working on reenacting a scene based on that confrontation. In it, Short carried a sawed off Colt .45 caliber revolver.
"I carry a Colt .45 for that depiction, but I won't saw mine off," said Sergeant Higginson, who has an eclectic collection of weapons for his various characters. "They are too expensive!"
Another thing about their shows, according to Sergeant Higginson, is that they are definitely "G" rated, making it a family affair. There is no foul language, no provocative gestures with the bar maidens of the saloon and nobody gets killed, "just wounded and they all heal really fast."
In addition to reenacting, Mrs. Higginson and her cowboy are also partners in an Old Western store. Also located in the Oak Tree Village, they co-own the Downey Traders and Mining Company along with friends Bo and Shay Downey.
Recently, Sergeant Higginson has decided to dedicate himself full time to the store and left his job working as a contractor on March Air Reserve Base with Satellite Services Incorporated. They also co-own a photo studio next to the store, which boasts things like a rustic bar and parlor scene for families to get their Wild West photographs taken.
"I've always had too many other responsibilities and not enough time to concentrate on what I want to do," said Sergeant Higginson. "There's still going to be stress because you never know how things are going to work, but it's fun. This is fun!"
And as if reenacting shootouts in the middle of apple country, owning a store and starting up an ol' western photo studio were not enough for this 21st Century gun slinger, Sergeant Higginson is also a main character in a comic book that is coming out this fall. The comic, called Marshall Bo Miller, is the brainchild of Kip Shelton, one of Sergeant Higginson's friends. Using photo images to make the comic strips, Skip plays Deputy Marshal Wayne Potter.
With all of that on one's plate, what is there left to do?
For an optimistic modern day cowboy like Senior Master Sgt. Concho Creek Kid -- plenty. He's thinking of continuing his computer work, photography and writing. But for the mean time, he admits to daydreaming about living on his 39 acres in Arizona, where he'll have room for his wife, three trucks, seven horses and nine hats ... which are pretty big.