George Narasaki and The Sundowners
by Greg Custodio
I was introduced to George through a mutual friend; renowned single action gunsmith and gun coach Jim Martin. Jim had mentioned George as one of the best thumbers he had ever known in an interview that was documented in Bob Arganbright’s book “The Fastest Guns Alive – The Story of Western Fast Draw”. As an Asian American and amateur Fast Draw historian I was interested in the story of George Narasaki in particular. I contacted Jim in 2003 and he told me he had lost track of his friend many years ago. As fate would have it in 2005 George found himself semi-retired and curious about what happened to the sport that was an important part of his life in his younger years. With the full support of his wife, Norrie, he began researching the current state of affairs in Fast Draw and was pleasantly surprised to find that after a 30+ year hiatus the sport he loved was still alive and well though substantially smaller than when he was an active competitor. Driven to see if he could still perform at a competitive level George contacted Jim to build him a Fast Draw single action gun. Jim called me with the news that George still lived in northern California and was interested in speaking with someone who was knowledgeable about the way Fast Draw was practiced today. For obvious reasons I was a willing volunteer and arranged a meeting with him immediately. George and I hit it off from the beginning and we soon found ourselves preparing for one of the biggest Traditional style contests on the professional Fast Draw circuit today, Gary and Joyce Tryon’s Wild West Championship held in Florence, Arizona. This annual three-day event brings together the current “Best of the Best” from the active sanctioning organizations, the Ohio Fast Draw Association and the World Fast Draw Association, to a shootout in the desert. Of further significance is the fact that this is one of the only contests that attracts a high number of veteran shooters. In my opinion it is the presence of the veteran champions who held titles during the golden years of the sport that make this contest special. Always a threat, their collective years of experience give them a mental edge that makes them the biggest stumbling block for the younger champions in their quest for the Wild West Championship title. Winning this championship increases the credibility and pedigree of any professional single action gunfighter who aspires to go down in history as one of the best. It was at that contest that George introduced me to original Sundowners Van Gentry and Francis Carlos. Each of them, including George, proudly carried their original Sundowners badge and I could tell by the stories they told that the Sundowners was something special in their lives.
It was also during that ride that we discussed a new sanctioning organization that started in 2002, the Cowboy Fast Draw Association. I told George my group of friends had been exploring that style of shooting since 2004 in my monthly Internet contest because there were no local clubs organized in California at the time. Upon our return George, Jack Fritz and I started to explore the world of Cowboy Fast Draw. George and Jack went further than I in researching the CFDA by traveling to Idaho, South Dakota and Montana to meet the people and participate in CFDA Championship events. They returned with glowing reports and as our enthusiasm grew for this style of shooting so did our local group of shooters. Jack and his wife, Kitty, graciously hosted our initial activity at their property in Sonora, California.
Soon after that original Sundowner Ed “Fast Eddie” Hawkins joined the fun. In September of this year we had found we had outgrown our current location and began searching for a larger place to gather. Fast Eddie took the lead and found us several places to shoot that satisfied our requirements right in the heart of the scenic Mother Lode region, site of the California gold rush. For a California Gunfighter it doesn't get much more western than that! We now had a place to shoot, timers and targets, enough shooters to put on a contest and a group of like-minded individuals to share the responsibilities. The next logical step was for us to form as a club. On October 28, 2006 The Sundowners became an active shooting club again with the goal of promoting Fast Draw in Northern California.
I was the founding member of the first CFDA sanctioned club in California, The Sundowners Single Action Shooting Club, At that time the club was involved in promoting OFDA International, World Fast Draw Association and Cowboy Fast Draw in the western states. We were active in organizing Fast Draw competition events in California, Nevada and Arizona. Some of our members were also interested in live ammo Cowboy Action Shooting. We organized benefit shooting events for people and organizations that needed our help including our friend and Fast Draw legend Wes Flowers, The Boys Club in Barstow, CA and others. I was particularly proud of our club, the Golden State Gunslingers, the Central Valley Posse and the entire Fast Draw community for their support of a benefit event for Caidyn Lee, a beautiful little girl from Los Banos, California who was battling cancer. Together we raised over $3,000 to help with her treatment. The last thing I heard was she was in remission and enjoying the life a little girl deserves.
Several years ago I returned leadership of the club to the original Sundowners Trail Boss George Narasaki since our activity brought many of the original Sundowners back to the fold and they wanted to focus exclusively on Cowboy Fast Draw. They renamed the club and they continued their legacy as the Sundowners Cowboy Fast Draw Club.