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Will The Real Nodie Williams Please Stand Up?

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March 16, 2011 by wcobserver

By Susan McCarthy

Nodie Williams stood last Friday among four walls that showcased her watercolor and acrylic paintings, chatting with people from as far away as Springdale about her style of painting.  It was opening night for a three week show at Ozark Folkways on Mount Gaylor.  As she talked, one might easily imagine that art is at the center of her life, but the real Nodie Williams is more like a stream of consciousness…ever changing, complex and without knowledge of what might happen next.

She was easy to pick out of the crowd that night. She is a tall woman with silver running through her long thick hair, and was sporting western-styled jewelry and a pair of pointy cowboy boots.   Her long skirt was belted with a massive Texas-sized belt buckle.  That belt buckle was a tell-tale sign that there was more to this woman than just art.  And so was her dog, “Spike” that walked through the crowd on his hind two legs quietly posing for treats.

Turns out that belt buckle couldn’t be bought, but had to be won and Williams did it by winning the Texas State Championship in 2009 for Cowboy Mounted Shooting.  She describes cowboy mounted shooting as armed barrel racing and it apparently involves a holster, two: 45 caliber revolvers, 12 targets with balloons and a timer.  And of course a horse that travels at warp speed around barrels while its rider removes one of the revolvers from its holster gets five shots off to one target with five balloons and then quickly re-holsters its gun and reaches for the other to start again.

Williams’ passion in life comes in breeding and training horses and Russell Terrier dogs.

“Horses and dogs have been the driving force for everything,” said Williams.

Her love for dogs and horses started as a young child and is apparent in her artwork which features both.

“I’ve always been passionate about dogs.  When I was four, I pretended to be a dog…a lot!  My grandfather paraded me down the street on a leash,” she says with a signature low throaty laugh.

She won her first championship with a Siberian Husky in 1973 and was hooked.  Since then, breeding and dog shows have been a big part of her life.  Williams said she has spent the past 30 years developing a terrier bloodline that she hopes will receive recognition as a full terrier breed.

Where you see Williams, you’re likely to see “Spike”, whose registered name is Frayed Not Spike.  “Spike” is a member of her Russell Terrier family and has won his fair share of national and local titles.  At 8, he is currently working on his novice obedient degree and therapy dog certification.  Williams says he likes grilled cheese sandwiches and has all of the drive-through windows in Northwest Arkansas memorized by heart.  She says “Spike” always insists on two dog bones at her bank’s drive through, sitting on the console until he receives a second bone.

Williams regularly shows five or six dogs in competitions.  Photos of past competitions show her and “Spike” as winners and one can’t help but notice how different this Nodie Williams looks from the woman in photos on a horse with guns ablaze in the horse ring.

The dog show Williams looks more like she’s a bank teller than gun shooting cowgirl.  Her hair is pulled back and her clothes are of a conservative nature.  The cowboy mounted shooter version of the same woman is cowgirl from head to toe with a cowboy hat pulled low on her head, chaps in the middle and boots on the toes.

She says that’s part of the fun and said her artist identity has its own look too.

Williams passion for horses also started as a young child while growing up in Shreveport, Louisiana.   She can’t remember a time she didn’t ride and most of her life she’s owned her own horse.

“It’s come full circle that I’m 60 and still riding,” said Williams back pedaling off the part about being or nearly being 60.

Horses might be considered a lifestyle for Williams; almost every story she tells involves a horse.  Even the float she helped build for this year’s Parade of Fools on Dickson Street featured a horse…with Andrew Jackson riding it.

“The city of Memphis actually paid me to sit on a horse in the park and talk to people,” said Williams who was a park ranger for six years.  “It ruined me for honest work,” she says followed by laughter.

Her love for horses is what also brought her to Ireland and keeps her returning every two or three years.  In the mid 1980’s she purchased an Irish Draft mare in Ireland from a fox hunting farm.  And that visit sparked her interest in fox hunting.

“I had money for a house saved, but bought a horse,” said Williams.  “It’s only one letter off,” she jokes.

She still has that horse’s son, “Fancy Clancy” who is now 20 years old and “retired”.

“I figured out early on if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life,” said Williams.

She follows that by saying that’s not a way to make a lot of money, but hasn’t been too focused on amassing a fortune.

Over the years, she’s been a zookeeper, a vet technician, managed a dog kennel, tried her hand at interior design and was a scenic painter.

In her stint with Memphis Scenic Company, she painted the sets for three movies including “Great Balls of Fire” and “Lone Rider” which was filmed in Winslow.

Williams says she’s been married four times and has no children.

“I’ve had two registered and two grade husbands,” she jokes.  “I choose boyfriends much better than I choose husbands.”

Williams moved to Winslow in 1991 and purchased a 120 acre farm. She also rents a cabin near Mount Gaylor for painting and to “get away”.

“I turn over rocks to find something new.  I don’t like it when there’s nothing new on the horizon.  I don’t let it get like that,” said Williams.

It’s hard to know what will be next for Williams, but after some thought she says she wants to show dogs for AKC Full Championship status, resume shooting, and do a big trail ride out West or in Texas.

“I want to own a bucking bull.  I haven’t cracked into the P.B.R yet,” said Williams referring to the Professional Bull Rider’s Association.

And what about her art?

She says she’s not driven like successful painters are.

“Talent is just the ante to get into the game.  The discipline and drive, which I’m short on, is way more important than talent.”

“Fun gets in the way.  I’m not introspective enough and don’t care about getting a message out there.”

Williams work will on display at Ozark Folkways on scenic Hwy. 71 until March 25.

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