Every year as summer ends and fall begins, some of the talented members of Pershing, Humboldt and Lander counties meet in Winnemucca to exhibit examples of their skills. This meeting is known locally as the Tri-County Fair.

Whether it be fine bead work, delicate needle point, beautiful photography or healthful vegetables, all of their efforts are equal to, or exceeds that of not only any county fair in the state, but are also equal to those exhibited on a national level as well.

This year among the many exhibitors is a 75-year-old Winnemucca resident who will be showing for the first time. Cliff Morris is a man of many skills and talents; mechanic, machinist, electrician and carpenter. Before his health failed he was also a survival expert, a master of bush craft skills and an avid camper.

A testimony to his knowledge of the backcountry can be found in the fact that many times, his wife Jannie, hauled him to a mountain or desert trailhead and dropped him off with nothing more than the pack on his back and a canteen on his belt. She would pick him up a week or 10 days later at a predetermined destination more than 100 miles from where he started.

Jannie Morris said, “These trips took place all over the West, all the way from the Rocky Mountains of Montana to the deserts of southern Arizona.”

When Parkinson’s attacked his body and a stroke left him unable to continue working at Turquoise Ridge, Cliff did not give up and reconcile himself to a life of watching TV and reading. He went out to his modest, little shop in the Star City subdivision and began to turn out many of the finest wood and metal items ever made in the state. From violins that produce the sweetest of tones to replicas of black powder guns that are difficult to tell from the originals, his talents seem to know no end.

This year, Cliff chose two models of horse drawn wagons, a spinning wheel and a collection of his handmade custom knives to exhibit at the fair.

The model of local businessman Leland Millers’ 1903, dump bed wagon is built on a scale of 1 ½ inches to the actual foot. The model took over 500 hours to build and is an exact replica. The actual wagon can be seen on the corner of Fourth Street and East Winnemucca Boulevard. The second wagon and its display case were built for Candace Hedges. This wagon is a replica of an 1897, Studebaker chuck wagon and is built on the same scale of 1 ½ inches to the foot. The spinning wheel was made for his wife to go with a loom he made for her last year.

Morris’ knife display is only a small example of the many types and styles that he turns out in his backyard shop. The CLM logo on the blade of his knives has become known as a sign of excellence among campers, cowboys and hunters throughout the West.

Various version of his Buckaroo Belt Knife can be found in the hands of cowboys from Oregon to Texas.

ZX buckaroo Sam Hedges, owns one and said, “I like it because it’s small enough to be out of the way and big enough to handle most everyday jobs. A lot of the men in our area carry them horizontally on their belts and that makes it easy to get to and put away.”

A model of Cliff’s Elk Skinner was used by hunter and outdoorsman Jim Elwell of Auburn, Calif., when he took his world record caribou two years ago in Canada. Retired Alaskan guide Marty Morris (no relation) of Cody, Wyo., designed the knife known as the Morris Camp Knife.

Marty said, “I wanted a knife that was capable of handling any outdoor job from skinning a deer to splitting firewood. The design Cliff helped me come up with fits all of my camping and hunting needs.”

Marty also said he wears one of the many modified versions of Cliff’s Buckaroo Belt Knife in a horizontal carry sheath every day.

When not turning out one of his custom knives for a man in Arizona or a harp for a girl in Utah, Cliff spends his time teaching others some of the skills that he has developed over the years. Kit Hobson is one of his local students.

Cliff said, “Kit learns fast and has built some really nice knives for his boy and his sons-in-law.” Buck Hedges came down from McCammon, Idaho, and spent a week learning “Primitive Blacksmithing” techniques while at the same time Cliff’s grandson-in-law Mike Arnold, was learning the basics of wood working.

A visit to Morris’ shop and “class room” is a lot like stepping into Einstein’s office. Tools of every type and description are piled or dropped where they were used last, drawings and designs for ongoing projects are piled 6 inches deep on a back table, the wings of an experimental aircraft are stored in the rafters, a giant loom for weaving wool sits in a back corner and two wooden coffins are propped against a side wall.

On his work bench is a half finished replica of a Colt, revolving cylinder rifle. The floor is covered in saw dust, wood chips and metal shavings. Deer horns and exotic woods used for the handles of his knives are stored haphazardly under the work bench. Between his metal lathe and his table saw can be found various sizes and pieces of high carbon steel used for his blades. It is obvious from just a glance that this is the haunt of a man that refuses to rest.

When you walk out of his shop you leave wondering what you will find Cliff putting in the fair next year.