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Monday, October 09, 2017 ISSUE #915

No happier life than the cattle man

Texas is known as cattle country, so naturally Will Rogers enjoys every opportunity to visit. On Thursday Will was at Buffalo Gap where he was asked to talk about his experiences in Texas, especially West Texas.

Buffalo Gap has a population of less than 500 but 405 showed up at the famous Perini Ranch Steakhouse for a big fund raising event for the Taylor County History Center. Quite a few of ‘em came from Abilene, Stamford, Roscoe and nearby ranches.

“I’ve been on the stage for 20 years and I love it. There has never been a time when I didn't like my job. But do you know, really at heart I love ranching. I have always regretted that I didn't live about 30 or 40 years earlier.” WA #169, March 7, 1926

Will grew up on his family ranch at Oologah, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and got his first taste of Texas ranching in early 1898 (at age 18) in the Panhandle at the Ewing Ranch near Higgins.

We took a trail herd to Kansas. I (saved) enough to buy me an old horse, and I went out to Amarillo. I rode in there in the summer of 1898, broke and looking for a job. Got a job with another big trail herd going away out in Western Kansas. We crossed the Canadian River at a famous LX Ranch.

That Plains was the prettiest country I ever saw in my life, as flat as a beauty contest winner's stomach, and prairie lakes scattered all over it. And mirages! You could see anything in the world, just ahead of you. I ate out of a chuck wagon and slept on the ground all that spring and summer of ‘98. Lot of folks went to the Klondike, but I couldn’t get any further away from my home in the Indian Territory than Texas.

Well, here I was 36 years later [1934] driving out to a ranch, to eat at another Chuck Wagon and do a little roping.

A good deal had happened to everybody in 36 years. No more happens to one person than to another. Some things look bigger, but they are no bigger than the things that look little for the other fellow. No greater, no happier life in the world than the cattle man. He missed being with the Ziegfeld Follies, but so did I miss many a great meal from the tail end of a chuck wagon.

It's always been the regret of my life that I didn't live years earlier. I believe I woulda fit in with that Gang better. There is a lot of this so-called ‘Progress’ that I can't keep step with. I believe an axe handle wrapped with cowhide would have fit and felt better in my hands than a golf club. I wish I could have lived my whole life and drank out of a Gourd instead of a paper cup.”  WA #605, 1934

“I went to San Antonio and had the most wonderful day there I think I ever had. There is a bunch of men called The Old Trail Drivers' Association, and they are what keeps San Antonio of the old days alive.

They gave me a Barbecue. One of the finest feeds I ever had in my life. They had everything. They had the Chuck Wagon, even made one of the fires out of ‘chips.’  

I am a mighty young man to be allowed to mingle with those old fellows. For every one of them saw actual service up the trail to Kansas and Montana, from the 1860s to the early 1890’s. I just looked at those old fellows in wonder. Here they were 70 and 80 years old, lots of them straight and fine. They had trailed herds of cattle by the thousands from the Pecos to the Platte. They had done it year after year with not even a toothbrush in the outfit, six and eight months at a time, without a manicure. Not even individual soap; they all had to use the same piece. They swam rivers for 20 years without even a bath towel. Old grizzled gentlemen come to eat at that Barbecue that was 85 years old and never even had a face massage in their lives.

How they ever lived and existed under such unsanitary conditions I will never know.” WA #205, Nov. 14, 1926.  

“Flew all night just to get over here to Muleshoe, Texas, to be at the Mashed O Ranch for the calf branding. This is a part of the famous XIT Ranch that was the biggest in the world [3 million acres].

The whole cattle country is mighty dry. The government is doing what they can to help ‘em out, but even a Democrat can't make it rain.

There is no finer and more satisfying business in the world than the cow business when you get half a chance, but when the elements are agin' you, you are just like a candidate that runs second.” DT #2476, July 10.1934

“The Fourth of July was coming on. I had a lot of invitations to a lot of places where I would have liked to have gone for the Fourth. The one I went to is a real cowboy reunion on one of their most famous ranches. Not a professional rodeo like you see everywhere else, but a real celebration in a real Cowtown by real old timers. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. [I flew from Los Angeles to Abilene] and it's only forty miles out to the town where the reunion is, Stamford, Texas.  I had often heard of the great time this little city holds every year. It's called a cowboy reunion. It's put on by real ranch hands. This is the heart of the old Texas ranch country. The outfits send in their chuck wagons and they have a great time. Lots of good horses and lots of good ropers. Grass is high and cattle are a good price and everybody feeling fine.” WA #655, July 1935 and DT #2780, July 3, 1935

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