The National Endowment for the Humanities and Chambers County Museum at Wallisville together: Exploring the Human Endeavor
"A relief grant for Chambers County Museum at Wallisville has been provided by Humanities Texas and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the federal ARP Act. All opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication) (program) (exhibition) do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities."
Due to an overwhelming response to last months article on the cowboys, I have chosen to do a sequel. A personal word of thanks to those who have called, emailed, and written words of encouragement concerning the Age over the past couple of years. Many of you I have never met, or barely know and yet you have reached out in kindness. I hope you know how important you are. You are the folks who push the runner over the finish line when he thinks he cannot make another step, the ones who help a child realize his dream when he or she lacks the confidence and sees no way in sight. You are the cheerleaders who encourage the fainthearted, lift up the downtrodden, give hope to the hopeless, you make a difference. I know, because you have made a differnce in my life. Thank you. Marie Hughes
Freddy Johnson Jr. and Wife Ruby with Trigger, the brother of his buckskin mare, Ginger. Photo Courtesy of Ronnie Johnson.
“When I asked Janet Lagow what she remembered about the old cowboys on the ranch, she replied, “My earliest recollection, I’m about seven years old, starting to ride horses, was with Freddy Johnson, he is the main guy who was always there working on the Barrow Ranch. We had Levi Braxton, Horace Lewis, Archie Humphrey, Roger Humphrey, “Little Ronnie" Johnson, those are just a handful of cowboys I can remember, Tee Melancon from Hamshire Fannet came in as a standby for Mr. Jim Richey, but my main one to always come back to is Freddy Johnson, he broke out a bunch of the horses.
“Everything I learned about horses and cattle came from Mr. Richey and the black cowboys. How to saddle a horse, how to ride a horse, . . . Freddy Johnson. One day Jean and I decided we were going to ride a horse, “Can we ride Linda?” That was Freddy’s horse, “Sure,” he said. So, we go climb on Linda and the next thing we know everybody’s waving and saying, “Get off that horse.” We didn’t have a saddle, so we were just riding bareback. So, they were flagging us down, “Get off that horse, get off that horse!” We asked why? They said, “That’s not Linda, we haven’t even broke that one out yet!” Jean named it Pretty Buck. Jim Meredith said, “I just got that from a sheriff in Houston. Sheriff Kern’s sold her to me for $500, She’s going to be a cuttin’ machine,” said Jim. Jean fell in love with it and said, “Can I buy it?” “It’s not even broke out.” Jim said. We told him, “You saw us ridin’ it, why can’t we buy it?” So, daddy worked on him, and we bought that horse for $500. That became the best horse in the 4-H horse club. Never bucked, EVER, when we broke it out. Jean won in nearly every event and even went to State, she was fast as lightening. “No one could ever beat Pretty Buck!
“Mr. Kleberg, and my grandfather, they were characters, they raised good-blooded horses. My grandfather would swap stud horses with Mr. Kleberg of the King Ranch era. There was a horse, very well known, Rey Jay. He was known for cutting and speed. That was exactly what my grandfather wanted for genetics in the horses he raised. So, King Ranch would send us Rey Jay and my grandfather would send some back to King Ranch. They were very close-knit ranching families. When my grandfather passed away in 1957, he had a gray horse named “Old Gray” how they thought of that name, I don’t know,” laughed Janet. “That’s who I remember riding at a young age. Doctor Northcutt was their veterinarian and he’s the one who suggested sending the horse to Mr. Barrow. “Mr. Barrow, we’re going to send you one of the best horses, he’s up in years, but he can cut for you,” and that was “Old Gray.” So, they swapped horses, then when Wesley Barrow took over, he started running Boyt horses, Cecil Boyt, everybody knows who he is.” Janet added.
“I remember learning how to ride with Freddy Johnson, saddlin’ ‘em up and hoisting Jean and I up. He could talk faster than anybody I’d ever heard. Kind of like a mixture of a Cajun and a black man. You’d ask every other word, “What did you say?” and everybody else would say, “that’s Freddy.” That’s how we started learning how to identify cattle, how to read pairs, sortin’ and driving cattle. Mr. Jim Richey and Freddy taught us how to recognize sore foot, pink eye, any other kind of problems we would have. Freddy probably was our best hand that I can remember. Another good cowboy was Horace Lewis who would help at times. Freddy and Horace were so well liked by my grandfather that he actually let them run 30 to 40 head of cattle on the ranch. They could run their cattle with the rest of our cattle and when we brought the cattle up they earmarked theirs and could keep or sell their calves. That lasted for about ten years until their numbers got too large and they had to pull them out and relocate them.
Roger Humphrey and Charles O. "Sweet Pea" Whittington. Photo Courtesy of Virgina Mayes Loya.
“Roger Humphrey was everybody’s delight, that’s Archie Humphrey’s brother. He was probably the best cowboy I’d ever seen ride, He could ride, rope, pop a whip, cut with precision, and do anything with perfection like I’d never seen before. He worked for all the ranches, as no one ranch could keep Roger Humphrey,” said Janet.
“PaPa, (Ralph James Barrow) and the next generation; Wesley Barrow, and Jim Meredith would put a bet of a hundred dollars on each bull to be paid to whomever could get it in the pens. That was big money back then,” said Janet. “Papa said, “They keep duckin’ in the woods and I’ve gotta get ‘em in the pens. All right boys, go get ‘em.” And off they’d go. I remember Freddy and Roger got the first one in and they were so excited. The looked back at each other and they were grinning from ear to ear. The next thing you know, that bull took two laps around the pen and jumped over and crushed the gate. Out he went back into the trees and their fine found money was gone and never materialized. Jim and my grandpa were laughing and said, “It doesn’t count unless he stays. Another time when there was another hundred dollar prize to be had for penning a bull, Freddy got his rope out and made a loop and took off on Cat. Roger was on his beautiful blaze-faced sorrel, best ropin’ horse in the whole wide county. I’m just a kid about 14-years-old, and I see Freddy comin’ from the left and Roger’s comin’ from the right. They’re both keepin’ their focus on that bull to see who can rope it first. They ran right into each other, and Roger and his horse went down broke his leg! I couldn’t believe it, I thought, “Oh, my gosh!” It was no big deal to Roger, he said, “Oh, my Gosh, I broke my leg again!” Then I remember another time when Donnie and Freddy had a contest going on. They were after a cow and Donnie ran smack dab into me and nearly knocked me and my horse down, and I was on a horse standing still. You had to watch’em, once they put a hundred-dollar bill on something you were in dangerous territory, cause if that bull comes back your way you’re in the line of fire. I guess that’s about the time I started learning how to read cattle and fast roping cowboys.
Virginia Loya said of Roger, “Roger was undoubtedly one of the best cowboys I ever saw. He never headed steers like today’s team ropers, but he could sling a rope after a cow further than anyone . . . and catch! He ran with my daddy, George Clinton “Goonie” Mayes from the time he was in T-Ball. He broke horses and trained them, such a hand with a horse. At one cow working at Booster Stephenson’s, he was running after a cow that needed roping. When he roped the cow, she went on one side of a tree, and he went on the other. Roger broke his leg and my Daddy stayed at the hospital with him until he could go home. Roger was like a brother to my brother, George Mayes, and I. He was always with us, he was one of a kind. I know the Montie Humphrey cowboy bloodline ran deep in Roger.” Virginia said softly.
“Sweet Pea Whittington was another great guy who could rope cows and ride horses. Once we were loading cattle through the hall of the barn into an 18-wheeler to take them to Tommy McMullen and Frank Green in Devers. There was a bad cow Sweet Pea went in to get turned around and she decided she was going to eat Sweet Pea. We thought sure she was going to get him. He opened the slide door and got on the other side at lightning speed before we could blink an eye! It was an impressive feat of athleticism.
Photo Courtesy of Bill White
Janet Lagow said, “We were fortunate to have Archie Jr. as one of our foremen when I was about seven years old. He and his wife, Dolly raised their kids out there. After Archie left, we were very blessed to get Mr. Jim Richey, Wesley Richey’s grandpa. He stayed with us for around twenty years. He came to us from the Cecil Boyt ranch, when Cecil’s family started splitting up their ranch. The Boyt’s had maybe 30,000 acres, they were the biggest ranchers in the fifties. They had big grey Brahman cattle on both sides of the road by Cottonwood all the way to Devers. We were always so amazed and impressed with what he had. Jim and his wife stayed on the Barrow homestead until he moved to the Lagow Ranch when the Barrow Ranch started splitting up.
Freddy Johnson holding son, Ronnie at Freddy’s joint, the Johnson Place, on FM 562 in Double Bayou, TX. Photo Courtesty of Ronnie White.
“All the cowboys who worked on the Barrow ranch were black men and not white guys and they became like family to us. They were the neatest people and we learned so much from them such as genuine hospitality, cooking like nobody’s business, and just having a great time with cookouts and BBQ’s. My grandfather fixed them up with land around where the ranch was so they could have a place to stay. Freddy later opened a little HB/BBQ place where folks could gather to have a beer, eat a sandwich, play a game of pool, and just enjoy the company of family and friends. It was just a small unpainted frame building, but it was a place Freddy could call his and he was sure proud of it.
“Pa Pa took such good care of the black cowboys. He’d tell them if you’re having a hard time during the winter, you go out there and hunt those muskrats and use the horses to pack the pelts.” He even built them a rat shack, to process the pelts, that’s still there today. That’s where they’d skin ‘em out and get $5 a pelt for coons, nutria, and muskrat that they would sell. The ranch would get a small percent. Pa Pa would furnish them hay for their livestock and a side of beef. If we had a barbecue, they were all part of it, as they were like family to us. That’s who your Double Bayou folks were. They were a completely different group compared to anybody else, as they were as genuine as can be. Super, super, good folks, the best there was around.
Jim Richey on his favorite horse “Tilly” in front of his home on the Lagow Ranch. Photo Courtesy of Wesley Richey.
“They were always so knowledgeable and could teach you stuff. If you got a bee sting, they’d say, “Come on over here sis, let me show you, we’ll put a little tobacca’, a little baking soda, and vinegar, and look, it went away, it’s good.” If I had a calf scouring, Freddy would come up and say, “Let me show you what you do. Just straddle that calf, and you go get some chicken eggs.” “Yes sir.” “Now I’m gonna hold its mouth open, you crack that egg in there, put that shell in there too!” “He’s gonna eat the shell?” “Oh yeah, oh yeah.” Then we’d have pink eyed calves and Mr. Richey’d say, “Come on over here, let me show you what to do.” “But his eye’s all blue,” I’d say. “Go get you some Pet evaporated milk and open it with a can opener like you’re going to pour it out and bring it on out here. We’re going to do this for three days.,” he’d say. “Splash that up in his eye, I don’t know what it is, that amino acid or whatever it is, but that calf’s going to be able to see in a few days.” Concluded Mr. Richey. I had Arlette Hankamer ask me just the other day if I could go out and look at her calf that had blue eyes and I said, “Sure, but go get me some Pet Evaporated milk,” laughed Janet. “So, all these things that these cowboys would teach me still help me today on the ranch. I mean they really worked, and it’s been handed down from one person to another.
Remnants of the Dipping Vat on the Barrow Ranch. Photo Courtesy of Janet Lagow.
“These memories are better than any book knowledge you could ever have. If you had a calf with diarrhea, a fever, or whatever, they pretty well had a remedy for that. I was still young when the screw worms were all around, and they had dipping vats. Most people have never seen a dipping vat. They don’t know how it works, but it was fascinating to me. They probably shut it down by the time I was nine. A dipping vat’s gotta be narrow ‘cause you don’t want ‘em turnin’ around, it’s like a chute, but it’s all made out of cement. It drops off sloping from one end and it goes down to neck deep, where they can walk at the bottom. They can swim or walk on the bottom and that dipping vat would be approximately 30 to 50 feet long and then slope back up. Once you start putting’ them in, you just start pushin’ ‘em. You’d put ‘em in something with a little creosote in it, it’s a concoction that no matter what you were dealing with, such as screw worms, ticks, and flies, it would take care of it. Eventually E. P. A. shut everything down. You can see a dipping vat by Freddy Abshier’s place right there by FM 1985. Our dipping vat is still on the ranch on the home place.
Janet does an excellent job in the following video of describing the dipping vat and explaining how it was used. https://youtu.be/AMvIF4jShjg
“Iremember when I was a young kid riding out to check the bulls that were on a couple hundred acres of S-1 clover with the cowboys. If the bulls ate too much of the blooms they’d bloat. We would have a trocar bar or a knife and where they’d bloated out the fullest in their flanks, that’s where you would puncture them. They’d be just about to die ‘cause they couldn’t breathe anymore. When you’d poke‘em it was like letting air out of a balloon. You’d doctor the spot quickly, then they’d get up and walk away with such relief. Pink eye got really bad in the sixties, especially with white-faced cattle. We’d stretch ‘em out head ‘n heel, and squirt antibiotic in their eyes and give them shots. We learned real quick those English breeds, such as Herefords with white faces didn’t do well here in the hot sun. As long as cattle had dark pigment around their eyes, they weren’t so prone to pink eye.
Ed Whittington. Photo Courtesy of Ed Whittington.
“Horace Lewis stayed here until the day he died, so did Freddy, and Roger. There was no replacement for all these folks, there were no young kids of theirs following in their footsteps. Their kids for some reason didn’t want to stay on the ranch, as these older cowboys got older and older, we could see they were getting ready to be replaced by a new group of cowboys working for the Lagow crew, that I’ll tell you about a little later on” laughed Janet.
“There wasn’t any other cowboy you could count on when Freddy got too old, and boy, could he raise some awesome cutting horses. He had a horse that was named Kennedy Jr. that was out of Gold Cash Thomas, owned by Roy Dawson. I had never seen a palomino so pretty in my life. I don’t know where he bought it, but he entered halter classes like the Houston Livestock Show, San Antonio, and Fort Worth, where he would win Grand Champion every time. You could rope and cut off him and people from far off came to breed to him. Freddy Johnson worked for Roy Dawson at times. He worked out a deal with Mr. Dawson to get his mare bred working many days’ worth of wages to pay the stud fee. That’s how he got Kennedy Jr. who looked just like Gold Cash Thomas. Freddy made a whole lot of money on stud fees from that beautiful buckskin stallion.
“Now, let’s talk about the new Lagow cowboy crew. When I started working at Anahuac teaching fourth grade, I recruited my own kids, Ed Whittington, Wesley Richey, Dion Humphrey, Harry Raymond, “Coop”, Dwayne Cooper, I could go on and on. We just got through working cows a couple of days ago. All I have to do is pick up the phone and say, “Hey Ed, we’ve got to move some cows.” “What time, I’ll be there,” he’d say. All these kids I taught in the fourth grade, who started working cattle at that early age, are still with me today. I wouldn’t replace them for anything, they’re the best cowboys anyone could ever have.
Justin Humphrey. Photo Courtesy of Justin Humphrey.
Many of the Humphrey boys worked for Janet on the ranch. “After Hurricane Harvey, Kelley’s Bayou went over its banks,” recalls Janet, “and the cows were cut off from getting to higher ground. I didn’t think it was going to rise any higher, but I still worried about them. I called the Humphrey boys; Justin, Joseph, Dion, and Jacolby and they came to lend me a hand. I said, “Hey guys, can you swim across, ‘cause my little 14.2 hand horse is too short and y’all have taller horses, I can call them over?
“I knew where the road was, they were coming through Kelly’s Bayou, which is a tributary off of Double Bayou, and that area has a shell road crossing over the bayou. The road was under water at that time. All the boys are coming my way as I called the cows. The cows knew where the road was, however, Justin and Jacolby did not. They branched off to the right of the cows, fell off the road, and both horses and riders went under. Janet said Chip watched Jacolby’s horse bob once then twice, and could see the saddle was turning. When he came up the third time the saddle was nowhere to be seen. Jacolby was hanging on around his horse’s neck like a monkey. (Justin said the horse was named “Cooney.”) “I was on the other side wondering what was taking so long,” said Janet, “I rode back and asked what was wrong and Jacolby said, “We’re trying to find the saddle, it came off in the water and that’s my dad’s saddle. He’s gonna get me but good.” Jacolby added with emphasis, “It’s a family heirloom!” Justin Humphrey said, “We had a good time, doing what we love!” Janet said every time that area dries up they still look for that saddle.
Roberta Humphrey, Vic Humphrey’s daughter was another pretty good wrangler, in Janet’s estimation. “I remember Roberta riding a palomino with Roger Humphrey one day,” Janet said. They were both after a cow that was on the road. Riding side-by-side, Roger roped it once and said to Roberta, “Sling another one.” She slung one on it, jerked it and jumped off her horse. Roger pulled real had and down it went. Roberta wrapped that cow’s legs up and I said, “Now, that’s a cowgirl!”
Wesley Richey. Photo Courtesy of Wesley Richey.
“Wesley Richey use to work right there with his grandfather and he’s just like family now. Since he’s now working for animal control, I don’t get him too often to help on the ranch. Although, he was at my place for the last three days for an alligator roundup. We’ve got a whole bunch of baby alligators, 2 ½ to three feet in my ponds in front of my house and I was worried about the dogs getting hurt. So, he was our alligator wrangler, and he’s still the best all-around cowboy too.
“I have to give credit to my grandfather Ralph James Barrow, Mr. Richey, and all the black cowboys for helping me know how to run the ranch. My dad, Joe Lagow, taught me how to manage the ranch with the hunting, rice farming, producing the hay, establishing new hay pastures, and conservation practices that have benefited the ranch. The Lagow Ranch is multi-faceted operation where we strive to be good stewards of the land to leave it better for the next generation. I’m trying to teach my niece, Meredith Stoesser, Donnie’s daughter, to take over the reins when I pass, but I’m not planning on going anywhere. I’m 72 and between Chip and I, with no full-time employees, we run the whole ranch. We also get help from our dedicated hunting outfitters who help to keep the hunting operation running extremely well with their wet soil management practices. As you can tell, this ranch is run by dedicated folks who are all like family to us. They love the ranch as much as we do, it is a part of who they are.
Janet and Jean Lagow. Photo Courtesy of Chip Lewis and Janet Lagow.
“I have a lot of neat memories that Jean and I shared of raising livestock and showing horses. We have introduced genetics from different breeds of cattle to improve the herd on the ranch. I recently introduced Beefmasters to the ranch herd, as that was a dream Jean and I once talked about. It was very successful and has proven to be an outstanding cross, which I call the Lagow Legacy, named for my sister, Jean, whom I miss dearly. I think of Jean often when I see these awesome replacement Beefmaster calves. The Beefmaster cattle have surpassed all my expectations, not only by improving the cattle on the ranch, but also winning in major livestock shows and selling well internationally. I can’t say I haven’t lived my dream, ‘cause I really have. I give God the full credit for it, ‘cause He’s the one who blesses me with the resources, the knowledge, and ability to do it. It’s a legacy you hope to pass on.” She humbly concluded.
Ralph Thomas Holmes. Photo Courtesy of Peter Jenkins.
Russell Ezer of Anahuac said Ralph Holmes had almost as much to do with raising him as his mother and daddy did. “I was a pain in the butt kid when I was little, and daddy would call on the guys at Brown & Root and they’d get to babysit me. So, I was raised with’em from four or five years on,” said Russell.
“Ralph was a man’s man,” he stated with the utmost admiration. “I can’t think of anyone that didn’t like him. Now, he was a cowboy, but he also worked for Brown & Root, that was when the Brown and Root shipyard was still blowing and going in Oak Island.” He explained.
“You can’t say enough good about the man. Daddy was in charge of Brown & Root and Ralph was just always around. When we were working the ranch and an animal broke out and he had to un-daly his rope ya just needed to sit where you were, it wasn’t going to do any good to chase it, ‘cause Ralph already had it,” Russell declared. “He went to a lot of the rodeos around here,” Russell continued, “and the only question they had when it came to calf roping was, who was going to be number two, ‘cause you knew Ralph was going to win it and he could take any old horse and win. There might be some folks equal to Ralph and his wife, Elsie Holmes, but I guarantee you, there’s nobody better.” Russell sighed.
“If you look in a dictionary under cowboy, you’d see the old Chambers County cowboys’ pictures,” said Russell. “Grover Gill worked for the Canada’s, I’d say 50 plus years. Gilly was good, but he was not in the same class as Ralph, no one was. Ralph was also a heck of a baseball player. They used to have baseball games between the guys at Double Bayou and the guys at Anahuac and Ralph was the pitcher. I don’t think Ralph ever did anything that he didn’t do excellently. He was just solid as a rock. He wasn’t fancy,” said Russell, pausing for emphasis, “but if the world had a whole bunch of Ralph Holmes’, boy would we be in a lot better shape.”
Elmer Woodard Boyt was born in Banner, Mississippi, on the 10th of May 1876. Upon the death of his father, Elmer became the family’s main breadwinner at the tender age of twelve. Dropping out of school, he picked cotton to support the family. In 1891, his mother decided to relocate the family to Texas, moving first to Beeville. Elmer, a striking 6-foot-tall lad at the age of 15, decided to try his luck at being a Texas cowhand. He worked at several ranches and stables to support his mother and siblings. He cowboyed for Texas Ranger, Captain Bill Jones, Shanghai Pierce, Henry Clear and other big ranchers. When the ranching years became lean, due to drought, his family joined an east-bound wagon train and settled on the west bank of Galveston Bay along the Trinity River in 1898. Elmer learned the horse trade and, in the winter, drove herds of horses through East Texas to South Oklahoma. He helped break horses for "Teddy's Rough Riders." He bought his first section of land, located in Jefferson County, in 1908 at $8.25 an acre. He and his wife, Lela Clubb Boyt, had only been married for three years when he purchased his ranch and being a man of vision and a believer in the future of the Gulf Coast, he continued buying land.
“He was responsible for removing the majority of the Longhorn cattle from the coast,” said great grandson, Mark Boyt. “Everybody likes to have Longhorns now; my great grandpa would be spinning in his grave if he knew all these people were buying Longhorns after he went to all the trouble to get rid of them,” Mark chuckled. “They wanted to get rid of the Longhorns to improve the breed. My grandfather, Elmer (Pat) went to Venezuela with his brother, Cecil and got Brahman cattle and brought them back to mix with the Herefords and the Charolais. My grandfather always had the red brahmas and Cecil always had the gray brahmas.”
“The ranch headquarters was at Cottonwood on FM 1410 and the big barn is still standing there today. They said at one time they had to slaughter a steer every other day to feed the hands. They owned a lot of land and also had a lot of land under lease.” Said Mark. By the time of his death in 1958, Elmer owned 30,000 acres and had 70,000 acres under lease in Chambers, Jefferson, Galveston, and Liberty counties. “He had six or seven thousand acres on Bolivar Peninsula, said Mark. “They would do a two-day cattle drive from Cottonwood to Bolivar when Bolivar was open pasture. They would overnight the herd at White Ranch in Stowell, then they would keep driving them to Bolivar. There was a swing bridge over the intracoastal waterway. When they drove the cows across the swing bridge, it was the only time the barge captains had to wait, ‘cause once they started the cows across, they couldn’t stop them.”
“I worked with James Hill from Hankamer, on our ranch in the 80s. He was a great cowboy.” exclaimed Mark. “Also, Charles Childress, everybody called him “Pepper,” he was another Hankamer cowboy that worked with us. They were just solid cowboys. The only time I roped a cow in the pasture was if they let me go first,” smiled Mark, “and if I missed, it was all over. Curtis Simeon worked on the ranch, he had one eye, and he was the best roper on the ranch. He would ride in the rodeos on the weekend, but when they charged per kid, he’d make his kids ride in the horse trailer,” said Mark with a chuckle.
“During branding time lunch would be delivered to the pens. They’d set up picnic tables for everyone to eat at, those were some good days. I worked the ranch from the time I was 12 until I was 21,” said Mark. “It was a good time to be a kid during the 70s and 80s.” he concluded.
Photo left: White Ranch, shipping by rail, 1931. Although this photo would be six years later than the longhorn removal it gives an idea of how it was done. Photo courtesy of Bill White.
The following article, by W. T. Block, tells of Elmer’s drive to get rid of the Longhorn:
NEDERLAND—In April 1925, a strange roundup was taking place at Boyt cow pens, a loading dock 12 miles southwest of Beaumont, on the Santa Fe Railroad. Cattle trains were loading there almost daily; it was a cooperative effort to remove the last of the longhorn cattle from prairies between Beaumont and Galveston Bay.
To some it was the passing of an age, when for decades the longhorn was the only cattle breed driven up the long trail to Kansas. On a cattle drive, the longhorns did not matter much for they were not in such proximity to each other. In a crowded cattle car, however, the horns were lethal weapons that could inflict a fatal wound. The cattle were also conditioned for survival in the arid Southwest, and not known for the quality of their flesh.
As one wag observed, “Whether you tanned the longhorn’s hide or his steaks, either one made good leather.
”The large board cow pens at Boyt’s, near Fannett, where the cattle were last concentrated before boarding trains, included dipping vats. Each longhorn had to be dipped three times and inspected for ticks. The pens were built at a cost of $10,000, shared equally by E. W. Boyt, Jefferson County, and the Santa Fe Railroad. The trains, at least one of which was loaded daily, then moved north so the cattle could fatten in Kansas.
The longhorn roundup brought together perhaps the last large contingent of cowhands seen in Jefferson County, nearly all of whom still wore the standard garb of boots, spurs, leather chaps, hat, and bandanas. They varied in age from Mike and Will Boyt, barely out of their teens, to George Burrell and Monroe White, each of whom as in his mid-70s. Other well-known stockmen in and out of the pens included J. J. Burrell, “Doc” Gallier of the “Lazy O” spread; Horace Blanchette; A. J. Middleton; Bailey Wingate, a rodeo performer; and many others.
The largest herd of 700 longhorns had been driven almost 50 miles from White Ranch. R. M. and Monroe White had scoured every inch of underbrush on their 80,000-acre ranch, and they believed they had rounded up all but a small handful of the breed on their property. One day cattle inspector, Fred Sterrett asked one of the White cowhands, “Do these critters ever stampede when you’re driving them?”
“Not on this drive,” the cowhand responded, “but longhorns are easily spooked. That’s why we fear the thunder and lightning of a rainstorm. Even a gunshot can startle them into stampeding.”Just about every brand from three counties passed through the Boyt pens that month. Some cattle wore the “Lazy O” brand of the McFaddin spread; others wore the “JTW” from White Ranch; the “Lazy E” of E. W. Boyt; the “DL”or “NF” brands of George and J.J. Burell; the odd shaped “H” brand of Archie Middleton; or the “BT” of Ivy Janes.
Seventeen trainloads of cattle left the Boyt cow pens that month. They moved toward Beaumont on the railroad that often hauled rice. As each train pulled away, the longhorns began their mournful bellowing, as if each steer held a premonition of the slaughterhouses that awaited their arrival.
The cowhands also had an inkling that a piece of history was leaving that day. The cattle removal was a necessity to build up a better and meatier stock through crossbreeding with Herefords, Durhams, and Brahmas. Nevertheless, that last roundup of longhorns left a void on the prairies that today is recalled in our cowboy music
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