It Still Takes a Cowboy
I was born in Texas in 1924 in Kerens, a town of 1100 surounded by corn and cotton fields. The only fences were small horse or cow traps along the creeks. My toys and those of my friends, were horses and guns. Our mounted games of 'Cowboys and Indians' went on for hours and across miles of country. When not in school or working, a typical day for me was to get up at daybreak and ride till breakfast time. After breakfast I rode till dinner. After eating I rode till supper, and, often, after supper I rode till dark. When we weren't riding we were hunting or doing target practice. I did so much of that that when I entered the infantry during WWII, I easily qualified as 'Expert Rifleman'. My father was a country doctor whose only hobby was playing piano. He could read music but played mostly by ear. He played ragtime music and I sang along with him. To this day I remember the words to hundreds of 1920 and 1930's songs I learned with him. There were about five cars and very few buggies in town. Most people walked or rode in wagons, a few had saddle horses. About 10 kids had ponies, horses, or donkeys. We called ourselves the 'Mullberry Mystery Riders' because we met in a grove of mullberry trees half a mile from town. The first music I remember, other than Daddy's playing, came from and old victrola which my grandmother had. It was the wind up kind and she only had four or five records. Jimmie Rogers 'T for Texas' and 'Waiting For a Train' were my favorites. I think someone's version of 'Preacher and the Bear' was also on there. She only had one needle and my cousins and I soon wore it out. We sharpened it with a file but that didn't work very well. Someone found out that the thorn from a prickly pear worked just fine-- so we were back in business. When I was in the 7th grade I was told that I was to sing in a high school (8-11) musical. I wasn't aware that I had a good voice and wondered why they selected me. I played the part of a brain surgeon. The patient lay on a table and I was supposed to drill a hole in his skull. I remember every word of the song I sang as I drilled. I don't remember having stage freight but I was somewhat embarrassed as I got the old hand brace and bit to low and, while I concentrated on singing I drilled into the wooden table and couldn't get the bit out. When I was seven or eight Daddy bought a radio. The only stations I could get were WBAP from Ft. Worth and WFAA, from Dallas. All music was live. My favorites were Peg Moreland (King of the Ditty Singers) and Cecil Gill (The Yodeling Country Boy). Many of the comedy and cowboy songs which I sing today I learned from them. In college I was vocalist with a 14 piece dance orchestra which played college and ranch dances in the Texas hill country. I also studied voice at Baylor and was a member of the Baylor Choir which represented the university around the state. World War II intervened and I volunteered for the army. Because I had already been accepted for medical school, I was sent there. After the war I was a country doctor in Kerens, Texas and later in Bowie, Texas. Interrupted by a tour of duty as an Air Force doctor in Labrador. Many of my patients were Cowboys--- both rodeo and ranch-- including several national finals qualifiers and one world champion bull rider. Others were cutting horse riders. Always I ranched on the side, do my own work and breaking many of my own colts. I was part owner, with Junior Gray, of the great cutting horse sire, 'Freckles San Man'. During this time music played no prt in my life, but after I retired at the age of 66 I decided to learn to play the fiddle. That went better than I expected and I also learned several other instruments. We sold out in Texas and moved to Arkansas Where I began jamming and, at the age of 72, I discovered that I was a song writer. Later I began intertaining at Trail Rides, private parties, etc,--- for money when I could and for fun when I couldn't. I found I could still make people laugh or cry with my songs. I too fiddles lessons from the Hall of Fame Fiddler, Gene Gasaway, and he liked my songs and encouraged me to make my first tape: 'A Trail Rider's Life'. We lived in Arkansas 9 years where I rode the hills daily and played music at night. Later we lived on the Flathead reservation, in Montana and, four years ago, moved back to Texas. At 84 I live in Buffalo Springs where I teach several stringed instruments and teach work shops at music festivals. I do a lot of jamming and perform occasionally as leader of the 'Buffalo Pickers' Many people who buy my CD come back and buy additional copies for friends.