Pitchfork Kid had plenty of friends, but he enjoyed his own company.|
cowboy’s cowboy, the Kid sat a horse well and had the reputation of being the
best roper in the Panhandle.
On the sprawling Matador Ranch, where he spent much of his career as a
waddy, the foreman often worked him as an “outside man,” someone who didn’t mind
saddling up and riding off by himself to hunt up a stray.
the Kid’s background, that was fitting duty. He was something of a dogie himself.
in Ohio in 1873 (no one has found the day and month or place of birth), William
E. Parlow became an orphan at an early age. By 1880, when census takers canvassed
the small town of Chicaskia, Kansas, they listed him as living there with his
maternal grandparents. Legend has two uncles in Kansas City taking him to raise,
but their generous gesture didn’t atone for the fact that they were cattle thieves.
When they got caught in the act and killed, young Billy once again was one his
Ridge Greathouse, a professional poisoner of wolves and other
range predators, found the 12-year-old Partlow on the streets of Kansas City and
learned that he wanted to be a cowboy. Greathouse had done work for D.B. Gardner,
manager of the Pitchfork Ranch west of Guthrie.
Knowing Gardner was in KC on business, Greathouse brought the boy to him.
for Partlow, Gardner loved children and took him back to Texas.
The boy wanted to ride the range immediately, but Gardner said he was too young
and wouldn’t let him stray too far from the ranch headquarters. Instead, he tried
to see that the boy got some book-learning, but he didn’t take to that very well.
The way Gardner did that was to farm Billy out to neighboring rancher
J.T. George and his wife, a school teacher. She encouraged him to read but to
what extent she succeeded isn’t known.
After about a year with the Georges,
the Billy went back to the Pitchfork, finally old enough to make a hand. And soon
it became evident that cowboy life suited him well. He liked the work and he liked
the grub, preferring an ample serving of onions with just about anything he ate
around the chuckwagon. Somewhere along the way, folks started calling him the
The Kid worked for Gardner for a few years before
moving on to an even larger operation, the giant Matador Ranch in Cottle,
Dickens, Floyd and Motley counties. Beyond his skills as a cowboy, Parlow had
grown up to be a well-groomed gentleman. His friends marveled that he shaved daily,
even out on the range.
In 1892, a horse he’d been trying to gentle threw
him against a fence. His fellow cowboys loaded their unconscious friend into a
wagon and took him to ranch headquarters. From there, the ranch sent him by train
to a hospital in Trinidad, CO. A doctor operated on his head to relieve pressure
on his swollen brain and he came to after 19 days in a coma.
As soon as
he recovered, the Kid swung back in the saddle again. He stayed with the Matador
until 1907, when he decided to cut out on his own. When his business venture failed,
Parlow came back to the Matador, cowboy hat in hand. But the foreman, still sore
that he had left in the first place, refused to rehire him.
the mustachioed, meerschaum pipe-smoking Kid enjoyed a good reputation. When longtime
ranch manager Murdo McKenzie found him on the down-and-outs in the nearby town
of Matador, McKenzie asked
what had happened. When Partlow said the foreman wouldn’t give him a job, McKenzie
wrote a letter countermanding that and the Kid once again rode for the Matador.
But the dream of many cowboys is having a spread of their own. In 1917,
Partlow filed on a half-section of land south of Nara Visa, NM and left the Matador
for the last time. Two years later, only 46, he died when he fell from a load
of hay and hit his head on a rock.
As time passed, old cowboys began telling
stories about the Pitchfork Kid. And one of his former pals began to wonder where
he had been buried.
In 1954, 70-year-old Fred Hale of Amarillo,
who had worked with the Kid on the Matador, set out to find his friend’s grave.
He looked all around Glenrio
and Nara Visa in New Mexico, finding no one who knew where Partlow had ended up.
On a hunch, Hale checked Amarillo’s
Llano Cemetery and discovered he had been buried there. Locating the plot
shown in the cemetery’s records, he found the grave unmarked.
money from some of the other still-living Matador cowboys and in 1959 had a flat
granite marker placed over his grave. It reads:
William E. Partlow
Humble Man Who Achieved Greatness Through Humility And Loyalty To His Friends
Erected In 1959 By His Friends
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