was a time back in the early 1980s, that I sort of fancied myself
as a rodeo photographer. A big, nasty bull soon put an end to my
macho ideas of working inside the arena; I bought a telephoto lens
and stayed as far away as possible.
had a full-time job, I also worked as a freelance photographer and
some weekends would find me at the rodeo arena in a little place
known as Mcbeth, Texas. The little community of McBeth is located
in Brazoria County. The small rodeo had it all including wild bulls,
bucking horses, crazy clowns, and pretty cowgirls.
I guess the
only thing that the McBeth Rodeo lacked was an ugly thing called
“racism,” and none of the good people there seemed to miss it at
all. You see this little rodeo was made up of black and white cowboys.
They rode together, competed against one another, laughed together
and more often than not, celebrated together. The black family who
ran the rodeo didn't care what color you happened to be as long
as you acted in a civilized manner. Any troublemakers, regardless
of their heritage, would soon find themselves being escorted to
It just might
be that cowboys have dealt with racism better than most folks over
the years, of course they fight now and again but they work hard
at their profession and more often than not respect the man working
along side, regardless of his color.
The black cowboy
has been part of the ranching
industry in Texas for a long time. They were born into slavery
in the beginning but after the Civil War they continued to work
on the ranches as free men.
Glenn was one of those individuals. According to “The Handbook of
Texas Online,” Glenn was born in Colorado County, Texas, and was
raised on the Robert B. Johnson ranch at Columbus. In 1870 he accompanied
Johnson on a trail drive to Abilene, Kansas. While in Abilene, Johnson
became ill and died. George Glenn took care of the arrangements
and buried his employer in Kansas.
didn't like the idea of his old boss being in a Kansas cemetery.
He went back to Abilene and had the casket disinterred and placed
on a wagon. Reports indicate that he traveled with Johnson's body
for 42 days before he arrived in Columbus,
Texas, and put Johnson in his final resting place. At their
annual meetings in 1924 and 1926, George Glenn was honored by the
Old Trail Drivers Association as being one of only a few black members
of the prestigious organization. Glenn died of pneumonia in 1931
and is buried at Columbus.
black cowboy, Bose Ikard, was known as a top hand and drover for
Goodnight. Ikard eventually became a chief detective and banker
for Goodnight. His employer trusted him to make many important financial
more modern times, the black cowboy has distinguished himself on
the rodeo circuit as well. One of those,
William Pickett, was considered to be one of the most outstanding
rodeo performers of his day. Pickett
has been credited with originating the event known as bulldogging
and he was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1971.
When you stop
and think about it, nothing has really changed much for the cowboy.
Sure, he probably drives a truck more often now than he rides a
horse but it's still hard work and low pay. As long as the other
fellow does his part I doubt the hard-working cowboy has the time
or inclination to worry much about skin color. And I'll bet at the
end of the day, regardless of your color, you'll still be expected
to buy your share of "cold ones."
© Murray Montgomery
February 3, 2008 Column
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