It was a packed house as usual Thursday evening at the Willcox Community Center, as three cowboys were recognized for their contributions to area ranching.
Wayne Crane, president of the Willcox Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture, welcomed everyone to “the 30th induction of members to the Cowboy Hall of Fame.”
The Chamber sponsors the program, and is custodian of its associated portraits, biographies, and other memorabilia, he said.
Crane thanked the Rex Allen “Arizona Cowboy” Museum “for their part in providing a home for the Hall of Fame and making it accessible to both local citizens and tourists.”
“The Chamber is privileged to be able to honor the men and women – now exceeding 100 in number – who are members of the Cowboy Hall of Fame,” he said.
Crane introduced the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, Eddie Browning, whom he described as instrumental in the Hall of Fame “and this evening marks his 24th year serving as emcee for the induction dinner.”
A Willcox native, Browning traces “his roots to a great-grandmother who came to the area in 1873,” Crane said.
He worked for about 14 years as Director of the Main Street Program, Willcox Economic Development Group, and the Chamber, he said.
After 47 years in Willcox, Browning “seized an opportunity and accepted the position as Arizona State Director for USDA Rural Development in Phoenix,” he said.
“He says that he and his wife Barbara are still trying to return to the Willcox area,” said Crane, adding, “Speaking for their daughter, Lorie, a Willcox Elementary teacher, and the many relatives and friends in the Willcox community, we’re all hoping that this happens soon.”
“Eddie will tell you that several of the inductees stories need little if any embellishment to make them interesting and humorous,” said Crane, adding, “But most of us know Eddie has a knack for storytelling that reveals the true character of the honorees while making us smile.”
Prior to a moment of silence, Browning said that the late Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever, faithfully attended the dinner “not only in the election year, but every year.”
This year’s posthumous inductee died at age 73 on Nov. 28, 2005.
“Make no mistake, Chad started working cattle and riding horses at a young age, and he never wanted to do anything else, including going to school,” Browning said.
While living in Silver City, N.M., Chad’s Dad, Milton, “knew Chad was not attending school like he should. So Milton made the arrangements for some ‘tough love’ and Chad was picked up by the local truant officer and spent a night in jail,” he said.
“The next morning Chad was released and promptly went to work on a ranch in the Gila Wilderness outside of Silver,” Browning said.
In 1957, Bourne married Irene Kowalecki, and they had two children – daughter Janine and son Button.
“Most people do not know that Button’s real name is Ernie,” Browning said.
“Chad’s best friend was Ernie Hart, so Chad had a boy and named him Ernie, and Ernie had a boy and named him Chad.”
Bourne moved to Willcox in 1961, working for “Tom Sellman, Butch Harris, Bob Straub, Jack Nelson, Dave Harris, Sonny Shores, R.L. Robbs, and worked right beside Sonny Davis, Jack Tunks and Butterfly Cowan,” he said.
“What is unique about this list...?” Every one of them is all in the Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame., said Browning, adding, “Well R.L. is not at the moment, but here in about 15 minutes he will be.”
“The point is those who knew him the best, knew he was dependable and was good help,”
“Chad just never got too excited about anything or never got too riled up. Things could be going to hell in a hand basket’ around him and his response would be, ‘Oh, hell it all pays the same.’”
One morning, Bourne and Jack Tunks were headed to work, traveling in a pickup pulling a trailer, and Tunks was driving.
“They were headed somewhere in a hurry when they hit a wet spot in the road which started the truck sliding sideways,” he said.
“The trailer had jack knifed and now the whole rig is sliding down the road sideways. Jack looked over at Chad and he was still rolling his cigarette just trying not to spill the tobacco. Jack said, ‘Chad Bourne -- he just never got stirred up about nothing.’"
Bourne “never owned a ranch, and I think that was just fine with him,” he said.
“He made the statement one time that he didn't want to own anything that he couldn't put in the back of his pickup.”
“But make no mistake, Chad wanted to be a cowboy, and he was proud of the work he did,” Browning said.
“He was born on a ranch in Colorado and has punched cows all his life except when he served our country in the Army, during the Korean Conflict.”
“Chad said the only way his life would ever change was when he couldn't get up on his horse anymore.
Well that day finally came. Chad was still working for Willcox Livestock Auction, and he was 70-71 years old and it was time to ‘go to work’. Chad went to get his horse and mount up for the day. His left hand picked up his bridle reins, and he got a hold of the mane. His right hand took the saddle horn, but his foot never reached the stirrup again,” Browning said.
“Chad knew he was done and walked away not with a broken spirit, but he had just plain worn out his body.”
“Chad Bourne was a very honest plain and simple cowboy,” Browning said in conclusion.
“He looked like the Marlboro Man, but rolled his own. He had a dry sense of humor. He was a cowpuncher, a brush popper; he was just an ‘old timer.’”
Bourne’s sister, Bev, his daughter, Janine, and his son, Ernie, accepted the plaque, thanking everyone for the honor.
“We really appreciate what you’ve done, and we really appreciate the crowd here tonight.”
Jack Post joins his father, Clarence “C.E.” Post, a 2004 Hall of Fame inductee.
Because of his Dad, “Jack grew up on a ranch and worked on the neighboring outfits at a very early age,” Browning said.
“In 1953, Jack met Louise Hooper, and they had a three month romance that has now lasted 59 years,” said Browning, adding, “’If she would have known me for four months she would have never said, ‘Yes.”
The couple has three children -- Suzie, Cedar and Cindy.
Post is best known as a brand inspector, and “there was no doubt where Jack stood regarding brands and inspection papers,” he said.
“There was no grey area; he wanted to see the brand,” said Browning, quoting Post, "I believed in the department and what it stood for."
"In the early days of the Livestock Sanitary Board, they hired you, you ran your district, you furnished your own truck, you negotiated your own starting wage," and Louise added, ‘the wife was expected to be home to answer the phone,’” he said.
As an inspector, Post wore a badge and was told that he had to have a gun and could wear it if he wanted,” said Browning, explaining that inspectors were sent to the law enforcement academy where they were qualified two times per year.
“They would shoot about 300 rounds -- rapid fire- shoot with strong hand, reload and shoot with weak hand, reload,” said Browning, adding, ’Some inspectors (that shall remain nameless) didn't do too well; one actually shot himself in the leg.’”
“Today Jack and Louise are retired,” living on the slope of the Whetstone Mountains, he said.
Asked to describe Jack, Louise said, ‘He loves to talk and he laughs a lot.’”
“Jack will still occasionally fire up the welder to fix a gate for a neighbor, but he enjoys sitting on his front porch with his best friend -- his wife. Jack said, "She's the only one I get along with.”
“Jack would like to be remembered as a fair person and a good family man,” Browning said.
When his turn came, Post said that he asked inductee Jack Tunks what to say during his acceptance speech.
“’It’s not a political outfit, so, dammit, just get up and tell the truth,” Post said, quoting Tunks.
“I know a lot of the guys in here, and I’m honored to be among them.”
Born to a family of seven children, Robbs explained, "My mother had so many children that she run out of full names so all I got were initials,” said Browning, adding, “So, R.L. stands for R.L.”
As a high school student in Texas, Robbs drove to Willcox, working on his brother Floyd’s farm during the summer.
Though Robbs never thought about attending college after graduation, “his big brother had a different plan for R.L.'s life.” Floyd, himself a college graduate, actually insisted that his brother embark on a college career.
Robbs earned a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science, then attended only one year of graduate school before being drafted into the Army.
“Just before heading to boot camp R. L. had a life-changing event -- he met Sally Lou Gordon on a blind date,” said Browning, adding, “They said it was love at first sight, and one year later they were married.”
“We need to discuss this blind date and love at first sight scenario,” Browning told the audience.
“First of all, the person that set up the blind date is here in the audience this evening -- Carol Adcock Cowan,” said Browning, explaining that both she and Sally worked at Valley National Bank.
“Carol told R.L. he needed to meet Sally and made the arrangements,” Browning said.
“Now, I don't know if R.L. was worried or concerned about this blind date, but he took it upon himself to go on a ‘scouting trip’ to the bank so he could get sort of an advance preview of what this Sally looked like,” he said.
“He slipped into the bank and asked which one of the gals was Sally,” Browning said.
“Little did he know there were two Sallys that worked at the Bank. As fate would have it, he didn't see Sally Lou Gordon, he saw the other Sally.”
“Here is a guy that has spent the last nine years judging livestock, and his instincts are saying, Sally No. 2 is big a boned gal with more girth than is needed and lacks proper height to be placed any higher in this class,” he said.
“But R.L. is so nice all he actually said was, ‘Ah, Um, How do I say this, well she was pleasingly plump.’"
“R.L. went on the blind date anyway... and who walked around the corner -- Sally Lou Gordon,” Browning said.
“Now this Sally -- in the eyes of this same livestock judge -- was perfect and he placed her at the top of the class. He didn't know it at the time, but R.L. had just found his grand champion. You better believe it was love at first sight.”
After boot camp in El Paso, Robbs transferred to San Antonio, serving in the Medical Corp.
“On his first three-day pass while in San Antonio, he rode a Greyhound Bus to Willcox to work cattle and to propose to Sally,” said Browning, adding, “He asked Sally, "Do you think you can live on beans the rest of your life?" She said, ‘Yes,’ so they were married in 1967.”
In 1968, Robbs was discharged from the Army and the couple moved back to Willcox.
He and Floyd already had 50 head of registered Angus Cattle, and -- at the urging of Ted Kortsen –they started breeding registered Brangus.
In 1983, the couple bought out Floyd's interest in the cattle business.
For almost 30 years, Robbs Brangus focused on successfully selling seed stock to many ranchers in the Southwest, said Browning.
“In 2010, R.L. sold the majority of his herd, but continues to run a small herd of registered Brangus cattle,” he said.
The couple has two daughters -- Shari and D'Lynn, who “learned the value of a hard day's work and learned to adapt to eating dinner after sundown,” Browning said.
“They adjusted to riding horseback with their father at 6 a.m., especially when they wanted to ask for money,” he said.
“They learned 6 a.m. on horseback was the best time to ask dad for anything.”
“For the last 45 years, R. L. and Sally have worked side by side through ups and downs, feast and famine, floods and droughts.”
Robbs “is a humble man that will say his greatest assets are his friends. There is a saying that fits R.L. ‘You should count your age by friends, not years,’” said Browning, adding, “In that case, R.L. Robbs is many, many friends old.”
When it came his turn to speak, Robbs told Post it was a privilege to be inducted with him.
As to Chad Bourne, Robbs said jokingly that he “had been sentenced to a life of listening to Jack Tunks’ stories. May he rest in peace.”
He thanked his friends, saying, “I’ve always been lucky to have good friends -- a lot of good friends -- who made life worth living.”
As to wife Sally, Robbs said, “I’m going to hang around another 45 years just to torment her.”
“This evening is not about a bunch of old men – a bunch of old cowboys – or some pretty cowgirls. It’s about a town called Wlllcox,” Robbs said.
“Thank you. I’m honored,” he said in conclusion.
Favorite Son – Gary Lynn Clement
Steve Reno, advertising representative with the Arizona Range News, presented the in-town favorite son award.
He described Clement’s parents, Jody and Gary Lee, as “loyal to the community,” raising their children to graduate from Willcox High, like their parents and grandparents before them.
“But while Mom was a cowgirl and Dad a sports nut, this kid loved to read and loved movies,” said Reno, adding, “New movies, old movies, going to movies. Especially old ones with Abbott and Costello, or Boris Karloff and Vincent Price.”
“Certainly it led to an appreciation for drama,” with Clement who was in community theater and plays from high school through junior college, including musicals and choir, Reno said.
Drama also characterized Clement’s real life, “from falling off a horse, to falling out of a truck’s cab when Dad turned too sharply at the El Taco drive thru when the door flew open…brother Greg and Dad said that was pretty funny, but our honoree was only eight or nine, and didn’t appreciate unintentional slapstick,” Reno said.
There was also the time Clement tripped off a stage “wearing a chicken suit at a choir performance, giving new meaning to the title ‘the Fall Sing at EAC.’”
Mike Clement remembers his brother’s graduation night, when he had over both an older girlfriend from EAC, as well as a new flame from Benson High School, Reno said.
“I remember Dad and Greg keeping the older girl busy while he was spending time with the Benson girl, before giving attention again to the older girl,” Reno said.
“Mike remembers he was quite the juggilo for a night.”
But Clement met his future wife “while out on a date with another girl. Turns out he liked the date his friend had a bit better, and they would hit it off -- like Wolfman and Dracula’s daughter.”
Reno quoted Marci as saying, “He was goofy and charming and very polite and has a very intriguing mind.”
“They got married four months later, and she’s out there with him now, 20 years later -- despite the fact that he even wore clown outfits to one of his first jobs; that he worked as a waiter for nearly 17 years before finding his current dream job; and despite the fact that he still uses hand puppets while over the age of 40,” Reno said.
“But his popularity with kids is helping to make Willcox a little more attractive to teenagers, who are winning awards in a magazine program he created,” he said,
“He works as Programming Technician and has helped put the word ‘community’ in Elsie S. Hogan Community Library” he said.
“He’s big-hearted and goofy, sometimes still remembered as Tricky Bones the clown, and some people still want him to get back to Pizza Hut and fill their order, but he’s our Favorite Son 2012, Gary Lynn Clement.”
In closing, Reno thanked Jody, Gary Lee, Marci, Greg, and Mike Clement, and friends Gayle Berry, Debbie Sunderland, Wayne Crane and Joe Duhon, for their contributions.
When it came his turn to speak, Clement said, “Thank you to all those who voted for me.”
As to his former employer transferring him back to his hometown, Clement said. “When Pizza Hut gave me that opportunity, I said, ‘Raise my kids in Willcox? Heck yes.’”
“I’ve always loved Willcox. I hope to continue to live here a long time, and hope to die here.”