Boots O'Neal: The changing cowboy culture
Ninety miles east of Lubbock, on Highway 114, a driver can spot four large sixes plastered on a red barn. If you blink, you might miss it. Guthrie, Texas is home to the famous 6666 Ranch, where the cowboy culture is alive and well.
Ninety miles east of Lubbock, on 114, a driver can spot four large sixes plastered on a red barn.
If you blink, you might miss it.
Guthrie, Texas is home to the famous 6666 Ranch, where the cowboy culture is alive and well.
One cowboy on the ranch is 87-year-old Boots O'Neal. He's worked on horseback since 1949.
"Like that boy that drove by there, he's one of the crew bosses here and he's got a baseball cap on, see," O'Neal laughed.
More than 70 years later, he's seen the changes from his traditional cowboy ways.
"They come in in the evening and they put on clothes that I wouldn't even go outside with that stuff on or they'll wear shoes and caps and go to town," O'Neal said as he described young cowboys. "We just wore boots all the time."
The fashion may be different, but according to Boots, every decade his profession has changed.
In the 60's, cowboys received vacation time.
"We never had been off before," O'Neal said. "We worked Sunday just like Monday and they'd been doing it ever since so it worked out all right."
In the 70's they got more money and gooseneck trailers for easier transportation. The 90's brought the biggest change for Boots, when cellphones were introduced. He doesn't like how younger generations use them, but make his job much easier.
"I can be trotting out there on the pasture and call you on the other side if we're looking for a bull and see if you found him," O'Neal said. "Now I can call you and tell you I've got him over here come on across and we do that every day."
While there's been change, according to Boots, it still takes the same qualities to be a good cowboy.
"Good cowboys are usually pretty good citizens." Boots added they're dedicated, honorable, honest and straightforward. "You can tell what kind of fella he is by being around his horses you know. If they're afraid of you or they're hard to catch or hard to get a hold of you know they might not of been treated right."
The new cowboys Boots meet at the ranch come in with more skills than when he started.
"Nobody ever taught me growing up how to raise your elbow and do the rope, you know, I just learned to rope. I don't remember having any instructions or school and they've got school now for all of that," he said.
Boots doesn't believe careers as cowboys are dying, but changing constantly. After 72 years of feeding, calling and riding on the ranch, he has no plans to retire.
"I don't hunt and I don't fish and I don't play golf. Ever since I was about 13 or 14 years old, all I've ever wanted to do is punch cows and ride a horse and that's about all I've done," he smiled.