Imagine living in a dugout under a cottonwood tree – for 10 years! Larkin Patrick Williams (1851-1930) did that in the 1860s and his sole job was to see that the Waggoner cattle didn’t slip into the herds of cattle crossing the Red River during the Chisholm Trail drives. Lark, a Texan, worked for the Waggoner Ranch at Doan’s Crossing, according to Doyle W. Williams of Fort Worth, Texas, who shared this story with us in 2015.
Doyle saw our request for the Real Cowboys exhibit in the Daily Ardmoreite. He had already published the story in a family history book, “My Father’s Branch: The Lineage, Lore, and Life of Larkin Eugene Williams.” Larkin was Doyle William’s great uncle on his father’s side.
“Lark” as he was called, was born in Cherokee County, Texas, and moved with his family to Coleman County, Texas in 1864. As a young man, he went to work for Dan Waggoner on his ranch near Vernon, Texas.
With the growth of that ranch, Waggoner stationed Lark at Doan’s Crossing, which was a popular place to move cattle herds across the Red River on the way to Kansas.
Williams said, “Lark’s job was to ensure that the many herds crossing the Red River did not accidentally or ‘otherwise’ pick up any of Waggoner’s cattle along the way. If Lark found Waggoner’s cattle in a herd, he separated them out so others could return them to the ranch.
It was not a job without risks.
The drovers bringing their herds up the Trail did not always want Lark going through their herds. He is reported to have had many near shooting scrapes in the execution of his job,” Williams wrote us.
Williams said that Lark had a ‘working’ relationship with the Indians on the north side of the Red River. An uncle, Arthur Williams (1889-1969) shared with Doyle a story about Lark dealing with the drovers that didn’t want their herds inspected.
Arthur’s story was that Lark would ride out just across the Salt Fork where it dumps into the Red River, and wave to the Native Americans when drovers balked at the inspections. “And brother, they’d cross that river and those fellows would let him look through that herd riqht quick.”
‘Real Cowboys’ exhibit retires
May 17, 2019
In January 2015, the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center generated a call requesting stories and photos of “Real Cowboys on the Chisholm Trail.” That exhibit was scheduled to close at the end of 2018, but many visitors enjoyed reading the stories and looking at the photos. We finally retired the exhibit May 16, 2019, but, those stories and images will be permanently exhibited through our blog here on the website.
An advantage is we can now share the full stories that were edited for the physical display because of space. Edited versions of the stories and photos were displayed on the wall outside the Campfire Theater.
Real Cowboys came about when Don Brower visited us to share his story about his father, Bobby Wayne Brower of Duncan, who died in 2014. Don had an old undated black and white picture of his dad calf roping at a small rodeo. Don wasn’t sure but thought it was probably from the 1950s. His dad was born in Duncan in 1930 and other than service time in the United States Navy, he had lived in Duncan his entire life.
“He worked on a lot of the area ranches and while he was never a champion in the rodeo arena, he loved being a cowboy,” Don said. “He loved bull riding, bareback and calf roping.”
Executive Director Stacy Cramer Moore listened to Don’s story which sparked an idea to create an exhibit for guests to see as the Chisholm Trail 150th anniversary was approaching in 2017. She said at that time, “We are looking for people who are doing the job, living that life or lived that life. These people probably didn’t win buckles at a rodeo because they are out there working, living the cowboy life.”
Expanding upon the idea of honoring those men and women, press releases were issued to newspapers throughout Oklahoma and to those along the Chisholm Trail from Texas to Kansas. A few reporters visited to help spread the word. Eventually the stories and photos came in – most were hand delivered by individuals who had relatives that had indeed, worked along the Chisholm Trail. A few came in by email. Enough stories were generated that the exhibit was on the wall weeks ahead of its deadline – the National Day of Cowboy celebration in July 2015. More images and stories were added over the next two years.
We hope you enjoy these stories and others as we make use of this blog. Please share the blog with others and help us as we continue our mission: “To celebrate and perpetuate the history, art and culture of the Chisholm Trail, the American Cowboy and the American West.”
We will share the stories of Mike Smith, Claude Sparks, John Carlos Fisher, John Maurice Fisher, Henry B. Tussy, Larkin P. Williams, Joe Dexter Diffie and others, including Bob Klemme, in the coming weeks.