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.
Although I 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 the gate.
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
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.
Evidently Glenn 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 rancher Charles
eventually became a chief detective and banker for Goodnight.
His employer trusted him to make many important financial decisions.
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."
February 3, 2008 Column