WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees


The following biography was written at the time of Mr. Kortsen's induction.

What's great about being a rancher? "There ain't a whole lot great about it, but it's a good clean life, a relaxing life." Cowboy Hall of Fame Charter member Ted Kortsen sums it all up by admitting that he could never be anything other than what he's been all his life, a farmer, a rancher and a "working" cowboy.

Coming to Willcox from the Casa Grande area in 1952, he traded half of the farm he had in Casa Grande for the land here. He and one of his four brothers formed a partnership and later Kortsen took it over on his own. He's been on his ranch, in the Circle I Hill vicinity, ever since.

His parents, Jim and Anna Kortsen, emigrated from Denmark to the United States, met in Tempe and were married. "I'm a native Arizonan, born in Buckeye in 1918, but I'm also a full-blooded Dane," Kortsen said.

He said his parents came to America "just to get out." Times were hard where they grew up and his dad worked from the time he was 7 years old. "They came here hoping to have the chance to work for something better than the life they had known before. There was never a man who worked harder than my dad," Kortsen said as he reflected on the past. "And we all pitched in and helped him. We always knew we had a job to do and we did it."

Kortsen said he never drew a regular wage until he was almost grown. "There was never any money or allowance for our work," he said. "We knew we were working to help keep things going. But if we wanted to go to the movies we always got our dime, about every week or so. We also got to go to the swimming hole and we enjoyed that. There weren't any of those fancy pools around. But what we had was every bit as good. We always had a good time."

Kortsen can't remember just how old he was when he mastered the art of horseback riding, but he says he remembers riding along behind his dad when he was only 2 years old. "Horses have always been a part of my life," he said. "In the days when I was growing up and then started my own place, you did all your farm work with horses. They were everything. We just didn't have cars and pickups and things like that to play with."

Kortsen worked with his family and continued with cotton farming after he got out of school. Even after finishing his hitch in the Army and coming back to civilian life, it was back to cotton farming again. "But I had always been interested in cattle-raising." He said. "It's something I knew I'd get into someday, and I did."

Kortsen has never regretted coming to Willcox. "It's been a good life here," he said. He has found farming and ranching life to be a straight philosophy of "neighbors helping neighbors. If you need to put up a fence or if it's round-up time, you just help one another. It helps during rough times to know that you can depend on an extra hand when you need it. And the favors are always returned."

Kortsen said you never find yourself out of work if you live your life on a farm or a ranch. "If you goof off for a day and don't do the things you should, you'll just have to make up for," he said. "Somewhere down the line that work has got to be done."

"It takes a special woman to be a wife for a farmer or a rancher," He said his wife, Polly, has been a good helper to him. He says she's not afraid of hard work and knows her horses. In fact, raising horses is her hobby.

Kortsen enjoys his regular work, fixing a broken windmill, running cattle back in and mending a fence that's down. But he also likes the outdoors for sports and recreation. Golf is his No. l hobby and he enjoys all outdoor sports and fishing.

"Guess you could call me a newer generation cowboy," he said. Kortsen refers to himself in that term because, although he's been into farming and ranching the entire 69 years of his life, there are those who have seen a lot more and know a lot more.

But if he is a member of that "newer generation," he thinks like the old-timers who taught him what he knows. "You've got to know your livestock," he said. "You need to more or less think like a cow and a horse, handle them easily, be smarter than they are. Always recognize your cattle and their needs. It takes a lot more to be a 'cowboy' than putting on a big hat and thinking you're ready to go," he said. "There's just a lot of things to know." "I don't think I've got an enemy today; and if I do have one, I just hope I die without ever knowing his name. That's the way my father was, he never knew an enemy."

Kortsen has been active during his years in Willcox, belonging to practically every club in town and helping to start the Willcox Sheriff's Posse. "But now it's time for the young people to take the ball," he said. "The older ones should step back and give them a chance. I have faith in the young people of today. They're going to be all right. They're leaving the farms and ranches, and they're going after education. That's right for them."

"Times can be tough in agriculture, but they're good times, and leaving the farm would never have been right for me. I remember the past days of real togetherness, the barbecues and get-together s and all the fun we had. There's been a good amount of responsibility with it too, but then, there's also been all the benefits of raising a family on a farm. As far as I'm concerned it's just a whole lot better to go out and gather the eggs than it is to go into town and buy them."