WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees


The following was prepared at the time of Mr. Cooke's induction.

Calvin, you can call me "Kelly", Cooke is portrayed as a hard worker, a strict, toe the line kind of parent, a pretty basic person who doesn't want this story real flowery. This man has worked the ragged mountain country of Redfield Canyon, out on the G Bar flats and across the valley on the Oak Ranch.

Calvin has had three careers: First he started as a teenager working for the outfits around the area. It seems to me that Calvin has worked with half the people that have already been inducted into the Hall of Fame. His second career was with the State Highway Department where he worked until "they made him quit". And then he went back to ranch work, where, he worked until his back wouldn't allow him to work anymore. Work; work; work.

Not only did he work hard, he was a tough son-of-a-gun. If you look at his hands you'll see he is missing a finger or two. He was out in the country working on a pump jack when he caught his hand in the outside gears and mangled his fingers. What did he do? He got in the truck and drove himself to town. He came to a gate. He stopped and opened the gate, drove through. Then stopped and got out and went back to close the gate behind him. With mangled fingers, only a cowboy would stop and close a gate behind him.

Calvin was born October 13, 1910 at Mt. Vernon, Illinois. As a 6 year old he and his mother moved to Arizona and homesteaded a place in northern Sulphur Springs Valley. At age of 9 he brought his first herd to town when all the homesteaders in the Sunset area went together to drive their cattle to Willcox to ship from the old railroad yards.

At the age of 17, Cooke started working on ranches. He first worked for the Chiricahua Cattle Company that had three ranches at the time. He worked for them for about seven years.

During his ranching career, Cooke also worked for the O Bar O Cattle Company, the Magdaline Land and Cattle Company, the Three Links and DG's on the Santa Maria River. He has also worked on several ranches in Texas and California.

His last steady ranch work was for Billy Riggs at Oak Ranch. However, after his retirement from the Arizona State Highway Department, he continued working roundups for local ranches and helped Bill Busenbark at roundup time for about 18 years.

He and his wife of 57 years raised a son and daughter in Willcox.

When you talk to Calvin and you ask, what were the good times? He says the days as a kid in the Sunset country, riding steers and swimming in dirt tanks. Those were the good days.

The tough times were during the depression, doing all kinds of work. Calvin is quick to point out, however, that he feels he's been blessed with a good life, 84 years, and not much sickness.

Calvin never graduated from high school. He should have been in the class of 1929. They said the only reason Calvin went to school was so he could play football. Boy did he love to play football. But in his senior year, as soon as the football season was over, Calvin quit school. There are several stories about Kelly Cooke, and both of them are hunting stories.

One story was of a deer-hunting trip. They came upon a game warden waiting on the side of the road. They quickly turned down a fence line and acted like they were fixing the fence.

Another story was about bear hunting with Lyter Ellis deep in a canyon in the Winchesters. Their horses were snorting and they couldn't get them to go off into the canyon. Calvin said he thought there was a bear off in the canyon. Sure enough they found a bear, killed it and decided to pack it into the ranch. Calvin said his horse wouldn't pack a bear on its back, but Lyter said, his horse would. They had to tie down Lyter's horse in order to get the bear on his back. They let the horse up and it stampeded. The pony ran through every fence between them and the ranch. A while later Lyter and Calvin made it back. They found the horse in the corral in a corner, standing there trembling but still with the bear. Lyter looked at Calvin and said, "I told you he' pack a bear."

Calvin "Kelly" Cook, a hard worker, a strict, toe the line parent, a pretty basic person, one hell of a horseman, a cowman, a good friend, who doesn't want this story real flowery. In the works of Calvin Cooke, "the cowman and cowboy settled this country and it's an honor to be a Cowboy."