WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees


John Sherman Klump was born May 3, 1891 in Socorro, New Mexico and he lived his childhood as a ranch kid on the family ranch at the head of the Frisco River near Reserve, New Mexico. John was one of eleven kids. Since there was no school in Reserve, none of the kids had any formal schooling until the family moved to the Sulphur Springs Valley and homesteaded a place about seven miles southeast of Willcox, on the road to Dos Cabezas. All of the kids started school together in the Kansas Settlement School, but John only stayed through the third grade.

John lived in a time where there were no fences anywhere in this country. The whole area was open range, so all the cattle were mixed. As a 16-year-old kid, John wanted to ride the open range round-ups. He spent most of a year sleeping in a bedroll on the ground, working side by side with cowboys from the other ranches, each outfit branding their own cattle. John learned how to flank the largest calves in the herd. He knew how to catch them in the air and put them on the ground. But eventually, as more homesteaders found their way into this valley, more and more fences went up, and the days of open range were over.

Even though the days of open range roundups were gone, John continued to work with all the big outfits of the Sulphur Springs and San Simon Valleys. He was known for riding his mules, with just a couple of horses for special purposes. These early days in John's life were without incidents. Then there was the time he threw his chaps over the top rail of a corral fence only to have his pistol fall out of the pocket, land on the hammer and shoot him through the left bicep. It was not always all work and no play for John. With the influx of homesteaders, there were dances almost every Saturday night. John was a good dancer, but he also learned how to play the fiddle, guitar, and harmonica. He most often ended up making the music for the dance. It is interesting to note that John not only played for the dances, he also played his fiddle or guitar at home almost every night after he was done riding.

One of the stories about John was that he went to a carnival and found some brass rings with cut glass that looked pretty real. John bought seven of these rings for $2.98 each. But here is where John made some mistakes. Over the next six months, he gave away all seven rings as engagement rings to seven different young ladies. Then things went from bad to worse for John. At the Fourth of July dance in Kansas Settlement, all seven girls showed up at the dance each one showing off her ring and thinking she was engaged to John Klump. Before the dance was over, each girl had returned her ring and slapped his face.

I don't think John ever married any of the original seven ladies, but he was married twice, once in 1917 and then again in 1926. From the first marriage, he had three sons, but two died as babies. From his second marriage, he had seven other kids, six boys and one daughter.

John homesteaded a place of his own, 160 acres on Dos Cabezas Road, and he filed on another 480 acres in Silver Camp Canyon. Starting with only 160 acres on the side of a mountain, John continued to add more and more small ranches to what he had. Today his sons continue to ranch on the ranches their father and their grandfather started.

Only once did John have a job that paid wages. He always said working for wages wasn't his style. In the early 20's, John got a job with the Southern Pacific Railroad. He started with odd jobs for a while before they put him to work as a relief pumper. He went from town to town with his switch engine to pump water for the trains. It was one Sunday in Bowie, when the manager of the railroad hotel asked if John could help clean out the sewer line. John got his switch engine and drove it up close to the hotel and connected the steam line to the hotel's sewer line. When John turned on the steam, there was a big explosion and all the toilets were cleaned at once. Everything you can imagine was scattered all over the rooms. John got his tool bag and got on the next freight train to Lordsburg. Working for wages was not his style.

John Klump never learned to drive a car and he never had much to do with a wagon and team. His mode of transportation consisted of a saddle and a horse. He always lived way out on ranches, without electricity. He was a great storyteller and the family spent many evenings listening to his stories. One of the boys said, "He was a pretty good kind of an old Dad...even if he had a few faults. He knew his weaknesses: alcohol, tobacco, coffee and cussin'. He preached to his kids, "Don't do as I do and they listened, except for the cussin' part." John always stressed the importance of family and working together. No story about John Klump would be complete without mentioning that he was as bow-legged as you can get. You would assume that came from living on a horse. Actually his right leg was considerably shorter since a horse fell on it and broke it up pretty bad. Although he had ridden lots of broncs during his lifetime, he always told his kids, "If they won't quit buckin', sell "em for dog food."

John Sherman Klump died in 1967 and is buried in the Dos Cabezas pioneer Cemetery with his parents and other family members. His cowboy legacy continues today through his sons, their children, and their grandchildren.