WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees


Archie Durham was born in 1915 in BeeBee, Oklahoma, and was one of eight kids. He grew up around Amarillo, Texas, where his parents were dry farming pinto beans. At the age of 15, Archie was used to working hard and he knew he could take care of himself, so he caught a train and headed west. Nobody knows why he got off the train in New Mexico, but he did, and for 5 years he worked on a New Mexico ranch.

It was only by chance that Archie found Willcox. His boss had purchased an Arizona ranch and he had shipped a trainload of horses to the new place. The railroad brought horses and Archie Durham to Willcox. Archie was supposed to deliver the horses and then return to New Mexico, but he liked it better here and never went back.

This Arizona ranch where Archie was working, was purchased by the Fultons. This was literally a match made in heaven, as Mrs. Fulton loved horses as much as Archie did. Mrs. Fulton loved horses and Mr. Fulton loved the American Indian. It should be noted that it was Mr. Fulton who established the Amerind Foundation. Archie continued to work for the Fulton's even after he was ranching on his own. I cannot emphasize enough how much Archie enjoyed raising, training and riding horses. Over the years Archie built a herd of more than 30 mares.

About 18 miles toward Tucson, you will find a very unusual outcropping of rocks called Texas Canyon. If you duck off the road just before you reach the rocks and Head up Walnut Canyon, you will find the C Bar Ranch. This ranch was owned by the Owenby's and a man named Maurice Perkins. Archie's original interest in Walnut Canyon was not the ranch, it was Betty Ann Owenby. Betty Ann was attending beauty school, but after six weeks of courtship, she dropped out of school to marry Archie. 1938 was the beginning of 25 years of marriage and three kids: Bobby, Betty Lou and Archie Bill. Betty Lou said that the boys got the intelligence and she got the beauty.

Being a rancher has always been difficult, but when Archie had a chance to take over the C Bar Ranch from his brother-in-law, he jumped at the opportunity. At times he had to work three jobs to hold things together. He ran the C Bar Ranch, worked at the Johnson Mine and he continued working for the Fultons. In time he put together 26 sections. They say every dime Archie made was spent to make the ranch bigger or better.

Archie didn't do it alone. His kids worked right beside him. Archie taught them to hunt, to rope and ride, to shoe horses and to milk cows. Bobby talked about building miles and miles of fence. They laid pipelines and built corrals. The family did everything. Archie was one frugal gentleman. He taught himself to weld, build houses and be a mechanic. Archie even built his own windmill towers rather than purchase a ready-made kit.

It was Bobby who said, "There was never a dull moment around this place." Many of the original “Ace Reed” cartoons could have been written about Archie, his uncles, his neighbors, and their escapades of ranching.

One of those neighbors who had a great influence on Archie was Lloyd Adams. It was Lloyd who taught Archie about the ranching business. They were great friends. They rode together and they played together. Whether they were chasing wild cattle around the peaks of the Dragoon Mountains or going to the Dragoon dances where the dance floor was on top of a 40 ft. boulder in Texas Canyon, Lloyd was Archie's mentor.

It was a hard life for Archie:
He always worked 2 or 3 jobs.
He took care of his wife during her last days.
His boy was killed in a corral accident.
He took in his brother's kids.
He raised his own son - basically alone.
He had two hip replacements and a pacemaker.

But it was the spirit of the man that showed through. He was up at 4:00 every morning, ready to challenge the world with a smile on his face. He was happy and people wanted to be around him.

He loved horses. He loved to dance. He loved to eat (they say he took his food serious,). He liked to hunt, and he played to win (whether it was checkers, cards or a horse race).

Archie Durham passed away in 1983. Even though he stood only 5 ft. 5 inches tall, he was a giant of a man, and a great cowboy.

Prepared by Eddie Browning.