WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees


Buck Moorhead was born February 1, 1916, on the Alamo Hueco Ranch 40 miles south of Hachita, New Mexico. He was one of eight kids and was the first boy. Being the first boy, Buck took on more responsibilities at an early age. His mother died when he was 13, and when his father's health began to fail, Buck found himself the manager of the U Bar Ranch at the age of 25. As a young ranch manager it was not unusual for Buck to leave the house at daylight and not return until after dark.

The U Bar Ranch is located in what is known as the boot heel of New Mexico, Old Mexico to the south, Arizona to the west, and Hachita, NM, 40 miles north.

Hachita is the proverbial dot on the map. It is located at the crossroads of Hwy 146 and Hwy 9. A very small town with a population of less than 100, but it was famous for holding country dances. Once a month there was a dance in the high school gym, and people came from miles around. It was at one of those country dances, in 1942, that Buck met a young lady named Alice Thomas. Alice said, 'It was kind of a whirl wind courtship, as they were married four months later." Buck and Alice had two kids, Buck Jr. and Betty Louise. Betty remembered going to the dances, and how she loved to dance with her dad. She said, "My feet never touched the floor."

When Buck came to the Sulphur Springs Valley, he worked on ranches in the Bonita area, did a little day work for Tom Sellman, and he managed the Three Links Ranch for Rex Ellsworth. As a ranch manager, Buck was not hard to work for, but he expected you to do what he asked you to do. He always liked to say, "Necessity was the mother of invention." He wanted you to find a way to get the job done whatever the circumstances. Those who have worked with Buck knew he was one heck of a good cowboy. They say he knew cows better than the cows themselves. Some have said, "He was one of the better cowboys that have ever been through this country". One cowboy that worked for Buck said, "He was best I ever saw."

He was also an exceptional roper. If he threw a loop at something, it was caught. He could do any kind of roping, drag calves to the branding fire, rope a horse out of a remuda, or four foot something if needed. A big loop or little bitty loop, it just seemed like he never missed. One day Buck had the occasion to rope a coatimundi that was up in a tree. Well, Buck didn't miss this time either. He stuck it on him and pulled it out of the tree. When the varmint hit the ground it came right up Buck's rope until it was on the back of the horse right behind Buck. This is not a good situation! The coatimundi was now biting the cannel on the saddle and was clawing Buck's horse. The wreck was on! Buck quickly pitched his rope over a yucca cactus. His horse was already in stampede mode. When everything came tight the coatimundi was separated from Buck and his horse. I don't think he ever did that again.

One of the last places Buck worked before he retired was on the Bell Ranch in New Mexico. He was hired to be the chuck wagon cook. For two spring roundups Buck cooked for 20 men. Chuck wagon cooks are normally pretty temperamental and a tad hard to get along with, and many times not even a good cook. This was in 1985 and 1986, which meant that Buck was 69 or 70 years old. He had every right to be a little cranky. Not Buck; he was always jolly. Everybody loved Buck, but they especially loved his cooking. He was somewhat famous for his bread and beans, and he made a mean pan of biscuits for breakfast. In fact, the exact words quoted to me were, "Buck was a hell-of-a-cook."

In today's society we tend to measure a man by the amount of wealth he has accumulated. The individuality of a working cowboy cannot be measured by dollars. We must look for other ways to measure these men. Some times you hear a story that helps to put things in proper perspective.

One morning it was raining straight down when the roundup crew was ready to leave the corrals. One of the crew members was a young kid about 14 years old that was wearing oxford shoes, no chaps, and no rain coat. As everyone mounted up to pull out, the kid's horse bucked him off right into a mud hole. The Boss was hollering, "Come on let's go. Get back on, let's go." The kid was covered in mud, but he got up and got back on and promptly got bucked off a second time. Now the boss was really upset. "Come on let's go," he said one more time. Buck was already mounted, and he really didn't know this kid. But he stepped off his horse and on to the kid's horse. Again, the horse blew-up, but this time Buck Moorhead was at the controls. Buck got him rode, pulled him up and then stepped off. He then took the rain soaked, mud covered kid back to the bunkhouse. Buck helped him get cleaned up, and when they came back to the corrals the kid was wearing an old jacket and a pair of hoots. Buck helped the kid get on his horse and then turned to the boss and said, "Now we can go."

Buck Moorhead knew this kid was in trouble and needed help. For a brief moment, Buck put himself between this kid and the rest of the world. In today's vernacular this would be called a random act of kindness. For others, this is one of those moments in time that cannot be measured by the dollar. For Buck Moorhead this was just being a cowboy.

Buck passed a way in 1999 at the age of 83.

Presented by Eddie Browning