WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees


Sonny Shores was born June 17, 1937, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and was raised in Clovis, New Mexico. When Sonny turned 17 he joined the Navy, and he spent four years serving in either Hawaii or Kingsville, Texas. When Sonny's tour of duty was completed he returned to the Clovis area where he spent most of the next ten years trying to make a living riding bulls. It can be said that Sonny Shores literally grew up in the sale barn business. Sonny's dad bought the Clovis Livestock Auction when Sonny was 8 years old and as soon as he was old enough he started working at the sale barn. Sonny said, "I can't remember when I was not working in a sale barn."

There are many jobs to do to make a livestock auction function. When cattle arrive you have to receive them, sort them, feed them, get them through the ring, weigh them, pen them back and then load them out, plus do all the paperwork to keep the buyers and sellers happy. But the one job that fascinated Sonny was the auctioneer; the man up on the block with the microphone. The man who speaks a language that literally rolls off his tongue. Sonny went to auctioneer school and then with practice, practice and more practice he launched his career as an auctioneer in 1967 at the Deming Sale Barn.

In the late 1960's, buying and selling cattle in the Willcox area is what brought Sonny to the Willcox Livestock Auction every week. Eventually, Sonny did a little of the auctioneering and worked as a yard foreman. Sometime in the late 1970's, Jack Nelson approached Sonny about buying the Willcox Livestock Auction and on January 1, 1977, Sonny Shores was the new owner. Sonny said, "You can't do this job if it is not in your blood. That is the only way it will work."

Sonny worked hard to cultivate the trust of the ranchers and the support of the buyers. It is a fine line that you dance on, as you are trying to satisfy everyone. The seller wants everything he can get for his cattle. The buyer wants to know they are worth the money. Sonny must have been good at his job, as he sold somewhere between 1500 and 2000 head every week. Sonny said, "It is easy to sell cattle in an up market. You earn your stripes when you are in a tough market." Very few people know how hard Sonny worked to protect his ranchers. Many times he would purchase an animal if he didn't think it was bringing the correct price for the rancher. This is a very volatile business. One week the prices are hotter than a firecracker and the next week could be off a little. Sonny said in this business you can go from a hero to a goat in one week. (Well.., that is not exactly what Sonny said, but I'm sure you get the gist. If you want to know exactly what he said see me or Sonny later.)

Sonny Shores owned and operated a very successful business here in Willcox, and you could always count on him to support his community. If there was an individual in need or a serious cause, Sonny knew how to help. A calf would be donated for the cause and then sold. The new owner would donate him back and the calf would be sold again. This process was repeated until nearly every buyer at the sale that day had owned that calf for about 2 minutes. One of the most successful sales raised $11,000 in about 30 minutes.

What I find unique about this is when you look at the buyers who participated in this kind of sale, some are local and participated because they also knew the person in need and wanted to help. There were buyers that were not local, but participated because Sonny Shores said it was the right thing to do.

Sonny was a master in initiating a random act of kindness. I have two examples. It was a Saturday morning and Sonny was at the Willcox Middle School gym watching one of his boys play in a basketball tournament. One of the teams playing did not have matching uniforms; they were the classic rag- tag looking team. Sonny left the games, went and bought matching shirts and shorts and sent the new uniforms to the team at halftime. When those boys came out of the locker room they were so excited they hardly touched the ground. They never knew who had been so kind.

Two years ago Sonny was asked to be the auctioneer for the Willcox third grade classes. They were having an auction using play money to buy items through the auction process. When Sonny opened the bid for the first item, all 99 kids raised their hand at the same time. Sonny turned to the teachers and asked, "Now what do I do?" A teacher responded you just have to pick out two kids to take bids from and after a few bids just sell it to one of them. When they had gotten down to the last item up for bid, Sonny had picked his two kids and started the auction. The high bid was $4 and Sonny was asking for $5. "I've got $4 who will give me $5?" The little boy Sonny was working with looked up at Sonny and said, "I don't have $5, I've only got $4." Sonny stopped the auction opened up his wallet and gave him a real dollar bill and then said; "Now you do. Sold." The little boy took his 4 dollars of play money and one real dollar bill to pay for his ultimate Frisbee.

Sonny has three boys, Sonny Jr., Pete, and Robert. It is no surprise that Sonny Jr. is now running the Willcox Livestock Auction. Sonny lives west of town with his wife Evelyn and his dog, Sir Henry Jay Havey III. The dog rides in Sonny's lap everywhere they go. When the grand kids stay with Grandpa Sonny, he is telling old stories, teaching them card games or he gets out his guitar and sings. Their favorite song to sing with Grandpa Sonny's is the "One eye, one horn flying purple people eater."

Playing music goes back a long way for Sonny as he had a little band of his own in the 1960's and even made some records in the 1989-90 time frame. It was not unusual for Sonny to join a band on stage for a song or two.

Sonny Shores is a man of many talents. He was a successful business man, served on City Council, gave from the heart, made music, owned racehorses, and today travels with a dog named Sir Henry Jay Havey III.

Written and presented by Eddie Browning