WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees


Keith Klump's grandfather, John Walker Klunip, brought his family and a herd of cattle to Willcox in 1904. Thirty-four years later on March 14, 1938, Keith Klump was born in Willcox, Arizona, in the exact same house where Rex Allen was born. He went to school in Bowie for 12 years. He also attended the University of Arizona for one semester.

Keith is next to the youngest of 7 brothers and one sister. He has been a rancher from day one. He has spent his entire life ranching in the shadow of the Dos Cabezas Mountains. His dad encouraged the brothers to all work together, and I would say they have an unbreakable bond where family comes first. Basically, starting with nothing and slowly through the years, they have added more country to their holdings. Life was not easy as there were many personal sacrifices to pay for those additional new ranches. They were a very self-sufficient family. They repaired their own saddles and tack, fixed their own cars, built their own windmill towers, cobbled their shoes and in the fall they drove their cattle to the livestock auction rather than haul them in trucks. In fact, electricity did not arrive at the Klump Ranch until 1979. Keith grew up in an era where the local merchants held your bill until you sold your cattle in the fall.

When Keith first started to ride, they were short on horses. Keith said, "I had to ride the jackass. And when you ride the jackass you knew you weren't going to be much help." In time, Keith inherited the gentle horses or the ones that nobody else wanted to ride. He has spent his share of the time driving the drags and eating the dust and was glad to learn how to be a point man so he could work out in front of the herd.

You can say that Keith has literally grown up on the side of a mountain, and as a boy he paid attention to the habits of all the animals he encountered. He saw how the weather patterns affected the animals. It didn't matter if it was a bird, a coyote, a javelina or a skunk; he studied their life patterns and is today a self made true naturalist.

When Keith was a junior in high school, he first met his wife to be, Kathy Bliss. Keith was 16 years old and Kathy was 4. They didn't start dating right away. Kathy's sister, Belva, had married Keith's brother, Dan, so Kathy's family always made trips to Willcox. In 1968, Keith and Kathy were married, and Kathy's mother only had one thing to say, "Oh no, not another Klump." Keith and Kathy have six children: Phillip, Stephen, Pamela, Ronald, Julie, and Roy.

There was never a dull moment around the Klump house. When Kathy was pregnant with Stephen and getting close to a delivery date they devised a plan. When the contractions reached the point of no return, Keith's job was to call the Dr. to get him on the way to the hospital. Well the day came; the contractions had started and were not letting up. It was time. Keith rushed to the phone, dialed the wrong number and had a nice conversation with Karla Hansen. Kathy said, "He was a little flustered. Plus my Dr. was not named Hansen anyway."

Keith was active with his kids in their schooling. He has given countless cowboy demonstrations to the school kids. But, when Ronald and Roy were acting up in school Keith went to school with them. He packed his lunch, rode the school bus with them, went into their classroom and sat in the back. While Keith, Ronald and Roy were riding the bus together, his other kids found a different way to get to school. It wasn't long before Ronald and Roy got the message, and Keith went back to ranching.

For Keith, old habits die hard; once a packrat always a packrat. Even today, he never throws away a pair of boots or shoes. Kathy said the closet floor is full of old shoes, but every time she tries to throw them out, Keith seems to know, finds them and puts them back. On one yardsale trip, he came across a huge box full of shoes that he wanted to buy. There must have been 20 shoes, but they were all for the left foot. The family prevailed and talked him out of buying them. But, at an estate sale, Keith bought enough shoelaces to last 15 years. It was only a few years ago they finally ran out of shoelaces.

Keith is always looking for used stuff. Kathy said we have torn down lots of Willcox; the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church, the Ford garage, Wynn's Grocery and the old water tank and all this stuff is at our house. She said, "If anyone needs a crank up hospital bed, Keith's got one.

Keith's dad didn't want him to get involved in the rodeo business because he might get hurt; I guess he didn't warn him about motorcycles. His first and last motorcycle ride didn't take long. The story goes like this. Kathy was working at the Friends of the Library bookstore when a guy came in and said, "Just to let you know, Keith is all right; we got him sewed up." What happened? It was Keith's first ride on a motorcycle, and they forgot to show him where the brakes were. He went through the barbed wire fence next to the mailbox. Keith said they gave him two Tylenol and started sewing.

When you look at Keith you see a dark, tanned face weathered from hours and hours of working outdoors, but there is a side of Keith Klump that very few are aware of. He likes classical music, and he reads all the time. He reads books about astronomy, the weather and books about freedom. Although he only spent one semester at the University of Arizona, his geography professor wanted to recommend Keith to attend Oxford.

Keith has served his country and community with many volunteer hours. He served in the Arizona National Guard, on the B.L.M. Advisory Board, and 15 years on the Rex Allen Museum Board of Directors, and was chairman of the project to place brands in cement at Railroad Park. He has helped with the Friends of the Library for 23 years, the Chiricahua Museum for the past 10 years and president of the Dos Cabezas Pioneer Cemetery.

Keith Klump is truly one of a kind. He is a pioneer rancher whose face has graced the cover of our phone book and the cover of the Arizona Currents magazine. He loves to dance and he loves to tell stories. And Kathy says, "He is famous for making a short story LONG."

Keith's dad, John Sherman Klump, was inducted into the Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1999, and in 2000, Keith's brother, John Daniel Klump, was also honored. Tonight Keith, you join your dad and your brother as a member of the Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame. Please welcome Keith Klump.

Written and Presented by Eddie Browning