WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees


Tom Kuykendall has spent his entire life on the family ranches just north of Rucker Canyon on the foothills of the Chiricahua Mountains. As a 4th generation of Kuykendalls on the ranch, Tom said, "We have been here a long time on a good ranch that can wean 700 pound calves. We have survived fire, floods, and drought and the ranch is still in the family. We are still her and that has always been our long term goal."

Tom was born in 1939. He went to elementary school at the Ash Creek School and attended Valley Union High School in Elfrida, Arizona. In high school he played football, basketball and was on the first Valley Union baseball team. He was also a charter member of the Valley Union FFA Chapter.

One of the most important decisions he ever made was in 1962, when he traveled to a place called the Tucson Garden to attend the official Tucson rodeo dance. It was described as quite a party, and it was here that Tom met his wife to be, Betty Jo.

In 1963, Tom and Betty Jo were married. They have two children, Tammy and Bill. For the next 42 years, Tom and Betty Jo never had a dull moment. Tom said, "If there wasn't something going on she would stir something up." They were particularly active in projects involving youth. One of Betty Jo's favorite sayings was, if you are going to invest in something - invest in your kids. And, if you are going to do something, by damn, do it to the best of your abilities. They were active with 4-H, FFA, the County Fair, and they were the driving force behind a huge fund-raiser for the local high school band/choir programs. They had fun teaching kids from the surrounding area. Tome said, "I don't know where we found all the time for this stuff."

Tom has had a number of hobbies throughout his life; everything from drag racing (where he was described as a contender), to playing golf (12 handicap). He loved to hunt and trap shoot, and even did some roping. He did make sure that his hobbies did not interfere with his ranching.

Tom Kuykendall has been described as a rancher who thinks outside the box. He is always looking to the future, trying to stay ahead of the trends in cattle types. Whatever cattle types were bringing top dollar, Tom wanted to have those cattle on his ranch. He is a trendsetter, not a trend follower. For years you sold your cattle at home, but when the order buyers went away, he took things into his own hands calling across the country to find a home for his 700 pound calves.

Tom is very proud of his cattle and he knows them like the back of his hand. When he is working his cattle you will find him in the corral, sitting on a tub reading his computer printout that details all the production information about each cow. There is no guesswork. There is no doubt his cattle are some of the very best around the country. Tom said, "I am a grass farmer first. If you don't have grass you don't have a ranch." He also said, "Having a lot of grass is better than having a CD in the bank."

When I visited the ranch, Tom loaded me in the ranch truck and drove me up a long ridge so I could see some of his cows and calves. Only a few hundred yards from the ranch house we came to the family grave site and stopped for a moment. It was here that I learned what it means to the Kuykendalls to be inducted into the Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame. Fourteen years ago, Tom's dad, Les, was honored and here on his tombstone were the words "Cowboy Hall of Fame." It just struck me how cool is this! Here it was in granite that being honored in the Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame was a big deal.

Today, Tom is active in border issues and he has served many years on the Valley Telecom Board of Directors. He is currently serving as the vice-president of the board.

When I asked Tom what was the best part of his ranching career, he said, "Sharing it with Betty Jo." They were certainly a dynamic duo that made a difference in the lives of everyone they knew. It has been five years since Betty Jo passed away, but the memories will never fade.

I asked Tom, "Why do you do what you do?" He simply said, "What else is there to do."

Written and presented by Eddie Browning