“And I think God must be a cowboy at heart
He made wide open spaces from the start…
He made grass and trees and mountains
And a horse to be a friend
And trails to lead old cowboys home again…”
THE STORY BEHIND THE PHOTOS:
Many of my regular readers might recall my Great Uncle Ab, he shows up in some of my posts as well as my third book ‘Out There: Essays on the Lower Big Bend.’
Others, including some sure ‘nuff cowboys and peace officers of the Nueces River Country, will also, and likely have a yarn or two to spin about the man. Uncle Ab was of the sort not easily forgotten.
He was the youngest brother of his generation and my grandfather, E.B. ‘Ben’ English, Jr, was the oldest. Between them were three other brothers and the youngest of all, Aunt Martha.
Imagine what it was like for her on those isolated ranches in South Texas with all that male kin around. Then for good measure, she married Border Patrolman T. C. McCutchen and came to the Big Bend. Heck, I could write a good-sized book about her adventures alone. Those were different times, folks.
Just like Uncle Ab was different, the ‘baby’ of the brothers who cut his wide swath amid the life trails of the others.
Now Uncle Ab is best remembered as a cowboy. He was also a ranch manager, stockman and hunting guide, yet his true gift from God was his near-supernatural skill with a rope. When you hear the phrase ‘writing poetry with a reata,’ Uncle Ab comes to my mind.
He was the cowboy who once roped an escaped elephant near Eagle Pass and a grown buffalo up on the JA. He was the daredevil who knew no fear on the back of a horse with a rope in his hand. He was a champion rodeo prefer, always with a grin on his face and something of some sort going on. As one fellow said the other day in La Pryor, “We could spend all week telling Ab English stories and not get them all told.”
Uncle Ab was also a peace officer for a while. As a kid, I remember him in his patrol car, which happened to be a Ford Mustang Mach 1 with a sizeable amount of motor under the hood. I always thought it was so cool that he had a Mustang. After all, what else would a South Texas cowboy drive in that line of work?
I recall a bit of a tale about him and that car during a pursuit involving some modern-day desperados. They had several units in the chase, and Uncle Ab wrangled his steel pony to the front. The bad guys made a swazoo at his car and when he came up alongside again, he had a double-barreled twelve full of buckshot that he let go with.
And the pursuit was over.
Many years later I would visit him in the Eldorado Care Center. His room was always easy to find, it had his saddle and ropes displayed along with other paraphernalia of an eventful life. Next door was his sister, my Aunt Martha.
I’d go by when I could to visit with them. When my books started being published, I would read to him the parts about our family, as his eyes were so bad by then he could hardly see anything.
One time I came in and he was taking his afternoon nap, laid back with his mouth partially open and snoring ever so softly. I eased up beside, leaned over and said; “There’s a couple of muy malo who shot up Uvalde and are headed south on 83. What say we meet them at the Nueces River Bridge and show ‘em how it’s done?”
His eyes fluttered open and without skipping a beat he replied: “Just let me get my hat and guns.”
That was Uncle Ab, even at the age of 88.
Last Wednesday we laid Uncle Ab to rest in the English family plot in La Pryor, besides my great-great-grandmother, my great grandparents, my grandfather, my father, and Uncle Ab’s first wife of 51 years as well as his son.
Adios Tio, thanks for keeping life interesting for the rest of us up in the grandstands…
Ben H. English
Author of ‘Yonderings’ (TCU Press)
‘Destiny’s Way’ (Creative Texts Publishers)
‘Out There: Essays on the Lower Big Bend’ (Creative Texts Publishers)
‘The Uvalde Raider’ (Creative Texts Publishers)
Facebook: Ben H. English
‘Graying but still game’
The Stable Performance Cars
Museum of the Big Bend
Big Bend Saddlery
Creative Texts Publishers
Crockett County Public Library
Medina Community Library
The Twig Book Shop
Old Town Books
The Boerne Bookshop
Marta Stafford Fine Art
Lone Star Literary Life
Alpine Radio – Texas
Far Flung Outdoor Center
Front Street Books
El Progreso Memorial Library