Sunday, September 7, 2014

2014 Cowboy Symposium

"Lone Star Historian 2" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas during his second year. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College ( in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by his alma mater, Texas A&M University - Commerce. 

During the first weekend of September I was in Lubbock to participate in the 26th Annual National Cowboy Symposium. I’ve attended this event from time to time since the 1990s, and it always has been a deeply meaningful pleasure. The cowboy is a Texas icon, and the purpose of the Symposium is to celebrate, preserve, and pass along our cowboy culture.  The event features more than 100 performers and presenters – including the State Historian of Texas – and there are activities for the entire family. Indeed, visitors are drawn from across the United States as well as from other nations.

Visitors are constantly entertained by Western musicians and singers, cowboy – and cowgirl – poets, Native American dancers, and storytellers. A popular activity is shopping, and the vast Lubbock Memorial Civic Center is filled with exhibitors of Western art, books, jewelry, clothing, boots, hats, and leather goods. There is an annual Horse Parade, and this year Chance O’Neal of the Four Sixes Ranch performed astounding horse handling exhibitions.

Featured entertainer Pipp Gillette

A major attraction every year is the National Championship Chuck Wagon Cook-off. Chuck wagons are parked in the large open area north of the Civic Center, and each wagon camp includes tents – or tipis. Each wagon provides a meal (meal tickets are available to the public) featuring chicken fried steak, pinto beans, potatoes, fruit cobbler, and cornbread, sour dough biscuits or yeast rolls. Judges’ scores are compiled to award winners in each of five divisions: Bread, Meat, Potatoes, Beans, Dessert, as well Overall High Food Points. Wagons are also judged on the camp and wagon authenticity, with prizes awarded in the Ranch Wagon and Trail Wagon divisions. Wagon crews compete for trophy buckles, cash awards, and prizes totaling more than $14,000.

The lovely and efficient boss wrangler of the Symposium is Executive Director Monica Hightower. Last year she scheduled throughout the weekend programs on Texas Range Wars and Blood Feuds. She invited me to present a program on the last old-fashioned blood feud in Texas, the Johnson-Sims Feud, a conflict between two ranching families that took place in Snyder, Post, Sweetwater, Clairemont, and the surrounding countryside. There was considerable interest in the feud presentations, and Monica decided to utilize this feature throughout this year’s program.
Linda Puckett, Curator of the Garza County Museum

In response to Monica’s kind invitation for 2014, I suggested the Horrell-Higgins Feud in Lampasas County during the 1870s. I researched and wrote about this conflict in magazine articles and in my biography, The Bloody Legacy of Pink Higgins, A Half Century of Violence in Texas (Austin: Eakin Press, 1999). Higgins was a product of the Texas frontier who grew up battling Comanche raiders, livestock rustlers, and personal enemies. The Horrell brothers were hard-drinking, quick-triggered lawbreakers who were magnets for trouble. The Horrell-Higgins Feud involved  cattle theft, pioneer Texas ranchers, saloon shootouts, ambushes, a street battle, running fights in the countryside, lynchings, Texas Rangers, and murderous vendettas by night riders. The Horrell-Higgins Feud was cow country drama, and a large and receptive audience was on hand to hear about it. Immediately following my Horrell-Higgins presentation, I participated in a Western Authors Panel, chaired by Dusty Richards, immediate past president of the Western Writers of America.  Norman Brown, non-fiction writer, and I were the other panelists, and we also are members of the WWA.
The Texas Folklore Society booth was manned by
Paul Carlson and Clint Chambers, who also are key
members of the West Texas Historical Assn.

Billy and Ronna Huckaby at their
Cowboy Bookworm booth
Holding an enlarged photo of Pink
(seated far right) and a trail driving crew,
which includes my great-grandfather
(seated second from left)
As I drove into Lubbock on Friday morning, I received a phone call from the genial Gaby Fuentes, Deputy Director of Governmental Appoints, Office of the Governor. I became acquainted with Gaby two years ago, when she handled many details leading up to my investiture as State Historian at the State Capitol, a ceremony administered by Governor Rick Perry. About two months ago I received a phone call from Larry McNeill, chairman of the State Historian Selection Committee, inquiring if I would be willing to accept a second term. Of course I was elated and grateful for the opportunity. Gaby’s call last Friday was to announce the publicity release from the Governor’s Office about my reappointment. The second-term ceremony will be held on the campus of Panola College, which provides funding for my travels and where my office as State Historian is located. The event will be open to the public, and I will post details as arrangements are made. As I parked at the Lubbock Cowboy Symposium, I was grinning ear to ear at the prospect of another two years as statewide ambassador for Texas history!

For more information:
Fellow panelists Norm Brown (left) and Dusty Richards

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