This year, July 27 celebrates that ever-iconic and uniquely American symbol of strength and freedom, the cowboy. National Day of the Cowboy started in 2005 as a way to call attention to the important contributions that these buckaroos made to the early development of our country.
And because all of that began in the Lone Star State, we thought it appropriate this week to highlight three of the state’s most famous cowboys. So here we go.
Charles Hugh “Chuck” Roberson: Born in 1919 near Shannon, Texas, actor and stuntman Chuck Roberson did more than just play a cowboy on the silver screen. He was, for a spell, an actual cowboy.
Roberson grew up on a small cattle ranch near Shannon and even left school at the age of 13 to work as a cowhand. Later, after serving in the Army during World War II and working as a police officer in California, he began working as a Hollywood stuntman—mostly in Westerns where Roberson’s knowledge of horses set him apart.
He later went on to work as John Wayne’s stunt double. The two worked together and were friends for more than 30 years. And while Roberson continued his stunt work, he also landed supporting actor roles in film and TV and built a career as a director. Roberson had more than 120 acting and stuntman credits to his name by the time he died in 1988 at age 69.
Tom Edward “Black Jack” Ketchum: Tom Ketchum was born in San Saba County, Texas, in 1863 as the youngest of eight children. As a youngster, he and his brother, Sam, worked as cowboys in West Texas and New Mexico. But wrangling cows, ultimately, is not what Ketchum is known for.
Eventually, the two got tired of earning their livings as cowherds, and they turned to lives of crime. In 1892, they teamed up with several local outlaws and robbed 20,000 from a train bound for New Mexico. It was the start of a nine-year killing and train-robbing spree with what would become known as the Black Jack Ketchum Gang. In 1901, authorities caught and hanged Ketchum.
Bose Ikard: Born a slave in Mississippi in 1843, Bose Ikard was still a child in the 1850s when he was taken to Texas and taught the ways of the cowboy. In 1866, about a year after the Civil War ended, Ikard took his newly acquired freedom and started working for famed Texas rancher Oliver Loving (soon killed by Comanches) and then Charles Goodnight—namesakes of the well-known Loving and Goodnight Cattle Trail that ran 2,000 miles from Texas to Wyoming.
The “Lonesome Dove” novel and TV series is based on the adventures of Loving, Goodnight and Ikard. Actor Danny Glover stars as Joshua Deets, modeled on Ikard. But unlike the character of Deets, Ikard didn’t die from a Comanche arrow. In real life, he and his wife and children later settled in Weatherford, Texas, where he lived until 1929.
There’s a historical marker dedicated to him in Weatherford, and the town named its elementary school after him. In 1997, he was inducted into the Texas Trail Hall of Fame. And in 1999, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma.
From all of us here at Infinite Energy, happy National Day of the Cowboy.