Manuscripts/Mixed Material [Bones Hooks]
Interview with Bones Hooks, pioneer Negro cowboy
December 23, 1940
Interview with Bones Hooks
Matthew (Bones) Hooks, who for years worked on Panhandle ranches as a horse wrangler and “bronc-buster”, [know?] many tales of cowboy life in the early days, but he refuses to tell the most interesting ones” because it would rattle skeletons in the closets of prominent families”—old-timers who are still living or their descendants.
Bones, without calling embarrassing names, recites a case in point. Called as a witness before a grand jury recently, he recognized in the judge a pioneer cattleman.
“Bones, do you know anyone who has stolen cattle”—the judge caught the glint of memory in the piercing black eyes and hastily added-“now?” And Bones, whose lips had been forming the question, “What time are you talking about, Judge?” could honestly answer, “No”.
Both of them were recalling a certain day in the past when the judge, then a young man just starting out in the cattle business, and a young Negro cowboy drove a fine young male calf from the pastures of the Capitol Syndicate (XIT Ranch) to the white man's ranch.
The embryo cattleman could not afford to buy a good bull—Bones said “surly”; he would not use the word “bull” before a lady interviewer—which he needed for breeding purposes. He went to the Negro cowboy, who was working an the XIT at the time, and asked him if he knew where he could get one. Bones looked over the range and, seeing no one near, selected a fine-looking calf, which they drove toward the home ranch of the judge-to-be. Coming upon a still better animal, Bones exchanged the tired calf for the other, and proceeded an his way.
The young rancher tied up the calf until it was weaned to keep it from getting back with the mother cow. “It took about four days to wean a calf,” said Bones. “After that time he would go down to the water hole and drink and then mosey out on the range and eating grass and forget all about him mamma”.