A Real Working Cowboy: Boots O’Neal Has 7 Decades Under His Belt

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In an interview recorded in February 2019, a legitimate Texas cowboy gives viewers roughly 14 minutes of what it was like growing up into this noble trade. Inducted into The Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City in 2013, and having received the Golden Spur Award in Lubbock in 2018, Boots O’Neal has spent over 70 years as a working cowboy. You read that right. He wasn’t a ranch owner nor a manager, but an honest-to-goodness working cowboy who dedicated his life to knowing horses and cattle.

O’Neal was born in 1938 on the RO Ranch in Clarendon. By the age of 10, he took his first job taming broncos. He broke 20 broncs with his brother for the price of $20 a head, so the pair had $200 each when they were done, and it was the first time in their lives that they had real money. His workdays were often long and tough, and his diet back then would consist of mainly sourdough bread and, of course, beef. O’Neal said that when he started work for the JA Ranch in 1949, he would camp for five months at a time in a tepee, and the cowboys cooked on Dutch ovens.

Video: YouTube/Embracing the West

Shared on the Embracing the West YouTube channel, the interview above with Boots O’Neal lends insight into what the life of a working cowboy might be like in Texas. Although for the brief time you’ll watch it, your mind may wander, picturing the places and scenery he must have witnessed in over seven decades of doing what he loves. His resume reads like a who’s-who of the ranching world, including “historic large ranches over the years like the JA, Matador, 14, Waggoner and 6666.” Seven-days-a-week, from daybreak ‘til dark, O’Neal rode, worked, and sometimes slept out in the open. Although he appears to be the true “portrait of a real cowboy,” he’s also been described as “soft-spoken and gracious to those around him.” With respect to being awarded the honors that he has, he reacts just the way you’d think he would, saying that he feels honored for being recognized for what he’s done with his life, and it makes him think he did something right somewhere along the line.

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