12th annual Foy Proctor Cowman’s Award celebration

Nov 11, 2011

Beginning in 1999, the Foy Proctor Memorial Cowman’s Award has been given annually with these stated goals: “To recognize and honor men and women for a remarkable lifetime spent at the careful handling of cows and calves, for their art and proficiency at this work horseback, and in recognition of the wisdom and distinction they acquired in a lifetime devoted to the business of cattle. They are honored for their example of talent, spirit and character at their work.”

On Oct.15, folks in the ranching business came together in Midland, TX, at the ceremony for the 2011 Foy Proctor Memorial Cowman’s Award recipients. The awards’ presentation is held in conjunction with the annual Fall Gatherin’ Ranch Storytelling held at the Haley Library and History Center in Midland, an event giving ranchers and others an opportunity to share western history. The storytelling has been described as an occasion for ‘old-timers’ to tell their experiences cowboying and relate tales about the cowboy way of life. But this year’s roster of tale–tellers also included a Rogues’ Gallery of ‘young buttons’ as well, that being cowboys falling into the 45- 65 age group. Both groups swapped re-ride stories that usually had one of the following common denominators: chasing wild cattle, unplanned bronc rides, chuckwagon cooks, terrible weather . .. And various and assorted ‘train wrecks’ involving livestock and cowboys.

The late Foy Proctor, 1896-1988, was a well-respected epitome of a cowman. He grew up ranching in Midland and eventually formed a cattle-buying partnership that led to purchasing 10,000–15,000 head of cattle annually for shipment to Nebraska following WWI. He later bought ranches in Arizona and New Mexico and purchased a large part of the famed XIT ranch in the Texas Panhandle. Proctor was also a tremendous benefactor to his community and the cattle industry.

This year’s 12th annual awards recipients were Cole Armstrong of Pecos, TX, John Dublin of San Angelo, TX, H.G. Bedford of Midland, and Bill Lee of Buckeye, NM.

Besides being honorable cowmen, these four individuals had many things in common; they are proud of their western heritage, they had all served their country in World War II, they raised their families in the ranching community . . . And most of them hated milking the family cow when they were growing up.

But above and beyond all that, these men knew they loved ranching from the time they were young and persevered through hard times to not only make ranching their occupation, but encompass a way of life important to them and their families. These cowmen take great pride in continuing the heritage that has been so vital and instrumental in their lives.

Honoree, Cole Armstrong was born in Reeves County, TX, in 1922. His family had arrived in Monahans, TX, in 1904 and his father, who built roads during the depression, went on to form his own contracting company, C.E. Armstrong and Sons.

Armstrong grew up in Pecos and when the war broke out, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, piloting the B25 Mitchell bombers. He served in the Pacific Theater for the duration of the war.

After the war, Armstrong returned to West Texas and entered into a partnership with his brother, Scott, which evolved into a lifelong business. Armstrong’s ranching days began on the old Burchard Ranch west of Toyah, TX, where he and Scott ran cattle and did some cotton farming. They then moved to the Hi Lonesome Ranch north of Toyah and eventually bought the WT Ranch. At one time, he and Scott had some 500 sections of hard West Texas country. Today, the family is still recognized for ranching a ‘heckuva’ lot of country in West Texas and scattering tracks on what Armstrong simply describes as ‘ranch raised, broke and trained’ horses.

Armstrong’s fondest memories of his early years were growing up around the old timers of Pecos County. He is known to fear nothing in life and has learned to live with what Mother Nature provides. He said he’s most proud of living the life of a cowboy, being out in nature and learning not to fight it.

Award recipient John Dublin was born in Midland in December 1921. From the 1920s to the 1940s, Dublin’s father was the general manager of the Scharbauer Cattle Company’s Ranches at Midland. His father and Foy Proctor grew up together. Proctor was Dublin’s godfather and he and John enjoyed a lifelong friendship.

After attending New Mexico Military Institute, Dublin joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 and was an armament specialist on B-24 bombers before returning home to West Texas. He resumed his cattle partnership with his father, which began when Dublin was a teenager, on nine sections of ‘marginal’ leased country. The drought of the ’50s sent Dublin, his young family and 300 head of cattle to Colorado for three years before coming back to Texas and resuming his ranching enterprises.

In addition to his accolades as a cattleman, Dublin is an accomplished horseman and competed in National Cutting Horse Association shows from 1949 to 1997. During his nearly 80 years in active ranching, he has operated in five Texas counties and in Colorado and New Mexico.

“I have endured extended drought, low cattle prices, good horses, good cattle and good friends, and enjoyed every minute of it,” professed Dublin.

Honoree H.G. Bedford was born in Midland in 1926. He was raised on the historic “C” Ranch in Andrews County where his father was general manager. Bedford’s father was also a partner in the Ratliff and Bedford Bar F Ranch of Andrews and Winkler counties.

From left to right Bill Lee, John Dublin, H.G. Bedford and Cole Armstrong.

Bedford attended New Mexico Military Institute and upon graduation, entered the U.S. Navy. After his discharge, he attended Texas Tech State University. While at Tech, he was the founding representative of the college to the formation of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA). Bedford was recently honored by the university for his association with NIRA for over 50 years.

Bedford operated a ranch at Springer, NM, from 1950-1985 raising purebred and crossbred Hereford cattle. He also raised registered Quarter horses for the ranch, performance arena and racing. Bedford has maintained a ranch northwest of Midland until recent retirement.

Feeling fortunate to have ridden out with the wagons and worked around the oldtime cowboys of the first decades of this century, Bedford appreciates their ideals, sacrifices and dedications and believes in maintaining the character and traditions of the pio neer settlers of this great ranching region. He said he must be a fairly good judge of horses and women because he’s done well in rodeo, racing and marriage.

Recipient Bill Lee, a third-generation rancher, was born in Lovington, NM, in November 1933. Lee grew up on the Scharbauer & Lee Cattle Company Ranch where his father, Dick Lee, was foreman and working partner with the Scharbauers. When Bill was seven, his dad purchased 12 sections of ranch land in Lea County, NM.

Lee attended the naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at University of New Mexico and reactivated the college rodeo team while he was there. He was second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corp and was stationed in Japan and Okinawa. After his service to his country, Lee returned to the ranch, where he raised his family, and went into partnership with his father in what became the Lee Cattle Company. Lee also served in the New Mexico State Senate for eight years.

Throughout the years, Lee Cattle Company has grown from the original 12 sections to 51 sections located in Lea and Chavez counties. Originally a Hereford operation, the ranch now raises Angus cattle and Quarter horses.

Ranching has always been Lee’s primary focus and his philosophy has always been to adjust to the situation regardless of drought, cattle prices, prairie fires or other adversities.“Over those things which you have no control, let the Lord take care,” believes Lee. “And as far as the cattle and horses are concerned … Just put the good on the good.”

All four recipients of the 2012 Foy Proctor Award have experienced many different hardships as well as good and prosperous times throughout their careers in ranching. But all these cattlemen strongly voice the same sentiments—their journeys have provided for a wonderful life. — Ginger Elliott, WLJ Correspondent