Friday, October 31, 2014

William "Bill" Pickett

William "Bill" Pickett

Even the citizens of Marland have forgotten the names of the people buried on nearby White Eagle Monument Hill. White Eagle, of course is remembered. He was a chief of the Ponca tribe. The Miller Brothers of 101 Ranch fame erected the monument in his name.

Bill Pickett rests here too, a name so well known in rodeo that rodeo people call the graveyard "Bill Pickett Hill," bestowing upon him a prominence they feel atones for the disregard of others buried at the site.The grave is marked with a sandstone tombstone that reads: "Bill Pickett-C.S.C.P.A." The letters stand for Cherokee Strip Cow Punchers Association. Pickett, a black man who has been given credit for "inventing"bull dogging, died in the spring of 1932 after an altercation with a bronco in a 101 Ranch corral. He was 62.

Pickett worked for the Millers, who not only had the big Oklahoma ranch (the 101) but also a big show (101 Ranch Wild West Show), for most of his adult life. But his remarkable story begins not in Oklahoma but in south central Texas near Taylor, Williamson County.

His antecedents were of mixed "Negro, Caucasian and Cherokee Indian blood," according to Colonel Bailey C. Hanes, "a not uncommon blend [in the 1800's] in the upper south." In his book, Bill Pickett, Bulldogger (University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1977), Hanes concludes that "Thomas Jefferson Pickett was born in Louisiana and was 26 years old in 1880, which means that one of the Pickett women was pregnant at the time the wagons headed West and that he was born at some unknown place in 1854 as the caravan passed through Louisiana, "

According to Hanes" research, "the caravan was made up of 48 whites and 52 Negro slaves." Thomas Jefferson Pickett was Bill Pickett's father. He and Bill's mother, Mary, produced13 children. Five of the boys, including Bill, may have been the first black entrepreneurs in Taylor, where they operated a business called "Pickett Bros. Bronco Busters and Rough
Riders Ass'n."

Bill was born in 1870, five years after the Civil War ended and the slaves of the Confederacy were emancipated. By the time he was 16, he was becoming interested in horses, cattle and dogs.

Not many writers emphasize the influence cattle dogs had on the young man, but, I believe, if it were not for these dogs, he might never have been the famous bite 'em style bulldogger he was. There were "heel" dogs and "catch" dogs. The latter went to a critter's head, while the former harassed the heels. Cowboys were used to such chases because it was next to impossible to swing ropes, or make cow catches in the thick tangles of brush that covered much of Williamson County.

As young Bill watched the cowboys, working on ranches or in holding corrals, he wondered to himself why so many critters got away If they would just do it like they dogs, he must have thought as he and his brothers organized their business: catching and bringing back wild cattle and breaking and gentling wild horses.

Exactly where Bill Pickett first grabbed a steer's lip with his teeth-like the dogs did it-is not known. You hear stories that he did it in the brush, on the range, in a holding No. But wherever he did it, he was the first to do it and the first to be promoted in a specialty act.

In talking to old-timers, much of the fanciful element is reduced. They figure that Pickett went down or! the back of a cow brute, stopped it, then bit into lip or nose and just fell away, dropping the steer by twisting its neck and assisted by the attrition of leverage.

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