WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees
HARRY SOMMER (34)
The following biography was written at the time of Mr. Sommer's induction.
1983 COWBOY HALL OF FAME CHARTER MEMBER
Harry Sommer was surprised at being named a charter member of the Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame. "I don't know why I was picked and can't figure out what their reasoning was," he said. "There's been many a horse between my legs but I never figured it'd get me any sort of honor."
Sommer came to Willcox from Riverside, California in 1918 with his parents. "It's been good to me," he said. "That's why I've stayed." He is 80 years old.
His parents had their own place for about 12 or 14 years and engaged in ranching until his father died. Sommer started his own spread in 1928. "I always wanted to own a ranch and I finally got a little one together," he said. "I had about six sections out in the area of the Yucca Sierra Golf Course."
Sommer moved to town about 29 years ago but continues his involvement in the cattle industry. He served on the Livestock Sanitary Board as a cattle inspector, working in that position for almost 20 years.
"But I still miss ranching, being out in the country and being my own boss," he added. "No matter how many years I'm retired, I'll miss it. When you grow up with it and like it, you stick with it."
Sommer agrees that ranching is a whole lot different today than it was yesterday. "There's just no comparison," he said. "The only way we used to travel was with a team and wagon. Now it's cars, and new ones at that. And when they go out to check their cattle today they don’t ride a horse, they drive those 'dang pick –ups.' That really gets me."
Television is something else that takes up a "modern" cowboy's time. Sommer remembers walking a mile to the neighbor's place just to listen to the radio, "He had one and we didn't," he said.
Sommer said he did everything any cowboy would do, except to follow the rodeo circuit. "For some reason most people consider them to be the cowboys," he said. Sommer is also a "water witch." He had a background of experience and is well known for the wells he has been able to locate on numerous spreads around this area. "That's something my dad used to do," he said. "He used the forkin' sticks and found water when other people couldn't. I started it and I'm still active with it. I like to think that I got better than my dad was."
Ruth Hobbs, who has been Sommer's housekeeper for the past years, said he is "practically a walking encyclopedia for Willcox." "He's been here long enough to know what's going on and who has done what," she said. "So many of the great ones are gone and that information and the memories of things that have happened are important."
Until he had leg surgery, Sommer said he was pretty active around his place. But lately he's had some difficulty in doing the things he's used to. He still enjoys going out in the country and picking his own fruits and vegetables with Mrs. Hobbs. It gives him a taste of the life he remembers so well and misses. Sommer worked about 100 head of cattle on the six sections of the ranch land and said it was just "a natural way of life" with him. "I grew up with the ranch life, I always liked it and I never wanted to do anything else," he said.
Sommer raised his family, daughters Kathy and JoAnn, to become accustomed to ranch life. He's keeping his saddle, a prized possession, for his granddaughter, Jolene. "I know she'll want it," he said. "It's a good saddle."
He has a lot of friends in this country and, although a lot of the old ones are gone, he feels good about the younger generation and what they're doing. "They" make it," he said.
Sommer feels good about his life. He says he's done most of the things he's wanted to do and liked to do so he considers himself pretty lucky. "I always felt that if you liked what you were doing you'd be good at it," he said. "If you didn't you wouldn't make it."
He only had one real dream in life, and that was to own his own little ranch. "I finally did it and I felt good about my life," he said. "It takes money to get into ranching today, money and the ability to work hard and sacrifice. If I were to advise a young man today, interested in being a rancher and his own cowboy, this is what I'd tell him: If you want to starve to death, come on out here where it don't rain much and get a ranch. If you want to get rich, go on and do something else. Now, I'd do the same thing over again. It's been a pretty good life."
Harry Sommer passed away December 19, 1986, eight days prior to his 80th birthday.