WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees
J. FRANK WOOTAN (42)
1994 COWBOY HALL OF FAME POSTHUMOUS AWARD
About the time the earliest settlers began to arrive in the Dos Cabezas, a little baby boy was born near Pack Saddle Mountain in Llano, County, Texas, He was named Joseph Frank Wootan.
Frank grew up and played around Pack Saddle Mountain until he was 11 years old. Then he was loaded into a covered wagon, with all the family belongings and the Wootan s headed for Arizona.
After many months of traveling and lots of adventures the family arrived in Sollomonville, Arizona. By the time Frank was a teenager the family had moved to Aravaipa Canyon and that's when Frank began punching cows. He worked for any of the local outfits, the Chiricahua Cattle Company, J.M. Porter, Harry Hooker, Norton and Norton and Dan Ming, and soon became one heck of a good cowboy.
Frank started by doing day work. He homesteaded 160 acres near Klondyke. In 1909, along with his brothers and a brother-in-law, he bought the Camp Stool Ranch. It wasn't long until he had built up a huge spread of his own. At one time Frank ranched over 70 sections of land.
In 1897, while ranching in the Klondyke area, Frank married Millie Bernice Weaver. They raised 8 kids. Frank served as County Supervisor, served on the school board and even played Santa Claus for the school Christmas programs.
After 38 years living on Aravaipa Canyon, Frank sold his ranch and moved to Willcox where his kids attended Willcox High School. It was about this time that Frank started his second career. For the next 23 years, Frank was a cattle inspector.
Frank was the cattle inspector when Willcox was known at the "Cattle Capital of the World". In the 1930's, more cattle were shipped by rail from Willcox than any other place in the world and Frank Wootan inspected most of them. It was often said Frank never saw a cow he didn't remember.
Besides cowboyin' and cattle inspectin', there were a lot of other things going on in Frank's life. He was a Sheriffs Posse member and an excellent tracker. He was a charter member of the Cattleman’s Association.
One other thing Frank did, he wrote poetry for the Arizona Range News. He wrote cowboy poetry.
After reading some of his poems, a few things really stand out about this man. These themes are woven into many of his poems: Honesty
His distaste for dudes/city slickers, and
His belief in God.
On the subject of honesty, he wrote:
I have never been unruly,
And I have always thought it grand,
To live by honest labor,
Done by an honest hand.
From his poem titled, "Never a Dude", he states:
They are the dadblamedest critters,
That ever I did see,
And they just don't know nuthin' —- or it seems
thataway to me.
I don't dress up like the city guy
With all his fancy stuff
And when it comes to dude wrangling,
I sure have had enough!
Of course I guess it's new to them
And maybe I've been rude,
But I've never seen a critter As
dumb as a dude.
So if you are a waddy
And want to stay carefree,
Don't ever work on a dude ranch. —Just take a tip
In his poem "The Good Cowhand" he writes of knowing God watched over him:
I have worked with gentle cattle
And wild ones on the prod. And I
have spent almost all my lifetime
Alone on the range with God.
Yes, you bet your life I am happy
As through my work I plod.
I know there is someone with me
And I know that someone is God!
I'm just an old cow puncher
No education at all,
And I know I'll have to leave you folks
When I hear my Master's Call.
On January 26,1969, at 92 years of age Frank passed away. He is remembered as a friend, a hard worker who gave his best, an honest rancher, a great cowboy and a great role model. He was a doer and could be counted on to go the extra mile.
His life might be summarized by the following verses from another of his poems:
I love my horse and saddle,
The cattle and the range
But to those who lead a sheltered life,
These words may seem most strange.
But each night when I go to bed
And some good deed has been done,
A voice seems to whisper to me, saying,
"Old Cowboy, you have won".
Prepared by Eddie Browning