WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees
LESLIE R. KUYKENDALL (52)
1996 COWBOY HALL OF FAME POSTHUMOUS AWARD
Leslie R. Kuykendall, lifetime cattleman and cowboy, was born to Rude and Rosa Kuykendall in Douglas, Arizona, on January 5, 1910.
He lived in Hunt Canyon during his early years, west of the Glenn's J-A Ranch. In those days, the neighborhood children rode their mules and attended school at the Macia, now part of the Rigg's Bar Boot Ranch on Leslie Canyon Road. Les later attend school in Douglas.
His mother died at an early age. Les and his half-brother Bill Hale were raised by his Aunt Mary Harwick, who recently passed away in Palominas.
Times were rough. The family traveled to Ranger, Texas, and used their horses and wagon to haul freight in the oil fields. The winter was cold, the mud deep, and the wages meager.
The Kuykendalls returned to Douglas and later tried to make a fresh start in California. That wasn't the place for Les. He hopped a freight train at approximately age 14 and returned "home", working as a cowboy for Lynn Mobley near Silvercreek. From there he worked for the Bloomquist and Johnson families. Les ended up hiring on as a cowboy for N.B. Igo. It's interesting to note that Les's grandmother homesteaded on a portion of this same ranch years earlier. In 1936, Les married Igo's daughter, Kate.
The 1940's brought a new venture. Les purchased “The Gatliff”. Managing one ranch wasn't enough. There were a few hours in each day that weren't productive! (This ranch-land is now in the middle of the Sunizona community). He eventually traded this ranch in the 1960's for the Sproul Ranch, which still remains in the family. Les remained on the IGO ranch, as home base, until his death on March 21,1995. His wife Kate passed away October 30,1996.
Les was a member of the Cochise Graham and Arizona Cattlegrowers Association, and was a sucker for any youth organization with a purpose.
He was known as a fluent and entertaining "storyteller". Friends and neighbors frequently requested his services as a self-educated "vet", Les always sold an impressive calf crop. Ranching was his life and he did it well. A former neighbor once said. "If I don't make it to heaven, I'd sure as heck like to come back as one of Les' cows". A man, not big in stature, but a man who was a giant in the eyes of the people who know and loved him.
Les loved good horses and cattle, rain, kids, music, a good cup of coffee and a smoke, and anyone, just anyone, who listened to his stories (in which he used a few "choice words") about ranchin', ropin', wild cows, mean snakes, cattle prices, drought and floods, not to mention politics and the IRS. He used to tell stories about miles of prairie hay in this country that he harvested for winter feed, and about dry land farming (in the days when it rained in the summer time). Les stated he remembered trudging 21 miles in a field behind a team of mules. "Damn I was tired, seemed like those furrows were rubbin' on my hip pockets, had to hurry, while the ground was wet!" he also told stories about the neighbors saddlin' their milk cows and riding them "just for fun". Snakes so big that rocks would bounce off them, and experiences that left his wide-eyed grandchildren speechless.
Les "Little Grampa" left his world quietly. Family and friend celebrated his life at the ranch where he raised his family and spent most of his working years. He is survived by one son, Tom Kuykendall; a step-daughter, Betty Eacret; two grandchildren, a step grandson and three great grandchildren.
Les's life and passing can be summed up by reading a Baxter Black poem that was presented at his funeral.
The Lord spoke to the heavy hearts that stood with hats in hand, "Your sadness pains me deeply and I know you'll miss this man. But, it's true what you've been hearing, Heaven is a real place. That's no small consolation. You should use that fact to face The emptiness his parting left that seeps into your bones And draw on it to ease your pain. For he is not alone.
You see, all his friends are up there and all his loved ones, too *Cause it wouldn't be a heaven without each one of you. And heaven for a cowboy is just what you might expect. It's horses that need tunin' up and heifers that need checked. Him, leanin' in the saddle with his old hat on his head, Contentment set upon his face like blankets on a bed.
The leather creaks a little as he shifts there in the seat. The bit chains give a jingle when his pony switches feet. And you somehow get the feelin' that he's sittin' on a throne A'gazin' out on paradise just like it was his own.
I can promise you he's happy, though I know you can't pretend You're glad he made the journey.. It's too hard to comprehend. The earthly way you look at things can never satisfy Your lack of understanding for the answer to the "Why?"
So, I offer this small comfort to put your grief to rest I only take the top hands 'cause my crew's the very best. And I know it might seem selfish to friends and next of kin But I needed one more cowboy... and Les just fits right in.