WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees
CLAUDE MCNAIR (57)
1998 COWBOY HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
In August of 1920, Claude McNair came into this world and his first home was on a ranch in York, Arizona. York, Arizona is somewhere between Clifton and Duncan across from Apache Grove. Claude said he started cowboying at age three and he's been riding ever since. Even now he still rides 2 to 3 days a week. He has always had an interest in livestock.
When Claude was 8, his dad bought the T-Rail Ranch in Aravaipa Canyon and drove his cattle from the Apache Grove Ranch to Aravaipa. For over 40 years Claude lived and worked on the ranch in the canyon. Claude took over the ranch when his dad passed away.
In those early days, Claude helped to drive the Klondike cattle to the Willcox stockyards to ship. It was very exciting to be a part of this drive. It made you feel something special, with a years work in front of you. It was a 5 day trip to town driving cattle and 2 days to take the horses back to the ranch.
All of the ranchers in the Aravaipa Canyon always worked together to help each other ship their cattle. That cattle drive to Willcox included cattle from everybody that wanted to ship. It didn't matter if you had 2 head or 200 head.
If you lived in the Aravaipa Canyon you didn't come to town very often. When you did you bought only the basics like coffee, flour, or sugar. You were self-sufficient. You gardened, canned, and had beef and hogs. It was a close-knit group of people making a living in Aravaipa Canyon. People watched out for each other, always ready to be a good neighbor.
Claude went to school in Klondike until the eight grade. His dad gave him the choice to go on to school or go to work. Claude went to work.
Claude liked to trade horses and he conned his dad out of $250 (which was a lot of money back then) and started trading. "My dad's advice was, I could trade two horses for one, but not to trade one horse for two because that is just another mouth to feed. I traded horses till I ran out of money, then I'd put some more money together and start trading again," said Claude.
Whether catching wild horses around Reddington or chasing wild cattle on Turn Bull Mountain near Ft. Thomas, Claude knew about 90% of this wild cow business is luck.
After 43 years at the T-Rail Ranch, Claude traded the T-Rail for the Ten Ranch, which is just around the corner of the mountain on the way to Safford.
In 1972 he moved to the Ten Ranch and is still on it. He took in his kids as partners and the family is still active in ranching, keeping up the tradition. Claude has served 30 years on the Board of Directors for the Cochise-Graham Cattle Growers Association, 20 years on the Klondike School Board, and 20 years on the Election Board.
Claude also served on the Eastern Arizona Junior College Governing Board. "I would bet Claude has been the only junior college director with only an eight grade education," said narrator Eddie Browning.
During the lean years Claude was a deputy sheriff and drove an ore truck at night for the Athletic Mining Company.
Claude said, "The kids' mother passed away in 1984 and it was a few years later that I married Henrietta, a Klondike girl that I had known all my life." Together they formed the CNH Cattle Company to do business - CNH, Claude and Henrietta.
When asked what is so special about the cowboy life, Claude said, "It is the best there is! Lots of excitement and lots of hard work. A ranch is the best place you can find to raise a kid. Room to roam and room to grow.
I'll never retire because when I do - I'll die."