WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees
MONROE BAKER (58)
1998 COWBOY HALL OF FAME POSTHUMOUS AWARD
Born: May 8,1903 Passed Away: July 19, 1998
Monroe Cullen Baker was born May 8, 1903 in Midland, Texas. He came to Arizona in 1912, the year Arizona became a state. He was 9 years old and rode horseback alongside the covered wagon his family came in. His family homesteaded on Ash Creek, which is on the east end of the Graham Mountains.
Monroe was in the third grade when he moved here. He started school in Willcox, but he also attended Sunset School and a school called Mountain View. He said the teachers were pretty strict. They also taught you manners. If you walked through and slammed the door, the teacher said, “You go back and close it right;” and you went back and you closed the door right. And you didn't stomp across the floor, you walked right.
Lunch for school was usually a little jerky or some fried salt pork, with biscuits. We all had biscuits and we all had milk.
As a kid growing up you might say Monroe was a little bit ornery. In his days, the sidewalks were the old board sidewalks, and when it would rain, the water would hang around under the boards. "So, two or three of us would walk along and we*d pace ourselves to just, get to the boards above the mud holes just about the same time some unsuspecting passer-by would. And just when the timing was right, we*d stomp on a board (POW) and the water would fly up all over them and away we would run. I might have been tiny, but I was fast," related Monroe.
Monroe worked on all the big ranches in the area and he worked with a lot of great cowboys like Juan Leon, driving cattle to Willcox to ship. Monroe talked about helping Simone Chaveria to make braided horsehair cinches. Monroe said, "Simone did most of the work. I couldn't have made one myself, but they sure make a beautiful cinch." You used hair from the mane, you saved the hair when you reached the mane, you didn't use tail hair because it was too coarse and stiff.
Monroe remembers Willcox as a place where there was cattle everywhere and they used to have a lot of country dances. They danced at a place called Morgan Hall. Across from there the Whiting Brothers Station is today. “Whenever you came to town, shipping cattle, if there was a dance, we'd go.” Monroe said they also had a lot of dances at the schoolhouse in Bonita. "I don't know about being a ladies' man, but I went to all the dances and I never had any trouble getting a partner to dance."
Back out at the ranch there was no ice, no electricity, no nothing. You didn't keep things from spoiling.
We had chickens, pigs, beef, and lots of deer to eat. (There was no game warden in those days) and we made lots of jerky.
During Monroe's cowboying days in Willcox and Bonita he talked about:
- Working on the MK ranch with Juan Leon
- Trading a horse for Juan Leon's tapaderos
- Using High Life on prairie dogs
- Getting ice from the icehouse on Railroad Ave.
- Gunny sacks over the windows for evaporative cooling
- He remembered 1913 - when whiskey was drying up but you could find bootleg in every canyon
- Eating clabbered milk
- Round-ups and camp cooks
- Going to school with Albert Schwertner
When his cowboying days were over he worked at Fort Grant, moved to Eloy, then Casa Grande, but eventually wound up back in Willcox.
Monroe Baker was a good son, husband, father, and brother. His moral standards were the best and he really lived "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
He had a great sense of humor and called family members often with a new joke. He loved playing poker and dominoes. He'd help you if he could.
His sister Evelyn Drury said, "I feel sure that he is smiling proudly about receiving this honor."