WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees
ALVIN BROWNING (60)
1999 COWBOY HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Willcox, Arizona is the only place Alvin Browning has ever called home. Born July 13, 1926. He lived in Willcox until he was ten years old, then he moved to the "farm" five miles out of town. During those earliest years, Alvin remembers roping with his cousin A. D. Browning. A. D. and Alvin spent hours and hours roping a cedar post in the corral fence. They had matched ropings and team tied this post until they actually cut off the top of the post with their ropes. When those two weren't roping their cedar post, they were riding around the neighborhood. A.D. rode a horse named Cricket and Alvin rode a big jenny burro. Alvin said this burro was taller than most, in fact she was as good as any horse, until you needed a horse then the jackass cropped out in her.
Alvin went to school in Willcox and graduated from Willcox High School in 1944. He was a talented athlete and loved his sports. As a senior, he received a varsity letter in five sports. He was the quarterback for the football team; he played guard on the basketball team; he was the second baseman in baseball; he ran the 100 and the 200 yard dashes in track, and played doubles in tennis.
During his high school days, Alvin worked weekends and summers on the ranch. Just out of high school Alvin became the stray man for the outfit; riding one horse and leading two others, he worked through the round-ups with the neighbors.
Alvin was married for a short time at the age of 18. The marriage didn't work out too well, but the best part was that his first son Cody came into this world. Several years later, Alvin married Lavita Bingham. This marriage lasted 47 years and brought him four more kids (Linda, Jack, Eddie, and Becky).
For the next 24 years, Alvin worked for his Dad (Ernest Browning). He was a cowboy, working with people like Slim Harper, Rocky Vindiola, and Ben Pride. He was asked to trap a lobo wolf that was killing calves and he ran a small feed lot. For 24 years he did his job, but way down deep inside this cowboy there was a burning desire to be more than a ranch hand. A slow burn that got hotter and hotter as each year passed by. This internal fire finally reached the point of no return when Alvin made the decision to leave his Dad and go it on his own. When that day came, Alvin took his car, horse trailer, rope horse, wife, and kids and walked away.
His first job was to manage the Old Ben Pride Ranch for an owner named Herman Miller. Mr. Miller was not able to ride, so he just watched as Alvin worked the ranch. This ranch is a very rough and rugged ranch in the heart of the Galiuro Mountains. His management contract called for Alvin to furnish the labor, but with little cash flow, extra help was just not an option. The first year Alvin literally worked the ranch by himself. A normal round-up with a full crew would take 15 to 20 days. It took Alvin 60 days. Living alone, riding and working wild cattle, cooking for himself, cutting firewood, doing the dishes, and reading Louis L’Amour books by coal oil lamps before going to bed. Alvin said, "It was mighty lonesome living alone in those mountains. I guess the only reason a man didn't go crazy is because there was so much that had to be done." Slowly but surely cows and calves were worked into holding traps. The yearlings were cut off and the big calves weaned. Now Alvin had a major problem-he had 200 yearlings and freshly weaned calves 15 miles from a shipping pen and no crew to move them. Alvin knew he had to have help to drive the cattle out of the mountains.
He went to town, gathered up his kids, put them on the best mountain horses he had and then held his breath. Mr. Miller, the owner, stood on the steps to the Jackson Cabin and watched as a small miracle took place. Alvin's crew consisted of his wife and four kids who were 12,11, 9, and 5 years old. This crew drove the cattle to the next line camp, never losing one nor having to rope one.
The management contract of the ranch lasted for six years before Alvin bought the 52 sections and 400 cows from Mr. Miller. One year later, Alvin leased the Muleshoe from his Dad and in the following year he purchased the ranch. In a twenty year span from 1969 to 1988, Alvin put together 125 sections with 800 mother cows. He also leased a steer ranch in New Mexico for a short time. But eventually he sold each place and retired from ranching to become a full time Grandpa. Since he grew up in a ranching family, you would expect to learn that Alvin was active in the Arizona Cattle Growers and in the National Junior Cattle Growers. But Alvin also coached Little League for six years and served on the Cochise County Hospital Board. He was the first rodeo chairman for the first PRCA Pro Rodeo held during Rex Allen Days and he served on the state board of directors for the Arizona Junior Rodeo Association.
Alvin always wanted to be a rodeo roper. He started at age 15 at the local roping club and worked his way up as a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, roping at the biggest pro rodeos in the country, from Pecos, Texas to Salinas, California and from Tucson, Arizona to Cheyenne, Wyoming. One summer he was privileged to rope with Jim Hudson, just after Jim was crowned world champion.
Alvin always put his family before himself. In the prime of his professional rodeo career, he took a voluntary withdrawal from the PRCA so he could rope in the amateur rodeos with his sons. His words were, "didn't raise you up to this point, to let somebody else rope with you."
He always went the extra mile to help his kids. "Dad had been in the upper country for a few days and was returning home," according to his son, Eddie. "It was about midnight when he reached the Muleshoe, but Mom met him at the door to tell him that his daughter Linda didn't have a ride to get to her college rodeo. Dad took a quick bath, drove to Tucson, picked up Linda and her barrel horse at the U of A and 15 hours later pulled into the arena in Fresno, California. Another story of going the extra mile was when Dad and I went to a junior rodeo in the Phoenix Valley. After the first go-round was over on Saturday, Dad loaded me in the back seat of the car and drove me back to Willcox so I could play in my high school basketball game. I slept while he drove and we arrived just as the game was ready to start. I played the game then we got in the car and headed back to Phoenix. We got to the motel room around 2:00 in the morning, slept a few hours, rodeoed on Sunday and then drove back to Willcox."
His kids, his grandkids and their sports seem to be a combination he cannot resist. He was in the grandstands in Phoenix to see granddaughter Jody win a state championship in track. He went to Las Vegas to watch his granddaughter Lori shoot free throws in the National Elks Club Hoop Shoot Contest. He was in Fort Worth to watch granddaughter Lavita show her cattle. He has been at the racetrack in Tucson to watch grandson Cody mechanic a racecar. He has watched hundreds and hundreds of sporting events.
Today, Alvin has not gotten over the roping bug. He is still going as strong as ever. But there was a rough time about three years ago when his wife of 47 years passed away. He still wanted to rope, but he had lost his traveling partner and quite frankly loneliness was ripping out his heart. But when he least expected it, there was a new lady that entered into his life. We now have two Barbara Brownings in the family and it is the second Barbara that has revived that spirit and once again he is going strong. At the age of 73, he has a new horse, and a new wife, and at the end of this month he will be going to the United States Team Roping Finals in Oklahoma City where he is currently sitting third in the nation in his age group.
He is an excellent horse trainer, a dedicated family man, a man that gave back to his community, a rodeo cowboy, as well as a mountain cowboy.