WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees
LYMAN TENNEY (63)
1999 COWBOY HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Lyman Tenney was born in 1918 at the foot of the Galiuro Mountains on High Creek. High Creek is 55 miles northwest of Willcox and when Lyman lived there, it just so happened Rex Allen also lived on High Creek. Lyman was quick to point out that it doesn't mean that every kid living on High Creek could sing. "Rex sure could and I sure can't."
Lyman was the seventh of ten kids. There weren't enough horses to go around, so his first mount was a mule. His first memories of working cattle was holding cattle up at the corner of a fence while his Dad fed hard cake on the ground.
Drought forced the family out of the cattle business in Willcox and at age 7, Lyman was relocated to Prescott as his dad took over a partnership in an Angora goat ranch, Lyman was now a goat herder. He herded goats before school, after school, and all summer long. For eight long years, he was milking goats twice a day and chasing goats around the rugged mountains just south of Prescott. It was along about the time he was 15 years old that Lyman decided he needed to be a cowboy, and the only way he could be a cowboy was to run away from home, so he did.
With a bed roll and a pair of spurs, Lyman walked away from goat herding and into cowboying. Working for room and board, doing chores, driving cattle, and riding bucking horses-anything was better than herding goats.
Lyman never traveled the rodeo circuit. He just hit the rodeos in Arizona and a couple in New Mexico. Lyman's bull riding career literally started and ended at the Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo. At age 12 he won the kid's calf riding and 17 years later, he won the bull riding. He rode a bull that had been ridden only five times in 11 years. His bull riding days were over, but he continued to rope for many years.
In 1940, Lyman joined the National Guard. On furlough he was in Prescott with his buddy, Dick Tatum. The pair were out having a good time down on Whiskey Row when Lyman spotted a young lady wearing a brown hat and a bright red shirt. Lyman told Dick, "I'm going to marry her!" That lady in the red shirt was Alaire Browning, daughter of Ernest and Polly Browning from Willcox. After four days of dancing and romancing and a long distance courtship while Lyman finished his military service, they were married in 1942.
It was in the fall of 1942 that Lyman and Alaire moved to Willcox and worked ten years on the family ranch known as the Schillings. Then they had the opportunity to partner with Jake Kittle to buy the Muleshoe Ranch. Lyman and Jake ran steers on the Muleshoe until drought and a bad market forced them out.
Those days on the Schillings and Muleshoe Ranches were long days of hard work. But they also provided the memories of watching their kids being "kid cowboys" on the ranch. Son Jim talked about when he got tired he would ride on a pillow in front of Lyman-take a short nap, then he'd be ready to go again. After leaving the Muleshoe and a short stay in Prescott, Lyman ended up in Imperial Valley, California. First he was buying cattle for feedlots, then he managed the feedlots. Later, he established an outside pasture operation, putting up and taking down over 18 miles of hot wire fence.
After leaving California and another short stay in Willcox, Lyman went to Australia for 14 years. He worked on "cattle stations" that were 40 miles wide and 80 miles long. It took 18 days to drive the cattle to market. The stories about Australia would take several hours, probably even days to tell, but the important thing is the effect Lyman had on Australia.
- He started the Paint Horse Association.
- He was a charter member of the Australian Cutting Horse Association.
- He put on many roping and cutting schools.
- He showed Australians how to team rope.
At age 54 Lyman won the All-Around Cowboy for the Australian Roughriders Association. After winning the crown, the headline in the local paper read: "Has been shows them how!!"
Lyman went to Australia with the intent to stay ten years. Fourteen years later Lyman and Alaire decided to semi-retire and return home to America to be with family, friends, and most importantly, their grandkids. As they made preparations to return, the "Australian Stud Digest" wrote the following: "As the western industry becomes more popular and successful in the future it will be due, in no small part, to the efforts of Lyman and Alaire Tenney.
They certainly have left their stamp on this wonderful country of ours and will be fondly remembered for it."
When Lyman returned to Arizona, he got into the ranch management business with his son Jim. They did contract round-up work. He said, "We sure covered lots of country." In 1994, Lyman was beginning to slow down, and he moved back to Willcox to watch those grandkids and great grandkids play ball. He and Alaire also became docents for the Rex Allen Museum.
A letter from the Rex Allen Museum Board of Directors states:
The Rex Allen Arizona Cowboy Museum, Inc. and Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame depend on volunteers to “keep the doors open” seven days a week. Each volunteer is unique and adds much to the "flavor" of the museum. Let's face it, the doors would have to shut if it were not for our volunteers. The Rex Allen Museum Board of Directors would like to thank both Lyman and his wife Alaire for the many hours of volunteer work they have done at the museum.
For several years we celebrated Willcox History Fest in May. One of the events, during the time, was a coloring contest participated in by the Willcox Elementary School. Approximately 600 children were involved in this activity. The winners would be announced in the park on historic Railroad Avenue, then they would tour the museum in groups, and Lyman would tell them stories of his childhood and the history of Willcox when he was growing up. Then he and Alaire would take them through the museum and explain the displays and tell of their experiences with Rex Sr. They knew him when he was just a little boy starting out playing at church events, and then performing at the theater. The children were spellbound and many questions were asked by the different groups, and all were answered by Lyman. They both enjoyed the children as much as the children enjoyed them.
Lyman and Alaire didn't limit their talents to the children. We have had several letters, over the years, regarding the gracious manner in which they have entertained the many visitors. One of those letters states:
Lyman & Alaire Tenney,
"My tour of the Rex Allen Museum last month would have been a far less interesting event without your terrific attention and helpfulness. You are docents beyond compare.
My wife had been looking forward to seeing the museum for more than a year and your genuine warmth and interest in showing her around made it a visit she will recall with fondness for a long, long time. She has been an unabashed Rex Allen fan since seeing Rex and Koko on stage in the Civic Center in Great Falls, Montana, in the early 1950s.
Your exhaustive knowledge of Rex's career and your great familiarity with other characters and personalities around Willcox made our stop an unforgettable vacation highlight." Warmest regards, Ralph Pomnichowski—Great Falls, Montana
For Lyman, cowboying was all he ever wanted to do. Even if it meant running away from home. But Lyman said, "Of all the experiences I've had, my greatest experience is the 57 years I've been married to my wife, Alaire. She's the best helper I've ever had."
Lyman puts everything in perspective with these few words. "Good dogs...Good kids...Good wife...Good life."