WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees
JOSIE LAWHON (65)
2000 COWBOY HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Life began for Josephine Lawhon in 1908, at the HYL Ranch house (pronounced Hile). The HYL Ranch house is tucked behind the mouth of Apache Pass, below Goodwin Spring, which was once a favorite campsite of the Indian Chief Cochise.
Josie's parents were truly some of the earliest pioneers in our area. Her mother, Anna Schafer was 4 years old when she left St. Louis. It took her family 4 more years before they got to the newly established mining town of Dos Cabezas in 1879. Anna married a Texas cowboy named John Lawhon in 1897, and soon there were three daughters, Maggie, Lucy, and Josie.
Josie attended school in a one room, one teacher schoolhouse located approximately 9 miles from Bowie, so they called it the Nine-mile school. Josie and her two sisters drove their mule powered buggy seven miles from the ranch to the school. A barbwire fence ringed the school, and you entered and left by climbing over a stile instead of walking through a gate. A shallow cistern collected rainwater for drinking, and a wood-burning stove warmed the winter classroom.
She still has a copy of her second grade report card during the school year of 1916-17 at Nine-mile Arizona Public School. In studying her report card one could see she ended the 4th quarter with good or excellent in all her subjects, she was very seldom absent, but tardy once in the 1st quarter. After graduating from Nine-mile, Josie continued her education at the Methodist Girls' Boarding School in San Antonio, Texas.
Other than being away from the ranch for school, Josie spent most of her life on the family ranch. She was a working cowgirl. She would be up at 3:00 a.m. to go feed the horses, be back in the house to help mom with breakfast, make her lunch of sour dough biscuit and salt pork and pull out just before daylight. Josie and her Dad covered miles and miles of country checking cattle and waters. Sometimes they would cover 40 miles and get back to the ranch just before dark.
Josie recalls, in those days you worked hard or you left the scene. You branded your cattle out in the open range. You sold your cattle by the head, not by the pound, and you drove your cattle to the outskirts of Willcox; waited for enough rail cars to haul them away. A Willcox cowboy named Herman Tuck said, "Mrs. Lawhon makes a real hand, she is the only woman I ever saw rope and work cattle good as a man."
The work was hard, but yes, there were good times too. Recreation was mostly country-dances, picnics, and a great deal of visiting in the homes.
When the first automobiles began to arrive on the scene, she learned to drive sitting in her Dad's lap, and as soon as she could reach the pedals she was driving on her own. The
Automobile helped Josie to combine her recreation and her work. On Saturday nights there was always a dance in Dos Cabezas. Josie would travel to the dance, dance all night, then return home just at 3:00 a.m. (when her mother was getting up). Josie would get home just in time to go to work.
Josie was married, but no children. She has been very active in the local community for years. She was one of the founders and original Board of Directors for the Bowie Medical Center. The courthouse in Bowie is named after her, and it has been with unabashed pride that she has been a member of the Willcox Cowbelles. She also has fond memories of being a long time member of the Eastern Star.
Josie still lives 5-1/2 miles outside of Bowie just off a Happy Camp Road. Many people have asked her, "How can you stand it out here living in the middle of cactus and mesquite trees, its so ugly?" Josie said, "I don't see it that way. I see peace and tranquility. I'm a desert rat. I love being out in the country living with a few friends watching mesquite beans bloom. I love my cattle. You're an individual out here. I know it would be very lonely to most people, but I love it. You are alone but not lonely. I think close neighbors would get on my nerves."
Today Josie can sit on her porch watching her cows and calves come into water. Remembering and telling those great stories that would, as she says "tickle a dog." Josie Lawhon was here when Arizona was still a territory. Up before dawn, branding cattle on the open range, surviving droughts, cooking over hot wood burning stoves. And Josie says, "I enjoyed every minute of it!"
Prepared by Eddie Browning.