WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees
DAVE HARRIS (66)
2000 COWBOY HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
In 1930, Dave Harris was born in Rankin, Texas (which is about 60 miles south of Midland). Dave started school in Texas, but it was about the 7th or 8th grade that Dave was moved to Willcox, and he's been here ever since. He graduated from Willcox High School in 1947 and went on to get a degree in Animal Husbandry from the University of Arizona.
Dave remembers ranch life as a kid, where they stayed in camps with wood stoves and coal oil lamps. "You were pretty up town if you had water in the house. The old timers had it pretty hard." Dave always had a dream that someday he would own a ranch of his own. In 1977, his dream came true when he bought his own ranch from Wally Harper. He knew it would not be very lucrative, but it was a way of life. A way of life that he wanted.
Dave Harris is very deceiving. When you see him wearing his baseball cap and Brogan shoes, he doesn't look like a cowboy, but he is an awfully good hand. Those that have worked with him say, "He works cattle like a real cowpuncher should." Others have worked with him while doctoring cattle out on the oat fields, they said that over a three week period they saw Dave rope 70 head of cattle without missing one loop. Dave is not a rodeo roper because, they say sometimes you can see cotton seed hulls fall out of his loop, but if you needed to catch a wild cow going through the rocks and brush and over the soap weeds and you only got one throw, you'd want Dave Harris to make that throw.
Dave Harris could also throw a softball. When you shake hands with Dave, his hand doesn't seem oversized, but that right hand of his can make a softball spin backwards. Spin perfectly backwards.
When you throw a softball that is spinning backwards the dang thing moves! When a softball moves it is very hard to hit. Dave was tall, thin, and lanky; he gained his strength by cutting straps of inner tubes tying them to the base of a tree and then exercising his arm. He developed pinpoint control by pitching hours upon hours to his little brother in front of the haystack. Dave said, "I was rough on Lee, because I was wilder than an outhouse rat." During college and later in the Marines, Dave added the mental concentration required to become a world class pitcher. He was an exceptional pitcher that teams wanted, and he has traveled from California to Connecticut to pitch a softball.
He was a world-beater, but being around him you wouldn't even know it. To him, things are so basic, and his foundation is so strong, he knows how to put things in their proper perspective. He has coached the Willcox High School Softball Team the past few seasons, and his number one piece of advice to girls is not about how to throw a riseball, it is "Remember, Softball is great, but make sure you get your education."
Dave gives credit to his Dad "Butch" for teaching him to do the best you can. Even if you weren't the best, do your best. Butch also helped to develop some of that mental toughness I talked about earlier. But sometimes the lessons were hard.
Dave was trying to pin some heifers that were on the oat fields. For about one and one half hours, Dave had been trying to put the heifers out of the oat field and into a small corral. The heifers were just having fun and after an hour and a half, Dave was mad, his horse was hot and nothing was in the pen. Butch drove up in his pickup truck, rolled down the window and said, "Son, if you are gonna work cattle, you have to be smarter than they are," rolled up the window and drove off. After about 15 minutes of thinking, Dave pinned his heifers.
About the time Dave was coming home from his service in the Marines, Butch built the Willcox Packing House and Dave has run it ever since. Dave said, "My first customer was Lencho Hurtado." Dave dealt with all the ranchers in the area. They were great people to work with. Their word was good. What they said was how it was. They knew and understood cattle.
Dave said his greatest achievement in life was in 1952 when he talked Earlene Byrd into becoming his wife. Dave and Earlene have 4 boys. When the boy's actions were less than perfect, they became his wife's children! Dave said that if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn't change a thing, except maybe have 4 boys and 1 girl.
If you measure success by dollars, Dave Harris would not be at the top. But if your measure success by: character and morals and family and community, Dave Harris is a Super Star!
It is a unique combination of skills; in 1999 Dave was named Conservation Rancher of the Year and in March of this year Dave was inducted into the Arizona Softball Hall of Fame, and tonight Dave Harris becomes a member of the Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Prepared by Eddie Browning.