WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees
BILL DeRACY (81)
2004 COWBOY HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Bill was born on August 4, 1909, in Pecos, Texas. He was the youngest of four children. They say, as a young boy, Bill exhibited quite an independent "free thinking" attitude about things and being the youngest he got away with more than the other three kids did.
Bill had a special place in his heart for animals. He never forgave his mother the day he learned his black goat was part of the supper that Granny had cooked for the family. Oh, boy! He never forgot that, in fact, from that time forward anytime he got in trouble, that was his comeback, "Well if you hadn't slaughtered my goat."
While growing up, Bill worked on various ranches around Pecos, and it became evident that he had inherited his daddy's way with horses. While still living in Pecos, Bill made an unsuccessful run for sheriff of Reeves County. It was this negative experience that made it easy for Bill to dust himself off and leave Pecos. His talent with horses led him to Fort Davis, Texas, and then on to Angels Camp, California, before he eventually made his way to Willcox. Bill worked for several different ranchers around Willcox, and had been working for Boozer Page when Boozer passed away. Bill was looking for work when Butch Harris hired him to fix some corrals and build a few gates. It was a job that was to last about five or six months.
When the work was done, Butch approached Bill and said, "Bill, I'm going to have to take you back to town." Bill answered, "No Butch, you can't do that. If you don't have enough money, cut my wages. This is home," What started as 6 months of fix'en corrals and gates, turned into 22 years working for the Harris family. Bill's home at the ranch (Diamond eleven) was a simple, mud house built in the 1930's. It was very plain, very common. But, to Bill, it was home.
Every morning for the next 22 years, Bill started each day with a cup of coffee. Then he was off to roam the mountains tending to the Harris cattle. Bill knew every canyon, every tank and he knew every cow on the place. He knew the country like the back of his hand, plus he was a really good cowboy. Now, when you first would look at Bill, he was not a traditional looking cowpuncher. He wore an old, ratty jacket and brogan shoes. But, he rode good horses, and when something would run off...you'd be wondering, "Where's Bill?" Then he'd pop up out in front of everything to hold them up. He looked like anything but a cowboy, but how deceiving he was.
There were a few other things about Bill that were deceiving... He would want you to believe he was the grumpiest old man you'd ever seen. Some say he was gruff to the point of rudeness at times. But he had a soft spot for animals, children, and friends. The Harris kids knew., they knew he was gruff, but they also knew it was fake. They called it a loving grumpiness. He made sure we did things the way cowboys were supposed to do it. He took care of us. Just like we were his kids."
When it would rain and the flowers would bloom, Bill would stop on the way to town and pick a bouquet of flowers and take them to Mrs. Harris. Bill called the flowers his “Mariposa Lilies”. When Butch Harris died, Bill wanted to do something in honor of Butch, so he donated one of his pet longhorn steers to be raffled off with the proceeds going to cancer research.
So now you can begin to see that Bill DeRacy was this grumpy old man, who cowboy in brogan shoes, rolled his own smokes and was known to spend an hour or two at Rix's. Also had a heart, "As big as a washtub." The Harris's thought so much of Bill that Dave's grandson, Drayson, is named for Bill.
As Bill began to get up there in age, he reached the point where he needed some medical tests done, and the arrangement was that Medicare would pay for the testing. The tests were done, Bill survived, and the charges were submitted to Medicare for payment. But, it wasn't long before Bill received an invoice for the services provided. So he headed to the hospital to "pay his bill." He pulled up to the front door, parked the old, blue Chevy pick-up, and went inside to settle up his debt. The hospital staff immediately said, "You can't park there." Bill said, "I just came in to pay my bill" They took a quick look and told him that Medicare would take care of it so don't worry and next time don't park in the front door.
Well, next month, Bill got another invoice. So he headed back to the hospital to settle up. This time he didn't park at the front door. He just stopped right out on Rex Allen Drive, shut it off and walked in. I wasn't long before Dave got a call at the Packing House. "Why is your old blue Chevy pick-up parked out on Rex Allen Drive in front of the hospital?" Dave headed for town.
When Bill finished "not paying" again, he headed back out to the pick-up. One of Willcox's police officers was now on the scene. When Dave arrived, Bill and the police officer were having a lively debate. The police officer asked to see Bill's drivers license. "Don't have one," said Bill. "Let me see your expired drivers license." "Never had one," said Bill.
Sure enough the DMV records went back to 1926 with no record of Bill DeRacy ever obtaining an Arizona drivers license. Dave had a calming effect on the stand off between Bill and the officer, and with in a few days, Bill appeared in court to pay his fine. And he began to study to take the drivers test. His first try was not successful, but on the second test, Bill passed and he was issued his first Arizona drivers license at the ripe old age of 75!
Bill lived to be 81 years old. On New Year's Day, 1991, Bill started his day just like he always did with his morning cup of coffee, but sometime later that day Bill passed away in that plain and simple mud house that he called home.