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Cowboy Traditions

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This time of year is a time of reflection. I started thinking about traditions that have been handed down through the generations and how my family came to be in Arizona. Family historical records show that our ancestors, including my Great Great Great Grandmother Mary Gibson and her son my Great Great Grandfather Charles Lane Gibson came to Arizona in 1892 or 1893. The records state, “Lane, Albert, Ben and Charlie moved their cattle from New Mexico to Globe.”

There are records of children who were born or got sick and died as the Gibson family endured unending challenges on their journey. William, brother of Charles Lane and his wife Sarah Gibson were among the family members who traveled to Arizona with Great Grandfather Charles Lane. Sarah wrote of their experience, “When we arrived at Globe, we were broke again. William sold his gun and bought some groceries and a sack of barley.”

William was able to purchase part of a ranch and cattle 15 miles from Globe. Sarah tells of making butter to sell in Globe and of an incident that occurred when William was taking the butter to town, “William was going in with it next morning and was loading it on the wagon, when a man came and told him the Indians had killed one man and wounded two at a cow ranch not far from there and drove all their horses away.” She goes on to tell about the Indians killing “nearly all” of their cows. Fearing for the safety of the family they moved back into Globe where they built a house “and bought some more cows and kept on selling butter.” Sarah said “We lived around Globe about 12 years; had four more children; 12 in all. We had lots of ups and downs and hard work making a living for our family, but we had no more trouble with Indians.”

Albert Gibson, son of Charles Lane was also a cowboy and a ranch owner. Albert’s daughter Louise wrote, “Albert needed boys in the worst way but such was not to be so the three oldest girls, Mae and the next two girls in line, Olive and Rose Etta became experienced cowgirls and horseback riders right along with the hired cow hands, riding many miles over rocky mountainous terrain, rounding up the cattle to take to the railroad for shipping.” The story continues, “One very cold and severe winter, Papa learned that the Indians up at Fort Apache were starving and he determined to get food to those destitute people. He drove a herd of his choice cattle and with the help of three of his best cowhands and the three older girls, they braved that treacherous ride up and down steep and rocky trails through wind, rain and hail and snow for 5 days and nights and by God’s grace, they reached those starving people in time. They had taken other staple food along also. From then on Mae had a deep concern for the Indians. “

Louise went on to state, “Albert and his brother had more cattle than the two ranches could carry, so they were able to lease government forestry reserve land to run their cattle on. After many years when the government reserve lease was due to be renewed, his supposed best friend found out what Albert was going to bid and overbid him by ¼ cent an acre leaving Albert without enough range land.” Uncle Albert was forced to sell his ranching operation when this happened.

My Grandfather Irving Gibson, Gibby as he was known to most people was the 4th generation of Arizona Gibson Ranchers. He faced many challenges over the years while operating a Cattle Ranch. Amongst his personal effects I found an article from the Arizona Republic dated June 12, 1965. The article is titled “Rancher says Image False.” It goes on to describe some of the ranchers concerns “Arizona’s ranchers have somehow come under a completely false image as “spoilers who grew rich by using the public lands free.” J. Ernest Browning stated “few men have grown rich raising cattle.” The article explains that ranchers pay grazing fees and make expensive improvements including wells, fences and buildings. It states, “Also, an often overlooked factor is that although the rancher is the only one who pays for the use of the land and puts in improvements, everyone is free to use the land for hunting, picnics and other recreational purposes.”

It seems that history does repeat itself. Individuals who support the Horses that are on the national forest are repeating the same false stereotypical statements uttered half a century ago. They accuse the rancher of taking the land from the horses; being self serving and greedy. In reality quite the opposite is true. The ranchers are fighting for their ability to continue a longstanding tradition of raising cattle and caring for the land. They are fighting to provide food for people just as cattle provided food for our ancestors who came before us.

Additional information about the history of the Gibson Ranch is available on our Facebook page, Endangered Ranchers of Arizona.

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Kathy Gibson Boatman was born and raised in the White Mountains of Northeastern Arizona on a working Cattle Ranch. She is the sixth generation in her family to participate in agricultural endeavors in Arizona. One of her favorite pastimes is collecting Arizona History Books and documents. She is a photographer and the author of the cookbook "Cooking With Cowgirls". She enjoys writing about issues of importance and interest to Arizona citizens, rural communities and natural resource producers. You can reach Kathy at kathykg26158@msn.com.