Updated: Mar 10
Cowboy & Rancher
Boots O’Neal, born in 1932 in Clarendon, Texas, started breaking horses for small ranches in 1947. He has spent more than 75 years in the saddle working for some of the largest ranches in West Texas.
Boots was initiated into cowboying when he went to work as a young boy for the RO Ranch. He and his brother, Wes O’Neal, broke 20 broncs for $20 a head. From there, he went to the JA Ranch where he stayed at the chuck wagon and lived in a teepee. He also spent time working at the Matador Ranch and the Waggoner Ranch.
From 1953 to 1955, Boots served in the United States Army. He worked in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea on the 38th Parallel. He was trained as a demolition expert. He says this was the longest time he ever went without riding a horse.
After he was discharged, Boots went to work as a Field Inspector for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raiser’s Association. However, the lure of the cowboy life beckoned him back to the Waggoner Ranch in Vernon, Texas. He stayed there for almost 20 years and was eventually promoted to foreman of cattle operations.
Boots is currently employed by the Four Sixes Ranch at Guthrie, Texas. He has been involved in all phases of their cattle work for more than 30 years. He also holds a Texas Peace Officer’s Commission and in the past, has assisted with the security of the ranch.
Boots has received the “All Around Cowboy” award at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma in an all-state ranch rodeo in 1985, the “Working Ranch Cowboy” award during the Texas Cowboy Reunion held in Stamford, Texas in 2004, the “Trailblazer” award during the Texas Rach Roundup held in Wichita Falls, Texas in 2005, the “Point Man” award from the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Waurika, Oklahoma in 2010, and the “Chester A. Reynolds” award at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 2013.
For three-quarters of a century, Boots has looked over the backs of many herds of cattle, and he has experienced and observed more changes in the way of how cattle are worked and handled than almost any other person in the business. Boots says that a lot of the change has been for the better, but every now and then it’s good to sit down and reminisce about the old days when a bunch of boys, horses, and cattle gathered around the wagon.