Four Sixes cowboy Boots O'Neal to receive RHA Working Cowboy Award

Legendary cowboy Boots O’Neal, a top hand on the Four Sixes Ranch in Guthrie, Texas, will be the first recipient of the Ranching Heritage Association Working Cowboy Award during the 41st Annual National Golden Spur Award dinner at 6 p.m. Saturday, October 13 at the Overton Hotel in Lubbock.

“This award is designed to recognize an outstanding individual who makes his living primarily horseback caring for livestock on a daily basis,” said Jim Bret Campbell, director of the National Ranching Heritage Center (NRHC).

The Ranching Heritage Association (RHA), a non-profit membership organization supporting the work and mission of the NRHC, will sponsor the new award on an annual basis to honor a working cowboy skilled in all aspects of ranch work and respected by the ranch crew and ranching community.

At age 85, Boots is still working, still riding horses almost every day for 72 years and still enjoying “just ridin’ a horse.”

“My job is cowboying,” he said, “taking care of cattle horseback. That’s what it’s been my entire life. I look forward to what we’re going to do tomorrow nearly all the time. I don’t dread the next day’s work because I enjoy it. It’s been a labor of love.”

According to Campbell, nominees for the RHA Working Cowboy Award have to be individuals of high character. “The greatness of Boots O’Neal is not just that he is still cowboying in his 80s, but it’s the fact that he meets all the criteria for this award—honesty, courage, determination and optimism. Those traits reflect the values of more than 200 years of ranching in the American West.”

Boots started riding horses in 1946 when he was a teenager living in Lefors, Texas. Two years later he and his brother broke 20 broncs for the RO Ranch for $20 per head. That was his first big job and he made $200. Since then, he has worked for some of the most historic ranches in Texas—JA Ranch, Matador Ranch, Waggoner Ranch and the Sixes.

When Boots first started working with big ranches in 1949, the ranches kept their wagons out seven or eight months at a time. He lived in a teepee and stayed with those wagons. The JA Ranch in Palo Duro Canyon paid their cowboys $90 to $100 a month to work seven days a week from daylight until dark.

Boots began working for the Four Sixes in 1990. Although he could retire and live a life of leisure after 28 years on the Sixes, he still rides the range every day. Through the years, the popular West Texas cowpuncher has appeared in countless magazine and newspaper articles and considers himself blessed with the health and physical ability to keep doing what he loves.

“Not only has Boots lived a fascinating cowboy life, often shunning higher-paying occupations in order to stay in the saddle, but he also is beloved because of his genuine, amiable personality,” said Ross Hecox, editor-in-chief of Western Horseman magazine. “He continues to pursue his passion, carries an upbeat attitude, conducts himself with humility and shows respect for all people.”

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