'All Texans, all genuine heroes, all cowboys'
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
On Saturday, July 28, the big white tent on the lawn of the Bandera County Courthouse featured standing room only with the centerpoint of Bandera's National Day of the American Cowboy celebration slated for high noon.
As Marshall Clayton of the Bandera County Public Library observed wryly, "All of Bandera's 'lariati' are out today" - all anticipating the induction ceremony into the Frontier Times Museum's Texas Heroes Hall of Honor.
The four exceptional men honored during the National Day of the American Cowboy included former Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson, rodeo great Buddy Groff, renowned horse trainer Craig Cameron and Bandera musical icon Arkey Blue.
Emcee Ed Chandler of KRNH, FM 92.3 Ranch Radio in Kerrville welcomed the crowd to the Cowboy Capital of the World's quintessential western-centric celebration. He also paid tribute to the Frontier Times Museum that, in his words, "celebrates the western lifestyle 365 days a year."
Chandler added, "If you really want to enjoy the Hill Country, come to Bandera and get in touch with your 'inner cowboy'."
Honoring the inductees, Bandera Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Schumacher described them as "those who keep the Cowboy spirit alive in Bandera. Today, our western heritage is even brighter as we welcome a distinguished Texas Ranger, who claims he is but one, but certainly one to be reckoned with; a rodeo roping legend many times over whose life exemplifies the phrase 'cowboy up'; a cowboy horseman who teaches and inspires people to work with their horses with patience and compassion; and a songwriter and singer whose work captures and preserves Bandera's memories forever. "
Schumacher's county counterpart, Precinct 1 Commissioner Bruce Eliker, likewise offered a paean to this area's namesake, noting, "The American Cowboy is recognized throughout the world as the symbol of the American independent spirit, who represents rugged independence, self-reliance, honesty, loyalty, hard work and fair play. The American cowboy placed more value in a man's word and reputation than his social status and wealth. The greatest legacy of the American Cowboy is not his hat, boots, spurs, horse and lariat, but rather his unique character, attributes and undying spirit."
After being featured on the cover of Texas Monthly magazine, Jackson became "the face of the modern Texas Rangers." He still casts "a long shadow" in the Texas Rangers law enforcement agency. However, as Chandler pointed out, "As a young man, he worked roundups on the Bell Ranch."
"I accept this honor for the Rangers who worked before me, for the Rangers who worked with me and those who are working today," Jackson said. "As long as there's a Texas, there'll be Rangers."
In 1954, Bandera's Groff threw a steer in three seconds at Madison Square Garden in New York City - a record that would win a world championship today. As a nascent roper, Groff worked with other rodeo champs, Ray Wharton, Scooter Fries and Toots Mansfield to hone his craft. He won two reserve world championships in tie down roping.
In his acceptance speech, Groff noted that he began his rodeo career with a $2,500 horse, $2,200 secondhand vehicle, a $400 handmade horse trailer and a $2 wife. "The only thing I have left is the $2 wife," he quipped.
Quickly setting the record straight, Bonnie Groff, his wife of 64 years, noted, "Two dollars is what the marriage license cost - not what I cost. And I've cost him plenty since then."
"Natural horseman" Cameron, who hails from Bluff Dale, used his affinity for horses and unique ways of communicating with them as a basis for a different approach to horse training. A member of the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame since 2007, he's also been a rancher, working cowboy and professional bull rider. A universally known western horseman, Cameron has made an international name for himself where he's most comfortable - in the saddle.
"What I learned from rodeoing in the United States, Mexico and Canada was a never quit attitude," Cameron offered. "If you never say die and never weaken, it will carry you through every day."
Advising everyone to "make peace with the land and the four-legged animals that live on it," the natural raconteur exhorted the crowd to keep the cowboy tradition alive and pass it on. "I intend to ride until hell freezes over and then I'll start riding on ice."
Blue has held court at his iconic watering hole the Silver Dollar Saloon for 45 years. He and the saloon have come to personify Bandera. Visitors from across the globe come to Bandera to walk through the famous red door and meet the man who "symbolizes to the world what true country music is all about."
Of Blue's almost 100 original songs, many tip a Stetson to Bandera, including "Bandera Fever," Bandera Love Affair," "Back Streets of Bandera" and "Bandera Saturday Night."
A true man of few words - except when putting them to paper then combining the prose with a melody - Bandera's favorite country cowboy crooner offered a succinct "Thank you. That's all I can say, thank you."
Concluding the induction ceremony, George Sharman, president of the museum board of trustees, noted, "These men were all Texans, all genuine heroes and all cowboys."
Next year, Bandera's celebration of the National Day of the American Cowboy takes place on Friday and Saturday, July 26 and 27. Everyone's invited to dust off their Resistols and polish the roach killers for another western "Yee-Haw" in the Cowboy Capital of the World. For that's when we'll "all be cowboys again for a day."
Top: Photo by Marshall Clayton
It was standing room only in the big white tent pitched on the courthouse lawn for the 2012 induction ceremony into the Texas Heroes Hall of Honor during the National Day of the American Cowboy on Saturday, July 28.
2. Photo by Judith Pannebaker
Former Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson handcuffed horse trainer Craig Cameron during a book signing at the Frontier Times Museum. Both Texas legends were in Bandera to be inducted into the Texas Heroes Hall of Honor during the National Day of the American Cowboy celebration. The cuffs came courtesy of Precinct 1 Constable Phil Tobin - apparently, once a lawman always a lawman.
3.Arkey Blue, shown with Vivian Schmidt, was inducted into the Frontier Times Museum's Texas Heroes Hall of Honor during the Bandera celebration of the National Day of the American Cowboy.
4. Former bull rider, rancher and famed horse trainer Craig Cameron, with his wife, Daylene, was honored as a 2012 inductee into the Frontier Times Museum's Texas Heroes Hall of Honor.
5. Doug Adams of Boerne sometimes accompanies his best friend, Craig Cameron, on the road - which can sometimes be 44 weeks a year, covering 80,000 miles.
6.Johnny Boyle, past board president, welcomed horse trainer Craig Cameron to the 2 pm book signing on Friday, July 27, at the Frontier Times Museum that kicked off the National Day of the American Cowboy celebration.
7. Bandera City Administrator Mike Cardenas brought his son, Brock, to Bandera's National Day of the American Cowboy celebration.
8. Amy Hawley of Flamingo Bling and Lisa Beck of Lady Ann participated in the Cowboy Market Place on the courthouse lawn on Saturday, July 28.
9. Popular singer Dean Strickland entertained the crowd prior to the induction ceremony.