By Martha Frost: QCS staff
Richard Clyde Shepherd Jr., may not have walked those proverbial 10 miles to school uphill and barefoot — but he said he did ride a horse to his Buffalo Flats, Texas, classroom. He also said the roof was so leaky in the small, two-room Texas house in which he grew up that his parents used to cover him up with a tarp.
His hardscrabble upbringing — in addition to his life full of ranching, livestock and bucking broncos — led Shepherd to receive this year’s Buck Ramsey Heritage Award at last month’s Nara Visa Poetry gathering, an award so given for those who are a “real cowboy.” More specifically, area historian Tom Cole said the award is given annually to an individual, family or ranch that exemplifies the cowboy way of life and has roots from homesteaders in the area.
Shepherd certainly proved that. He also proved his cowboy skills while breaking horses at his parents’ ranch and working on several other ranches by the age of 17.
In 1944, Shepherd went on the join the Army for two years but was quickly back at work in Channing, Texas, where he worked at the gravel pit and places like Boys Ranch, the Upper Matador Ranch and McCarty West Camp near Nara Visa.
More years for Shepherd meant more ranching — as well as a marriage to Beverly Ruth “Priss” O’Neal from Clarendon in 1954; they had three children.
In addition to his cowboy ways, Shepherd helped create a new fire department — Harding County District #2 — after a grass fire blew out of control due to lack of firetrucks below the caprock.
His friends and family say Shepherd is known for nicknaming people, having a clean barn, being particular about gates and pulling up or pulling out the dreaded cockle burrs. He still believes in teaching younger cowboys the rules of pasture etiquette, like working as a team, moving the herd smoothly and not playing through by passing another rider. He had one of the biggest brandings around, with 35 on horseback and 125 for dinner.
When he and his wife retired, they moved back to the Channing home place. She passed away in January 2005 after they had celebrated 50 years of marriage in 2004.
He has been a member of the Hayden Cowboy Club, Masonic Lodge and the former Matador Cowboy Reunion.
“While visiting around the chuck wagon or at a neighbor’s dinner table, he always has some morsels of wisdom, and generally when he drawls out his observations, all close around and try to hear what he has to say,” Renee Rinestine said as she presented Shepherd’s award to him at the annual cowboy poetry gathering.
“He’s always ready to ‘show you something that might save your life someday,’” she said, adding, “He loves the cowboy way of life and thinks everyone else should also.”
The Cowboy’s Anthem
And in the morning I was riding
Out through the breaks of that long plain,
And leather creaking on the quieting
Would sound with trot and trot again.
I lived in time with horse hoof falling;
I listened well and heard the calling
The earth, my mother, bade to me,
Though I would still ride wild and free.
And as I flew out in the morning,
Before the bird, before the dawn,
I was the poem, I was the song.
My heart would beat the world a warning —
Those horsemen now rode all with me,
And we were good, and we were free.
The first stanza of the prologue to The Cowboy’s Anthem by Buck Ramsey