“My heroes have always been cowboys And they still are, it seems…
I grew up a-dreamin' of bein' a cowboy And lovin' the cowboy ways”
Last week was the 40th Anniversary of Western Heritage Day on the Hardin Simmons campus. With that in mind, it’s fitting to ask, ‘What is a cowboy’? The stereotype is someone on a horse; perhaps the Marlboro Man comes to mind. Along those lines it is true that HSU was a charter member of the Intercollegiate Rodeo Club and when Billy Graham visited our campus in those days, we presented him with a saddle which he proclaimed would bring us to mind every time he used it. We could summon athletic figures from our schools storied past like “Slingin” Sammy Baugh, Dan Blocker or Clyde “Bulldog” Turner or Doyle Brunson who having a contract to play pro basketball with the Minneapolis (later the Los Angeles) Lakers injured his leg, cutting short his NBA career and so he learned another skill and went on to win the World Series of Poker.
Or celebrities such as actors Fess Parker who portrayed both Daniel Boone and Davy Crocket on television or Steadman Graham who played basketball here and now writes and speaks motivationally while not courting Oprah. Of course, the term Cowboy must also be applied equally to ladies such as our own Dr. Virginia Connally of whom there are too many honorifics to put here; suffice it to say she earned world-wide renown long before her 106th birthday in 2019 when Texas physicians celebrated her by giving her the highest award the Texas Medical Association can bestow, the Distinguished Service Award. Our Connally Missions Center on campus wears her name proudly. Mildred Paxton Moody was the founder of this publication as a student here in 1916 and don’t forget Kendra Hassell, our women’s basketball coach who earned All American status as a player here herself on the way to becoming the most decorated player in the program’s history.
A better question might be to ask yourself who will be the next cowboys from our institution to be honored. Look around at the end of this academic year and consider that and what your future might hold. It doesn’t matter if you cannot yet envision a clear path; as the Apostle John wrote in one of his letters.
I John 3:2 - Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
As unlikely as it may seem you are in the presence of greatness right here and now, and that greatness might be you or others you know. We have been looking backwards and now we turn forward and consider those graduating this semester. I nominate our own Annabelle Smallwood as an example of the Cowboy Way. She is already producing news stories for KRBC television, while also holding two other jobs including editor of the Brand. Who can say what you will become in the months and years ahead after leaving HSU. The Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, reminds us that, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
Looking ahead to the fall semester the Brand will host a book signing for Terri Taylor, whose guest column appears here about his time as an editor for the Brand in the 1970’s and when Emily Williamson takes the reins as Brand editor, she will be looking for some new staffers. So, if you have any interest in writing, graphics, photography, or videography she is interested in talking with you.
Maybe your dreams are still in progress or maybe you’re already living yours, either way take a moment to visit the Hall of Heroes on the ground floor of the Skiles building to see what dreams went before you at this place.
Cowboy poet Frank Desprez wrote of the cowboy way while working on a Texas ranch in the 1870’s in his piece “Lasca” now considered the definitive Texas poem.
“I want free life and I want fresh air;
And I sigh for the canter after the cattle,
….. the green beneath and the blue above,
And dash, and danger, and life
May your cowboy way lead to your future success as it has for so many who went before us on this campus.