Monday, February 28, 2011

Two cowboys who helped me learn to be a Texan

A child uses a variety of sources to establish his view of the world around him, a view that grows and changes over time, but which is always colored by those first sources. Lessons from parents, teachers, church, and books make up a lot of the hodgepodge we call "myself," and seldom do we examine our earliest ideas to see where they came from.
It was with some humor this week I realized my understanding of what it means to be a Texan came from the particular circumstances of my childhood.
For example, the first president I remember was born in the next county, Gillespie County. He talked like us and he dressed a lot like us, and I so assumed the rest of the world was similar to us, too.
But Lyndon was not my only guide, thankfully, to understanding what it meant to be Texan. I also had a lot of help from Jake and Zeb, the primary characters in Ace Reid's "Cowpokes" cartoons.  
In my father's print shop darkroom small "Cowpokes" posters dotted the walls, leftovers from printing projects he'd done for Mr. Reid. I still remember them, even to the detail of which wall held which cartoons. That darkroom, along with the rest of the shop, burned up in 1995.
It is from "Cowpokes" I gained my distrust of big-city deer hunters. Many of my opinions about bankers, politicians, and salesmen can be traced back to one of Reid's cartoons.
Take, for example, one of the cartoons which was displayed in our darkroom. In it, Jake, the hardworking but underachieving cowboy is guiding a hunter from the city. A radio is blaring,
and the hunter, leaning against a tree, is munching, loudly, potato chips.
"Turn that radio down," Jake tells the hunter, "I think I hear a deer coming!"
"Raised as a cowboy," his family's website reports, "Ace Reid received his training on 4,000 acres of old pasture and sorta studied in the school of hard knocks under very, very droughty conditions. After years of shocking wheat, breaking horses and fixing fences on his father's ranch at Electra, Texas, decided it was easier to draw cowboys than to be one."
Asa Elmer (Ace) Reid, Jr., was born in 1925 near Amarillo, his family moved to Wichita County shortly after he was born, where he grew up "ranching and cowboying." 
In 1949, he married Madge Parmley, daughter of the doctor in Electra, T. H. Parmley. They moved to Kerrville in 1952 and two years later their only child, Stan, was born here.
In those days, there was really only one political party in Texas, the Democratic party, just the opposite of local politics now. I remember one of the little posters in Dad's darkroom showing a truck traveling down a highway, crossing a point where the pavement suddenly ended and nothing but muddy hole-pocked road continued. "From here on out," the driver reports, "this part of the county voted Republican."
Occasionally Reid salted his cartoons with names of people I knew from Kerrville, but those references weren't any more real to me than old Jake and Zeb themselves. It was if I knew them, a couple of cowpokes scratching together a living out somewhere in Kerr County. I saw them at the feed store or windmill shop downtown; overheard them at caf├ęs; saw them at the bank, wearing their beat-up hats and worn jeans.
And, despite my university degree from one of the best business schools in the country, there are days when I can really relate to the cartoon where old Jake is sitting, looking a bit dejected on an overturned feed sack at the feed store. "I'm shore learnin' the livestock business, it took five years 'fore I went broke this time."
Ace Reid died in 1991 in Kerrville.  His widow, Madge Reid, runs the "Cowpokes" business today.
Ace Reid "Cowpokes" cartoons are still available as books and other items here in Kerrville. For more information, call (800)257-7441, or visit I imagine Wolfmueller's books also has some "Cowpokes" books as well.
Until next week, all the best.
This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times on February 26, 2011.


  1. There is a story that one day in the 60s Ace Reid was having lunch at a cafe over in Johnson City when the door flew open and in walked several secret service agents followed by L.B.J. himself. At some point during the meal, the president got up and went into the men's room. Later on, after he came out, Ace went into the same men's room, went into a stall, took out his felt tip pen and wrote on the wall, "I was here, Lyndon Baines Johnson" followed by the date. The next time Ace went into that cafe, they had cut out his writing from the men's room wall and had framed it and hung in the main dining room.

  2. Ace did the same thing at the Cypress Resturant in Comfort, except he included, along with his name, Hubert Humphrey.


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