My cowboy buddy Don Hambrick was born March 23, 1940 in Seminole, Texas, and now makes his home in Golden Valley, Arizona. When he was 14 he ran away from home to become a cowboy, and he has cowboyed from West Texas to New Mexico, California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. He’s worked for the O RO, Double O, K4 and Arizona Colorado Cattle Company. Don Hambrick is the real deal.
You might think of my friend, Don, as a modern day Will James. Don has punched cows all over the west and at 70 years old, shows no real signs of slowing down. I met Don at a New Mexico branding about 10 years ago, and we’ve been friends ever since.
Don perfectly fits the Will James, Charlie Russell category of “Cowboy who is an artist.” Should you doubt Don’s cowboy credentials, I can prove it to you. The 2010 Cowpuncher's Reunion dedicated their rodeo to him. This is no easy feat. This rodeo, held in Williams, Arizona, draws the best cowboys with the best reputations. This alone should tell you what a good man and good hand Don is.
Don has had real horse wrecks, worked rangey wild cattle and been and done what most of us (myself included) can only dream about. The line that separates real working cowboys from Dudes is easy for those who know what to look for. I’ve seen all kinds in 15 years, but I’ll tell you one thing….Don Hambrick doesn’t need a sell job.
|Hambrick and Haskins|
Shake his hand and you’ll know. My favorite time spent with Don was at the CV Ranch’s big branding in Paulden, Arizona. Another old Arizona fixture, named Ken Haskins was day working, and Don and Ken told great stories of days gone by in northern Arizona. This is the time when artists shut their mouth and try and disappear into a quiet corner.
Haskins is as colorful on the story-telling as he is on the English language. (Some have said his father knew Will James, but I could never hang the truth on this statement). He and Hambrick knew all the same people and had covered each other’s tracks at one ranch or another.
Don also paints and draws what he knows, and like Will James, tells the truth with his art. For those that have been there and done it, a certain honesty and clarity comes through. Cowboys gravitate to the truth; that’s why they hold Will James, C.M. Russell and Don Hambrick in such high regard.
Don published his own little cowboy book about places he’s been, horses he’s ridden, and people he has known. The book is titled “Everything’s Poco-Settie”, a cowboy’s attempt to pronounce “copasetic”, meaning everything’s alright.
The book is a collection of poems and stories by Don and his sons Sam and Burley. Together with his precious wife Allene (truly, one of the sweetest women I’ve ever met), this family has carved out a legacy in the West. Don’s book will be a much sought after relic someday. His drawings and prose will take you back to a time when our world was simple, honest and real. I will close with a poem written by Don’s son Sam, from Poco-settie:
MY DAD – By Sam Hambrick
This is a story about my old Dad, I would like to tell to you
And everyone that knows him, knows he’s cowboy through and through.
I imagine he’ll be breakin’ horses right up ‘til the day he dies
You know the world is runnin’ out of this old kinda guy.
He’ll still shoe his own horses, and he’s over 67 years old
You can pay a man to do it for you, but I guess he ain’t been told.
Yeah, he’s set in his ways and stubborn … He’s stubborn as a mule!
But I’ll guarantee he could teach you things that you never learn in school.
He ain’t just some old cowboy, there’s a lot more to him than that.
You people that know him, know there’s things going on underneath that cowboy hat.
He knows about the cattle market, ‘cuz he loves the cattle biz.
As far as my old man’s concerned, cowboyin’ is all there is.
My dad would buy a shoppin’ cart if he thought he could make a buck or two
And won’t hardly change expression, whenever the deal goes through.
I’m proud of the man my father is, he’s quite a man indeed.
He’s pushed through life and done just fine, livin’ by his own creed.
Me … I try to be a good cowboy and make him proud of me.
Just like my old daddy, there’s nothin’ I’d rather be.
He told me one day, just how he felt; What did he say? Well …. This is it.
He said, as far as he was concerned if you ain’t a cowboy,
Then partner, you may as well roll ‘er up an’ quit!
You can order a signed copy of Don's book, "Poco-settie" for $20.00. Send him a note at: Don Hambrick, 3685 Verde Rd., Golden Valley, AZ 86413.
All content and images © Mark Kohler Studio