In northern Arizona, a man named Haskins is probably wrangling horses as I pen this. His full name is Ken Haskins and he’s about 76 years old. No one knows for sure. He was born in Montana to Hugh Haskins, which is where my cowboy chronicle will begin.
Hugh Haskins worked at a time when cowboys were king. Hugh personally knew Charlie Russell and Will James, two rather significant legends to build your cowboy resume upon, or in my case, a cowboy epic.
Ken’s father was a gifted bronc ride, cowboy, wrangler and noted wood carver. He once carved a cow camp scene, reported by some to be from 8 to 10 feet long. It had cowboys, corrals, cowboy tipis, a camp wagon and a remuda complete with 120 horses. During the Depression, Eleanor Roosevelt offered Hugh the kingly sum of one thousand dollars for the carving. But Hugh turned her down. Instead, I think he gave it to his friend, who at the time was Governor of Montana. It is rumored to have been lost in a fire years later. Gleaning what I can from my cowboy friends, Hugh Haskins was a top hand cowboy in every regard.
Ken was born somewhere around 1934 in Montana. He can’t say for sure. I’m working on gaining information about his early years, so be patient and stay tuned for further tales of Ken’s saga. I consider this first post an introduction, and more will follow, I promise.
What I do know is this: Ken has amassed a cowboy resume that few can match. He’s cowboyed and worked all over Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, both Dakotas and most of northern Arizona. My first-hand knowledge of just the Arizona ranches Ken has marked time on include the O ROs, the Diamond As, Cross U, LOs and Babbits. He was a camp man at both the ROs and Babbits, which is a lonely, hard existence and the reality of ranch life.
He wrangled horses for the Diamond As in his later years and continues to wrangle for the C.F. My friend, Ben Kimble, says “Ken Haskins is the best horse wrangle I’ve ever seen, and probably one of the best in the state of Arizona. He’s also the best brush hand I’ve ever worked with.”
I met Ken, myself, about 5 years ago on a branding at the C.F. for Goemmers. This was the last time Ken would be horseback. Bad bronc wrecks had taken both shoulders and his knees were starting to give him trouble. Ken is known for his colorful enhancement of the language, and a disdain for some of the buckaroo types. He still wears his pants tucked in to his Paul Bonds and a little bowler type hat. His orange beater Ford truck is a permanent fixture around Paulden and Prescott.
Ken has had a hard life doing just what he wanted to do: punch cows, wrangle horses, ride broncs and sit with his kind; the kind, like Ken who will quietly slip away into the cracks of history with real stories and tales only they will know.
I consider it an honor to meet, know and paint these cowboy legends that the world passes by. Now you know a little more about one of the best of them.
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