I’m not sure I’ve ever met a cowboy. I have met guys who can dance and wear big hats, still I’m not sure I’d know a cowboy if I saw one. That changed one day with a simple black and white photograph.
Teresa Hibbert is a friend of ours. I was at her place to drop off some hamburger when I saw the photo. I thought for sure it was an old reprint from a national magazine. The figure in the black and white photo was old but vigorous, wrinkled and tan. The cowboy hat on his head was dirty and used, probably had never seen a hat box. Broad-faced with eyes squinting in the sun, he looked like leather wrapped around the form of a man.
I asked Teresa if this was from the cover of a magazine-maybe an old “Life” periodical. She told me that the man in the photo was a cowboy from her home in Driggs, Idaho. The man in the picture was Joseph William Peacock, Teresa’s Grandpa Joe.
Joseph Peacock raised cattle (maybe a few sheep) in the shadow of the Teton Mountain Range which is south of the Yellowstone National Park. Joe was a cowboy but he was a horse man first. Joseph Peacock loved horses, both for work and fun. He always rode a horse on their ranch but also spent two weeks each summer in Butte or Billings Montana racing thoroughbreds. Winters were spent cutter racing near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He thought a love of horses was something nice to pass on to the grandchildren and so his grand daughter Teresa received a POA (Pony of the Americas) named “Little Vic” when she was just seven years old. Her brother Eric got a POA too, his ponies’ name was “John.” Grandpa Joe and his horse crossed the eight miles of open range daily from home to the grand-kids, often with a supply of Blackjack Gum and cream soda on board.
I liked when Teresa told me that Joe was a cowboy with swagger. The picture I saw of Joe showed a man dressed for work yet still ruggedly handsome. He loved the legend of the cowboy and played it up when the opportunity presented itself. On an airplane to Kentucky for horse racing, Joe Peacock caught the eye of a city woman. Joe was wearing his Levi’s, a Pendleton shirt and the dry-cured complexion earned from years on the range. The woman watched him until she could take it no longer. She looked at Joe and gushed, “are you a REAL cowboy?” The best guess is she got a tip of Joe’s old cowboy hat, a wink and a smile. That woman had the story of an authentic cowboy sighting to tell at her next Bridge meeting.
Joseph William Peacock died in 1980 at age sixty-seven. He left the legend of the cowboy in better shape than he found it because to him it wasn’t a legend, it was just another day.
(Grandpa Joe’s barn)