“A real cowboy” is the simplest, most encompassing and completely accurate description.
Yet, there are no less than a dozen additional adjectives that might appropriately be used to describe Gilbert Capoun, 81, Alma rancher, who passed away December 20.
Likely many of those imageries from the large and varied attendance at his memorial mass would have similarities. Yet, not near all would seem flattering to one who’d never worked beside and come to know the cowboy as he really was.
However, David Stuewe, who neighbored Capoun for 37 years, probably recognized his all sides as well as anybody, and pulled no punches in the heartfelt eulogy, following mass celebrated by Father John Pilcher, in the high school gymnasium.
Passionate and compassionate are the two words that best reveal the Gilbert Capoun beyond his cowboy ways.
Gilbert Capoun was passionate in all of his beliefs whether love for his family, his ranch, his God, his country, his singing or even his partying.
Yet, his compassionate love for helping anybody in need, his family, his land, his cattle, his horses, his God, his country and beyond was the crowning attribute of the rough-as-a-cob, gentle-as-an-angel Gilbert Capoun
Straight-forward, dedicated, seemingly fearless, Capoun, in his forever signature cowboy hat pulled down tight to do a day’s work on the ranch, always said it, and did it, like he thought it should be.
There was never backing off whatever the occasion, unless proven he was wrong, or there was a better way, then Capoun would agree and continue forward.
Uniquely appropriate for the services was the guitar and fiddle music and singing led by cantor John Bloomfield, along with two other cowboy instrumentalists, who had played frequently with Capoun in bands, gatherings and at his famous “mulligans.”
Capoun was known for his gift and love of music, singing and playing the guitar and harmonica.
“Pride of ownership counts more than the money one makes from a ranch.”
That was Capoun’s philosophy for managing his CX Ranch, east of Alma, when the lifelong cattleman three summers ago proudly hosted a tour of the previously neglected and abused Wabaunsee County land which he’d renovated into lush green Flint Hills pastures.
“This is what I’ve been dreaming of all my life,” Capoun insisted then, as he and his wife, Nancy, happily toiled in the yard of their picturesque ranch headquarters.
“I bought this place in 1963,” Capoun recalled. “The house had been abandoned for seven years, and the varmints had moved in.”
However, lots of work went into the headquarters, and Capoun then emphatically credited, “Nancy was a great help in fixing it up, painting and the yard work.”
Capoun always took pride in the quality of his horses, but he had sorrowfully reverted to riding a four-wheeler.
“I had good horses, a number of really good horses,” Capoun verified. “I made the mistake of selling my broke horses, then I got so I didn’t always land right in the saddle on some young horses and ended up on the ground. This four-wheeler is safer.”
“My family came to Kansas in 1938 when I was seven, after the drought and Depression forced us off a Nebraska ranch,” he noted.
In 1956, Capoun returned from Germany after two years Army service, and purchased 500 acres for $87 an acre.
“I always dreamed of owning my own ranch, and it finally came true,” Capoun said. “Later, I was lucky to acquire more land at a considerably higher price, but still cheap by today’s values.”
With his first wife, Geneva, who passed away several years ago after extended illness, Capoun had two sons, Joe and Glen, who with their families live nearby.
“My boys are cowboys, too,” Capoun credited. “They just ate it up when they were at home. I’d keep five shod horses in the barn.”
A cow herd was always part of the operation, and then Capoun had 150 spring calvers, along with a large double stock grazing program.
“That was solid timber all up the hillside, before I came in with the chain saw, knocked them down, and started burning every year,” he described a renovated CX pasture.
“I have to give credit to my sons, Glen and Joe,” Capoun emphasized. “Without them, I never would have been able to acquire this ranch and pay for it.
“My sons’ high school activities were few and far between. All they ever got for their labor was spending money, but someday this ranch will be theirs. I think they will cherish it like I do,” Capoun said.
Appropriately, Joe and Glen brought forward offertory gifts for the mass, and military honors by two United States Army soldiers concluded the services, with presentation of the American flag to Nancy.
Survivors also include a sister, stepchildren, grandchildren, step-grandchildren, great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.