Biggest smiles and best ropers are the way everybody thinks of the Alexander brothers at Council Grove.
Actually, it’s probably a flip whether big brother Bob or little brother Wayne are first reflected for never missing with their lariat or always knowing whoever they meet with a giant grin and congenial conversation soon leading to cattle and horses.
They’re cowboys. Always have been; it’s in their genes. Their dad, O.E. Bud Alexander was a cowboy, put his sons horseback before they could walk, and that’s all they’ve ever been.
Well, actually a whole lot more, and though their cowboy lives have had slightly different trails at certain points, they’ve always excelled in the given field: cowboy.
That’s been in the pastures where they looked after cattle for their entire lifetimes for many miles around, and in the rodeo arenas throughout the country.
For their lifetimes of achievement in their inbred and chosen profession as cowboys, Bob and Wayne Alexander have been inducted into the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame at Dodge City in the cattlemen/ranchers category.
Neither of the lifetime cowboys was able to attend as they’ve slowed down just a bit in maturity now as residents at Diversicare of Council Grove.
Yet, obviously strong semblance of heritage, the Alexander brothers’ family was all smiles as well in biggest pride reminiscing and visiting during a reception Saturday afternoon at the Boot Hill Museum on Old Front Street in Dodge City, where portraits and life stories of the Alexander brothers, Bob and Wayne of Council Gove are now displayed for perpetuity.
Actual induction was Saturday evening with a public slide show telling the cowboys’ life stories before presentation of several tokens and plaques to the proud family. Barbara Lerner and Tom and Jeff Alexander accepted the recognitions on behalf of their father, Bob Alexander, and Nancy Alexander Sharp accepted the awards for her dad, Wayne Alexander.
Comprising the largest contingency of any individual group attending the ceremony honoring inductees, more than 30 family members and friends of Bob and Wayne Alexander were in attendance for the supper and program
Another well known, respected Morris County cowboy Dusty Anderson of Skiddy was also posthumously inducted as a working cowboy into the Cowboy Hall of Fame with his wife Dolly Anderson and family and friends in attendance for the reception and induction ceremonies.
Others inducted during the 12th annual presentation were Fredric Young, Dodge City, cowboy historian; Barry Ward, Copeland native now living in Colorado, cowboy entertainer/artist; and C.L. “Bud” Sankey, Rose Hill, rodeo cowboy.
Each inductee is a state native or current Kansas resident and has contributed significantly to the western heritage lifestyle and preservation of the cowboy culture in Kansas. With statewide historic significance, they each personify cowboy ideals of integrity, honesty and self-sufficiency.
The Alexander Brothers
Somebody said, and then another in the before light cowboy coffee crowd agreed, and then another, and another: “If a critter needed to be roped, the Alexander brothers were sure the best ones to call.”
Then, still another cowboy in the neighboring booth piped in, “If you ever wanted a team roping partner, that wouldn’t miss on either end, just ask one of the Alexander boys. But, then you’d best not miss, because if you do, they won’t say anything, but they like to win and have the record to show they can.”
“Yeh, you’d better get one of them to be your partner though, or they’ll team up together and take it all themselves,” inserted a fellow in overalls on a stool at the counter, as several impatient Quarter Horses stomped in the half-dozen stock trailers outside, knowing there was still lots of cattle pasture work to do before their day’s work was done.
As if the conversation might seem like it’s getting a bit deep, still another from the third booth across the room toted: “If you don’t want to mug a wild cow, don’t get those Alexander brothers to be your header. They don’t miss, and they expect you to get that cow mugged the second they get her dallied. It might not look like it, but they can sure run that milk bottle, and have won more wild cow milking’s than anybody in the state.”
As if it couldn’t seem to get any deeper, one plumb across the room in the corner booth spouted: “Well the ranch rodeo teams those Alexanders were on always took the prizes, too.”
While honest consensus is the same of anybody who’s been around Bob, actually still generally referred to as Bobby, and Wayne, the always-outgoing cowboys themselves are quite humble when it comes to talking about their feats with a rope.
“I’ve never done too much, but I’ve been lucky. I always had a good time, met a lot of great people. I’ve sure enjoyed it,” Bob, now 94, said.
“I’ve had a lot of good horses, did win some, but I’ve missed a fair share and lost when it seemed like a cinch to take home the pot. It’s been a lot of fun, truly been a great life,” younger brother, although not really little comparatively, Wayne, now 91, added.
Though horses, cattle and the cowboy life are what they’re best widely known, family is truly first of importance to the Alexander brothers.
“We were lucky that Dad was a cowboy and gave us the opportunity to follow in his line of work,” Bob said.
“Lucky, that Mom put up with it all, too, and that our little brother Jimmy liked airplanes better than roping, or he’d probably be beating us roping. He could rope, but he liked airplanes. That may have given Mom some relief,” Wayne asserted.
Well, the best way to divulge the most accurate Alexander cowboy brothers’ story is to let them tell it the way it really was.
“Dad would leave home on horseback at 3 (o’clock) in the morning and not be back until after dark,” Bob remembered. “He looked after 10,000 acres south of town on the county line, now the Mashed O Ranch.”
The next day, Bud Alexander would go the opposite direction from his ranch headquarters still there right behind the reservoir dam at the north edge of Council Grove, where his great grandson, aptly named Bobby, lives now.
On the northern Morris County line pasture were more of the 3,500-plus cattle Bud Alexander custom grazed every summer for itinerant owners.
Obviously, the Alexander boys came by their profession naturally. They grew up on horses and long before teenage years were called into helping with their dad’s vast cattle operations, and it didn’t take a second ask for them to go along. They admitted to begging to help all of the time.
“Those old steers would come in on trains from Texas, and we’d have to help drive them to the Flint Hills pastures over a wild area,” Bob recalled.
A mixed menagerie of Herefords, crossbreds, typically with Longhorn and quite apparent Brahman influence, mostly with rugged horns that had been tipped, or untipped, the steers were all for full season grazing from late April to October, Wayne continued.
“Those steers would be two or three-years-old, weighing around 400 pounds. They were nothing but running gears when we turned ’em out, but those big ole steers really put on the pounds when we opened the gates to that lush Flint Hills grass,” Bob insisted.
“By the end of July, some of ’em would be weighing 800 pounds, and we’d have to start gathering them to load back on trains for shipment to packing plants in Kansas City,” Wayne related. “We had to check pastures every few days, so you can see, we rode our horses a lot, and that made them better all of the time.”
There weren’t any trucks to haul horses or cattle in those days, nearly eight decades, that’s 80 years, ago. “When we went somewhere we rode horseback, and we would have to start out early to get there, preferably before the sun was peeking through out of the East,” Bob inserted.
“Our horses were really broke in those days, because we’d ride them all day, every day for weeks at a time,” Wayne added. “A horse has to be ridden to know anything. It’s a long process. Wet saddle blankets made good horses, and I’ve had some good ones, but it took lots of time.”
One particular group of cattle sticks out in Bob’s memory from 1935 thereabouts. “We got in 300 bulls to graze. All kinds and ages, everything anybody could imagine was in that bunch of old bulls. They were a real chore even for us then, when we thought we really were cowboys and could do about anything,” Bob admitted.
“We had good horses, but it was a real challenge before we got those bulls loaded back on the train,” Wayne added.
It was about that time, when a truck was purchased for the operation. “Dad finally got a Model B Ford pickup, and we used it to cake those bulls on pasture. They didn’t know what to think of that for a while, and we really didn’t either. It took some time for us all to get used to it,” Wayne claimed.
The cowboy brothers recollected with their even broader smiles about the yearling and two-year-old mules their dad would get each winter to break and sell the next year. “We’d always try to ride them, and we had some pretty exciting times. Even some Dad fortunately didn’t know about, or we didn’t think he did,” Wayne admitted.
For several years, Clyde Miller’s Wild West Shows from Iowa wintered some of their stock at the Alexander ranch. “One year, one of those Brahma bulls charged one of our horses, and hooked him right in the side. We’re just lucky that horse wasn’t killed,” Bob remembered.
There was never a shortage of work to be done doctoring the large number of cattle looked after by the family, so Dad and the boys got a lot of practice with their lariats. It was work, but it was fun too, and they all seemingly got rodeo in their blood.
“Even our little brother Jimmy knew how to ride and could get a lot of work done with the cattle, but he didn’t have it in his heart as much as we did. Jimmy got interested in airplanes, pursued that as a career, was very successful and received several honors. Jimmy was probably the smartest one of the bunch, could have even been better than being a cowboy,” Wayne evaluated.
An old rodeo program shared by Bob indicated that their dad, Bud, competed in a rodeo on September 8-9, 1923, at the small community of Comiskey on the Lyon-Morris County line.
“Dad was entered in the steer roping, and placed second. It was actually tie-down steer roping back then. They didn’t’ have tie-down calf roping in the early rodeos,” Bob commented.
One of the first competitions Bob can recall entering personally was a goat roping at the annual Fairmont Creamery celebration. “I don’t know how, but I got lucky and won that roping,” he remarked. It was obviously the start of a successful arena career matching that of professional cowboy cattle business endeavors.
When the Alexander brothers, Bob and Wayne, became adults, they started roping at rodeos throughout the area.
“I remember going to the rodeo in Wilbur Countryman’s pasture near Cassoday, and the Picolet boys had a rodeo in their pasture, northwest of Council Grove, with cars just set up for a fence,” Bob reflected.
Following in his dad’s boot steps, Bob started looking after summer pasture cattle over a wide area. “I had up to 3,200 head on grass at one point, but I soon found out that 2,100 to 2,200 head worked out better all around,” he calculated.
Wayne served in the Air Force, and then was a steel worker headquartered at Topeka for 28 years, sometimes following the employment to other states including Colorado and California.
“I had Brahman calves for practice and roped just about every evening after work and went to rodeos on weekends,” Wayne related.
Bob contended: “Wayne really went to a lot more rodeos and did win a lot more than I did.”
Although it’s not that well known, the cowboy brothers did occasionally ride bucking steers, and cows, in early day competition, although it was mostly in the corral at home where they never shied away from an outlaw bucking horse, or broncy mule, for that matter.
Both Bob and Wayne served as pickup men for bronc riders at a few amateur rodeos. They were called on to judge rodeos, including more modern day ranch rodeos, over a wide part of the state.
Amateur rodeo competitions throughout the Midwest were on their schedules at the height of their rodeo days, with Wayne competing in many rodeos in Colorado, and other western states, sometimes entering Rodeo Cowboys Association (professional) sanctioned events.
Cassoday on the Fourth of July and Eskridge on Labor Day stick out as two of the Alexander brothers’ favorite rodeos. They both claimed roping titles at both of those rodeos for a number of years, sometimes beating each other out by just a few seconds.
“I always had a good time at the Cassoday and Eskridge rodeos. There were so much fun, because most of the contestants were ranchers and pasture cowboys just like we were. I really enjoyed them,” Bob insisted.
Following in big brother’s boots steps again, Wayne also was named the all-around cowboy at Eskridge and other rodeos. Although Bob was known to bulldog a few in his younger days, Wayne regularly and successfully included steer wrestling in his competition repertoire.
.“I liked to get in the bulldogging, too. I didn’t win as much in dogging steers as roping, but it was good to have another event to enter when you hauled so many miles. I had a couple of good bulldogging teams over the years,” Wayne qualified.
“I really craved that roping,” Wayne added emphatically.
One newspaper clipping from September, 1970, reported: “The 18th annual Eskridge Labor Day Rodeo fans were delighted to have Wayne Alexander win the All-Around Cowboy trophy this year. Now in his late 40s, Wayne has been a steady contender in each event he enters. He made a good score and earned each point.”
The article verified that Wayne was first in team roping with Jon McCormick of Topeka as his partner, and third in calf roping. Bob was second in the wild cow milking with Bake Blosser of Perry, as his partner.
Another Eskridge weekly newspaper story from 1960 recounted that Bob Alexander was first in the ribbon roping event at that year’s Labor Day Rodeo.
Reiterating, calf roping was still their main and favorite event, they both also collected their share of payback checks in team roping, steer tripping and wild cow milking. “That wild cow milking would get pretty wild sometimes,” Bob smiled as he remembered when Blosser, again as his mugger, got pretty boogered up at the Cassoday rodeo.
“I roped that renegade cow, and Bake latched both arms around her head, fingers in her nostrils, and she put her head down on the ground and headed across that pasture arena, with Bake’s left hand between the cow’s nose and the rocky sod. Bake couldn’t get her head up, but I finally ran along her side, got some milk in the bottle, and ran back across the finish line, so we placed.
“Afterwards, Bake’s hand and wrist were completely raw, and he uttered a few choice words, as he took a good slug from the (liquor) bottle and poured more out on the raw wound,” Bob continued grinning wider.
Actually, there are way too many good actually true cowboy stories that need to be told by the Alexander brothers, but there’s not enough paper to do it here and now.
Suffice to say, the Alexander brothers usually left with a paycheck when they competed in a rodeo or jackpot event.
The Alexander brothers always trained their own horses, and many of them were the ones they raised.
“I had to ride what I had, because I couldn’t afford to go out and buy one. Anyway, I had to have my horse trained so he’d work a rope, or I couldn’t get my real job done in the pasture and be able to afford to go to another rodeo on the next weekend. It all required a horse that could work cattle and a rope,” Bob defended.
“For many years, I also bought, trained and sold a lot of rope horses, and all around horses. I was in the race horse business and kept horses on the track for a number of years, too. I haven’t ever figured out how profitable that part of it ended up in the long run, but it was sure a lot of fun, as well,” Wayne said.
Daughter Nancy Alexander Sharp reflected: “Dad had several race horses that did well, and his most outstanding was Aparado, who won a number of races. Dad’s level of excitement would go through the roof when his horse got close to the finish line, but then whose wouldn’t.
“Those were exiting days for Dad, and he loved everything about the racing industry. With his rodeo days being in the number one spot and most exciting, his racing days would have to come in as a strong second place winner,” Nancy added.
Besides looking after cattle for itinerant owners on leased pastures, day work helping other cattlemen doctor and gather cattle was always a big part of all of the Alexander family.
“Dad continued helping with cattle on horseback many years after most men would have retired,” Bob related. “Dad did have a truck and trailer loaded with his horse just about every day, certainly April through October, and even a lot of times during the winter, too .
“He didn’t have to get up as early as he did 50 years earlier to ride 20 miles to a pasture, but Dad was still up before anybody else and ready to go before sunrise,” Bob’s eyes shined as he talked about his true hero-mentor, his dad, Bud Alexander.
“My sons and daughters all rode horses growing up, and my oldest son, Tom, still has cattle operations, looks after the home place and was a top hand with a rope at a stage in his life,” Bob credited.
“I helped do a lot of cattle work horseback when I was growing up, went to lots of rodeos all around, did some competition roping. Dad always worked hard and wanted to win, but he’d never let on much. He’d usually win or place at about every rodeo, but he’d just say, ‘I guess I got lucky.’ Dad has always been my hero,” son Tom said, adding “Mom was always a strong supporter of his rodeo competitions. I never heard her complain, or them ever have an argument.”
While all of Wayne’s family had an admiration for horses and ranch life, his son, Rick, worked as a trainer at Remington Park in Oklahoma City for several years. Especially close to Wayne’s sentimentally, the horse genes have gone a step further as his grandson, Corey Reynolds, is in the race horse business with his family, too.
In addition to being a cowboy, Bob had a limited farming operation. “I didn’t mind hay, but I always preferred cattle over farm work, and kept a stock cow herd,” he qualified.
“After Dad retired as a steel worker, he raised Black Angus cattle, which he loved. He had several customers from Council Grove to Topeka who loved his beef. Some of the guys in Topeka could hardly wait for that wonderful meat from Wayne Alexander. Dad fed his cattle corn and molasses, and the product was amazing. His steaks were the best,” Nancy insisted.
Competing long after most of those other rodeo cowboys they’d beat and some who’d infrequently beat them, the Alexander cowboy brothers entered and won in roping events at Old Timers Rodeos throughout the country.
Bob won a number of over-60 tie-down roping competitions and was leading the world standings one year, but couldn’t go to a run of rodeos during shipping season and dropped down slightly in the standings. “You have to take care of business at home, or all of this rodeo fun won’t ever be possible,” Bob evaluated.
However, Bob does have fondest memories of qualifying and competing in calf roping and team roping at the National Finals Old Timers Rodeo in 1985 at Las Vegas, Nevada. “That had to be the most exciting rodeos I’ve entered. I didn’t win it, but they knew this Flint Hills cowboy was there,” Bob said.
Family and friends are still the most important to Bob and Wayne, even though cowboys, horses, ropes and rodeos seem foremost in their conversations.
Wherever his steel worker profession led Wayne and his family, he had his horse and was in the arena there roping, including with the world champion team roping Camarillo brothers and family in California.
Additional most recognizable names acquainted with Bob and Wayne include, of course, Clyde Miller, E.C., Ken, Gerald and Marge Roberts, Louis Brooks, Slim Pickens, Clarke McIntire, Floyd, Bronc and Tommy Rumford, John and Dale Jacobson, Jerry Taylor and Max Stowell to name a few.
Plus, there are hundreds more local cowboys but often still nationally recognized some which are Dusty Anderson, Wilbur Countryman, Andy Olson, Slim Pickering, Bill Ebutt, Bob Widau, Eddie Van Petten, Wendell Tranter, Gibb Franks, Charlie Blosser, Jon McCormick, Ralph Bowman, Cheese Marten, Jim, Kenneth and Marshall Hoy, Jack Chase, Ike Grosse, Byron Moore, Norman Hamm, Ralph and Clyde Scott, Roy Frey, Dan Matile, Eldon Pugh, Bill Martin, Ted Wilkerson, Kenny Muller, Jack Gieswein, and the list goes on and on and on.
Whatever the cowboy crowd, the Alexander cowboy brothers were recognized and common knowledge was they’d likely have a piece of the pie when the day was done, although still likely to share it with a grin if asked.
Pastures that Bob had for custom grazing have now been turned over to a younger generation, some to his grandson Jimmy Lerner and his sons, Bob’s great grandsons. “I looked after cattle for Webster & Son of San Angelo, Texas, for more than 40 years. I’m kinda proud of that,” Bob did admit.
Cowboys don’t get rich, the Alexander brothers agreed. “It will have to be for the love of the lifestyle, rather than the money for young men to want to be cowboys,” Bob contended unequivocally.
Age has taken its toll on the Alexander cowboy brothers who are confined to the care home now. But, there’s no doubt they’re cowboys by their everyday apparel boots, jeans, snap Western shirts, and sometimes even their hats, too.
Certainly their days brighten and a sparkle glistens in their eyes when mention of the Alexander brothers’ lives as cowboys comes into the conversation reflecting horses, roundups, rodeos and the life they’ve lived professionally, and truly a bit romantically as well, as if it was yesterday.
A cowboy always a cowboy, and the Alexander brothers are real cowboys.
A reception honoring Bob and Wayne Alexander is planned Saturday, Oct. 18, from 2 to 4, at Diversicare of Council Grove.