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Big Night In Lamar

June 2024
1min read

Before rock stardom loomed in kids’ dreams, most little boys yearned to live the life of a cowboy. Virginia Atchinson, of Enid, Oklahoma, sent us this turn-of-the-century photo of her father, RoIlie Waterbury, happily dissolute in a Colorado pool hall, and told of his brush with Western adventure. He is “the thirteen-year-old on the right wearing the striped galluses,” she writes.

“Rollie’s father had made the run into the Cherokee Strip land opening in Oklahoma and staked a claim. Six years later he died, leaving a widow with ten children, the youngest twelve days old. They lived in a two-room sod house, and Rollie became the man of the family.

“A two-year drought after the run had left the pastures parched. A black neighbor, Mr. Russell, who held the next claim and planned to drive his cattle north toward Lamar, Colorado, and the rich bottomland of the Arkansas River, offered to take Rollie and the Waterbury herd too. After a summer of pasturing, the herds were sold to a cattle company in Lamar, and the junior cowboy and his adult friend went into town to celebrate with a game of pool; another boy joined them to pose for this picture.

“Lamar was booming, and Mr. Russell wanted to stay awhile, but Rollie knew he was needed at home and started out alone. He was riding at dusk one evening through some desolate, uninhabited country when he saw smoke coming from a dugout. Hoping for supper, he rode up calling, ‘Hello, hello.’ A man carrying a gun came out and asked what he wanted. Rollie told him he was on his way home from Colorado and was hoping to get some supper. Another man with a gun appeared with a bowl of beans, and Rollie ate while the two men watched. When he finished, the first man took the bowl back and said, ‘Now you git back on that horse and don’t look back till you git home.’

“According to my father, he didn’t.”

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