Remembering Apache

                                Remembering Apache

                                               by

                                      Rusty Fleming

 

There comes a time when we all have to face the fact, the older we get, the more of us lose those that may be older, some younger,,, but lost none the less, to be archived in our memories. I consider myself to have been acquainted with some of whom I refer to as true legends; the likes of my dad, grandad, great grandad, cousins, uncles and friends on the younger side, like JP, gone too young, then there’s so many others, please forgive me for not listing them all here as, there just ain’t enuff room or time to honor them all individually. But, I’ll throw a few names out there, names that were known by so many others, Arvil Jernigan, Juan Salinas, James Kenney, Don and Jack Merritt, Dee Fleming, Noel Kincaid, Melvin Foster, Tom Jennings, Jim Calvert, Don Smith, James Garlick, Buddy Neal, Bob Hedrick, Happy Godbold, Max and Phillip Schneemann, Joe Canon, Jim Phillips, JW Stone, Jim Dulaney, Denmon Lewis, Charles Steagall, Mac Benge, then Apache. Apache is one of those few guys that never need to be referred to as having a last name. When you said Apache, everyone knew to whom you were referring. He stood tall, and alone, in his stature. Truly one of a kind. His exploits exceeded numerous, and to quote Steve Schneemann, Apache told him once that he was never hurt horseback, till he turned 50, then he had broke damn near every bone in his body, some of them twice. Apache was of the very few, that I could not think of him passing, because he was indestructible, and had proven it many, many times. There might have been a few in the history of cowboyology that were beyond “western”, but it took quite a character to best Apache at “cowboyology” in his environment.

That environment was ROCKS,, big, hard, steep rocks, conveniently located along and near the Rio Grande River, DEEP in the Big Bend,,,that was his domain, and he thrived there. He was born and raised in “the rocks”. He was as hard and as tuff as those rocks, and so were his horses, and his mules, they didn’t have a choice.

Don Cadden wrote this, the official obituary of Apache, I know Don knew Apache as well as anybody, knew him well and laid the lifeline of Apache “out there”, for all to see in this obituary. This is a really well written tribute and to it’s author, Don Cadden, I commend you for a job done extremely well. Fitting for Apache.

 

Ernest Paul “Apache” Adams: The term "Legend" is widely overused today to describe everyone from overpaid sports figures to politicians and movie stars. But on Friday, November 13, 2020, we lost a true legendary cowboy, Apache Adams.

Apache was born on September 11, 1937, in Del Rio, Texas. His mother, Mildred, had traveled from their River Ranch 75 miles south of Marathon, heavy with child, to her mother’s home to have the baby. A couple of days after she gave birth, her husband, Ulice Adams, came to Del Rio to see his new son. He took one look at the infant who already had coal black hair and said, "Dang, he looks like a little Apache Indian." For the next 83 years that was all most folks knew him as.

Growing up on the Rio Grande without electricity or running water, Apache spoke Spanish before English, and was a’horseback by the time he could walk. He became a cowboy under the watchful eye of his father, his uncle, Elby Adams, and a host of seasoned Mexican vaqueros of the old breed. His mother, being a Babb by birth, afforded even more mentors who were legendary top hands in their time.

Apache ranched all over the Big Bend country of West Texas. He always seemed to end up in the roughest country, and usually bought the rankest horses that no one else wanted. When other ranchers had wild cattle that couldn’t be gathered, they called Apache and the job got done. Along the way he roped a mountain lion and a bear. But neither was as dangerous as the rogue bulls that he was known for bringing in with his "war wagon" trailer and some of his "boys".  (Young local cowboys who loved to ride with him.)

For the past 35 years, Apache also enjoyed fascinating audiences at cowboy poetry gatherings around the west with his adventures. He was the consummate story teller, and he had plenty of stories to tell. Audiences sat spellbound as they realized that the west was still alive, and that all horses weren’t like those in the movies. Apache was loved and greatly respected by his fellow performers as well. One look and they knew he was "The Real Deal".

Apache Adams was a cowboy’s cowboy, and greatly respected by his peers. He never met a stranger, and had friends in every walk of life. He loved his family and never missed a chance to talk about his grandkids and great grandkids. His word was his bond, and you never had to guess where he stood. He made us all sit a little straighter in the saddle and examine how we lived our lives.

When asked once what he wanted written on his tombstone, he didn’t hesitate for a moment. He said, "Apache Adams, One Hell of a Cowboy." And that he was.

Those who went before Apache were his parents, Ulice and Mildred Babb Adams. Sister Eula May and brother Delbert, sons David Ulice Adams and Gary Dwayne Adams, and wife of 62 years, Joy Adams. 

He is survived by brother David Adams, daughters Robin Roller and Rhea Hardaway Thomas, son Yadon Hardaway, wife Tanya Blair Hardaway Adams, grandchildren Jack Adams (Amber) and Wendye Hartzell ( Russell), Dustin Roller (Jessa), Wesley Roller, Matt Crumpler (Amanda), and Chris Crumpler. Great grandchildren Emma, Ashtyn and Addison Adams, Paige, Kennedy, and McKenna Hartzell, Abigail, Gary, and Hunter Roller. Also by nieces Kathy Rainey, Mildred Ann Potter, and Brooke Adams, and nephews David Adams, Jr., and James Adams.

In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to westernsportsfoundation.org, or the justincowboycrisisfund.org.

 

To me, this is a tribute that fit Apache like a glove. He was a strong willed guy that didn’t back down, it wasn’t in his genetic makeup. And he grew up in a time when dollars were scarce and every dollar that could be made, he went after it, if he didn’t, it was opportunity lost. Don’t get me wrong, he was not a greedy guy, but he worked super extra hard for every dollar he could earn, because he’d grown up under the cloud, money was scarce. Seemed like back then there was a horse trader on every section corner,,,most bought and sold rapidly,,, time lapsed in the traders possession was separating them from a profit,,, Apache wasn’t like that,,, he’d buy one, ride, improve ‘em, THEN turn them for the profit,,,Apache had a special knack with horses, he was able to acquire quite a few over the years that were usually those that were giving their owners FITS and the owners usually anxious for an equine relocation. Apache’d hear about one of these bad ones, and usually got ‘em bought pretty cheap. He’d take ‘em to “the rocks”, where the upper hand has suddenly controlled by Apache,,, not the horse. Those ponies figured out pretty normal “bad horse” tactics didn’t work with Apache and those mountains of rocks had a way of improving the attitudes and outlooks of those horses. Apache’d get one lined out and going good, and sell ‘em for a tidy profit. The folks that bought from Apache knew what to expect, ‘cause they knew Apache and what he was capable of, so those horses usually went on to their new owners and made good un’s,,, one thing you knew about one from Apache, he could be used hard and he could show you lots of country if need be.

Mac Benge was in need of a pretty stout horse, as Mac weighed more than the average person, and all of it muscle, and he loved roping steers. So he bought one from Apache that fit the bill, Mac took him home, but Mac got busy and didn’t get around to riding his new mount for a few days, pretty big mistake on some horses, full feed, water and no riding were not a good combination with this horse. Finally Mac got the chance and had the need to go prowl pastures, saddled his new mount, he didn’t hump up so Mac thought all was well, led him thru the gate, closed the gate, stepped aboard and according to Mac he made it from a walk barely into a nice trot when he found himself suddenly at the end of the reins, flat on his back, massaging caliche rocks that he was laying on. He said it was pretty quick too. He remounted  with similar results, but Mac weathered two or three more pitching spells before he finished the days ride. Mac immediately changed this horse’s diet from full feed to NO feed, turned him out into a boned out, grass free small horse trap, for three days. Then the new mount began to accept his appointed duty and started making a horse. Mac said this horse wound up being pretty economical as he’d saved a lot of money on grain that was NOT fed to this horse because, he was one of those that would not, nor could not, stand  prosperity. Mac roped a jillion steers on that horse, won lots of money on him, but reminded everybody, some of Apaches horses were sure not acquainted with some of the finer things in a horses life. Mac named that horse Rowdy, ‘cause he was.

Mike Capron had a similar trip with one he’d bought from Apache. That was back in the day of LOTS of day workin’s on some big ranches blessed with an astounding ground cover of rocks. I remember that bay horse being a big horse, big boned, hard black feet, perfect big rock horse. Mike called him Diamond, I never knew why but he looked to me he might of been a diamond “in the rough”. He’d go for days, shined in being a big-circle horse, but on occasion, he’d give Mike about 1/10th of a second warning he was about to blow up. Mike was pretty forked, and made ol’ Diamond a good one. It took tough horses to handle that tough country. Apache’s kind of horses.

Steve Schneemann had one that he’d been riding, and was doing pretty good and Steve rode a lot of rough country on this horse, then one day, this horse wanted to buck, and he did, so Steve increased the riding time and before long, the buck factor began to fade. So the next advancement was roping,,,and this program went along really well, til Steve roped a particular steer and the bucking factor re-engaged. Steve rode him out of it but periodically the buck reappeared and he got to where he was bucking on every steer. Steve had had enuff, be roped one and the bucking switch was on again and he and Steve went bucking along to the back of the arena where he bucked into the back fence and finally throwed his head up and stopped. Apache rode up and asked “Steve what would you take for him”,,,Steve said $150, Apache paid him and took him home to “the rocks”. Couple weeks went by and Steve saw Apache in town and asked how he was getting along with the new steed, Apache said, pretty good, hey, my wife and kids ride him. Now that was the Apache way of easing a point to a guy,,ribbing one, so to speak. Time rolled on and Steve went in the grocery store one day and saw Joy, Apache’s wife, and she was walking wounded, pretty sored up, and not just in one place, but appeared hurt all over,, and Steve said “What’s wrong with you?”,,, Joy said,,, “That  horse you sold Apache bucked me off ,,,,,, pretty HARD”, that was obvious,,,, Steve didn’t ask how the kids were getting along with him,,, Steve had a knack for knowing when to back off and not quiz a woman too far on some subjects.

Apache was very astute at seeing opportunity that others may have never taken notice of,,,one such instance was the presence of feral burros scattered about the lower reaches of the Big Bend and the Rio Grande River, commonly referred to as just the “river”. Burros, like most ungulates, are consumers of grasses and edible forbs that most ranchers would prefer to be put to use by cow type creatures, which are worth infinitely more than a burro,,,the fertile mind of Apache gave birth to the idea of a way to diminish the burro population AND show a tidy profit, as well as provide an abundance of cowboy pleasure, which meant just about anything goes as long as it involves Cowboys-Something to ride-Ropes,,in many cases a combination of all three and a few more variables throwed in for entertainment,,, Apache put together a punchy crew and they coordinated a wild burro gathering,,,there was no known ownership of the vast burro population, and if there was, the rightful owners never showed up to claim any as theirs,,,so they were “free” for the picking,,,so the gather started and was quite successful,, details of this and other wild burro gatherings may come to light at a later date, but for now, the story goes on to tell, the burros were “gathered” and trailered to “holding facilities” capable of retaining said feral ungulates. Next thing we know Apache and his wife Joy had flyers printed up and displayed at all the common cowboy gathering spots all over southWESTern Texas,,,WILD BURRO TEAM ROPINGS,,,DALLY TEAM ROPINGS,,,,,,best recollection I have of these was they happened in Marathon, Alpine and maybe Marfa,,, and were quite the event to participate in and observe,,, didn’t seem to be any limit as to what knowledge one could acquire at one of these functions,,,,lessons of all factors of cowboyology were on display,,,,,,if you’re not aware of the aptitude and attitude of a feral ass, let it be known they are prone to bite, kick, paw and deafeningly BRAY,  and at times all four and more simultaneously,,, so let it be said, this was an Apache Adams happening extraordinare.  As previously stated, more information of these type occurrences could result in the foreseeable future.

Don Cadden, the author of the obituary, put together a book of Apache stories, and it’s still for sale today. One particular instance that would put a lots of wild and wooly waddies in the shade was the story of Apache roping a mountain lion. I don’t want anything to be lost in translation so with Don’s permission, this comes right off pages 74 and 75 of the book: take it away Apache.

“I’d put together a pretty good bunch of hounds about that time, and we had to exercise the dogs on a regular basis. One morning, we were letting the dogs run a little. Domingo and another feller were riding some young horses, and I was riding a young mule I was breaking. We were checking a water line and rode up to the foot of Adobe Walls Mountain when the dogs opened up and started chasing something. I  thought they were after a fox or a coon; but in a minute my oldest dog, ol’ Troubles started baying, I told those boys that Troubles was pretty true and we had us a cat of some kind.

We followed the dogs up into a big rock slide, and they had about a 70 to 80 pound female mountain lion treed on a big rock. The dogs had her surrounded, but none of us had any kind of a gun. So I jerked my rope down and just kinda pitched it at the lion on that rock. She swatted at the rope, and I pulled it up tight on her front paw. The mule was pretty green and, when the cat started throwing a fit with the rope on her paw, decided to take off.

We jerked the lion off the rock, and then all the dogs jumped on the lion. So I was dragging a lion around in circles with my mule and with a bunch of dogs chewing on the cat, and she was putting up a pretty good fight with three legs. I finally got the mule stopped, and Domingo and the other feller jumped down and got the dogs pulled off the lion. Domingo finally got another rope on her back leg and we stretched her out.

The other boy got the dogs tied off to a persimmon tree, and things kinda settled down. I sent the feller back to get the pickup, we had a dog cage in it. We got a forked limb and kinda kept the lions head between the forks until we got her into the cage and got it shut. We took her to the JA Campground, a little place Joy and I owned. We kept her in a cage there for about a year. Ever so often, I’d take a pair of horse hoof nippers and a pigging string and get her to reaching out of the cage with her paw. I’d snag it with the pigging string and trim her claws that way. Finally, a feller came along and bought her from us.”

Now I have known guys that have roped a lots of things, but Apache was the only guy I ever knew that roped a lion, and he lived to tell the tale. That takes a different kind of macho, amigos.

And danged if he didn’t turn a profit on roping a lion

This is just one of the Apache stories in the book. If you’d like to buy one, contact Don at dcadden@gmail.com  This book is one you’ll be proud to own. Don, and all yall other guys, thanks for sharing the rembrances, and I have a feeling, after I hear from more folks that knew him, there’ll be lots more Apache stories I’ll try to pass along.

Another comment made was, in all those years and all the experiences, they only permanently crippled one horse and no cowboys. I wondered if Joy spent much time thinking what Apache might drag up every time he came home.

Well, Apache has gone over but he and Joy are together again. I thank God for the opportunity I had to know him and I can dang sure say, Apache may be gone but he’ll NEVER be forgotten.

Apache, thanks for it all,,,,keep it together til the rest of us get there, to be with yall and all the others that have gone on before us,,,,,it has been a remarkable trip.

Rusty Fleming

 

 

 

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