MSCA brainchild of editor

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Madisonville Sidewalk Cattlemen’s Association has evolved through the years. It was originally the brainchild of Henry B. Fox. He arrived in our part of the country in 1935 when he purchased the Leon County News, a newspaper with office on Centerville’s town square. Two years later, he purchased the Madisonville Meteor and The Times, both printed in Madisonville. He soon leased his Leon County publication to another but retained ownership for a few months before selling it. Then he consolidated the two Madison County papers under the Meteor masthead and took over as editor and publisher.

When the Meteor was founded in 1895, the founder chose that name because he “suspected it would only be a flash.” He was mistaken. When Fox purchased it in 1937, he considered it a step up for him, since Madisonville’s population was then 1,200, more than twice Centerville’s. However, until Fox took over, the paper struggled to make money because it had not been sold by prepaid subscription but only by individual weekly purchase. He demanded $1.50 prepaid for six months by subscribers.

Times were hard for families then, and folks were reluctant to spend cash to get local news. Fox carried the proper last name; he was crafty. He worked at keeping things interesting, and he recognized the importance of timely photos. When his local source was slow in supplying them, he purchased the studio and set his wife to running it, learning as she went. By the time Fox had owned The Meteor for 6 months, he’d increased his subscribers to 1,400.

Though earlier Fox had declared he would not run contests and award subscriptions, he changed his mind. The first was his Hen Subscription Contest. Anyone bringing a 5-pound or larger hen or two totaling 8 pounds to The Meteor office would be awarded a nine-month subscription. When that contest ended, 256 hens had been brought in and the subscription list had increased by 230. Fox worked hard to keep his printed news fun and interesting.

Fox lived here in Madisonville for several years and was active in civic affairs. I won’t tell you here how he helped birth MSCA. You can read all about that in a new book by Gary B. Borders entitled “Yours Faithfully, J.A.” and subtitled “The Life and Writings of H.B. Fox, the Circleville Philosopher.” We have copies of the book for sale in the Museum, $20 each, and we will host Borders for a book signing on Saturday, June 9, 10 a.m. to noon. I also won’t tell you what the J.A. stands for. You will have to read the book.

Now I’ll get back to MSCA, a topic I love. It was in its heyday in 1963. That year’s May 30 Meteor was headlined “MSCA to Celebrate June 5-8”, below that adding “trail ride, parade, barbecue, rodeos, cattle shows, horse show, dances planned.” Most of that front page was devoted to MSCA

I particularly enjoyed two articles, one entitled “Steak Supper Scraps”, and another “Cattlemen Have Hilarious Program with $25 Steaks”. Those two named men who were active in Cattlemen’s activities, including E.B. “Bill Andrews”, Bill Wilson, Judge J.C. Wells, Rodney Chambless, Clint Wakefield, Bobby Samuel, G.D. Mabry, Frank Bass, Raystell McVey, Gus Morgan, J.T. Closs, Earl White, Tommy Shine, Dr. J.B. Heath, and Rayford Hardy. The news pieces detailed antics of Cactus Pryor and a fake general from Denmark who had toured some local ranches, supposedly shopping for cattle to ship to Denmark. The guys loved pranks and jokes, the more detailed the better.

Another front-page article was titled “MSCA Quadrille to Perform at Rodeos”. I’m quoting it. “One of the main attractions at the Madisonville Sidewalk Cattlemen’s Association rodeos on the evening of June 7 and June 8 will be the intricate performance of the Madisonville Sidewalk Cattlemen’s Association Quadrille. The quadrille is under the direction of Bobby Tinsley. R.K. Sanders will call for the square dance, which will be performed by eight colorfully dressed couples riding well trained horses. Flag bearers for the quadrille are Richard Deal, Mrs. Doug Harper, Mary Jo Mize, Jerry Hudson, and Susan Wilson. Couples riding in the precision drill are Bill Cannon, Lynn Wells, Kent Shaffer, Carolyn Whitmire, Ola Mae Baker, Jimmy Bradford, Lana Cannon, Jerry Grizzle, Bobby Colwell, Jane Brown, Bruce Mathis, and Janie McMahan. The horseback riders have been practicing for the quadrille ride at the rodeos for the past several weeks.”

The above-referenced group rode to square dance music and executed maneuvers including thread-the-needle, wagon-wheel, figure-8, and more, all at a brisk lope. One night’s figure-8 is what Jimmy Bradford remembers most and why he’s urged me to write about this particular group.

One of the group recently recalled, “We all liked to perform our routine really fast, but the arena was very muddy. Everyone knew their places and who to pass between in the figure-8. Timing is of utmost importance in such, and one night it wasn’t working smoothly. The guy who should have crossed before me seemed late and at the last minute I decided to rush ahead. About the time I hung my spurs in my mare, the other rider sped up too, and my horse jumped right into him. The jolt flipped me into the air before I hit the ground. All participants stopped their horses immediately. I was fine but chagrined and remounted to finish the routine. After we left the arena, I could feel that one spur was uncomfortable. When I took my boot off, I saw that my spur was bent almost flat side-to-side. The horse must have stepped on it but I was uninjured.”

Through the years, quadrille groups trained and appeared at many MSCA rodeo. Riders, organizers, and routines changed year to year. The quadrilles were great fun; I participated one year myself. I’ve been unable to find photographs of any except the much earlier and well-known one that included Laverne Mize Waldrip, Roland Mize, Betty and J.C. Wells, and many more. If anyone finds photos any of the groups, we’d love to have copies in the Museum.

That 1963 Meteor reminded me that it didn’t cost near as much then to gear up for Cattlemen’s as it does today, and we could buy all we needed right here. E.M. (Bub) Richardson had his saddle shop and western store on Highway 21 then, where Standley Feed’s parking lots and garden center sit now. Remember how good that place smelled? Mr. Bub’s 1963 ad touted men’s Western shirts for $3.95 to $6.95, men’s and ladies’ Tony Lama boots from $32.50 to $42.50, straw hats for $4.95 to $10, and hats for kiddies were $3.95. Ladies’ Western shirts were $4.95 and $5.95, yoke-back jeans and Western pants $4.95 to $7.50, and squaw boots, $4.95 a pair. You younger folks won’t know what those latter were, but I had some.

I hope to see you at the Museum Saturday for the book signing. Remind folks, please.

Madison County Museum, at 201 N. Madison St., Madisonville, TX, is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Museum curator Jane Day Reynolds welcomes your visits. Memorials or donations may be mailed to the Museum at P.O. Box 60, Madisonville, TX 77864.

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