By Judy Wade
When 2016 Cowboy True judges awarded Bill Whitley the first place ribbon for his sculpture “The Cactus Bloomers,” they were honoring a true cowboy.
Born on the Buckle L near Childress, as a child he and his brother, Kevin, had the opportunity to live on some of the major ranches in West Texas and meet many of the legendary cowboys who worked there. The son of Harry and Charlotte Whitley, his father’s cowboying took them to various ranches such as the 6666’s, Waggoners and Halsells.
Whitley himself spent 22 years working for the Halsells and later Dr. Crump, both in Clay County.
Although he had no formal training in art, Whitley said he began drawing with a pen and pencil when he was about six. “My mother had a lot of talent, but she never had the chance to expand it. I also have an uncle who is talented,” Whitley related.
Whitley attended school at Henrietta. “My third grade teacher, Mrs. Lucille Arnold, taught us some art, but her resources and supplies were limited. Mr. Glen Wilfong was not an art teacher, but he showed me there is a big, wide world out there,” he continued.
He does pen and ink drawings, oil paintings and charcoal sketches in addition to the sculpting. His first attempt at sculpting was a set of bookends featuring Hereford bulls done in bas relief in bakeable clay. They are mounted on cedar cut on the Halsell ranch and held in place by horseshoes that were the last set pulled from one of his favorite horses. To read more pick up a copy of the June 2016 issue of NTFR.