When Gene O. “Buddy” Cockrell was young, his brother Lee began calling him brother, mispronouncing it the word came out sounding like “Bubber.” That was when the family began calling him “Buddy” and the name stuck. Cockrell was born in June of 1934 in Pampa, Texas, and was raised on his grandparents’ farm, and ranch located twelve miles east of Pampa. “I was sent to the field to plow when I was six years old,” Cockrell said. Work was ever constant on the farm, plowing, feeding livestock and making hay all by a team of horses before modernization introduced a tractor to the farm.
By age seven Cockrell was aboard a horse riding. “There was a six to seven year stint of us riding almost daily for three months.” Cockrell went on to explain, “Screw worms were not eradicated yet and every summer day we checked calves. Newborns’ navels would have screwworms or if newly branded, the brand would be filled with worms—any open wound. Lee and I would take and clean off the worms and smear a black ointment called black widow smear on the area.”
This process went on for several summers while getting more manageable yearly, while still living at home. “Finally the screwworm was eradicated after Lee and I had left home in 1964 by sterile flies.”
“We would milk before school each morning, get on the school bus and ride 12 miles. We went to an old country school with one room; all grades were together,” Cockrell recalled. “I remember two boys failing and having to sit in the corner. Both would chew tobacco and spit it out the window,” he laughed. Cockrell completed school, graduating from Pampa High school in 1954.
In junior high and high school Cockrell found his size and stature of six-foot three inches tall and 220 lbs. were an advantage in sports. He lettered in shot put, football and basketball playing defensive end and offensive tackle in football.
Cockrell was a natural athlete, finding great success in various games, even being chosen for the National High School All American Football Team, playing on the 1953 State Champion Pampa High School basketball team and that same year winner of the regional heavy weight Golden Glove boxing, winning his first match with a 43 second knock out.
To read more pick up a copy of the March 2017 NTFR issue. To subscribe call 940-872-5922.