By Jessica Crabtree
At 4 a.m. every morning Weldon Hawley’s eyes open. By 5 a.m. he begins his day. It starts with coffee and breakfast, then the day’s tasks. It is a hard habit to break after nearly 40 years as a former cowboy and ranch manager of the Waggoner Ranch.
After his retirement in February 2017, the lifelong cowboy stepped away from the ranch he spent most of his life on, the ranch his parents brought him home to, and the ranch he brought his children home to.
Hawley’s father was working at Waggoner Ranch when Hawley was born and later the JY Ranch in Guthrie before moving back to Vernon when Hawley was five. His father, Charlie Hawley, was raised in a community settled by his elders amongst the Waggoner Ranch. While working at Waggoner’s, Charlie broke his back, ending his career as a cowboy. “He all but begged me not to be a cowboy. I guess he finally gave up and decided to help me,” Hawley said of his father.
Attending Vernon school, Hawley graduated and pursued a degree first at Clarendon College, finishing with a business degree from Vernon College. Hawley first stepped foot on Waggoner Ranch as an employee in 1970, something as a young man he whole-heartedly desired. Drafted to Vietnam in 1971, Hawley came home to Waggoner’s once more before leaving in ’76 for the Triangle Ranch in Iowa Park. It was in 1985 that Hawley returned to Waggoner’s, staying until his retirement in 2017.
“It was always something I wanted to do. It was the history, my dad working there, my uncles, I wound up there my whole life,” Hawley described. “It was my home.” As a very young man starting out, Hawley believes he was fortunate to have worked around men that he looked up to. “G.L. Proctor was the ranch manager then. Wes O’Neal, Jay Don Finch, Dolen Finch, Jimmy Smith, and J.R. Edwards were all awful good cowboys. They really put me to the test and helped me,” he reminisced.
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