Who was Bob Lemmons?
Robert Lemmons was born a slave in Lockport, Caldwell County, Texas in 1848. He moved to Dimmit County, Texas; then a sparsely uninhabited land overrun by wild horses. Lemmons gained his freedom at the end of the Civil War at age seventeen. He found employment with Duncan Lammons, a man who taught him about horses and gave Robert the surname “Lemmons,” (a variant spelling that evolved over the years). Robert Lemmons farmed, hauled supplies, and went on cattle drives for Duncan Lammons.
No other cowboy equaled Lemmons in capturing mustangs, which were in high demand for roundups during the cattle drive era of the 1870s and 1880s. Lemmons usually worked alone totally isolating himself from humans to gain a mustang herd's trust and thereby infiltrate the heard. He then uprooted the herd hierarchy by mounting the lead stallion and then taking control of the herd, which followed him into a pen on a nearby ranch.
In 1870 at age twenty-two, Robert Lemmons had earned a small fortune of $1,000 for gathering wild mustangs. He bought his own ranch and learned how to read and write. Eleven years later he married Barbarita Rosales, a Chicana, on September 3, 1881. The couple had eight children. During his life Robert Lemmons had amassed 1,200 acres of land and impressive holdings of horses and cattle. With his own financial security achieved, Robert and Barbarita Lemmons became well known as people who helped their neighbors during the Great Depression. Robert Lemmons died on December 23, 1947 at the age of ninety-nine years.
Bob Lemmon's rifle
Bob Lemmon's chimney from his old house
Links to stories about and by Bob Lemmons
Books featuring Bob Lemmons
by Julius Lester and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
"He could make horses think he was one of them. Bob Lemmons is famous for his ability to track wild horses. He rides his horse, Warrior, picks up the trail of mustangs, then runs with them day and night until they accept his presence. Bob and Warrior must then challenge the stallion for leadership of the wild herd. A victorious Bob leads the mustangs across the wide plains and for one last spectacular run before guiding them into the corral. Bob's job is done, but he dreams of galloping with Warrior forever -- to where the sky and land meet.This splendid collaboration by an award-winning team captures the beauty and harshness of the frontier, a boundless arena for the struggle between freedom and survival. Based on accounts of Bob Lemmons, a former slave, Black Cowboy, Wild Horses has been rewritten as a picture book by Julius Lester from his story "The Man Who Was a Horse" in Long Journey Home, first published by Dial in 1972."
edited by Sara R. Massey
"In the early days of Texas, the work of the cowhand was essential to the newly arrived settlers building a life on the frontier. The story of the Anglo cowboys who worked the ranches of Texas is well known, but much more remains to be discovered about the African American cowhands who worked side-by-side with the vaqueros and Anglo cowboys.The cowboy learned his craft from the vaqueros of New Spain and Texas when it was the northern territory of Mexico, as well as from the stock raisers of the South. Such a life was hardly glamorous. Poorly fed, underpaid, overworked, deprived of sleep, and prone to boredom and loneliness, cowboys choked in the dust, were cold at night, and suffered broken bones in falls and spills from horses spooked by snakes or tripped by prairie dog holes. Work centered on the fall and spring roundups, when scattered cattle were collected and driven to a place for branding, sorting for market, castrating, and in later years, dipping in vats to prevent tick fever.African American cowboys, however, also had to survive discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice. The lives of these cowhands tell a story of skill and grit, as they did what was necessary to gain the trust and respect of those who controlled their destiny. That meant being the best -- at roping, bronc busting, taming mustangs, calling the brands, controlling the remuda, or topping off horses.From scattered courthouse records, writings, and interviews with a few of the African American cowhands who were part of the history of Texas, Sara R. Massey and a host of writers have retrieved the stories of a more diverse cattle industry than has been previously recorded.Twenty-five writers here recounttales of African Americans such as Peter Martin, who hauled freight and assisted insurgents in a rebellion against the Mexican government while building a herd of cattle that allowed him to own (through a proxy) rental houses in town. Bose Ikard, a friend of Charles Goodnight, went on Goodnight's first cattle drive, opening the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Johanna July, a Black Seminole woman, had her own method of taming horses in the Rio Grande for the soldiers at Fort Duncan.These cowhands, along with others across the state, had an important role that has been too long omitted from most history books. By telling their stories, Black Cowboys of Texas provides an important contribution to Texas, Western, and African American history."
by J. Frank Dobie
J. Frank Dobie’s history of the “mustang”—from the Spanish mesteña, an animal belonging to (but strayed from) the Mesta, a medieval association of Spanish farmers—tells of its impact on the Spanish, English, and Native cultures of the West. In this book, Dobie explores the cultural past of the Mustangs, and includes wonderful stories from Bob Lemmons, who Dobie claimed as "the most original Mustanger I ever met". Lemmons explained, "I acted like I was a mustang. I made the mustangs think I was one of them. Maybe in them days I was. After I stayed with a bunch long enough they'd foller me instid of me having to foller them. Show them you're the boss. That's the secret."
(reference A. Alvarado)