WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees
JACK DAVENPORT (83)
2004 COWBOY HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Jack was born in 1932. When I interviewed him for this story, I asked him where he was born. He said, "Bisbee." His wife, Bernice, quickly reminded him, “No you were born in Texas.” Jack said, “Yah, that's right, I was born in Uvalde, Texas, but I never did claim Texas.” There were lots of Davenports around Uvalde, but Jack was moved to Arizona as a three year old. He was raised in Bisbee and attended Bisbee High School. After high school, Jack joined the Air Force and served four years before returning to Bisbee where he went to work for the Phelps Dodge Corporation. In 1952, Jack married Bernice Perko and after 52 years of marriage she still says, "He's a pretty good guy."
While working for Phelps Dodge, Jack began doing "day work" to help the local area ranchers. He helped to doctor for screwworms, and he helped to ship cattle. It was this "day work" that gave Jack the ranching bug. In 1955, he started working of the Herschede Ranch in Hereford, Arizona. Within two years, he was put in charge of the ranch's registered Herefords. During the next 17 years, Jack became nationally known, showing cattle at the major livestock shows around the country, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Phoenix, and Reno. During the same time, Jack was also judging livestock shows in California, Texas, and here in Arizona. It was a very busy time, with lots of work. Jack did everything from clean the stalls to leading the champion bull into the show ring.
Jack told me one of the best parts of being in the cattle industry was that you could be anywhere in the United States and visit with people who talk the same language you do. Listen to the language of a livestock show judge. You are looking for cattle with doing ability. A thickness that carries all the way through. Square legs, but not broad shoulders. Good bone. Cattle with spring of rib. The bulls are more stretchy today.
In 1972, the Hershede's passed away, and their cattle needed to be sold. Mr. Peter Wray, of the Victorio Land and Cattle Company, was interested in purchasing the registered herd, but he had an interesting condition to the purchase. He would purchase the cattle if Jack Davenport would continue to take care of them. The deal was struck; the Hershede Herefords and Jack Davenport came as a package deal to the Victorio Land and Cattle Company. So for the next five years, Jack worked for Peter Wray, but he was still taking care of the same registered herd that he had been working with for the past 17 years.
It was in 1977 that Jack moved to Willcox as a partner in the Warbonnet Ranch (formerly the G Bar Ranch owned by Bud Gunterman). Jack was a partner with two of his closest friends, Larry Stark and Gene Starks. The partnership remained in tact until the ranch sold in 1980.
From 1980 until present, Jack and his son Mike have been living a cowboy's dream working on the Davenport Ranch west of Willcox. Jack is still running a few of his own registered Herefords. Hereford cattle really got into Jack's blood. Every since his days on the Herschede Ranch, he has always kept some registered Herefords around. Jack said. "Owning Herefords is kind of addictive. Just like smoking." It is no surprise that this year the Arizona Hereford Association named Jack Davenport the 2004 Cattleman of the Year.
Jack said, "If I go tomorrow I thank the man upstairs for letting me do what I love. I never dreaded going to work in the morning. If you enjoy your work, you don't look forward to retirement. But, you do look forward to slowing down." Even today, he goes out everyday. "Have to keep those horses exercised," he said. "Funny thing about age, you can giv'er hell till about noon then you start looking for shortcuts."
Jack lives on the corner of Fort Grant and Margarita Road. He has a roping arena out in back of the house, and 2 or 3 times a week you'll find Jack out there team roping. "Not competitively," he said, "but it keeps you in shape. The most relaxing exercise I get is horseback, as long as they don't buck."
Jack loves being outside, and he loves Cochise County. He enjoys seeing a calf crop come in. During all the years he was a ranch manager, his philosophy was to get out and do your best, be fair with people and to support your employees. He added, "We never pay our cowboys what they are worth,'*
Some of Jack's friends had this to say about him. "He has a sense of humor. He is a good friend. He is fun to be around. He is very knowledgeable about the business. And he belongs here." ..>.. In the Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame.