Born on February 12, 1898, in Waxahachie, Texas, Tom Blasingame was made for a life on the range. As a child, the restrictions of school and family life soured his temper; for every whipping he received at school, he’d get two more at home, but the belt only made him grow tougher (and, he claimed, cuss louder). The sole cure for Blasingame’s unrest seemed to be working from the saddle, and at age 7, he began hiring out to help drive cattle to market for two bits a day. When he turned 18, he spent the $125 he’d earned on a tall iron-grey gelding, and together they rode off.In 1916, Blasingame signed on with JA Ranch, originally founded by Charlie Goodnight and John Adair and now known as the oldest cattle company in the Texas Panhandle. With 1,335,000 open acres, the JA was Blasingame’s paradise. In addition to working cows, Blasingame discovered he had a knack for training horses and every spring was a part of breaking 40 wild and woolly 4-year-old colts each year.
After two years, Blasingame moved on from the JA and spent the 1920s working his way across the West, seeing the country by hiring on with every cattle company that would have him. He moved through Arizona and New Mexico all the way to California, making up to $50 per month for his work in the rougher territories. Like most cowboys, Blasingame frequented the local saloons whenever he had time off, but not to drink or gamble (both of which he felt distracted men from their work). Instead, the music of the saloons drew him to town, and he claimed to have seen some of the greatest talents in the United States singing in small frontier bars. After seeing most of the Western territory, Blasingame returned to the JA, where he worked the remainder of his life. After a day in the saddle, he would return home to a camp house without electricity or a telephone. On weekends, Blasingame would visit his wife Eleanor and their two children in Claude, a town north of the ranch. Eleanor once said of Blasingame: “His life was a better life than what you and I live. He doesn’t worry about more than one thing at a time, and that’s what he is doing right then.”
Two days after Christmas, in 1989, Blasingame stepped off his horse, stretched out in the Texas grass, crossed both arms over his chest, and died in perfect peace. He was buried in the JA Ranch cemetery where Eleanor now lays beside him. At the time of his death he was considered the oldest cowboy in Texas, having committed 73 of his 91 years to ranching. –