After a year off in 2020, the Pleasanton Young Farmers’ Rodeo made a comeback this past weekend at the Atascosa County Show Barn where Brandon Smith was named 2021 Working Cowboy of the Year and Robert May and William “Ernie” Bandy were inducted into the South Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.
The Cowboy of the Year title is given to a genuine, hardworking individual that not only knows all things cowboy, but is also respected by his peers. For 54 years, cowboys have been honored with this recognition as well as being named to the South Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. Cowboy of the Year nominations must be working cowmen and reside in Atascosa County. South Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame nominees must have worked in Atascosa County, but no longer have to be active or living in the county.
Fifteen past Cowboys of the Year met at the Pleasanton Express office on Aug. 11 to select this year’s COY along with new inductees to the South Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Brandon Smith, nomi- nated by his wife Marie Smith, was named the 2021 Working Cowboy of the Year Friday night. His nomination letter is as follows:
“Growing up in the brush country this cowboy is no stranger to the South Texas ranching lifestyle. He is a fifth-generation rancher who never doubted that ranching would be his life calling.
As a toddler, he would travel with his dad to the family ranch near Christine to lend a helping hand with the cattle operation. Starting at a young age, he enjoyed all aspects of the ranch life, from working cattle to learning the economics of a sustainable beef cattle operation. He also has a lifelong love of horses and early on began immersing himself in the family’s ranch horse business assisting with breeding, green-breaking and training horses.
While attending Pleasanton High School, he met the love of his life. After high school they both attended Texas A&M University in College Station where he continued to learn and work towards reaching his lifelong goals of becoming a sustainable cattle rancher, starting his own herd at 23 years of age comprising of crossbred cow-calf pairs and replacement heifers.
Over the last 25 years, they now run a commercial irrigated hay operation in McCoy, background cattle on winter grazing and summer grass pastures across Atascosa and other counties, retain feeder cattle in Texas feed yards, own and manage a trucking operation and have built an equine operation along the way.
Today, much heart is put into their equine performance horse operation which is currently breeding their own stallions and mares that are producing offspring that are flourishing in the ranching, cutting, barrel racing and rope horse industries. With the evolving ranching industry and the hardships of the pandemic, he has continued to persevere and has been fortunate enough to be a piece of the puzzle that has helped the cattle industry remain sustainable.”
In response to being named COY, Smith said, “I’m grateful to be awarded the 55th Cowboy of the Year. It’s an honor to be among this group of men and their representation of the working cowboy. I’m proud of the work, principles and practices of the cowboy way of life and strive to instill that love into future generations.”
Nominated by Camille Webster and Sarah Jo Lopez, Robert May said it is an honor to be inducted into the South Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.
“My family has been ranching in South Texas since the 1850s. It’s an honor to be recognized as an inductee for doing the work that I love. I’m proud to represent our commitment to this community and the agriculture industry,” said May.
Here is his nomination letter:
“Robert May’s roots run deep in Atascosa County where he grew up on his family’s ranch in Campbellton, Texas. At the young age of 17 he and his brother were ready to make their mark on the cattle industry by starting their own cow-calf operation. However, he soon started to realize the dynamic processes, challenges and opportunities that one experiences with a yearling operation. It was then when he realized that the yearling cattle operation was best suited for his ambitious personality.
In 1959, he sold off his cow-calf partnership and decided to transition the cattle ranch into a yearling operation. He started buying yearlings to place on pasture from local ranchers and nearby auctions. He cultivated crops of corn, milo and sorghum to feed to the cattle that were out on pasture. In 1961, he built a grow yard, which is now known as May Feedlot, to add to his stocker operation and that is when he started purchasing additional feed products from local farmers.
He finished cattle himself for the South Texas market for six years, but decided his area of enjoyment was backgrounding and returned exclusively to a stocker-backgrounding operation. In a day’s work, you could find him on horseback at daylight checking sick cattle, putting out feed, at a cattle sale buying cattle, then back at the processing pens receiving those cattle, sorting cattle to ship and then driving his own cattle truck to deliver the feeder cattle to the finishing yard in Hereford.
Today, at the young age of 81 years old you can still find him out at the feedlot processing cattle, shipping cattle out or out on his Polaris checking sick cattle. Robert represents the true American cattle ranchers and has continued to help serve the beef industry for over the last 60 years.
William “Ernie” Bandy
Nominated by his daughter, Shana Henry, William “Ernie” Bandy was also inducted into the South Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame this year.
“I’m very honored and humbled and appreciate being nominated into the Hall of Fame and being a part of this organization,” said Bandy.
His nomination letter is as follows:
“When I think of the ‘Cowboy’ Hall of Fame, my mind drifts back to the rugged men and women who sacrificed their lives to live a dream, much like the continued sacrifices of today’s ranching men and women.
This nomination is well-deserving and fitting for all that my father has accomplished since he began the life of a rancher/ cowboy, even though he started with just one cow, more than 50 years ago.
At an early age, he was exposed to the ranching life by spending time with his grandparents, the Bandys and the Riggs, who quickly started teaching him about the love of the land, and caring for the land, through management and conservation. This jump started the dream of owning his own land and raising his own cattle one day.
My father was born and raised in San Antonio and graduated from Burbank High School in 1958. He worked briefly for the McKayless Ranch in Crosby, but quickly returned to South Texas and enrolled at A&I-Kingsville to pursue Veterinarian Medicine. Today, my father still provides that care and continues to process cattle. During the summers, he worked with foreman Jack Busby on the Brown Ranch, west of Charlotte, where the true experience of a working cowboy was clearly ingrained.
In 1962, my father married
Mary Coward Bandy of Charlotte, and together, they raised four children. By 1977, my father began leasing properties, throughout Atascosa County, to include the homestead they live on now. This gave him the opportunity to grow his cattle herd.
This hardworking man sacrificed many sleepless days/nights, time with his family, and attending family functions due to the dream he wanted to fulfill. He felt that raising a family who were all involved in the ranching life would and could be a legacy to carry on for many generations. The sacrifices he made then has made him the cowboy and rancher he remains today.
As I look at my father today, I see the ‘true grit’ this man has displayed and continues to display. My family and I are humbled and delighted to nominate William ‘Ernie’ Bandy, for the honor of being inducted into the South Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.”
Henry was very proud of her father’s accomplishments.
“I’m honored as well that he’s recognized among many of the other great cowboys,” she said.