January 27, 2010

Meet My Cowboy Grandfather

by Molly Noble Bull

Seth Woods, Molly’s grandfather, 
at the Santa Rosa Ranch in Kenedy County,  
Texas in the nineteen twenties or thirties.

My grandfather, Seth Woods, ran the Santa Rosa Ranch in Kenedy County, Texas for almost forty years and led the kind of life that actor, John Wayne, often played in the movies. During his later years, author Jay Frank Doby visited Seth at the Santa Rosa near Sarita, Texas to get background information for his books on Texas and the old west. 

Jay Frank Doby (Texas author) at the Santa Rosa Ranch in 
Kenedy County, Texas in the twenties or thirties. 

Born in San Saba, Texas in 1879, Seth Woods learned about horses at an early age because his father, Andrew Woods, broke wild horses for a living. Seth's father would tie him to the saddle in order to break the horses, and while still in his early teens, Seth ran away from home—deciding that if he was going to have to work that hard, he was going to get paid for it. Seth worked on various ranches, punching cattle, until he met and married my grandmother in Del Rio, Texas. After they married, the couple moved to Seth’s ranch near Laredo, Texas.

            Family members say that Seth agreed to sell his cattle to a man who visited his Laredo ranch. However, the man was dishonest. Seth thought he was signing a paper to sell his cattle only, but the dishonest cattle-buyer switched papers on Seth at the last minute. The document stating that Seth had not only sold all his cattle but his Laredo ranch as well for the price of his cattle only—thus ending Seth's dream of owning a ranch of his own. The loss of his land resulted in the next chapter in the life of Seth and Nettie Woods.

Seth Woods on the Santa Rosa Ranch in Kenedy County, Texas in the twenties or thirties. 

In 1913, Seth was hired by the McGill brothers, Frank and Claude, to run the Santa Rosa Ranch in Kenedy County, Texas, and Seth, his wife, and their three daughters moved from Laredo to Kenedy County. The youngest, my mother, was one-year-old at the time. Later, a son, Seth (Mac) Woods, was also born to them.
While on the Santa Rosa, Seth served as a Special, Texas Ranger, giving him all the powers of a regular Texas Ranger but allowing him to live at home. Once while riding in a pasture on the Santa Rosa one day, Seth was captured and held at gunpoint by bandits from Mexico who had crossed the Rio Grande illegally. Seth wasn't sure if he would live to tell the tale, but the bandits took only his bridle and saddle blanket, leaving Seth with his horse and his saddle. The horse was branded with a Santa Rosa triangle and the saddle clearly showed the Running W brand via the King Ranch saddle shop in nearby Kingsville, making these items valueless to the bandits from Mexico.

            Seth Woods was known to be a hard man—but honest. He became a Willacy County commissioner in 1914 and served in that position until 1921 when the Santa Rosa and the town of Sarita became a part of the newly formed Kenedy County. Seth Woods served on the Kenedy County Commissioners Court until 1952. He also served many years on the local draft board. When he retired from the ranch, Seth and Nettie Woods moved to Sarita, Texas in order for Seth to keep his position as Kenedy county commissioner. During his 46 years on the Commissioners Court, Seth missed only two meetings. Still later, Seth and Nettie moved to Riviera, Texas where Seth died. Nettie died a few years later in a nursing home in Kingsville, Texas. Seth and Nettie Woods are buried in the cemetery in Riviera, Texas

            In 1954, the Santa Rosa was divided into three ranches—the East Santa Rosa, the Old Santa Rosa and the La Paloma. And my late father, Sam Noble, was the La Paloma’s first ranch foreman.
            I feel fortunate to have spent part of my growing up years on the Santa Rosa and later the La Paloma Ranches and to have known real cattlemen like my grandfather, my uncle, and my father, Sam Noble.


Patricia PacJac Carroll said...

Thanks for sharing a part of your life and history of your family. Cool pics. I bet he did have stories to tell.

Molly Noble Bull said...

Dear Patricia,
Yes, Granddaddy Woods did have stories. He got up before daylight his entire life and worked until dusk. He was hard as steel, and he expected his grandchildren to be as tough as he was.

Debbie Gail Smith said...

I love hearing true stories about real cowboys. Thanks for sharing your stories Molly.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your grandfather, Molly. I sent the url to my cousin, John McCord, who has written Western novels.

Molly Noble Bull said...

Thanks for writing Debbie and Frankie. I'm so glad you liked my article. Scroll down. You might also like some of the other articles.

Carla Gade said...

Molly, that is fascinating! Thank you for sharing this interesting bit on your cowboy grandfather.


Molly Noble Bull said...

Thanks for writing, Carla, and for giving your blog address. I am going there right now.

Stephen Shelton said...

I enjoyed reading about my great-grandfather. I've seen some other good pictures you have sent to my father.
Stephen Shelton