Cowboys? No Turkeyboys

cowboys true west

There were a number of ways a young man could become a cattleman. He could hire out as a cowboy, gather and brand mavericks until he had enough to start his own spread. He could inherit a ranch or come from money himself. He could also marry the rancher’s daughter.

Henry Clay Hooker got into the cattle business in a most unusual way. He bought a bunch of turkeys in California for a dollar and a half apiece with a plan to drive them over the Sierra Nevada and sell ‘em in the Comstock Lode country of Nevada.

While making the mountain crossing they came to a steep cliff and while Hooker and his cowboys….er turkey boys were planning how to get to the bottom the entire herd of turkeys suddenly disappeared over the edge. Fearing that his investment was lost Hooker rode to the bottom, fearing the worst. Much to his delight the turkeys were fine. They’d decided to take a short cut, leaped off the cliff and glided to the ground below. Upon reaching Virginia City he sold the turkeys for five bucks apiece, took his grubstake, headed where he bought a ranch in the northern part of Cochise County and named it the Sierra Bonita. It became one of the greatest ranches in Arizona history and is still a working ranch today.

Who says turkeys are dumb?

What do you think?

Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.