By Carol Mowdy Bond
Cowtown was originally a real-life army outpost established in 1849. That’s when the U.S. War Department officially christened the post as Fort Worth, only four years after Texas gained statehood. The location was close to the Chisholm Trail, which created rapid growth in the area, and brought colorful characters onto the scene. During those cattle drive years, hooves thundered through Fort Worth. Despite the stench, dust, and filth, businesses sprang to life, and Cowtown was born. There were plenty of gambling parlors and saloons, earning Fort Worth another name – “Hell’s Half Acre.” And that’s where this story begins.
Born about 1865, Walter Virgil Cobb was policing Cowtown on May 21, 1914. As a horseback policeman who carried a club and a gun, he was no stranger to bad guys. He was patrolling Fort Worth’s Mexican settlement in the lower portion of the city, and possibly walked into a trap. Trap or not, Walter was summoned to deal with a domestic situation inside a small hut, and a deadly altercation occurred.
Inside the hut was José Lopez, who pulled his gun. Walter hit the gun with his club, lowering the aim of Lopez, while also pulling his own gun. Lopez shot Walter in his side. And Walter shot Lopez, who died instantly. For his reward, Walter received the ruffian’s 1895 Smith & Wesson pearl handled six shooter.
Walter’s family life included his son Clarence Cobb, who was born in July 1891 in Erath County, Texas. Clarence grew up and married, and he and his wife Dycie Jo farmed their land. They also ran herd over a 600-acre Texas cattle ranch, and four daughters and six sons. As well, Clarence owned a feed story and a hatchery.
The sixth of their ten children, Homer was born in 1942, in Athens, Texas.
As Homer tells it, “At my dad’s feed store and hatchery, there was a goose on her nest. And I kept pestering the goose. My dad was going to punish me. But my aunt and uncle were there, and they took me away.
“When I was a little kid, my aunt and uncle took a shine to me. I spent a great deal of time with them. They truly loved me. My aunt gave me a little heifer calf when I was six years old. She said, ‘This will get you through college.’ I didn’t know what that meant.”
In 1954, Clarence, Dycie Jo, and kids moved to Muskogee. Homer graduated from Muskogee Central High School in 1959. Because of the calf his aunt gave him, Homer says, “I built my herd from the first calf’s babies, and when I got out of high school, I had 28 cows.”
Homer went to Connors State College on an agriculture scholarship, and then attended Oklahoma State University.
“I sold the calf crop each fall to pay my college tuition and housing for the year. And I bought my first car when I was a sophomore in college. I started out in agriculture, but realized if I went back to the ranch, by the time it was divided between all nine of us surviving kids, there wouldn’t be much left for me.”
So, Homer switched majors, and in 1964 graduated from OSU with an accounting degree. He was the first in his family to attend college.
Degree in hand, Homer worked for City Service Oil and Gas in Oklahoma City until June 1965, when he entered mortuary school at Central State College, now the University of Central Oklahoma.
While a student, Homer began working a part-time job at Callaway-Smith Funeral Home in Marlow. On May 22, 1966, Homer made history as one of five graduates from Central State College’s first funeral service graduating class.
Then he began working full time at Callaway-Smith, receiving his funeral director’s licenses in 1967, and becoming a Callaway-Smith partner in 1970.
Homer describes the hats he wore: “I worked in Marlow for 37 years. I was an ambulance drive. I did the yard work, and I was the funeral director.”
After the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Homer worked at the family assistance center as a member of a team that notified families of the loss of their loved ones due to the tragedy.
Homer’s team members also included a minister, a doctor and nurse, and a mental health professional. There were a number of teams. Each team worked for only three days. Then they were debriefed and required to take a break for a certain number of days.
In describing the challenging experience, Homer says, “When I wasn’t there physically, I was there mentally.”
In 2003, Homer stepped in for a week, on behalf of Anton Yanda III and his wife Donna, so they could take a vacation. That week turned into 17 years, and now he is the funeral director for Yanda & Son Funeral Home and Cremation Services, 1500 W. Vandament Ave.
“I love what I do. I love my work,” Homer says.
Homer explains, “I am likely the last survivor of the first mortuary school at Central State University, at least to my knowledge.”
Also, he’ll proudly tell you he has three daughters, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
And besides a lot of obvious stick-to-itiveness, his list of accomplishments is long: Methodist Man of the Year; Marlow Outstanding Citizen of the Year; Past President of the Marlow Lion’s Club; Past President of the Marlow Chamber of Commerce; Past Zone Chairman and District Governor of District 5 of Oklahoma Funeral Directors Assoc.; 50 year pin from the OFDA; Past member of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce Board; Member of the Yukon Rotary Club; Yukon Chamber Ambassador.
If you’re out and about Yukon, you may spot Homer mingling in the crowd. He has a lot of great stories to tell, and an infectious laugh. Oh! And you might ask him about “Grandpa Cobb’s” pearl handled six-shooter.