By Ray Shelley
I usually write about law enforcement of the 1800s, but being a cowboy at heart from the time I could walk… This article is about an authentic old west cowboy I met from the 20th century. The Cowboy’s name is Enos B. Garland. Most people knew him by”Blue” Garland.
Years ago, among my many jobs, I delivered propane. One long tiring day, my last stop was at Garland’s house in Acorn. Our first meeting didn’t go so well. I arrived and started to fill the propane tank when a fellow came rushing out of the house complaining because I didn’t let him know I was here. He wanted to make sure I was doing everything right.
After a not very pleasant exchange between us, I gave him his receipt and headed back to the office. I told my boss about my encounter with Garland. He just laughed, and with his laid-back, easy-going attitude, told me, “Blue’s just a little cantankerous, but a nice guy.”
One early Saturday (my day off), I received a call that Garland was out of propane. On the drive to Acorn, I decided I wouldmake every attemptto find the nice guy in Garland.
Entering Garland’s property, you must go about a quarter of a mile on a dirt road to reach his house. Halfway up the road, I looked off to my left through the early morning haze. I saw an outline of a horse and rider. For an instant, my mind traveled back to 1800, and I’m driving the Butterfield Stagecoach watching a Pony Express rider at work. Snapping back to reality, I thought this was the last of the old-time cowboys. Ironically, I found out later; the horse Garland was riding was named Cowboy.
Finishing my job, I met Garland coming out of the barn. I handed him his receipt and said, “I filled the tank all by myself.”
He cracked a small smile, and for the next two and a half hours, we talked about everything under the sun. My boss was right, Blue Garland was a heck of a nice guy.
Unfortunately, that meeting was years ago, and I have forgotten much of what we discussed.
Fortunately, my friend who is a former art instructor and portrait artist, Monta Philpot of Mena, interviewed Garland before creating his portrait. Philpot graciously shared some of her interviews with me, including an article written by Phyllis Wiles.
Looking over the information brought back a flood of memories from our conversation so many years ago.
Wiles wrote Enos B. “Blue” Garland was born in 1900 to Joe “J.C.” Garlandand Blanche Noyes on his grandfather’s 200-acre ranch in Acorn, which was purchased in the early 1800s. He was the third child of 10 children.
Blue worked the ranch alongside his father and grandfather. It was known as the Water Valley Farming and Livestock Company,where his grandfather farmed, raised cattle, and raised his family. Blue worked it until he was grown, then accepted a job with his uncle, a Sherwin-Williams paint distributor in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Blue returned to Acorn in 1948, working the ranch once again.
Blue told Wiles his, “…favorite horse and friend was Cowboy, a horse he broke to ride 21 years ago. [I] wanted Cowboy trained as a cutting horse, so [I] took him to Oklahoma for training by Indian Joe Jackson, and [I] still work 35-50 cattle today.”
Philpot noted in her interview that Blue and his two dogs, Smokey and Shadow, along with Cowboy, lived a special lifestyle that is not prevalent today as in the past in the Ouachita Mountains.
Oct. 19, 1988, was a sad day in Polk County when the headlines of the Mena Star read, “County Pioneer Dies in Car Wreck” (“E.B. “Blue” Garland 87, killed in crash”).
Blue attended the livestock auction in Potter every Tuesday. It’s assumed that is where he was headed before the crash that took his life. Services were held at the First United Methodist Church with burial in Owen Chapel Cemetery.
After Blues’s death, according to Pat Garland, “When Cowboy died, he was buried above the house place under a big oak tree where he liked to rest.”
An end of an era, Ol’ Blue and Cowboy.
One Saturday, a friend, Loren Hellam, called and suggested meeting him at Garland’s house. He wanted to show me something that I would be interested in seeing.
Hellam and his wife, Vicki, owned property at Rich Mountain. Polk County pioneer families would contact Loren and offer their grandparents log cabin. Loren and Vicki would dismantle the cabin one log at a time, assign each log a number, load the logs on a trailer, transport them, and reassemble the cabin on their property. There was a lot of work for two people whose goal was to preserve Polk County’s history.
When I arrived in Acorn, Loren had already dismantled the add-on portion of Garland’s house. Left standing was the original log cabin Garland’s grandfather had built. As I stood looking at the cabin with the backdrop of Rich Mountain, I couldn’t help but think how simple life must have been so many years ago. It was chilling.
The Garland family members chose not to carry on the tradition established so many years ago. Sadly, an era fades away.
Fortunately, due to the love of Polk County History, the Hellams have preserved Blue Garland’s cabin. Several other historic cabins also remain to remind us what it was like to live in the 1800s.
The Hellams have passed away, so I’m not sure what has happened to the historic cabins left behind. I hope someone will have enough interest and resources to preserve the history of Rich Mountain.
But for now, on my way to Fort Smith, I pass the Hellam property. I look over and see Blue Garland’s cabin, and it reminds me of my time talking with Ol’ Blue.
I want to thank Monta Philpot for using her portrait of Blue Garland for this article. If you want to see more of Monta’s portraits, she has an excellent display at the Mena Depot.