When I grow up: Eli is already a cowboy

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
At the age of 5, Eli Harvey says he is already a cowboy.

 

“I’m already a cowboy,” said 5-year-old Eli Harvey, son of Jim Jr. and Celeste Harvey, and his mom agrees. “He was born and raised a cowboy,” she said. “He gets up at 5 a.m. and works like a grown man.” Eli loves being a cowboy because he loves riding horses and working cows, “especially with Slade Butts,” he said. His heroes are his daddy and Mr. Rabon Carrier.

Lloyd “Boosty” Boney has been a cowboy since he was Eli’s age or even younger. He said he always loved following his dad, granddaddy and uncles around while they worked, and they let him join them as long as he worked. He remembers following them around out on the old bombing range over in the Avon Park/Lorida area, where they used to run cattle on a couple of thousand acres. “Of course, that was before it was a bombing range,” he explained. He was only 3 or 4 years old and it was free range, government land back then.

 

Lake Okeechobee News/Cathy Womble
Boosty Boney, is posing next to a painting of himself on horseback (center) at age 17 with his Uncle Yeb Boney on the left and his dad, Leo Boney on the right, and has been a cowboy since he was 4 or 5 years old.

The Boney family first arrived in Florida back in 1864, when Cornelius “Doc” Boney and his wife and three children set out in an ox-drawn wagon from North Carolina. Doc ended up in Avon Park and settled in that same bombing range area. When he came, he had a few cattle with him, just for milk and for food. They eventually had eight more children, for a total of 11.

Boosty said his dad Leo was a “sure ’nuff good cowboy.” He started out working for Lykes during the Depression when he was 15 years old and stayed there until he was 22, when he got the chance to go to work for Carlton’s in Wauchula, where they broke and trained horses. “John Abney’s grandfather was a horse trader,” said Boosty. “Daddy trained them for him. One time he bought two boxcar-loads of unbroke Wyoming horses,” he laughed. “That’s how he ended up in Okeechobee, where he met my mama Kathaleen Godwin. They had four kids. Three girls and me. That’s the reason I’m tough,” he joked.

Back then, girls knew how to ride but they didn’t really work with cattle or horses. Boosty trailed behind the men trying to do everything until finally he could do things. He learned from the bottom up. He remembers sitting for long periods waiting while his dad went searching for strays. He wanted to go so badly, he said. His first official job was to jab the cows so they would go through the chute when they were being dipped for fever ticks. He explained if they stopped, he had to jab them. If he didn’t do it, somebody would yell at him because that was his job. No one made him go out there and work with the men, but if he did go, they expected him to work. He loved it, though. He said from the time he could talk, all he talked about was cows and horses. He could read an earmark before he could read a book, and he was pretty good at cutting them, too, but not as good as his dad, who he said could cut any mark there was at midnight. By the time he was about 10 years old, he did the work of a grown man and could keep up with any other cowboy.

Boosty was not a bad student in school, he explained. As a matter of fact, when he was ready to graduate, someone came to him and suggested he apply for the FBI, but he was never interested in any other life than the life of a cowboy. He said for the most part, the long cattle drives were a thing of the past by the time he came along, but he did remember one in 1959 that started out near the Buckhead Ridge area back before there was a Buckhead Ridge. The 101 Ranch lost their lease and needed to move their cattle — about 800 head. They drove them across the L-Cross Ranch and spent the night in Willow Vat. They spent a second night at the 101’s #2 Cow Camp and the third night at Edna Pearce Locket Estates before crossing the Kissimmee River Bridge. They eventually arrived at the St. John’s Marsh in Fellsmere where the owner had leased some land belonging to Dan Scott. Boosty was allowed to take time off from school to help with the drive. He said there were smaller drives over the years — 6 or 7 miles — just getting them back to their pens, and that was hot, tiring, thirsty work, but the 101 Ranch Drive was the only long one he remembers helping with.

Boosty and his wife, Kathy, were married on July 8, 1966, and have been married for 52 years. They have three children — Clint, Tory and Elton, and five grandchildren, one girl and four boys. Their oldest son Clint is a cowboy who works cattle at various ranches and also works pickup at rodeos. Tory grew up riding cutting horses and competing in barrel races. Elton spent many years competing in rodeos and still does judging for competitions, and all of the grandchildren enjoy competing in rodeos in different categories.

“I’ve loved every minute of it,” said Boosty. “I’m 77 years old, and you’d be surprised how much metal is in me. After I broke my pelvis, they told me I’d never walk again, but I was riding a horse two months later. I’ve done it all over the years, usually for rich folks who owned cattle but didn’t know anything about them.”
To Eli, Boosty advises: “If that’s what you want to do, do it. You won’t get rich, but you’ll enjoy it.”

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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