Ed Ashurst, an Arizona cowboy who has gathered cattle and horses on more than 7,000 square miles of the American West, will receive the 2019 Working Cowboy Award at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 during the 42nd Annual National Golden Spur Award dinner at the Overton Hotel in Lubbock, Texas.
“This award is designed to recognize an outstanding individual who makes his living primarily horseback caring for livestock on a daily basis,” said Jim Bret Campbell, director of the National Ranching Heritage Center (NRHC) in Lubbock.
The Ranching Heritage Association (RHA), a non-profit membership organization supporting the work and mission of the NRHC, sponsors the annual award to honor a working cowboy skilled in all aspects of ranch work and respected by the ranch crew and ranching community.
Ashurst started working on a 300-section Arizona ranch the morning after his high school graduation in Wickenburg. “Every cowboy but me was from Chihuahua, Mexico,” he said. “They taught me Spanish, how to cook Mexican food and how to cowboy.”
Since then Ashurst has accumulated 50 years of experience working on 20 different ranches in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. He has spent the last 22 years running the 86-section Ten X Ranch about 35 miles northeast of Douglas. He worked 15 years for Babbitt Ranches and if he were to stop long enough to compile a resume, his ranch list would read like the A-list of great Southwestern ranches.
Ashurst credits a legendary old-timer named Whistle Mills on the O RO Ranch as being a major mentor in his life. Located in northern Arizona 50 miles from Prescott, the ranch has no power lines or telephone poles and unmarked dirt roads connect the remote cow camps to headquarters. To some people, the O RO is the crown jewel of Arizona ranches.
“That was a real rough-country ranch,” Ashurst said, noting that he was only 20 when he worked with Whistle at the tail end of the old-timer’s career. “If you didn’t gather the cattle right, they would be wild. He was a master at that. He knew how to gather rough-country wild cows better or as good as anybody.”
As a result, it should be no surprise that the award nominating committee describes Ashurst as “outstanding at gathering wild cattle in rough country.” in addition, he’s considered a superb bronc-rider and excellent roper. Like many cowboys, he also has a rodeo history and is one of the main participants and backers of the Arizona Cowpunchers Rodeo held annually in Williams. He has served numerous times as president of the organization and also been a rodeo contestant.
Ashurst may be unique among cowboys in regard to how he spends his time when he comes in at night after a day on the ranch. Instead of turning on the television, which he doesn’t have, he takes his ballpoint pen and a yellow legal pad and writes for an hour. Then he gives his writing to his wife, Jean Ann, to type and edit. He writes consistently enough that the two of them crank out one book a year, and all the books can be found on amazon.com.
Ashurst has published eight books and will debut his ninth book shortly before he receives the Working Cowboy Award. His fourth book, Stealin’ From the Neighbors, was his first work of fiction and was awarded the Hillerman Award for Fiction at the 2018 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award in Albuquerque.
The first RHA Working Cowboy Award was presented in 2018 to Boots O’Neal of the Four Sixes Ranch in Guthrie, Texas.
To register for the National Golden Spur Award dinner, call Vicki Quinn-Williams at (806)834-0469 or register online at www.ranchingheritage.org/spur. Reservations are required by Thursday, Sept. 19. Tickets are $95 for RHA members and $125 for non-members.