"Being in the stockyards makes you feel like a cowboy and you act like one, walking with a swagger wearing boots and a hat.”
—A citizen of Norway visiting Fort Worth

When the railroad got to Fort Worth in 1876, the city became a cattle-shipping point. The area by the railroad where the cattle were kept in pens became known as The Stockyards. Swift and Armour meat companies set up shop there and soon a neighborhood sprang up, with cafes, saloons, western wear stores and saddle shops. The anchor for the stockyards was the Exchange Building, where cattle barons bought and sold. Because of the high volume of business it was called the Wall Street of the West.
It really hasn’t changed much since those early days. The cattle auction still takes place on a regular basis and the cattle pens are still used. Cowboys drive a herd of longhorn cattle down Exchange Avenue twice a day. Rodeos take place every Friday and Saturday nights in the Cowtown Coliseum, which has an arena about the same size as the arena at the National Finals Rodeo. Big name rodeo competitors go to the stockyards rodeo. So do spectators from all over the world.
The sidewalks in Fort Worth’s historic stockyards area have huge bronze stars imbedded in them. The stars, which look like an old fashioned Marshall’s badge, contain names of Texans who have been inducted into the Texas Trail of Fame. "The trail recognizes individuals who have made major contributions to the preservation of our western heritage,” says H.R. (Hub) Baker, President of the Trail. "It began back in 1997 and since then we have inducted 130 individuals.”
The idea for the trail came from Allen Short, who developed much of the present day stockyards area and was the first president of the trail. On a trip to Hollywood he saw the stars in the sidewalks there, came back and went to work getting the trail started in the stockyards area.
The inductees are nominated and voted on by a board of directors and advisory committee. Sam Houston, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Charles Goodnight, Bob Wills and Nolan Ryan are just a few of the names found on the 24-inch stars. "School kids come down on scavenger hunts to find names,” says Hub. "Some of them do rubbings as part of the reports they have to do on the names they find.”
The induction ceremony takes place every fall during the Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering, one of the most well attended functions in the stockyards district. Chuck wagons are set up on the grounds in front of the Exchange Building with all the authentic paraphernalia of the old days. Visitors sample a typical cowboy meal cooked on a Dutch 0ven.
I had the privilege to be inducted into the Texas Trail of Fame this past October 26. It is a high honor.

Tumbleweed Smith of Big Spring is a radio feature artist, newspaper columnist, after dinner speaker and documentary filmmaker who has written two books and produced a dozen CD’s on Texas life. You can contact him at ts@tumbleweedsmith.com.