Bell Cord Rutherford: Cowboy Quixote of the
West Texas Plains; or, Some Shards from
Our Storytelling Past
H E WAS BORN DELBERT C. RUTHERFORD-PROBABLY IN GREER COUNTY,
Oklahoma-on December 23, 1893, although his obituary in the
Lincoln County News gives his birth year as 1892. This is only the first of
endless contradictions about this quixotic character known the length
and breadth of the Texas-New Mexico flatlands only as Bell Cord. Few
seemed to realize that he even had a surname. His parents, Ida and Joe
Rutherford, moved to Lubbock in 1900oo, by which time Delbert had
been joined by two brothers, Melvin and Gentry, who eventually surren-
dered those names for "Dogie" and "Slick." The family relocated to
Knowles, New Mexico, north of Hobbs, in 1909 just as that community
began its brief boom. Knowles peaked at five hundred population about
1912 and supported both a tennis club and a theater club, although it
lacked sidewalks and paved streets. Two decades ago its only remnant
was an immovable bank vault.' Knowles was in decline when the lads left
home to become cowboys. Bell Cord became a legend on the same
* Al Lowman, TSHA president, 2ooo-2ool01, gave this speech at the 2001 TSHA annual meet-
ing. The author offers thanks to his Stringtown neighbor W. Kenneth Barnes for first calling his
attention to Bell Cord, to Paul Patterson of Crane and Elmer Kelton of San Angelo for convinc-
ing him that Bell Cord was worth investigating; to H. G. Bedford and Patrick Dearen of Midland,
Ted Gray of Alpine, James L. Kenney of Carlsbad, Bill Modlsett of Midland, and Buster Welch of
Rotan for adding flesh to the bones Storytellers. Storytellers alll I would also like to express grat-
itude to certain individuals who read the finished typescript and offered helpful comments.
These are only a handful among many whose generous friendship has sustained me for decades.
Included in this group are Francis Abernethy of Nacogdoches, Don Graham of Austin, Steve
Hardin of Victoria, James Ward Lee of Fort Worth, Archie McDonald of Nacogdoches, Rollo
Newsom of Austin, and Joyce Ann Roach of Keller. And then there were those who made In-
quiries on my behalf, to wit: Joe Allen of Crane, Mrs. Cody Bell Jr. of Rankmin, and Jim Harris of
Hobbs, New Mexico. Additionally the staff of the Nita Stewart Haley Memorial Library of Mid-
land has been most helpful, as has Sandra Hodsdon Carr of San Antonio, my longtime editor.
Carol Kent and Janice Pmney of Austin have, in turn, notably improved the typescript with painstak-
'Gil Hinshaw, Lea: New Mexaco's Last Frontzer (Hobbs: Hobbs Daily News-Sun, 1976), 1 14-119.
SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
VOL. CIV, NO. 4
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101221/. Accessed May 28, 2015.