Half a century of broken bones, concussions, belt buckles, dodging horns and hanging on tight have earned Mansfield’s Timmy “Mule” Brooks a ride to the hall of fame.
On July 23, the all-around cowboy, 56, was inducted into the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum Hall of Fame.
Growing up in Mansfield, Brooks was one of 15 kids, and looking for a way to earn some cash. So he started riding and working at Mansfield’s Kowbell Rodeo when he was 6 years old.
“My uncles rodeoed, and my uncle Billy Ford worked there,” he said. “When I was 6, I was riding calves and getting in the calf scramble. I was there plumb up til it closed (in 2004), either working or rodeoing. It was a lot of fun. You couldn’t rodeo unless you went through the Kowbell.”
Along the way, Brooks was riding, roping and earning money on the rodeo circuit.
“I rode bulls for 15 years, then took up roping and steer wrestling,” said Brooks, who earned his nickname “Mule” because of he’s stubborn and strong, he said. “In 50 years, I’ve won a buckle every year but two. I usually give them to kids. I can’t wear but one at a time.”
There are two kinds of cowboys, he said, those who ride the rodeo circuit and those who ride the range. Brooks does both.
“I worked a lot of rodeos and ranches,” he said. “If they got a bull or a cow that they can’t catch, they call me. It ain’t as easy as it looks in the arena. A lot of cowboys now can’t do it when there are no fences. You seldom find one that can go both ways. I can. There’s not a bull or cow that can’t be caught.”
Brooks is the real deal, said Hub Baker, who produces the rodeo at Fort Worth’s Cowtown Coliseum and was inducted into the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum Hall of Fame with Brooks.
“The only way to stand out is to do well,” Baker said. “He is a helluva tie-down roper and he won a lot of money. He competed all over Texas and outside Texas.”
In 1987, Cowtown Coliseum held a competition to see if anyone could replicate the famous bull dogger Bill Pickett move, biting the lip of a steer. Brooks was in.
“They wanted 10 guys to do it,” Brooks remembered. “I was the one to come out on top.”
And he’s the only one who’s still doing it, traveling across the country, biting steers on the lip and throwing his hands in the air.
“You use mouthwash and keep going,” Brooks said.
He likes that it honors Pickett, who was also a black cowboy.
“A lot of stuff black people did didn’t get recognized,” Brooks said. “There were a lot of black cowboys, but when it was time to go to town, they couldn’t go. They were some of the better hands.”
That’s why Jim and Gloria Austin started the museum and the hall of fame.
“We discovered that 30 to 40 percent of cowboys were African American or Hispanic and nobody was talking about it,” Jim Austin said. “We founded the Cowboys of Color Rodeo about 20 years ago. As we got into it, we found more stories and started the museum.”
Inductees into the hall of fame since its inception in 2003 include legends like Pickett, Quanah Parker, Red Steagall, Juan Seguin, James “Wild Bill” Hickok and Brooks. For Brooks’ daughter, Robyn Davis, it was a natural fit.
“My dad came from a family that didn’t have much,” said Davis, who nominated her father for the hall of fame. “He had to borrow hats and boots and rope. After awhile, they stopped letting him because he was beating them. He didn’t have the money to go to rodeo school. He may not have made it to the (National Finals Rodeo), but he sure helped a lot of people.”
One of those he’s helping is his 7-year-old grandson, Christopher Davis, who is learning to rope and tie, and travels with Brooks to rodeos as much as possible.
“Anything his Pa does, he wants to do,” Davis said.
Brooks spends a lot of time helping others young people learn to rope and ride, because “rodeo is dying out. People don’t have anybody to teach them,” he said.
That made an impression on the hall of fame board of directors.
“It was easy for me (to vote for him) for what he’s done over his career, working with kids and giving back,” Austin said.
Of course, there’s that Bill Pickett move.
“He’s the only one that will bite the lip of a steer and throw them down,” Austin said. “He’s not Bill Pickett, but he’s the closest thing we’ve got.”
Davis’ love for her father shines through, even before he was a hall of fame cowboy.
“When we go to rodeos, I’m always standing up screaming, ‘That’s my daddy!’” she said. “(During the induction ceremony), I think I cried like a baby the whole time, just to see that other people care so much. His grandkids and great-grandkids can go to a museum and see him.”
Brooks was honored and proud that other members of the family could be there, too.
“My mom is 85 and it meant a lot to me to take her,” he said.
Brooks, who still lives in Mansfield, has already won his buckle for this year, for chute dogging at the Kowbell Legacy Reunion, and doesn’t plan to stop working ranches or rodeos any time soon.
“I’ve done all kinds of work, but I always come back to cowboying,” Brooks said. “I don’t punch a clock. It’s a good life. I’ll be doing this until they put me under.”