A Brief History of the Madisonville Sidewalk Cattlemen’s Association
By Kim Davis
I grew up hearing that my grandfather was somehow instrumental in the formation of the Madisonville Sidewalk Cattlemen’s Association. For those who do not know, the MSCA is a tongue-in-cheek organization that pokes fun at non-cattlemen who have the misfortune to wear cowboy boots within the boundaries of Madison County. Unwary boot wearers who are unable to prove that they own at least two head of cattle should be prepared for a ceremonial dunking in the watering trough on the courthouse lawn. Now-a-days this well attended ceremony generally only takes place during late May and early June when the Madisonville Sidewalk Cattlemen’s Association hosts their annual festivities.
Imagine my chagrin when I learned that the “First to feel Editor Fox’s barbed wit were two young Madisonville lawyers, Ebb Berry Jr.,” my grandfather, “and George Brownlee, whom he called ‘sidewalk cattlemen.’” This tidbit came to me via a 1966 Madisonville Meteor Article I found republished online at Rootsweb.com.
Henry Fox was the editor of the Madisonville Meteor in 1941 and was well known for his acid wit. He noted, in the spring of 1941, that there were many young men habitually loitering about the town square on the sidewalks, who wore cowboy boots and discussed cattle. He raised a question about whether all those who wore cowboy boots were actually cattlemen. On further investigation, he discovered that in fact, there were not many genuine cattlemen among them, at which point Mr. Fox coined the name “Sidewalk Cattlemen” to describe the cowboy boot wearers who did not own any cows.
The name took the fancy of local doctor Jesse B. Heath, who organized the first meeting of the Madisonville Sidewalk Cattlemen’s association on March 25, 1941. The Associated Press and the United Press wire services picked up the story and the young Madisonville movers and shakers took advantage of the publicity creating an organization that has run continuously up to the present day affording the town of Madisonville an air of good humor and fun as it plays host to a rodeo, with attendant queen’s contest, stick-horse race and calf scramble, several dances, a parade, a trail ride, and a sumptuous steak dinner.
To my mind the thing that most clearly sets the MSCA apart from any other organization in the world is its “boot wearing regulations,” which state that owners of two head of cattle are entitled to wear cowboy boots; owners of 3 head may wear boots with one pants leg stuffed into the top of the boot; owners of 4 head may stuff both pants legs into the boots; and owners of 6 head of cattle may wear cowboy boots with both pants legs stuffed in AND spurs.
The Madisonville Sidewalk Cattlemen’s Association is not all fun and games. Each year’s proceeds go into a scholarship fund to help send deserving Madison County students to University.
For further historical details, visit http://usgenwebsites.org/TXMadison/msca.html.
Photos courtesy of The Madisonville Meteor.