Jesse's great-grandfather came from Africa but he doesnât know his name. His grandfather, Ned Jones, worked for the original Tom O'Connor and his father, Matt Jones worked for T.M. O'Connor, one of Tom's sons. Matt was a revered tophand on all the ranches. Jesse grew up in Goliad County mainly on the O'Connor Duke Ranch. Like many of the cowhands, Jesse didnât get much schooling but he did say he once walked through the door at Hallâs Point School and then once more in Vidauri. Jesse started work at sixteen with the big men and âbeen hittinâ it ever sinceâ. Jesse came from a big family: Willie, Teresa, Sam, Jessie, Margie, Mary and Martha (twins), Emilia, Louise, Venice Lee, Katherine, Reilly and Alfred (twins), Kathleen, and Rosie. Jesse first noticed the ranches changing in the 1920s, accelerated a bit during The Depression and changed forever after WWII. âPeople quit havinâ fun workinâ, and when that happens, life quits being fun because life was mostly work then and still is, really. Those ranches were our security, so when the ranches changed, we quit feelinâ secure. The old people didnât have nowhere else to go. The young ones had more guts âcause they had other chances. This may have been good for their pocketbooks, but it wasnât good for their souls.â Jesse was a giant of a man, both physically and in his soul. He loved working cattle more than anyone in the business. He was renowned for his strength as well as his gentleness. A favorite among his co-workers, he was also an invaluable source of information about life and ranching in the glory days of his profession.
“There was somethin’ about those days in cow camp. It was fun. It seemed like it would go on forever. If I could ride again, if I was able, right quick, I’d be back there workin’ cattle.”