Monroe "Bailey" Shaw

May 9, 1903 - September 14, 1996
Role: Cowhand
Nicknames: Bailey
Known for: Colloquial black dialect

Monroe "Bailey" Shaw descended from the "old timers" who lived around the Black Jacks on the coast. One of his grandfathers was an Irishman named O’Reilly and the other was a slave, old man Han Shaw. Bailey didn't play cowboy as a child like so many of the other cowhands, he just started cowboyin' real young. His family had a small farm and ranch with cattle and horses and a brand, the S-U. They were typically self sufficient, making their own meal out of the corn they raised, hunting rabbits and javelinas, and raising a few hogs. The only foodstuffs they bought were flour, sugar, and coffee. Bailey worked on these ranches most of his life, and in his later years was also engaged in digging water wells. He was forty-five years old before he ever left the area. "At one time cowboyin' was deep in my blood. If I wasn't working' cattle, I wasn't satisfied. I could get other jobs but I wasn't pleased with 'em. I like to work cattle - I like to be on a ranch". Bailey had a unique take on the colloquialisms of the African American dialect and life in the black community. He may have been the last repository of the pure black dialect and ranch language.

Introduction to Bailey Shaw

Louise S. O'Connor
Voice of Bailey Shaw
Bailey - I was born in Refugio, 1903. Well my grandpa was a slave, ole man Han Shaw. He came in here… My mother's parents is ole man Sam Upton, Stella Rice. Well I'll tell you, my grandma she originated from down in the Blackjacks. my grandpa he's, uh, he's a Irishman. You take my grandpa, he owned cattle, he owned horses and that's where I learned from, Copano Creek, and that's where I learned how to ride from breakin' horses for them. And I went over here one time, oh it's been a good while ago, Willie Jones, you know Willie Jones, he was a young kid. He broke a horse they called Funny Paper over here for Mr. Joe O'Connor. And I told Uncle Louis if you let that horse throw him, I can kick up and throw 'em, you know it. And he said "you can't ride him "and I said put the saddle on him. And I rode him, and he said.. the old man.. said Louis Power said "he can ride, he ain't forgot it". He said that man ain't rode a horse in 20 years, "look a there boy, I'll show you a horse rider" And I said you don't get on it right away, you get on him and let him throw you before you get on him. He said how you get on him. Pull him to you and when you go up there you go up there to ride. I wanted to be, you know, just sho nuff cowboy, and I want to be a rough cowboy, I wanted to be wild rider but I never did get too fur but I got fur enough. I got to see what I wanted to do. After I got to where horses could throw me, I didn't like that.


"You learned to eat all kinds of things out on these ranches. I ain’t never bothered no skunk and possum — I ain’t too hot on him neither, but you get used to eatin’ all kinds of things on a ranch."

Cryin' For Daylight: Ranching Culture in the Texas Coastal Bend

“I wanted to be a sho’nuf cowboy, a wild rider. I felt free when I was workin’, young and strong. I was a cowhand right off the bay, out here livin’ like a wild dog, tryin’ to make a livin’. We used to work two days out of one. When night come, you’d be ready for that Dudlow Joe. That’s the life of a cowboy.”

Cryin' For Daylight: Ranching Culture in the Texas Coastal Bend