Richard Harris

November, 1892 - 1988
Role: Foreman

Richard was born in the Murphy river bottom, grew up in Lewis' Bend on the San Antonio River and worked his entire life on the Murphy Ranch. He was one of the very few African Americans at the time to be entrusted with the job of foreman. His father, Henry Harris, was a slave drifting into Texas after Emancipation. Richard always wanted to be a cowhand. He remembers riding behind Jim Murphy when he was three years old. “I just wanted to go with 'em. When I got big enough to go, some of them hands would put me on them horses, you know. I had a little saddle. Mr. Murphy bought it for me. I rode with that until I got big enough to ride a big saddle.” Richard had no formal schooling. “I sign my name with an “X”. Mrs. Murphy kept me goin’ all day, so I didn’t want to bother with books at night. She learnt me lots anyway. I went to where them cowhands was. That’s where I got more enjoyment. I didn’t think I’d live this long, didn’t think I’d need an education.” Richard went on to become foreman on the Murphy Ranch, becoming Aggie Murphy’s lifeline to the working ranch and remained foreman until she died. Richard was well liked by everyone in the Coastal Bend ranching community. “All of them was friends to me. I never knowed an enemy. These are the people I dream about now. I done got old.” Mr. Richard was one of the prime colleagues on this project. A dear and gentle man who knew the land and the animals better than anyone. From his almost century old perspective, he would find great humor in the world as it was now, and would tell about the changes he saw that were so important to preserving the past. He was known as “that boy” by Rafael de la Garza who was a few years older than Richard. Mr. Richard carried a reputation as one of the most admired, talented and trustworthy men in the Coastal Bend.

Introduction to Richard Harris

Louise S. O'Connor
Voice of Richard Harris
RH – That's all I done all my life is handling cattle. I works cattle now through dreaming. Working 'em, yet dreaming. That's all I do now is go to bed and go and dream. I wake up, but I been working cattle and feeling tired dreaming. I just goes and meet the old timers, you see. When I wake up, they're dead. That's kinda crazy talk. These old ranchers have all done passed. I go to sleep now and I wake up; I've been dreaming. That's what puts me to sleep sometimes. I lay down and don't want to go to sleep. I be sweating and be dreaming, but I don't feel that when I'm dreaming. That sweat when I wake up, well, I'll be wringing wet with sweat. I'll be dreaming about cow work. Me and him together sometimes…I ain't seen him till this morning in four or five years. In dreams, well, we're together. But, I don't know if anybody else do's that or not; handling cattle. That's all I dreams now.


“I works cattle now through dreaming.”

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