W.F. (Dub) Westmoreland Jr. didn't just play cowboy like many of his peers when he was a child. His grandparents, Marvin and Mary Nell Autry, had him driving cows on their Clark's Bridge Road farm in Hall County when he was 4 years old.
His father, W.F. Sr., had bought him a pony he named Sam, and Dub was hooked. He's now 73 years old, and his health has kept him out of the saddle the last few years. But for the vast majority of his life, he has been one of the rare genuine cowboys working in North Georgia.
His official livelihood was building fences, but he supplemented that living with trading and training horses. He rode night and day, whenever he had the chance, sporting Western shirts, boots and cowboy hats.
Dub graduated from River Bend High School as valedictorian in 1956. He followed his father's footsteps as a builder, but his reputation as a horseman already had people calling him when they needed help with a horse.
"They'd call from downtown and say they had a cow in the street," Dub says. "I would catch it and take it to the sale barn."
His brother, Donnie Westmoreland, recalls a time when they chased a cow through a downtown furniture store. One of their most memorable adventures was rounding up 155 head of cattle after a truck and trailer turned over on an Interstate 985 ramp near Gainesville. Almost always it was Dub Westmoreland they called when people's horses or cows got loose.
"He had no fear," says his son, Kelly Westmoreland. "He caught cows everywhere." Dub's brother Donnie agrees. "You wouldn't believe the risks he took," he said.
He was a familiar sight riding Trooper or Lucky Day, or one of his other horses, around the Clark's Bridge Road area.
At one time there were few if any quarter horses in the area. He took a liking to the breed, bought one, and they soon became popular in North Georgia. He would ride in horse shows, where he and his horses accumulated numerous awards.
He became a "pickup man" in rodeos, rescuing riders who'd been thrown off bucking broncos or bulls. Small local rodeos and horse shows would be held in arenas at the old fairgrounds off Shallowford Road, Oakwood or Cool Springs Road.
Dub was adept at roping. He learned on his own, reading up on the subject, then practicing for hours on the family farm.
Horse owners would come to Dub if they couldn't break their horses. "If nobody else could break one, he could," Kelly says of his father.
"We would break three horses a week sometimes," brother Donnie says, "and charge $50 a head."
People would stay late at night watching Dub breaking a horse or roping.
Ranch Bar II won 18 of 21 quarter horse races in Texas. When Dub acquired it, the horse won three firsts, a second and a third. But Ranch Bar II got out of its pasture and was struck by a car on Clark's Bridge Road. The accident broke an ankle, yet four months later, Dub had the horse winning a race again.
He wouldn't bet money on horses, though people would stay late to watch his horse win most of the arena races it ran. His horse would run in about 9 seconds, while others would do well at 10.5 to 12 seconds.
Westmoreland helped organize saddle clubs and became president of the Georgia Mountain Saddle Club Association. He led the Georgia Paint Horse Association and was a national director and a judge for American Paint Horse Association events.
Paint horses came after the quarter horses. Dub had been riding and trading quarter horses for years. Then he had saw a nice colored mare in a show in Alpharetta, acquired one and began to trade and train them in the late 1970s and early '80s.
It was a new adventure for him, Kelly said.
Numerous horse lovers today were inspired by Westmoreland, and many would credit him with what the horse industry is in North Georgia today.
Dub can't ride any more, but he still owns horses on part of the farm on Clark's Bridge Road where he first began learning to be North Georgia's best known authentic cowboy.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle N.E., Gainesville, Ga. 30501; phone 770-532-2326; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.