They swam to Texas


East Texas had its share of cowboys and cowgirls rising in the ranks through the years and in Kilgore there still remain a few who through hard work and endurance will leave legends. Those few have managed and continue to take pride in calling themselves cowboy.

He didn’t realize, he, too, would be spotlighted as one to carry on with the preservation of cowboy history when he simply asked for a group photo of the “last of the real cowboys” in the area. And he didn’t realize it would take a trip to one of his five pasturelands to set the scene of a lifetime of involvement of his cowboy life.

Mother Nature was at its best the day we rode to the country side to feed the cattle and with one “whoop” from its owner, the cattle started moving across the pasture, now green from spring rain, to get to the familiar sound and more food.

For Eddy Holley, with now over a hundred head of mother cows, feeding cattle is something he does on a daily basis and a chore that has become as natural to him as getting up in the morning.

“We were all born in Ft. Smith, Arkansas,” said Eddy, as he refers to his brother Jim and a sister, Beth. “We swam across the river; grew up in Longview and stayed in Texas.”

Their parents were Ed and Sue Holley and though Eddy was partly named after his father, his sister had a major part in setting Eddy’s name and path by a favorite childhood book called “Cowboy Eddy.” The name became such a term of endearment, fifty years later Eddy found two copies of the book, one for himself and one for Beth.

At age 19, Eddy moved to Kilgore. “I just got out of the Allen Military Academy in Bryan,” he said. “I was going to pursue a career in football, but an injury changed my direction.”

In 1972, Eddy started with calf roping. “I was more rope at ‘em and not rope catch him,” he laughed. “My roping horse was a learner back in those days when Angus and white-faced calves were used for roping. When they started cross-breeding ‘Bremmer’ calves, my horse couldn’t keep up with the fast pace,” he said. “I decided to concentrate more on showing quarter horses. I got real lucky to have become owner of a double-bred King show horse. We won just about every halter competition he was in. He was not only good looking but a very well behaved horse,” said Eddy. “The horse was pre-named before I got him and his name was King O’dell. My father’s middle name was O’dell and I thought it was quite a coincidence that I owned a horse by the same name.”

The highlight of Eddie’s rodeo career came with the blue ribbon win at the Texas State Fair in Dallas in 1972 while he was continuing his education on a part-time basis at Kilgore College.

In 1974, Eddy went to work for Jack Phipps at Kilgore Feed Store. The structure was originally built after WWII, had multiple departments and was considered the general store of Kilgore. His father was a feed salesman and helped formulate the feed for the poultry industry in East Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas and supplying to companies like Tyson’s and Pilgrim’s Pride, so Eddy knew about the sales part of it. But it was from Charles Anderson, an assistant at the store, that he learned the feed business. In 1975, the store went up for sale and his father asked Eddy if he was ready to go in business. The store was purchased and the name was changed to Kilgore Feed Company. Eddy, his father, and Charles kept it running. When his father passed away, his mother stepped in and became known as the “seed lady.”

“It put an end to running up and down the road showing horses,” said Eddy. “I had a chance to sell King O’dell to a man in Australia, but, I turned it down. I kept her for breeding purposes and she lived seventeen years.”

“Education was very important to my mother,” said Eddy. “And I just kept plugging along at it. I finally received my Bachelor’s in 1982 from the University of Texas at Tyler. Most of that was through night school.”

In 1982, he became a licensed auctioneer. “Now that was fun,” quipped Eddy. “There is a lot more to it than people realize to maintain your license and pay state fees on a yearly basis.”

“I joined the Gregg County Sheriff’s Mounted Unit in 1992 and eventually went into the reserves and became a police officer through the East Texas Police Academy at Kilgore College,” he said. Eddy still serves with the Gregg County Sheriff’s Department and finished two more courses last week for continuing education.

He celebrates his 43rd year in business at Kilgore Feed located in downtown Kilgore, he proudly announces. “I have the support of the people of Kilgore and surrounding areas that I thank for making that happen,” said Eddy.

The horses he still owns, his cows, trucks, SUV’s and a Cessna 50 keeps him on a roll either on land or by air these days. And though he still owns a roomful of trophies, he has given some to be recycled for another rodeo winner coming up in the ranks.

“He is quite a character, my baby brother and I love him dearly,” said his sister, Beth. She, too, grew up riding horses; helped him with the calf roping and won in halter and western pleasure events and continues to train and show Arabian horses in Hunter, English and Native costume with many top ten wins.

To this cowboy, trophies just gather dust and get packed away, but, the day ends when the last horse and cow is accounted for and all is well on the range. To his family he will always be Cowboy Eddy.

May His Love and Laughter Fill Your Hearts and Your Homes Throughout the Week. In the meantime, we may be reached at 903-984-2593 or


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