True cowboy celebrates century of wild-west living

By Tova Fruchtman: CNJ staff writer

Frank Dalton, who is nearly all that is left of the old West, according to his friends and family, turns 100 today.

One hundred percent cowboy, Dalton is known for his love for livestock, his rough and tumble attitude, and his ability to properly castrate a stallion.

“He is part of American society that is rapidly fading from the scene,” his son Frank Dalton Jr. said. “He took care of business on top of horse instead of behind the wheel of a pickup.”

Harvey Morris, who has known Dalton for 25 years through trading livestock, agrees. “I’ll tell you, he’s an experience. He’s an original Western man.”

Born Sept. 12, 1904, Dalton moved to Clovis in 1965.
His son said he had been coming to Clovis often from their ranch to trade livestock, and one day decided to buy a home and livestock from an airman who had been transferred to another base.

Dalton had spent years breaking horses to make money, or in trade for room and board, his son said.

Dalton, who kept horses until a year an a half ago, was passionate about his animals.

“I’ve seen him so many times short himself to make sure his livestock had something to eat. There is nothing that would make him any angrier than someone not taking care of their livestock,” his son said.

While Dalton was skilled at breaking and trading horses, he was most famous for castrating them — a way to make stallions more manageable, Dalton Jr. said.

“He was known all over this part of the country for being a master at castrating horses,” he said. “Many traders found out that if they let it be known that Frank Dalton had castrated their horse it would be worth more than if some vets had done it.”

Dalton was also a man of principle.

His son remembers him going to the bank if he found they had shorted him one penny. “It was the principle of the thing,” he said.

Miller met Dalton at a livestock trade when he was 6 or 7 years old, and Dalton was 66.

“I’ve never known Frank to have a job,” Miller said. “He was a self-made man.”

Miller said Dalton was a “shrewd business man,” but that he also had a charitable heart. He said that Dalton gave his charity quietly — not wanting to embarrass a family or get credit for himself.

“That’s the one thing that impressed me most about Frank,” Miller said.

But Dalton was not the easiest person to like when you first met him, Miller said. His loud booming voice and quick demeanor made him difficult to get to know, he said.

“He’s real gruff and rough when he speaks to you,” Miller said.

Dalton Jr. agreed, and noted that when workers on the farm made a mistake or couldn’t complete a task Dalton would “give them a tongue lashing and do it himself.”

Dalton told his son and others he is the great nephew of the famous old west bank robber Frank Dalton of the Dalton Gang.

Regardless of if the story is true, Dalton represents a true cowboy to many.

And though he has lived 100 years, Dalton Jr. said that his dad never considered himself old. Dalton, after spending 16 days in the hospital earlier this year, was sent to Laurel Plains nursing for therapy and rehabilitation.

After three days, Dalton Jr. went to visit him. He said his dad leaned over and said, “you know, there’s a lot of old people in this place.”