Rex Cauble and Cutter Bill

Rex Cauble was born August 15, 1913 in the Hill County town of Vaughan, Texas. His parents were Fred C. Cauble and Lou Butts Cauble who were cotton farmers. One of his first jobs was in the oilfield where he worked as a roughneck. He tried his own hand at drilling and was successful at that, as well. Always fond of ranch life, Cauble invested in horses, was a very good competitive rider in the 1960s and came to own a prize stud named Cutter Bill. Settling in North Texas, Cauble founded two western wear stores, named after his cutting horse. The stores were branded Cutter Bill’s Western World with locations in Houston and Dallas in the late 1960s. At the opening of the Houston store, the horse was brought in and his hoof prints were imprinted in the wet cement of the sidewalk.

Cutter Bill stores were known for carrying high end western fashion articles. The first store was located in a free standing building, formerly a bank, on Westheimer in Houston and opened in 1967. It carried fashionable clothing, rather than day to day ranch wear and was said to cater to what would later come to known as the “urban cowboy” type of customer. If Neiman Marcus was to have opened a western wear store, it might have been something like Cutter Bill Western World. A second store opened in North Dallas. The two outlets had a fairly good run for being a niche retail establishment. At least partially due to the legal matters discussed below, they were only in business in Texas for about eighteen years.

In addition to his identity as being the founder of the western wear stores, he owned a considerable amount of land in north Texas centering around his ranch in Denton County and was well known in Texas political circles. However, Cauble had legal problems that surfaced in the late 1970s when he was indicted for his alleged role in a marijuana smuggling operation. Those involved in the case became known as the “Cowboy Mafia.” Cauble was one of more than two dozen individuals who were accused of smuggling the drug by shrimp boats out of Colombia to Texas to be stored on Texas ranches until it could be disbursed and sold. The operation was discovered when a Orange County Sheriff’s Department officers arrested two men accused of being in possession of 1,000 pounds of marijuana aboard a trawler named Bayou Blues in March of 1978. Later, a shrimp boat named Agnes Pauline was found to be carrying a much greater quantity of the illegal products as the investigation expanded.

In an Associated Press story on May 4, 1979 out of Beaumont carried in the Abilene Reporter-News, it told of the search for more suspects in a drug operation in which the dealers used four shrimp boats and two semi-trailer trucks to transport the material by the ton. A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety said that the raid had been part of a year long investigation after twenty-two tons of Colombian marijuana had been seized by state and federal agents in 1978.

Twenty-four suspects were named in a twenty-eight count indictment by a federal grand jury in Beaumont accusing them of trying to smuggle illegal cargo worth $69 million, in addition to racketeering, the importing and possession of the drug with intent to distribute. Those indicted included four men, two out of Texas and two out of Tennessee, who were alleged to have financed the operation.

Cauble was later accused of being part of the operation. Another Associated Press article in the Galveston Daily News on January 11, 1982 quoted friends and associates of Cauble as being surprised at such allegations, given his previous activities and his opposition to the use of this drug. Cauble was accused by prosecutors of being the mastermind of the operation and was convicted the following month in a trial in Tyler. In addition to various financial penalties, he was sentenced to a total of five years in prison, ten counts at five years, to be served concurrently. The financial penalties included seizure of a considerable amount of his personal assets (including his interest in Cutter Bill’s) and was at the time the largest financial seizure under the relatively new Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute (RICO), a law designed to aid the government against organized crime. Cauble first began to serve his sentence in Big Spring but later was transferred to the La Tuna facility near El Paso. He was released in 1987 after serving five years of his term and being cited for good behavior. By the time of his release, without his identity and involvement, both of the Cutter Bill Western World stores had closed forever. Cauble continued to maintain his innocence for the rest of his life. He made at least one attempt to resurrect a western wear store in Jack County, Texas, but it did not catch on.

Image credit: Western Horseman

The horse named Cutter Bill was sired by Buddy Dexter and a cutting mare Billie Silverstone in 1955. Rex bought the palomino horse in a dispersal sale for $2,500 when Cutter Bill was a yearling and broke the horse for riding when he was two. Cutter Bill was trained by Willis Bennett and later Milt Bennett. The horse won both the National Cutting Horse Association (setting an earnings record for the organization) and American Quarter Horse Association cutting horse titles in 1962 under Sonny Perry and was the first horse to have won both titles in one year.

During his career in cutting, Cutter Bill in addition to the above titles, earned the AQHA Champion and Performance Register of Merit awards along with the AQHA Superior Cutting Horse award. As a breeding horse, he sired 637 foals including a number of award winning horses. Cutter Bill died in 1982, by then twenty-six years old, and was buried on Cauble’s ranch in Denton County. Cutter Bill was inducted into the AQHA Hall of Fame in 2003 and Cauble attended the ceremony.

Later that year, on June 23, 2003, Cauble died in a medical facility in Durant, Oklahoma. He was 89 years old. His services were held in Dallas at Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park. There is also a military headstone at a cemetery in his home town of Vaughan, Texas.

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