Eddie and Orvel Watkins

TAFT, CA – A graveside funeral service was held in the West Side District Cemetery January 6, 2018, for brothers Eddie and Orvel Watkins. They were born to Irvin and Laura Watkins. Eddie was born on June 23, 1932 in Gowen, Oklahoma and Orvel was born on September 20, 1934 in Camberia, Oklahoma. Eddie and Orvel passed away on December 29, 2017.

By Niki Jo Watkins
Orvel Watkins’ granddaughter

When I was packing my bag to leave for California to attend my grandfather and uncle’s memorial service, I can’t help but reminisce through my memories and be so grateful for the life I have and for the people in it. I am not sure that there are enough words to entirely encompass the lives of these two men. It could be a western novel, or a movie. The truest of troubadours. Teachers of the Lord, love, family, country music and the “cowboy way.” They were singers, songwriters, musicians, business men, family men, cowboys, and team ropers. The creators of our family name; my beloved grandpa Orvel Watkins and his brother, our equally loved uncle Ed Watkins.

Both lived largely in the presence of the Lord and were the finest of gentlemen.

My entire life I (and my cousins alike) have been raised on the stories of their younger years as ramblers, jammers and ladies men. In fact, I have never met a woman of their generation who didn’t have blushing cheeks and would bat their eyes when talking about “Eddie and Orv!”

Growing up, they were the symbol of strength, pride and grace. The knowledge that they held could flow like a river. Between the two of them, there was no question that could not be answered, nor a circumstance that could not be resolved. And whether the answer was to come by faith or by wisdom, the one thing you got for sure would be the truth. And more than likely, that resolution was followed by a witty one-liner, silly joke or lyrics from an old country song. On some occasions you may even get a full verse in perfect key. And you didn’t have to be blood to know this of these two. In fact, there is a good chance that every coffee shop waitress remotely close to Taft Highway (119) has heard a line or two.

Lived they did. With glory, grit, grace, a never-give-up attitude and by leaving it all on the table.

And of course, true happiness for these brothers was as simple as a good round of ropin’, a little pickin’ of the guitar, and some good eatin’ with friends and family. We can sure learn a lot from men like this. It’s just a shame they don’t make them like that anymore.

I have barely scratched the surface in what these two men were. The countless lives they have touched, the generosity they offered, or what they meant to roping and the community of Taft. One thing that did hold true throughout the years is that even though these brothers walked in different shoes, they very much walked the same path. Rarely, did you ever get Ed without Orv or vice versa. This was in life and now also in death.

A few years back, and just a short time apart, both brothers were diagnosed with the same debilitating disease. They fought their battles hard. Much of it they fought together, and later on, apart. But even in their debilitated state, their bond was strong and true. On December 29, my Grandpa Orvel left this earth to be with his Lord and savior Jesus Christ, but not without the brother that he loved. Just hours after my Grandpa’s passing on the very same day, Uncle Ed also passed and joined his brother on their trip to eternity. 

This has been a tremendous loss for our family and although the sadness is heavy right now, we the family and friends know exactly where these two are. Grandpa spoke often about the glorious beauty of Heaven and I believe him, as he also shared with me his love for the beauty of his home in “God’s Country” here in Oklahoma, and I have found that only to be 100% true. 

And so, although the sadness leaves us tearful and wondering “who’s gonna fill their shoes?” their story is a great one, and we know in our hearts that there is no greater way to close the book on this legacy and no better way for these “cowboys to ride away.”

The Watkins brothers competing at the Winnemuca, Nev. USTRC Regional Finals team roping in 1999. Orvel has one turned for Eddie. They both frequented the winners circle during their lengthy roping careers. Orvel was the father of well-known professional team roper and clinician Dusty Watkins. Eddie was the father of Denny “Moe” Watkins, who made 19 appearances to the NFR as well as winning the BFI. He is also a well-known and respected team roping clinician. –Brenda Allen Photo