The Coastal Post - October, 1997

Tom Woods

By Joan Reutinger

Tom Woods nickname was "Vaquero" because he was such a skilled horseman. He lived in the Tomales township. The History of Marin, 1880, says no one knows the exact date of his arrival, but it was probably 1849. No one now living knows his nationality, probably English or Scotch, but we do know that he came from New York state.

Woods is described as a man having the frame of a giant and the heart of a lion, with marvelous skill in horsemanship. Early in his residence he took to wife a winsome "mohala" of the Tomales tribe of Indians. when she died, he espoused the adopted daughter of the well-known and much-respected pioneer, James Black (whom we met in our last month's story), in whom, we are told, he found a princely benefactor and a kind friend," the 1880 History of Marin tells us.

Jack Mason tells us about the rodeo which was always held on St. Raphael's day, October 24th. "Tom Woods was in the forefront. Snagging a bull with his riata, Tom dragged him behind his horse, while the crowd whooped."

From the Days of the Dons, we find he offered to forfeit his horse, saddle, bridle and spurs if he failed to subdue the wildest mustang while holding a silver dollar with his feet in each stirrup. After several men lassoed and saddled the animal and placed the coins under Tom's feet, the horse bucked and reared, while the betting onlookers cheered, until at last the tired animal walked across the corral for the judges to inspect the stirrups, and there rested the coins, firmly held where they had been placed."

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