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Warehouse B
Florida Legend
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Strange Story of Florida Cowboy “Bone” Mizell


By James Donahue

September 2006


Every place seems to have a legend about a particularly colorful character. Desoto County, Florida offers the story of “Bone” Mizell, the son of early pioneers and cattle ranchers in undeveloped lands stretching from Orlando south to the upper Everglades.


Thus Bone became something that seems out of place for Florida. He was a six-foot-tall, lean, rawboned cowboy who worked in the sun and punched cows. As the legend is told, he was uneducated, barely able to write his name, but he kept accounts in his head and knew all the cattle brands. He lived hard, drank heavily, spoke with a lisp, possessed a sharp wit and was a notorious prankster.


The stories told about Bone are as legendary as those of Paul Bunyan. Here are a few:


One night after a hard night of drinking, some of Bone’s cowboy friends carried to a cemetery and left him sleeping among the gravestones. When he awoke the next morning, Bone looked around and said: “Here it is Judgment Day and I’m the first one up.”


One night while he was playing poker with friends the sheriff raided the place and arrested everybody on charges of gambling. The men argued that they weren’t going anything wrong because they were not playing for money, just poker chips. The sheriff said that was the same as money. The next morning in court the judge fined everybody $85. When it came time for Bone to pay he dumped poker chips on the table. The sheriff said “Wait a minute, this ain’t money.” And Bone replied, “You said it was yesterday.”


When his good friend, John Underhill, got sick and died, Bone and the other cowboys buried him in a country plot nearby. Shortly after that a young man drifted into the camp from New Orleans. The boy said he had traveled all over the world and that he was from a wealthy family. While there the boy died and Bone had him buried next to John Underhill. Not long after that the boy’s family sent money to the local undertaker to have the boy’s body returned to New Orleans for burial in the family plot. The undertaker paid Bone to find the grave the send the coffin off. Bone dug up Underhill’s body and sent that instead. He told his friends that Underhill had always wanted to travel and never had the money. “It didn’t seem right,” he said. “Here was a free train ride ahead, a funeral so damned fine this country had never seen the likes of it – probably with four white horses pulling the hearse.”


Another time Bone got arrested and convicted of rustling and sentenced to two years in the state prison. His friends petitioned for his pardon, but they were told that their pal could not be pardoned until he actually served time. So they put up some money and bought Bone a new set of clothes and gave him a grand sendoff before he boarded the train for the prison. When he arrived at the prison, the warden gave Bone a tour of the prison, invited him to dinner then sent him back home. The warden explained that Bone had thus served his time in the prison and could be officially pardoned.


Bone died July 14, 1921, after a heavy night of drinking, while waiting in a train depot at Fort Ogden for a friend to wire him some money. The station agent found him lying on the floor and called a local doctor. The doctor took one look and pronounced him dead. Someone asked the doctor how he knew Bone was dead because he hadn’t tested him. “I don’t have to test him,” the doctor answered. “I know that right now old Bone would test a good 90 proof.” The cause of death was written as: “moonshine – went to sleep and did not wake up.”