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Paul ‘Cowbone’ Buster honors sons with memorial ride

Friends and family join Paul “Cowbone” Buster, at far right, in a ride through Big Cypress on May 21, 2022, to memorialize his sons. From left are Michael Cantu, Miken Cantu, Heide Cypress, Jayleigh Perez, Mary Pauline Cantu, Zara Cantu, Jackson Tanner, Anquenette Smith and Shaniqua King. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

BIG CYPRESS — Paul “Cowbone” Buster, a dad who lost three sons over the years, lovingly memorialized them with a journey through the woods of the Big Cypress Reservation.

Loaded onto ATVs and side-by-side off road vehicles, 10 family members and friends joined Cowbone on May 21 to commemorate the lives of Chunky, Sigmund (Merle) and Ira Buster. The sons of Daisy and Paul were all born in Clewiston and grew up in Big Cypress.

“They all played sports and had a lot of friends,” Cowbone said. “They grew up with cousins, but just like a tree, they went on different branches.”

Chunky, who passed in 2016, was a musician who played in the “Cowbone” band. He could play drums, bass and harmonica and he wrote songs. He had his own band which played gigs from time to time in local places and as far flung as South Dakota.

Paul “Cowbone” Buster, at far right, leads the caravan of vehicles into the woods of Big Cypress on May 21, 2022. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

“Chunky lost his leg to diabetes and went down from there,” Cowbone said. “Most of us [Seminoles] have diabetes. If you tell me you’re not diabetic, then you’re not an Indian.”

Ira, the youngest son, died in 2007 due to mental health issues. Sigmund (Merle) died in a car accident on Snake Road in 1996.

Cowbone said the ride also recognized the boys’ aunt, Mary Louise Johns, who was very close to them. She passed away in 2019.

Before the pandemic, the memorial ride was an annual event that started as a music jamboree for about five or six years. This year’s ride was designed for participants to be socially distanced for safety’s sake.

“We hope next year we’ll have a gathering with music, cornhole, horseshoes and food,” Cowbone said. “The first couple of years we had about 100 people. Since Covid, we’ve just done the ride and had about 10 or 20 people.”

Last year, Jackson Tanner (Cherokee), happened upon the ride while doing some work in Big Cypress.

“I made sure to be here this year again,” said Tanner, who drove 1,500 miles from Oklahoma to participate in the memorial ride.

It took the caravan a couple of hours to travel a few miles from West Boundary Road through the woods to the Junior Cypress rodeo grounds where they enjoyed lunch.

Michael Cantu, Miken Cantu, Heide Cypress and Mary Pauline Cantu in their vehicles. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at