The Extraordinary Life of Maxine Acton Cox


At the direction of my employer, Bill Wright, I drove to San Angelo, Texas, one bright sunny morning to get the final interview for a book about Celia Ann Hill called Headn’ West. Her pal, Maxine Acton Cox, had yet to weigh in on the story. So just before lunchtime on September 18, 2019, I interviewed cowgirl and Jesus lover Maxine Acton Cox.

She was living in a nursing home on the city’s west side. It put her as close to home as possible for a girl who grew up in far West Texas. Needing to be near kinfolk as she passed her 91st birthday on September 6, “place” didn’t matter. Maxine often used the phrase “bloom where you’re planted” to her family. Bloom, she did.

Maxine, Celia Ann Smith Hill, June Joyce Atkinson, and Marian Chambers Bridge were lifelong friends who shared a life of adventure, hard work tending cattle, fun attending each other’s church camps, and more. There will be more about this way of life in the book about Celia, but the different story I want to tell concerns Maxine’s encounter with a man who must have been an angel, if not more. 

Maxine Acton Cox
(Submitted photo)

To set it up, it helps to know that Maxine married an Ohioan named Butch, and after graduation from Sul Ross State University, she taught school for twelve years—all kinds of subjects. They had four children, but two died in a flood when Maxine and Butch took them on a trip to El Paso. Maxine described the terror of the water while she clung to a bush. Then, with the song “Beulah Land” running through her head and as she lost hope that the children would survive, she saw a figure—Jesus, she believed, standing nearby assuring her that they would be fine (though not in this life). 

While I listened, incredibly moved, this remarkable woman shifted on to happier tales, though some of the last of her 66 years with Butch must have been hard as he battled Alzheimer’s disease. Nevertheless, her strong constitution and faith kept her chipper.

On November 1, 2019, I learned that Headin’ West would be published by TCU Press. Bits from my interview in September will be in this book. The following day, I attempted to reach Maxine by phone to tell her the great news. No answer. Not in service, even when I added the unnecessary prefix. So I went to the Internet, and there I found: 

Maxine Monett Acton Cox, 91, of San Angelo, went to be with her Lord on October 10, 2019.

Through the help of the obituary and Mr. Google, I tracked down Maxine’s surviving daughter, Ruth. Eager, to let her know about the upcoming publication. I was delighted to talk with her and tell her how much I enjoyed getting to know her mother and to ask if I might tell this story separately. Ruth said that her mother’s funeral service was a joyful event. To illustrate, she said that her family took turns calling out things that Maxine loved. What a beautiful way to celebrate!  

In addition, Ruth added that right before her mother died, Maxine refused to eat. Most dying people do, of course, but Maxine had a particular reason to refrain: “The Lord is preparing a meal for me. So I’ll just wait.”

Marianne Wood works as an editorial assistant and researcher for Bill Wright

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