Black Wrangler - Part One
Editor: In March, 1921, Lawrence Jackson came
to Elko, Nevada looking for a job. He had left his Denver home when he
was 15 and had wandered around the American West doing odd jobs for six
years before heading for Nevada. For fifty years he worked on area ranches,
mostly as a horse wrangler. Some of them were the big outfits in the heyday
of the cattle business in northeast Nevada.
He and his wife, Tressie, lived in Elko after he retired. Death tookJackson on May 18, 1979, just two years after this story was written. Physical problems caused by age, decades of riding cranky horses, and the hard life he suffered out on the range brought about his demise. Tressie, followed him on April 14, 1986.
A simple thanks to Lawrence Jackson cannot, in any way, show my gratitude for the gift of part of his life. Here is his story; it is low key, not revealing that some of the incidents were life threatening. He didn't think of himself as heroic but his story is full of dangerous adventures. It's his legacy and it's an important one.- Howard Hickson
The above photographs of Tressie and Lawrence Jackson, taken by Jonas
Dovydenas, Lenox, Massachusetts, are used with his permission.
When I got my first look
at Elko it looked awful bare. If the price of a train ticket had been in
my pocket I would have boarded the next train leaving in either direction.
But I didn't. There was a few automobiles around but the roads was still
dirt. Horses was the only dependable means of transportation and the mail
was still carried
I wanted to go to Tuscarora to look for a job, so I started there on Jess Snyder's stage. The stations was located so each team would have a ten or twelve mile run. The first change out of Elko was Eight Mile Springs. Our next stop was Dinner Station where a fresh team was ready to be hooked up to the buckboard. Tied to a hitchrack, the horses was champing at the bit, raring to go. Stuart Ranch, or Reed Station as some call it, was our third change before going on to Eagle Rock. When we came in sight of Eagle Rock the attendant was leading a fresh team out. It took about ten minutes to change horses and be on our way again. Then past Meadows Ranch to Ben Trembath's place in Taylor Canyon. Jess had a Model T truck there to finish the haul to Tuscarora, but the roads was too muddy, so he drove the team on through and we got into town before dark. Made good time for horses in those days.
Three hands in the Spanish Ranch bunkhouse, c. 1910. Photo
I phoned out to the Spanish Ranch for a job
and the man that answered wanted to know if I was a buckaroo. I told him
I wasn't, but had done a lot of ranch work. He told me to come out, that
he would find something for me to do.
Pete was a big man too, almost the size of
Calligan. He sent me to the IL Ranch, about twenty-five miles down the
Owyhee River. Butch Wilson, the foreman there, put me to teaming hay and
grain to the buckaroo camp at Devil's Corral on the Owyhee Desert. When
I got my first look at the desert, I thought to myself that it was a
I went back to Tuscarora with the intention
of going back to Elko. While there I met a man named Robert Caudill. He
told me to call him Doby Doc or just Doc. Doc had two teams and was heading
for the same country I just left. He was going to build a dam on the Little
Owyhee. His teamster had gotten drunk and was still under the weather,
so Doc hired me to drive one of the teams. Doc and Jake Reed had a good
ranch site picked out, if they could get water to the place. Harvey Sewell
was financing the deal. He and his brother, Abner, owned the mercantile
store in Tuscarora.
Next time: Lawrence Jackson talks about Constable George Gilmore, Doby Doc is bitten by a rattlesnake, building a dam, VN ranch, a shooting, mustangs, and a murder.
Note: This nine-part series comes from
a piece I wrote titled Black Wrangler, Northeastern Nevada Historical
Society Quarterly, Fall, 1977. I interviewed Mr. Jackson several times
when he was 77-years old. His memory, stuffed with three quarters of a
century's adventures, was sharp. This is readily apparent in the taped
talks and more than one hundred hand-written pages of his experiences as
a wrangler. His notebook was one long paragraph, without punctuation and
capitals. My job was to put some order to his writing. More than once I
would discover I had passed from one anecdote and was well into the next.
This was before computers made editing a heck of a lot easier.
©Copyright 2000 by Howard Hickson. If any portion or all of this article is used or quoted proper credit must be given to the author.