Black Wrangler - Part Eight
Reminiscences of Lawrence Jackson 
Edited by Howard Hickson 

Lawrence Jackson.  Photograph of Lawrence Jackson by Jonas Dovydenas, Lenox, Massachusetts. With his permission.


     Every fall, after the beef drives was over, the culling out began. No outfit wanted to carry a lot of dead weight all winter, so all the outdated bulls, barren cows, and gummers too old to raise calves any more had to be got rid of. The part we didn't like was when it came to the horses that had been our old pets, those we had rode for several years. Those that was too old, crippled, or was wire-cut, had to go, and we feltlike we was double crossing a friend.


     I will always have a soft spot for horses. I was raised with them and worked with them most of my life. When I got to working on farms and ranches and running mustangs on the Owyhee Desert, I got to see the horse in his wild state and learned a lot about their habits. 
     The horse is a hardy animal. I have seen deer and antelope starve to death, but horses would survive. Horses have an advantage. I have saw horses paw down through deep snow to get grass. I don't know of many animals that do this.
     In the middle of June or July, some of the waterholes and small creeks dry up. One day, I saw a bunch of horses round a dry wash where I knowed there was no water, or so I thought. I rode over to see what was doing. They was wild and ran away. They had three holes pawed in the sand and water was seeping in, enough for them to get a drink. When I left, they came back and drank, then went on their way. A bunch of cows would just hang around and die for water.
     Sometimes we would have 75 or 80 horses in the cavvy. Now, some folks won't believe this, but ask any cowboy or horseman. When he is looking for a certain horse in a big bunch, he will tell you that all he needs to see is the horse's face. It's like looking a person in the face.
     When we was moving cattle we started at the crack of dawn, as soon as we could see. Horses had to be caught and saddled before it was good daylight so, if a man don't know his horses, we never would get started. On one outfit I worked for, the ZX in Oregon, they worked Texas-style. The boss, or a good roper, would catch the horses in a rope corral. He would call out a man's name and the feller would holler back the name of the horse he wanted.
     Some horses that was my old standbys over the years was named Jeff, Rowdy, Raton, Sardine, Buster, Dynamite, Star, Dusty, Head Light, Caterpillar, Stage, Silver Dick, Sailor, Blue Dick, Nigger Baby, Bad Man, Sea Biscuit, Cottontail, Peck, Pekoe, Reno, Diamond, Cub, Sunday, Buzzard, Tom Thumb, Wood Rat, Smartie, Louie, Bud, Hobo, Sleepy Dave, Brown Jug, Mormon Kid, Montie, Barney Google, Bull, Kangaroo Senior and Junior, and Spot.
     We all had favorites and some not so favorable. I remember two such horses. Both was bays. One was a long-legged well built called Steamboat, the other was a slim-built horse called Apache. Both of them usually got their man when they bucked. Nobody wanted them, especially Steamboat. Everybody that tried him usually found out that one setting was enough. Apache was different in a way, gentler and a regular pet, most of the time. Most men didn't believe he would buck until they was in the saddle, then he set them out on the flat with some bruises they didn't have at breakfast.

Spanish Ranch hands and bunk house.
Spanish Ranch hands and bunk house. Photo
from the Northeastern Nevada Museum, Elko.


     Stanley Griswold wound up with both of them. He was the only man I knowed that Steamboat never bucked with. They seem to understand each other. 
     Most of the time, a man could ride Apache as nice as you please, then, for no apparent reason, he would throw a squealing and bawling fit and slip out from under a man so quick he never knowed what happened.
     We was camped on the Winters Ranch on the edge of the desert. They had a stone barn with a low, narrow door just high enough and wide enough to lead a horse through. One morning, Stanley saddled up Apache and started out fine. They didn't get far when Apache blew and that plug headed for the open barn door, bucking and bawling. When I saw them headed for that door, I thought poor old Stanley was going to get smashed up for sure. I was watching, but I still don't believe what I saw.
     When Apache went through the door, Stanley laid close to his neck and they slipped through. I got there first and looked in. Stanley had kept his seat, both feet was still in the stirrups. He hadn't even lost his hat. His guardian angel was with him that day.
     When the buckaroo wagon pulled into the home ranch in the fall, we was all looking forward to going to the fair in Elko, but most everyone was gone. All the cars and trucks, too. We thought somebody would come back and get us but they didn't.
     Stanley didn't like the look of things, so he called up Fred Walker, the truck driver. Fred was a fuddy-duddy type, so we called him Gran Maw. Stanley told Gran Maw that Dewey had a serious accident and maybe ought to see the doctor. Fred was on the other side of the mountain, some seventy miles away. He told Stanley that as soon as he gassed up the truck he would be on his way.
     Stanley looked at Dewey and said, "Gran Maw will be here soon. In the meantime, I have to get you in shape for the hospital."
     He tore Dewey's shirt, messed up his hair, then punched him in the ribs a few times until there was a big red spot. When Gran Maw got there, Dewey was laying down, too sick to talk, just mumbling and rubbing his side. Fred helped him into the truck. Naturally, we all had to go along to offer moral support.
     When the truck got close to Elko, Dewey made a fast recovery and pretended to just come to. He wanted to know what was going on. Gran Maw would turn over in his grave if he knowed what we done.
     There's a lot of water under the bridge and I made a lot friends in Nevada, but the best friend I had was Stanley. When you see a man everyday you learn a lot about him. I'd bank on him anytime.


     The ranch boss, Mark Scott, we called him "Little Swede," told me and Stanley to go get a bull for the dairy herd. He said he wanted something docile, didn't want anything wild around the barnyard.
     It was a nice warm day. The bulls was laying around, chewing their cuds, at peace with the world. We rode among them and found a scrubby little bull with spike horns.
     Stanley said, "Here is one with a kind-looking eye. What do you think?"
     I told him I thought the bull was all right. He was, at the start, but when he tried to turn back we roughed him up a little. He took offense and got on the warpath. By the time we got to the corral he was strictly on the hook. We thought he would cool down, but he got madder. When the chore man, Dale Parmeter, went to milk the cows, that bull charged him. If he hadn't gotten to the hay manger that bull would have got him. Mark Scott was mad. It's a wonder he didn't run us off the ranch.
     He said, "You fellers know better than to bring something like that around here. Now, you brought him here, so it's up to you to get him out of here. Don't ever pull a stunt like that again."


     One spring, we had just turned the cattle out on the range. They was poor and weak as they had been on short feed all winter. The grass was coming up slow, but if left a lone, them cattle would have done all right. Then, a neighboring rancher shipped in some scabie bulls. The said the whole range was contaminated and ordered everybody to build dipping vats, gather the cattle, dip them, and hold them for ten days, then dip them again.
     To add insult to injury, they told us we had to test for abortion and TB. Those that reacted would have to be destroyed. Ear tag was saved on the reactors and the government paid $25 a head, hardly enough to pay for the ammunition. Some small outfits, about to get out of debt, gave up and quit.

Note: The conclusion of Jackson's stories. He talks about a lost mine, a bad winter, and running down.

©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. 

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