Black Wrangler - Part Seven
Reminiscences of Lawrence Jackson
Edited by Howard Hickson
of Lawrence Jackson by Jonas Dovydenas, Lenox, Massachusetts. With
We got word that some of our cattle was on
the Five Bar and the boss sent me up the get them. He said an outlaw bull
was with them. He told me to get the cows, but if the bull gave any trouble,
just to leave him.
Bill Loveland from the Five Bar and me got
14 cows and calves and a white-spotted steer. When the bull seen us, he
hightailed it out of there in a hurry. Good enough, I thought to myself.
Bill said to let him go, that he was after the cows and would come back.
We didn't go far until the old bull caught up.
Bill said, "If he turns and faces you, ride
around him and don't get too close."
I knowed that.
Bill headed home and turned the cattle over
to me. That night, I stopped near the Forty-Five, then made it to the Desert
Ranch the next night, after a long day. Old Geronimo, as I had named the
bull, dodged out a time or two, but always came back and didn't give me
too much trouble until I got close to the ranch.
He dodged out again and I thought I had lost
him. The next morning, he was hanging around the fence. He seemed to be
getting used to me so I put him in the field and shut the gate. But, when
Old Geronimo saw four buckaroos headed his way, he tore up a lot of fence
and headed for the tall uncut . One of the boys started after him but the
boss said to let him go. Next spring he was back on the desert.
At one time our buckaroo boss was Bob Ward.
He wasn't a fighting man, but was ornery and contemptible. Although ornery,
the only profanity he ever used was "you saucer-eyed sippadilly." Now don't
ask me what that is, but it was his favorite expression. He was a natural
born stockman, one of the very best. He could talk horse language.
I seen Bob take outlaw horses that experts
had turned down as hopeless. At first, they would fight him, but after
he rode them awhile, they would quiet down and be all right. I remember
one big black horse. Bob rode him all summer then told me I could have
"No thanks," I told him, "I have all the horses
Bob said he wasn't kidding, that the horse
was all right. Against my better judgment, I saddled him up. After I rode
him a time or two, I liked him fine
Bob and me got along fine, but if he didn't
like a man that feller might as well pack and move camp.
He was so ornery that a lot of people said
he would never die a natural death. But he got sick with pneumonia. He
was at the Humboldt Hotel. An old cowboy, Shade Johnson, went up to see
how he was doing. Before he left, Bob asked him to set his boots close
to the bed.
"Folks always said I'd go out with my boots
on," Bob told him.
Shade told him to forget it and walked out.
Later that day, they found Bob dead. He had one boot on and the other in
CATTLE DRIVE TO OREGON
The dry spell of the 1930's was on, seven straight
years of drought and the outfit only had a few small hay stacks and no
pasture at all. It was November, awful late to start a drive, but something
had to be done. The cattle was bawling and walking the fences.
The boss, Bill Cooper, found hay in Jordan
Valley, Oregon, and told the cowboss, Jimmie Dewar, to shape up a thousand
of the strongest cows without calves.
We left with 1,012 cows. We used pack horses
for our supplies. An average pack was about 200 pounds, but we packed heavier
because we knowed the packs would get lighter every day. We would have
to travel on short rations as we had to pack grain for the horses. We had
three horses each. With nine pack animals, six mules and three horses,
we headed north to Oregon, crossed the corner of Idaho and went into Oregon
at Hot Spring Trail. Those springs was welcome as we needed baths after
ten days on the trail.
After we crossed the line we was in a pocket,
or small basin, at Three Forks. The river makes a big bend, a natural place
to camp and hold a herd of cattle but, at one time, it turned out to be
death trap for a troop of soldiers.
They was building a road to a settlement called
Poverty Flat when they was attacked by Indians and forced into this pocket
and was slaughtered. The bodies and equipment the Indians didn't want was
thrown over the rim of the canyon. I looked, but didn't see it. The road
was never finished.
The cattle was in strange country, getting
nervous and jumpy. They never gave me much trouble in the daytime, but
at night they got real spooky. A horse would shake a saddle or, at the
least little noise, they would jump up and start milling around. We never
had a stampede, but all of us kept a horse saddled in case the herd got
out of hand. Even us hands, after riding on short rations, was cross, out
of sorts and irritable.
One night two of the boys pulled out, Frank
Burton and Buck Vaughn, leaving us short-handed. Everybody had been standing
two hours on night guard. With two men short, that meant three hours. Unless
you've been through it, you can't imagine what it's like to be asleep and
somebody shakes you awake for your turn on guard.
After nighthawking, you just get asleep, and
the cook hollers, "Roll out and roll up! Eat and hit the trail!"
No wonder everybody was homicide-minded. The
two men that deserted hurt themselves worse than they did us. To quit the
herd on the trail is as bad as mutiny on the high seas. Once a man gets
the name of being a quitter, he has to hunt for new stomping ground as
nobody wants a quitter.
Owyhee Springs was our next stop. When we got
there the place was deserted. We thought it strange as they knowed we was
coming. The house was open and dishes with food in them was on the table.
The stove was warm. We knowed something was wrong, but we set up camp and
made ourselves at home. The next morning we moved on to the Fred Scott
Ranch and found out what happened.
Walter Bowden, owner of the Owyhee Springs
place, went out to gather some cattle he had on the river. Him and his
wife was going to have Thanksgiving dinner with her folks and he sent her
on ahead and told her he would come later.
The cattle was across the river. It was froze
over. He thought his horse might fall on the ice so he got off and was
walking across when he fell, broke his leg and passed out. His horse could've
walked off, but it didn't. When he came to, he knew he had to do something,
or die, so he crawled to some willows, cut some straight branches for splints
and tied them with his belt and scarf. He cut a forked stick and used it
for a crutch. He got to his horse and rode 16 miles to a old bachelor's
When he got to Bill Cummings' gate he knew,
if he got off, he would never get on again. He started hollering for Bill
as loud as he could. Bill said he first thought it was a coyote and almost
went back to sleep, then got to thinking that it didn't sound like a coyote.
Sounded more like a man in trouble.
Walter had passed out and fallen from his
horse. Bill didn't have a car, so he hooked up his team, filled the wagon
with hay and blankets, then drove all night to the hospital in Jordan Valley.
When Walter came to, his wife was sitting
by the bed. The first thing he said was, "How is my horse? If it hadn't
been for him, I would wouldn't be here now. Take good care of him."
Two days after Thanksgiving we arrived at Jordan
Creek. We had started with 1,012 head and, 17 days later, arrived with
1,009. Lost only three head on the trail, not bad at all.
The crew rested a day and started back to
Nevada. Jim Cronin, the trail boss, and me stayed with the cattle. We wintered
at Jordan Creek, got fat and lazy, and dreaded the long trip back. One
of the local boys, Ted Balzar, stayed with us and fed cattle.
Just before Christmas, two little girls come
by collecting for a Christmas party. We each put in a dollar, but didn't
go to the party and dance. The day after the party, the little girls came
by with some packages and told us, that since we didn't come to the party
that they brought us something. We had candy, nuts, oranges and fruit cake,
enough to last all winter. I got a necktie for a present, just the thing
to pitch hay in.
When spring came, we headed back on that long
trip to Nevada.
Spanish Ranch cowhands working in a corral.
Photo from the Northeastern Nevada Musuem, Elko.
With the exception of me and another fellow,
Johnnie Vaile, the hands was all young men in the prime of life, raring
to go places and do things. Not everybody could handle a bunch like that,
but our Irish buckaroo boss, Tommy Hays, was equal to the task.
While the calf roundup was going on they had
lots of long, hard hours in the saddle and everybody rested at night. But,
when the work slowed down, they began to get restless. Tommy knowed just
what to do. There was a lot of mustangs on the desert close by. He told
them to see if they could corral some of them mustangs, brand a few colts
and alter some of them little studs. They also got enough big geldings
to give them something to do in the afternoon. Besides that, we got some
saddle horses we needed.
ANNUAL CATTLE DRIVES
We usually had three cattle drives a year,
two with steers and one with fat cows. Most trail herds of a thousand or
more had to be handled with care. If they got spooked and started running,
it didn't take too long for them to run off fat they had gained all summer.
It was a nine day drive from the IL Ranch
to Elko. Several outfits used the same trail and a schedule had to be worked
out so the herds wouldn't get mixed.
When the herds started, in early August or
early September, for the next 60 or 70 days a drive of cattle would pass
through every day. It was easy to tell where the trail was, the grass was
trampled to a dust bed a quarter mile wide and a dust cloud hung over the
trail until the fall rains came.
When we got the cattle shipped, the boss had
a real headache rounding up the crew to go back and start another herd.
Some of them would be in jail and a fine had to be paid, others was skinned
up some, some was too sick to work, and others just couldn't be found.
Next: Horses, a scrubby little bull, and scabie herds.
©Copyright 2000 by Howard Hickson. If any portion
or all of this article is used or quoted proper credit must be given to
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