Memories of Old Montana

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Title: Memories of Old Montana

Author: Con Price

Release Date: November 20, 2017 [EBook #56016]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by Roger Frank



Con Price

(Masachele Opa Barusha)


Highland at Hawthorne


Copyright, 1945

By Con Price

All Rights Reserved


After Deluxe edition of 125 copies, numbered and signed by the author.


To all the old-time cowboys and cowmen whose hearts were as big as the range they rode.


Some years ago, through my interest in the life and work of Charles M. Russell, I met Con Price. No one could go far into the subject of Montana’s Cowboy Artist without cutting Con Price’s trail.

These two men were more than cowpuncher friends and associates in a ranch partnership. Charlie regarded Con as one of the greatest bronco riders of his time, and Con considers Charlie the finest kind of friend a man could have had.

It was a long time before Con would talk much about his close friendship with Charlie Russell—a friendship that started on the range before either was married, and lasted until Charlie crossed the Big Divide in 1926. After some urging Con has, over a period of years, written something of his early days in Old Montana, with a few, too few, references to his friend Russell.

My own knowledge of Russell has been immeasurably enriched through knowing Con Price, but more important is our own friendship, which I treasure even more.

July 23, 1945
Trail’s End, Michillinda,
Pasadena, California.

The Lazy KY

EARLIEST MEMORIES (1869 to 1878)

I was born in the year 1869 in Manchester, Iowa. My father served in the Civil War and during that service contracted consumption and was discharged from the army and came home a very sick man, without any provisions being made to take care of him—only through the efforts of my mother, who didn’t have a dollar, only what she made working for wages which was very small at that time.

There was four children—the oldest eight, the youngest two. So with my father’s sickness and us hungry kids to feed, she must have had hard going. I think my father was home about a year when he died. How she provided for the burial, I do not know, as there was no charitable organizations or county help those days.

I remember after the funeral my mother called in a Catholic priest to consult him about what to do with us kids. They finally decided that the priest would find homes for us by having some wealthy families adopt us, which he did.

I was placed with a family by name of Calligan, near a town named Manson, Iowa. As I remember the contract, those people were to give me an education and when I was twenty-one years old, they were to give me a horse and saddle and $500.00.

But after a few years my mother married again and she and her husband decided they wanted us children back. All the parties that had the other children gave them up, but the people I was with contested my mother’s rights, and they had a law suit about who would have possession of me. My mother won out, which broke my heart, as I was very much attached to my adopted parents. And another thing, as I see the picture now, my stepfather didn’t have intelligence enough to raise a pig, let alone a child, and I didn’t like him.

So there was a mutual dislike between him and me right from the time they got me home. The first thing he put me doing was herding cattle out on the prairie. And almost every night I got a whipping or a scolding and I was always thinking about my adopted home. I think I was about nine years old at that time and he gave me a pretty good horse to ride to herd those cattle. So one day I conceived the idea of stealing this horse and run away and go back to my other home, which was about 100 miles. Of course, when I came up missing they didn’t know what happened and they went to all the neighbors looking for me before they got the idea that I had run away, which gave me quite a start.

It took me about three days to make the trip. I stayed over night with ranchers and I remember they asked me, what I thought at that time, some queer questions—where I came from and where I was going, and so forth. But I mixed up a story that I was going on a visit, which I guess seemed strange to them—a boy about nine years old going that far with a good horse but no saddle. I was riding bareback. Anyway I made the trip. But about three miles from my adopted home, I turned the horse loose and walked—and as there was no fences to stop him, in the course of a few days he drifted back home.

My adopted father and mother were tickled to death to see me. They were an old couple and had become very fond of me. So they cached me around in different places for several days until they decided my stepfather was not going to bother about me—and I thought I was settled down in my old home again. And they used to send me after the milk cows in the evening when I came home from school.

They gave me a little mare to ride. She must have been a race horse, for she could sure run. I rode her without a saddle and I was still on the look-out for someone to come after me.

Now my stepfather had a mare that was very fast, but he sometimes worked her in harness. Well, one evening I went after the cows—I think about two miles—and had just started towards home, when I saw a team and wagon coming pretty fast towards me right across the country and not on a road. I soon recognized my stepfather and my mother in the wagon. They were between me and my home, and I had a rather narrow place to go by them—(a fence on one side and a creek on the other ... I think about fifty yards space) and it looked like I was in a tough spot, as I had to go right past them. I had to go about a quarter of a mile to be opposite them. When I started towards them, my stepfather sensed what I was going to do. He jumped out of the wagon and started to unharness his fast horse. He was pretty quick and about the time I got to where he was, he had mounted and hollered at me to stop—but I was in high and I fairly flew past him. I looked back at him once and he was whipping that old horse and getting all the speed he could. But he might as well be standing still as far as his chances were of catching me. I had to go through some timber before I got to the house, so he couldn’t see which way I went.

I give the alarm and the old lady told me to run into the corn field and hide. My stepfather came to the house and made all kinds of threats but he didn’t find me. My folks went back home and everything seemed all right again for about two weeks. I thought they were going to let me stay where I was.

But one morning I was taking the cattle out to graze and had got off of my horse and was trying to drive a cow out of the brush. When I looked around there were two men close to me in a buggy. I didn’t wait a second but started to run. One of them jumped out of the buggy. I thought he was the largest man I ever saw—must have weighed 250 pounds. He hollered at me to stop, which only scared me worse and away I went and that big fellow after me.

The country around there was very brushy and rough. I tore into that brush like a rabbit and run until I fell down and I just laid still, hoping he wouldn’t find me. I heard him go by me. I think he missed me about three feet and went on by. He must have been gone about an hour—I heard him coming back and he walked right up to where I was lying. He said, “I am the sheriff. Get up. I want you.” Boy, was I scared! He put one handcuff on my wrist and led me back to the buggy. My stepfather had sent him after me.

I have never had any handcuffs on since but I sure suffered agony that day. They had to drive about 15 miles to the railroad to get a train to take me back home and I begged the sheriff to take the handcuffs off, as the thoughts of them scared me to death. The sheriff was a kindly man and I know he felt sorry for me and was going to take them off—but I heard the driver tell him, “That kid is going to give you the slip if you turn him loose and we never will catch him again, and he sure can run like hell.” It was a livery stable team and driver that the sheriff had hired to go after me, and I guess they didn’t want to waste anymore time chasing me. But the sheriff did take the cuffs off when we got to town and took me to dinner and treated me fine, but told me if I tried to run away he would put me in jail. That cooked me ... I stayed close to him all day so he wouldn’t think I was trying to get away.

When I landed back home I had quite a score to settle with my folks for running away. They kept me under pretty close guard for awhile but finally put me back to herding cattle—but they did not give me a horse to ride anymore. I had to walk, as my stepfather knew there was less chance of me running away if I had to walk.

My mother tried to make peace between the old man and myself but never made much headway, as we both hated each other. He was a comical-looking little Irishman—I was quite a mimic and was always making fun of him behind his back to the other kids. One day he caught me at it and it sure made him mad and he gave me a good beating, which didn’t help my feelings towards him. So I used to job him every chance I got and I guess I made life about as miserable for him as he did for me.


In 1879 my folks came across the plains from Fort Pierre to the Black Hills and the first town we came to, of any size, was Scooptown and from there to Deadwood was mostly mountains and several toll gates. It cost a dollar to go through those places—that meant the people that kept those gates kept the road repaired so it would be passable—but those roads were sure tough. I remember when we drove our team up the street of Deadwood the mud was about two feet deep and we could hardly get through, as Deadwood was one street about a mile long in a deep canyon. It was laid out in three sections: first Elizabeth Town, Chinatown and then Deadwood proper. We camped in Elizabeth Town for several weeks—lived in a tent.

It was a great sight at that time around the old Gem Theatre, which was a big dance hall and gambling house. There was no law prohibiting minors from going into those places and I sure got an eyeful! The first unusual sight I remember was seeing a woman with a black and swollen eye. And in most of those dives there were women dealing faro bank and poker—and I was fascinated with the names they went by. There was Big Gussie, who was Bed Rock Tom’s common-law wife. She was considered a very capable gambler and would take and pay all bets as cool and calm as a bank teller—and just as accurate.

I used to admire those old characters. There was Colorado Johnny, Tom Allen, Deaf Jimmie and several others ... I have forgotten their names. Those men were all faro dealers—and wore long whiskers ... and the barbers sure got well paid to keep those whiskers in perfect style—and the fine clothes and jewelry they wore must have cost a small fortune.

As I remember there was 28 legitimate faro banks in town about that time, besides several questionable ones. Those games had a limit in the amount you could bet on the turn of a card, which was usually $12.50 and $25.00, but one or two houses had $125.00 and $250.00 limit—that means you can only bet the low limit where there is only one card left in the deck to act. You can bet it to win or lose. Most everybody played faro them days—but I believe the Chinaman was the greatest gambler of them all. About 11 o’clock at night was their favorite time to start out to gamble. They would put on their best clothes—which was the very finest of goods them days—white socks, silk top shoes, and they would leave Chinatown for the white man’s game. I have seen 25 of them, dressed this way, one behind the other heading for the faro game—and they sounded like a bunch of geese honking to each other in their talk. They liked to all get around one gambling table and if one of them seemed to be lucky, the rest of them would follow him with their bets. In fact, it seemed to be a kind of a system they had—and often they would win several thousand dollars in a night.

While we were living in Deadwood, there was an old man kept a little grocery store close to where we were camped, and an old Irish woman kept a boarding house nearby. It was hard to get white sugar most of the time, and the people had to use brown sugar, which came in barrels, and when the weather was damp and rainy that sugar seemed to draw moisture and got quite heavy. And each time the old lady got sugar she accused the old man of putting water in it to make it weigh more. One morning he saw her coming. He got a bucket of water and was standing by the barrel when she walked in. She ran up to him and stuck her first in his face and said, “I caught you at last—I always knew you were watering that sugar!” She didn’t make much fuss about it afterwards. She seemed pleased to know she had caught him and that her suspicions had proved to be right.

After a few months in Deadwood my folks moved to the little town of Galena, where Colonel Davey owned the Sitting Bull mine, and my folks started a store and boarding house and I went to school for a short time. There was two Irishmen run a store there by the name of McQuillian and Finnegan. They also had a cow ranch about 75 miles east of Galena. Finnegan run the ranch, McQuillian run the store. Finnegan used to come to Galena sometimes on horseback. His saddle, chaps and outfit was something wonderful to me—and his stories of the range made me feel I wanted to be a cowboy. I asked him for a job and he laughed at me, told me I was too young. Also my folks wanted me to go to school.

But the spirit of the wild country had got in my blood and one day I run away from school and started for the Finnegan Ranch, caught a ride when I could and walked part of the way, but finally got there, and told Finnegan I was going to stay. So he gave me a job close herding some cows for breeding purposes. The first thing he learned me was to read his brand which was “F M.” There was thousands of brands on the range those days, and I was supposed to keep all other brands of cattle out of his bunch.

The old man had several cowboys working for him, but he was chief cook, bottle washer and boss. He used to tell me he was the best cowboy of them all. But the fact of the matter was he couldn’t do much of anything in the way of a cowboy, and the men used to make fun of him behind his back. But I learned pretty quick that he liked to be swelled about what he could do and I sure poured it to him, and he liked me fine. He used to tell me what a fine cook he was—his cooking was rotten and consisted of bacon and beans and sourdough bread. I remember he had an old knotty pine log in front of the cabin, and I don’t think he ever started to cook a meal that he didn’t grab the axe and hit that old knotty pine log a few licks. He never got any wood off of it, but would try it every time, then throw the axe away, and hunt up some chips, or anything else he could find to start a fire. When he made bread, he had flour from his eyebrows to his toes.

In 1879 the country was sure wild. Deer, antelope, buffalo and bear were very plentiful; very few white people, but lots of Indians and some of them were still on the warpath in them days; also quite a sprinkling of road agents. I remember one old road agent named Laughing Sam. He was very polite in his holdups. He held up a freighter one time and all he had that Sam wanted was chewing tobacco. The freighter begged Sam to not take all his tobacco, as he could not get any more until he got to Sidney, Nebraska, which was about 200 miles, but Sam said he was sorry on account of the law he could not go to Sidney, so took all of the tobacco.

In those days everything was freighted from Fort Pierre, South Dakota, and Sidney, Nebraska, to the Black Hills by ox teams and mule teams. I have seen 27 ten-yoke teams of oxen all in one outfit. At the head of this caravan rode the wagon boss. He was quite a dandy in those days—fancy saddle, boots and pearl handle six-shooter. It was a great sight to see an outfit like that moving across the country; with those men shouting at their teams, whips popping and wagons rattling. It sounded like a young army in action.

The town of Deadwood was the terminal of all freight and stage outfits, and as there was very little law and order those days, it was sure a wild town. There was another town about 20 miles before you got to Deadwood. It was called Scooptown those days, but afterwards was changed to the more dignified name of Sturgis, which it still has today. I have seen that town at night full of bull whackers, mule skinners, cowboys and soldiers, and the dance halls going full blast—when I think back at it today, it seems like a dream.

I knew an old-time bull whacker. He went by the name of Baltimore Bill. He got into a gun fight one night in one of those dance halls. He got three fingers shot off, but killed the other fellow. He was arrested for murder and laid in jail for about a year pending his trial. He was finally acquitted on the grounds of self-defense. I worked with Bill afterwards and was well acquainted with him. He said he had a very narrow escape from hanging. He said when the “prosecutin’” attorney got through making his plea to the jury, he felt he (Bill) was the lowest human alive and deserved hanging, “but, oh boy, when my attorney got through with my defense, I was a damn good man!”

Fort Meade was located three miles from Scooptown and was occupied by colored soldiers, and a very noted nigger ran a dance hall and gambling house in Scooptown.

One night some of those negro soldiers were drinking in this house and got into a row with the proprietor, whose name was Abe Hill, and he hit one of them on the head with a bottle. A few nights after this, these soldiers stole some guns and ammunition out of the Fort and came in to shoot Abe Hill’s place up. There were about twenty of them, and they raided that old dance hall and in fact nearly all the town. There was a cowboy in Abe’s place that night. His name was Bob Bell and he didn’t know what all the noise was about. He stepped from the gambling part into the dance hall, thinking it was a little celebration and was shot four or five times. Poor Bob never knew what hit him.

I was in town that night, and when the shooting began I ran back off the main street, but bullets seemed to be hitting all around me. The first thing I came to that looked like protection was a wagon with a mule tied to it. I ducked under the wagon—but between the bullets hitting the wagon and that old mule bucking on the end of the halter, I put in a quarter of an hour very uncomfortable. But the mule and myself escaped unhurt.

Part of that regiment of negro soldiers were afterwards transferred to Wyoming to stop a war that broke out between the stock men and cattle rustlers, and they pulled off another job about like they did in Scooptown.

There was a little town established at the end of the Burlington Railroad on Powder River. It was named Sugs. The town consisted mostly of saloons and the sporting element. Those negro soldiers got into some difficulty with some of the citizens of the town and decided to have revenge. They were camped a little ways outside of Sugs in tents. So one night they stole some ammunition and guns like they had done before at Scooptown, and started in to town to shoot it up.

It was quite a dark night and the only lights the town had was coal oil lamps. The town had about 500 population and one street. Those soldiers lined up at the end of the street and started shooting at every building, tent, or any form they saw, and everybody that could run for cover—in half finished cellars, out houses or any hole they could get into.

There was an old man there—(he was a Jew)—who had started a little hardware store, and had a few dish pans hung on the wall of his tent store, and about the first bullet that hit anything of consequence was those dish pans. They were hung one on top of another, and the bullet went through all of them. And while everyone was running for cover the Jew saw his pans wrecked. He stopped right there and said, “Oh my God, look at what they have done to my hardware.”

Now there was two cattle rustlers came to town that night, making their get-away, headed north, and had put their horses away, and got a room in the only hotel in town, which was at the opposite end from where the soldiers entered. Those men had gone to bed and when they heard the shooting they thought it was a posse after them, and as they didn’t have time to get to their horses, they decided to put up a fight. They both had Winchesters. They put all their bullets in their hats, came out of the hotel, and laid down in the middle of the street, and when they saw this body of soldiers moving their way shooting everywhere, they opened fire on them. I believe they killed three of those negro soldiers and wounded several more. It became so hot for the soldiers they broke and run. Meantime the officer at the Post had heard of the trouble, ordered out his whole force, and came riding into town and demanded law and order. It was quite a while before the officer could be made to understand his own men had caused all the excitement, as he did not know they had stolen away.


In the year of 1885 I got my first job as a real cowboy. I went to work for the “7D” outfit on the Belle Fouche River in the Black Hills night herding horses on the roundup. There was twenty outfits working together and there was about 300 riders—that was more cowboys than I ever saw hi one bunch before, or since. Also there was more grass and water that spring than I ever saw since that time and the range was open for a thousand miles in every direction and the country was just alive with cattle and it was not unusual to work and handle 5,000 cattle in one day.

Each outfit had from 150 to 200 saddle horses and from 15 to 30 cowboys. Each outfit had a grub-wagon and a bedwagon, four horses to each wagon. Each outfit had a day horse wrangler and a night wrangler and a cook. When we moved camp, the night wrangler drove the bedwagon to haul the cowboys’ beds. We didn’t have any stoves or tents those days. The cook’s outfit consisted of Dutch ovens, iron pots and coffee pot and boy, what a meal them old cooks could set up!

In the spring of 1886 I helped to gather and take a herd of cattle from the Black Hills to Miles City, Montana. The cattle belonged to a Jew by the name of Strauss and he owned the “54” Ranch on a creek named Mizpah—I don’t know where that creek got its name, but it must mean alkali, for the water there would take the skin off your lips and was equal to any dose of Epsom salts that anyone ever took.

Mr. Strauss lived in Milwaukee and had been on the ranch about a week when we arrived, and the weather was very warm and he drank plenty of that water. So one day about noon he told his foreman there was something seriously wrong with him and he had to go to Milwaukee at once. He had black whiskers and I think that water was so bad it even had an effect on his whiskers. He looked so bad he scared me.

So I told the boss I would quit and went with them to the railroad—they had to go to Miles City for the Jew to get a train to Milwaukee. So I went with them, which was about 50 miles. We made a night drive in a buckboard.

There was a road ranch about half way and the old man kept telling the foreman when we got there he would be O.K. as the lady who owned the place served nice cold milk and that was what his stomach was craving. We got there about midnight and woke the people up to get some milk for the old man. The lady sent her boy down cellar for the milk. There was a skunk in the cellar. He killed the skunk and brought the milk up to the dining room. When that old man took one swallow of that milk he stopped and his eyes set in his head. I thought he had a stroke.

He said, “Lady, I believe the animal has been in the milk.”

We got to Miles City the next day and I never saw the old man again but hope he found some milk that was not tainted with the perfume of the skunk.

I remember my first experience as a bullwhacker—that was what they named a driver the days when they hauled freight with cattle and mule teams.

When I quit the “54” outfit and went to Miles City, I proceeded to counteract that bad water on Mizpah Creek with Miles City whiskey and the results were so pleasant I stayed until I was broke and sold my saddle, and when I could not get anymore of Miles City joy juice I got in a box car one night on a train going West and landed at Ouster Junction on the Yellowstone River in Montana—that was where freight was unloaded and hauled to Fort Custer and some parts in Wyoming.

The first outfit I found was loading for Wyoming and was owned by a man by the name of Bill Marsh. He had two teams (10-yoke of Texas steers to the team) and was loaded with whiskey—I have forgotten how many barrels but they usually hauled 9,000 pounds to the team. I asked Marsh if he wanted a man. He asked me if I was a bullwhacker. I told him yes, and he hired me.

Now I never had put a yoke on a steer in my life, or drove one, but I wanted a job, so he showed me the right-hand leader, which is the first steer to be yoked. Now the way to yoke a steer is to put the yoke on your shoulder and walk up to him. The cattle were used to that way, but I took the yoke in my arms, and walked up to the steer. He took one look at me, jumped up in the air, kicked me in the stomach, knocked me down with the yoke on top of me and run off. The boss was looking at the performance and said he better help me hitch up.

We rolled about 10 miles that day and my team just simply followed the boss’ team and done about as they pleased. They certainly knew I was a tenderfoot as a bullwhacker.

That night I was pretty badly discouraged when we camped and I told the boss the truth that I had never drove oxen before but I was broke and had to have work. He said I need not tell him anything as he knew when I tried to yoke that first steer that I was not a bullwhacker.

It has always been a mystery to me about those steers—how well they knew me—after about a week on the trail they wouldn’t pull your hat off for me. I know the boss would have fired me but we were crossing the Crow Indian Reservation and we didn’t see a white man for a hundred and fifty miles, so he had to put up with me. At that I don’t think he suffered anymore than I did, because my team done just about as they pleased most of the time.

I recall one day we were pulling what they called the Lodge Grass Hill on the Little Horn River and it was very steep and scarcely any road at all. The boss and his team had pulled the hill and got over the top out of sight of me. My team stopped on the hill and refused to start. I will never forget my near wheeler—I was whipping and hollering at the rest of the cattle trying to start the load—I happened to look at him. He had the yoke up on his horns and his eyes bulged out like he was pulling his best, but the fact of the matter was he was holding back. It looked like he was just fooling me. Finally the boss came back to see what was the matter. I told him I was stuck and the cattle couldn’t pull the load.

Now Bill was a real bullwhacker and those steers knew it. He give one yell at those cattle and the three wagons began to move; in fact they went so fast I could hardly keep up with them and it looked like that old steer that had been fooling me pulled half the load himself.

We used whips, with the lash about 20 feet long and the handle about 5 feet. Those old bullwhackers could pick a fly off any steer anywhere in the team, and when they hit a steer it sounded like a six-shooter had went off—that was something I never learned. They could hit a steer with their whips and make a loud noise and not cut him. Every time I hit one I cut his hide. The boss used to give me hell about that but I would have used an axe if I had one when I got stuck.

When we had been on the road several days we lost a work steer and it broke up my team.

While the boss was out on the range looking for the steer, a young buck Indian came into camp, riding a pretty good-looking horse. He could talk a little English and I could talk some Indian. I made him understand we had lost a steer and asked him if he would go and look for it. But he wanted money and I didn’t have any ... but we had six wagon loads of whiskey and I knew Indians liked whiskey. They called it fire water—Minnie Kavea. The people we were hauling it for allowed us to drink what we wanted, the only proviso was not to put any water in the barrel after we drew the whiskey out, so I asked the Indian if he would hunt for the steer if I gave him a drink. His face immediately became all smiles and he made signs if I would give him a big drink that it would be a bargain.

I went to the grub box, got a pint tin cup and filled it for him. He drank it like water. He made signs that I was his brother and he loved me and he would find the steer right away.

I think he was gone about half an hour when he came back. His eyes were glassy and he was slobbering at the mouth but very happy. He said. “Me no see cow.” He made me understand the fire water was very fine and wanted some more. I gave him another cupful.

He started away singing, to hunt the steer again. He was riding bareback and was leaning pretty much to one side. He went about 50 yards and fell off. When he hit the ground, he completely passed out.

About that time the boss got into camp with the lost steer. When he found out what I had done he said, “My God, kid, you will have us both in the pen for giving whiskey to Indians. Yoke up your cattle quick and we will get out of here.” We left him lay where he was. I’ll bet he was a sick Indian when he woke up.

The boss sure was mad about it at the time, but had a big laugh over it afterwards.

We were six weeks making that trip, and I was a fairly good freighter by that time, but it wasn’t a very good job for a cowboy, as I had to walk too much.


In the spring of 1887 I went to work for the “RL” outfit located on the Musselshell River in Montana. The outfit belonged to the Ryan Brothers of Kansas City. They run about 25,000 head of cattle, and run three wagons and worked about 20 men to each wagon, and had about 500 head of saddle horses.

That year they had a contract with the government to supply the Sioux Indians with 5,000 beef cattle. We gathered the first herd of 2,500 and trailed them to landing Rock Agency on the Missouri River in North Dakota. We were about four months on the trail and I don’t remember of seeing one wire fence or farming ranch on the trip.

We swam those cattle across the Yellowstone River east of Miles City. We were four days trying to get those cattle across. It was in the month of June and at the time of high water—the river was bank full and at least a quarter of a mile wide. We tried every way anybody had ever heard of to get those cattle to take that water. We would bring them to the river every day and fight them all day, but it was no go. We would then drive them back from the river and night herd them and try again the next day. Finally we decided to hold them off water for twenty-four hours, and then drove them all into the river at once. It worked. It was sure some sight, the 2,500 head all swimming at once.

We had a wonderful trip after that. We only moved them about eight or ten miles a day and with plenty grass and water they got very fat. It was the custom them days to butcher a calf on anybody’s range, so we had plenty good meat.

When we arrived at the end of our journey, we had to herd those cattle for about three months, as we only delivered 250 head a week. We held them about twenty miles from the Agency, and each week we cut out the fattest ones and took them to the Agency. After we had been there about a week all the cowboys quit and went back to Montana, which only left the boss, the cook and myself with 2,500 cattle to hold, and as there was no white men in that part of the country, the boss had to hire some Indians to help hold the cattle. Those Indians could not understand one word of English and we couldn’t talk much Indian, so we were in a pretty bad fix.

Our horses didn’t like the smell of the Indian, and they persisted in getting on on the right-hand side, and, of course, our horses objected to that. They all wore moccasins and they would put their foot so far through the stirrup when a horse got scared when they were getting on and they would fall down and their foot would hang in the stirrup, so the boss and myself put in most of our time catching loose horses.

One day a steamboat came up the Missouri River and it blowed the whistle. Now those cattle had never heard a steamboat whistle before. They were scattered over an area of about four miles feeding. It sure scared them. They first run together all in one bunch, and we might have checked them but those Indians got excited and scared them worse than ever. One Indian was running his horse pretty close to the lead of the cattle and giving war whoops, and his horse fell down and throwed him right in among the cattle. I sure thought he was killed and hoped he was, but he never got a scratch. After we got the cattle stopped, he made signs that he enjoyed it very much, as it reminded him of hunting buffalo.

All cattlemen know that cattle do not get over a scare like that very soon, and those were all longhorned Texas steers and would scare of their own shadow, and when one jumped they all went. So that night when we put them on the bed-ground, the boss wouldn’t put the Indians on night guard as he knew they would scare them for sure. So he put me on first guard, and he brought his bed and night horse out to the herd so he would be close if anything happened. He staked his horse and went to bed.

I was riding around the herd and they all seemed to be settled down fine, when all at once, quick as you could snap your finger, they were all running. It was very dark and it sounded like thunder when that herd stampeded. I was badly scared and I tried to stay in the lead of them as much as I could, but they would swing first one way and then another. I think they run about three miles, when something came out of the herd right longside of me. I knew it wasn’t a steer. It made a different noise from anything else that I had heard. I thought it was a ghost, and I pretty near fainted. It was the boss’ horse dragging the stake rope and the stirrups and saddle a-popping that scared the cattle and me, too. The horse had pulled his stake pin and stampeded the herd. After this ghost had disappeared, I got the cattle stopped but I still didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know where I was or where camp was, so I tried to sing and talk to the cattle and wait for help. Some of them began to bawl and I knew that was a good sign, as cattle will not scare so bad when some of them are bawling. In about an hour I heard the boss whistling and coming my way. He had walked to camp and got another horse, and come hunting me. He stayed the rest of the night with me. Luckily we had not lost any of them, as they all stayed together, but there was a lot of broken horns and lame cattle, as they had piled up several times in the run.

For several days those cattle were very nervous and we had considerable trouble watering them. A steer would see a little rock or a piece of grass that didn’t look just right—he would jump and away they would all go.

After about a month the other herd came and we had more cowboys. We were all right then as we had plenty of help, and began delivering beef to the Indians.

I remember one delivery we made, the boss sent me with a pack outfit and my orders were to camp about halfway of the twenty miles we had to go and make coffee for the cowboys that were bringing the cattle. It was raining that day, and as we were on the Indian reservation there was very little wood to build a fire with, so when I got to the place I was to camp everything was wet and nothing to make a fire with. I saw a pine box about two feet long in a cottonwood tree. I got it down and broke it up and inside of it were a few dried bones and a few pieces of red flannel. It was an Indian papoose grave—that was the way they buried their dead. I dumped the bones out and made a fire out of the box.

Old man Ryan, one of the owners of the cattle, was with us that day, and came ahead of the cattle to get some coffee. When he seen I had coffee made, he was very pleased, and told me I was a great boy. But when he went to pour out his coffee, he spied those bones. He asked me what they were, and when I told him he nearly fainted, and would not touch the coffee. But it didn’t affect those hungry cowboys when they got there; they told me I was wonderful, but the old gentleman said I was simply terrible. The old man was a very devout Catholic and said I would surely go to Hell when I died.

We would put those cattle in the government corral and an army officer would just look them over and accept them. They didn’t weigh them, but bought them so much a head.

After the inspector passed on them, they would call five or six Indians with their rifles. They would get up on the corral fence and shoot every one of them before they touched one. Then the army officer would take so many Indian families to each steer and let them divide it up. There was three tribes there, with a chief at the head of each tribe. I don’t know how many Indians was in each tribe but it looked like about 3,000 Indians—all Siouxs.

In about two hours there wouldn’t even be a tail of a steer left. Each family took their portion and went to their different camp grounds.

Those three chiefs’ names were Sitting Bull, Rain in the Face, and Gall—the latter two looked like old seasoned warriors, both had been wounded in battle several times. Sitting Bull was a younger man and looked like he had some white blood in his veins.

The old time Indians claimed Sitting Bull was not the great warrior that he got credit for and that he did not plan the massacre of General Custer and that Rain in the Face was the great man in that battle.

Every time those steers were shot down in the corral, before any beef was divided, Rain in the Face made a speech—I don’t know what it was about, but the roar of applause was terrific.

That fall when we got the beef all delivered, we took the saddle horses to Mandan, North Dakota, on the Northern Pacific Railroad and shipped them back to Montana.

The cowboys went by passenger train. Those cowboys had been on the Indian reservation all summer and could not get any refreshments, and as they had all their wages they made Mandan a lively town for a Hay and a night. There was about twenty of them, and it was some job getting them cowboys loaded on that train, and after we got started it took the train crew all their time to keep them straight.

Them days they heated the chair cars with a coal heating stove. One old cowboy got a raw steak out of the diner, and before the conductor knew it he was cooking it on top of the stove and the car was full of smoke. The conductor took it away from him and throwed it out of the car and gave the old man hell. The old man was very mad and told the conductor he didn’t know nothing, as that was the proper way to cook a steak.

Another fellow bought a suit of clothes in Mandan and decided to change clothes in the parlor car. He got into quite a dispute with the train crew, but finally got his new suit on. He said they were too damn particular about riding on trains.

We were all at the RL ranch one afternoon ready to start on the spring roundup next morning. We saw a rider coming very fast. When he rode in we all knew him. His name was George Shepord. His horse was all sweat and about winded.

Someone said, “Hello, George. What is the matter?” He set on his horse and didn’t say anything for about a minute—then he said, “I killed John Matt about two hours ago.”

John run a saloon at what was known at that time as Musselshell Crossing, a stage station.

George’s story was that him and Matt were playing poker single-handed that day and got into a dispute over a pot. George said Matt tried to steal a twenty dollar gold piece out of the pot. They got in an argument over it. They both had guns (all cowboys wore guns those days)—Matt reached for his gun but George beat him to it and killed him right there at the poker table.

George got on his horse and came to where we were and the boss notified the Sheriff. The boss knew George very well and liked him very much, so he took George to a big patch of brush down the river and hid him out until things got cleared up and the boss detailed one of the cowboys to carry food to him.

George was very desperate at first and would not agree to give himself up—so the sign agreed on between George and the other boy was that the cowboy was to whistle When he came near the brush patch. This boy told me afterwards he would begin whistling a mile before he got to the brush patch, and when he got there he would be so damn nervous he couldn’t whistle at all.

Finally the boss got George to give himself up and the fact that no one saw the shooting and George’s testimony was all there was, he got clear on the grounds of self-defense.

It’s a strange coincidence, but I worked with another fellow that killed a man the year before in Gold Butte, Montana, and he and George worked together for the RL outfit. His name was Frank McPartland—and they were both the quietest and mild-mannered men in the outfit. So as the old saying goes: “You can’t tell how far the frog can jump by looking at him.”

Frank and his partner were wintering in a cabin in Gold Butte and got into a fight over a gallon of whiskey they had—anyway that was what started the fight. Gold Butte was about two days’ ride to Fort Benton, which was the county seat and the nearest place to get in touch with an officer.

Frank stayed with the corpse and sent a neighbor after the sheriff and coroner. When they arrived they had to stay all night in the cabin and when it came time to go to bed there were only two bunks. Frank gave one to the sheriff and coroner. They asked him where he was going to sleep. He said with his partner. He said, “I slept with him when he was alive—I don’t see why I shouldn’t now.”

Frank was in jail for about a year and as Gold Butte was at that time an Indian reservation, he had to be tried in the Federal Court which was at Fort Keogh near Miles City.

He got free, too, from the fact nobody saw the killing but him.

When I worked for the RL outfit, we used to work along the Yellowstone River. There was one place where there was quite a little settlement of farmers. The place was known as Pease Bottom. We always camped a couple of days right on the edge of the Bottom.

My memory of it is the whole female population of the Bottom was two girls, a widow and a married lady.

Always the day before we made this camp the cowboys shined their spurs and bridles and put on clean shirts (if they had one) as they knew all the lady folks would be at the roundup and boy, what a show those forty or fifty cowboys would put on for those four or five ladies. If a cowboy’s horse didn’t buck, he would make him buck. If no cattle broke out of the roundup, some fellow would cut one out and take it around and around in front of the ladies. Of course, the ladies applauded us all—and we didn’t know who was the favorite but, of course, each one thought in his own mind he was the best.

Every year when we camped and worked the country close to Pease Bottom it was understood by everybody that we would have a dance at night in some one of the farmers’ houses, as the people in this little valley really enjoyed those events just as much as we did.

Our cook played the banjo and a mouth harp, both of which he always carried with him. He had a kind of a frame fixed around his head so he could play them both at once. He only played two or three tunes, such as “Turkey-in-the-Straw,” “Hell Among the Yearlings” (which was a cowboy title) and maybe a waltz or two, but those pieces answered the purpose for all dances.

We danced mostly quadrilles, I remember, and one time some stranger happened to be at one of those dances and he asked the cook to play some dance tune that he never heard of and it came near to causing a riot, as that was one thing the cook prided himself on—that he knew and could play any tune that anyone asked for, regardless of how difficult. So he played “Buffalo Girls,” or some other old-timer. The fellow said that it was not the tune he asked for and it started a hot argument right now. We all said the cook was right and the stranger didn’t know what he was talking about. Of course, we didn’t know anything about music, but we did know we had to stand by the cook, as he was the only musician we had. He wouldn’t stand for any criticism of his music and would quit playing and break up the dance.

In those days the foreman of an outfit wore better clothes and rode a better rig than the average cowboy and really was in a class by himself, so when we went to those dances he was usually more popular than the regular cowboy, and was often shown favors among the girls. In fact, we would have to take another fellow for a partner instead of a girl sometimes—the ladies was so scarce.

I recall what seems to me to be very amusing now. There was a school teacher at one of those Pease Bottom dances and she was a great favorite with everybody and every cowboy tried to pick her for a partner, if possible. The floor manager had called a dance with “Ladies’ Choice.” I heard that call and figured I was out for that dance—and took a big chew of tobacco—when to my surprise this little lady stepped up to me and asked me for that dance. Now I had no chance to get rid of that chew and rather than let this little queen know I chewed tobacco or lose that dance, I swallowed the whole works, tobacco juice and all.

It is hard to imagine the high regard and respect we had for those good women of that day, as we saw so few of them—and as I know good women appreciate those things, I believe they liked us and valued our friendship. Why I have known some old hard-faced cowpuncher that had a grouch about something and when one of those women would give him some little attention his face would soften up until you couldn’t tell it from the face of the Virgin Mary.


For a good many years there was a section of the country along the Canadian border and the Milk River that the cattlemen thought was no good for cattle—but in the late eighties and early nineties they discovered that it was a much better cattle country than the Missouri and Yellowstone country as it produced a buffalo-grass that I think had no equal for fattening cattle. It was a short grass, but had plenty of fattening qualities, especially in the Sweet Grass Hills area. I have seen steers so fat we could hardly drive them into the roundups.

So nearly all the Judith Basin and Moccasin outfits moved into that country. They had to swim all their herds across the Missouri River and it was between a quarter and a half mile wide and swimming water from bank to bank.

Most of the herds were crossed at a place called Judith Landing, an old steamboat landing in the early days. It was afterwards named Claggot.

There was a man by the name of Bill Norris who had a store and saloon there, and for a few years, while these herds were crossing, he reaped a rich harvest off the cowboys. Charlie Russell helped swim some of those herds and he told me he believed Bill made his own whiskey and must have made it especially for swimming cattle, as when a cowboy got about three drinks of that whiskey the Missouri River looked like a very small creek. It made him plenty brave. There must have been some truth in what Charlie said, as I cannot recall where one cowboy was drowned.

I went over to that country about the spring of 1890 and went to work for the TL outfit, which belonged to McNamar and Broadwater. They had a ranch in the Bear Paw Mountains.

When I went to the ranch and asked for work, the boss said it was too early in the spring to hire any men as the roundup wouldn’t start for a long time, but would hire a bronc rider if he could get a good one. Now I had rode broncs and rough strings (which is spoiled horses) for several years and had no fear of any horse and had a good opinion of myself. So I told him I was sure a bronc rider. Now I had wintered pretty hard that winter as I had lived in town and had sold everything I had in the way of a good rig and looked pretty seedy. They had four or five steady men on the ranch. I didn’t know any of them, and as I didn’t have any boots, only a cheap pair of shoes, one spur and an old rattle-trap saddle, they didn’t think I looked like a bronc fighter. Anyway the boss took a chance and hired me.

The next day he had the men run in the saddle bunch to pick out some horses to ride to gather those colts I was to break that ranged down in the Badlands. He looked the bunch over quite a while, as he said he wanted to find a good strong horse for me. He finally found him. I remember his name yet—it was “Humpy,” a very pretty horse. He said, “This fellow might hump up a little but that is all. He is a good horse.”

I told him I didn’t mind that; in fact I was in hopes he would do something, as I had an idea they didn’t rate me very high. Anyway I mounted Humpy—and about that time they turned the loose horses out of the corral. Humpy wanted to go with them. I gave him a pull and down went his head. I hit him with my hat and took a rake at him with that one spur. The next thing I knew I was on the ground about ten feet in front of him, but I held to my hackamore rope. He didn’t get away from me.

When I got up and looked around everything was as silent as a graveyard. Those men and the boss were sitting on their horses looking at each other with a grin on their faces, that I couldn’t tell whether it was pity or disgust and, of course, I had no alibi. I got back on Humpy and took another rake at him and he galloped off as nice as you please.

We had about two miles to ride to the house. Nobody said anything, only the boss. He said he was afraid some of them colts would buck harder than Humpy did. I didn’t answer him.

But before we got ready to gather those colts, somebody brought a horse to the ranch that the outfit had sold to a livery stable in Big Sandy for a buggy horse. I found out afterwards that the reason was nobody could ride him. He had a wide reputation and was known as S.Y. (from his brand) all over the country. The weather being bad when they sold him on trial to the livery stable they didn’t hitch him up for about a month and had fed him grain all that time. So when they did try him out he kicked the buggy all to pieces and ran away. So they sent him home, as they didn’t want him. He was a beautiful horse, weighed about 1150 and built like a greyhound, and I was itching to tie into S.Y., as I knew my standing was bad, and I asked the boss to let me try him out. He told me it would be useless, as one of the best riders in the state had given that horse up as a bad job. Then I kidded him and told him I didn’t think the horse could buck at all, was just a plow horse. Anyway I rode S.Y. and as I knew I had to make good, I scratched him everywhere I could reach him and, of course, I was made from then on. I never rode him again and I know I was lucky that day, as that horse had throwed better riders than I ever was.

I broke about thirty head of colts for the outfit before I quit the job.

When I was young I never stayed anywhere very long. If I didn’t get fired, I would quit and in the winter time I liked to live in town, so when spring came and time to go to work, I was always broke. No saddle, no boots, no nothing. If possible I would hunt Charlie Russell up for help. I used to think up a pretty good hard luck tale to tell him. But before I got started he would laugh and say, “What do you need now?” Charlie didn’t always have money either, but had good credit and could always get anything he wanted. Indians, cowboys, gamblers, everybody borrowed off Charlie and I don’t know if they all paid him back or not—if they didn’t Charlie would never tell it to anyone.

I have often wondered if horses go crazy like humans. The reason I say this is that while I was breaking horses for the TL outfit, they had a fine imported stallion—paid three thousand dollars for him. They had an old man taking care of him. His name was Cayouse George. He knew stallions thoroughly, had done that kind of work for several years. This horse had always been gentle as a lamb. He had him in a box stall loose. He used to go in there and feed and curry him and lead him to water. One day two men were stacking hay outside the barn, when they heard a terrible racket inside. They ran in there and the horse had George by the side with his teeth and was throwing him up and down, trying to get him under his feet. One of the boys hit him on the head with a club and they dragged George outside. Meantime that horse roared like a lion.

They sent George to town to be doctored.

The next morning the boss told me to water the stallion. He said, “Just take his bridle to the box stall. Hold it up. He will take the bit and lead him to water.” I did as he told me, but I had a forty-five Colt in my bed. I went and got that first, filled it full of bullets and cocked it. I held the bridle up for the stallion to take with one hand and held the gun with the other, and kept that position until he was watered and back in the stall.

A few mornings later the boss came out when I was watering him. He looked me and the stud over and told me I needn’t water him anymore, which pleased me very much. I believe if he had even winked at me I would have killed him, as I was deathly afraid of him. They carried water to him for a while, then hitched him in a four horse team and started to town. He died on the way—being soft, they overworked him.


A few years after the big outfits moved their herds to the Milk River country, cattle got very thick along the Canadian line and as there was no fences anywhere the cattle would naturally drift into Canada and they could go hundreds of miles without anything to stop them on the finest kind of grass, which was fine for the Montana cattlemen.

But there were some Canadian cow ranches started (mostly Americans) and a contention started about so many American cattle coming into Canada without duty being paid on them. So there was a kind of a gentleman’s agreement made between the Montana cattlemen and the police captain of the Alberta Division that the cattlemen would put line riders at all the police camps, which was twenty to forty miles apart, and keep all cattle out of Canada which, of course, was just a joke, as I was one of those line riders for two years.

My orders were to kill all the good beef the Mounties could eat and have them write a report that read something like the following: “American cowboy rode 15 miles in Western direction. No American cattle seen. Policeman Smith rode 15 miles in Eastern direction. No American cattle in sight.” Those reports went to Ottawa, Canadian headquarters twice a week.

I was always under the impression the Captain of the Alberta Division was getting his right hand greased by the cattlemen.

I recall an amusing thing that happened. A report leaked through to Ottawa that those reports were not all true, so the Canadian government sent a special army officer out there to investigate.

I was at Police Camp named Writing on Stone the evening he arrived with an escort on horseback. They had rode the trail from the railroad station and it being a cool evening and the cattle out grazing, he saw thousands of American cattle on his way.

The next day the old boy got all his regimental regalia with his escort and a tally man together and started out to make a tally and a report on those cattle. Now it turned out to be a very hot day and when he got on the ground, there wasn’t a cow to be seen, as the cattle had all drifted back into the big bend of the Milk River to water and as the Captain would be lost if he got a mile off the trail (and those cattle had went about 10 miles) he was stuck. On his way back to the railroad, he met my partner who was staying at another police camp. He said, “I say, Cowboy, where are all those cattle I saw last evening on this trail?” This fellow was a Texan and had quite a sense of humor. He said, “Damned if I know, Captain. I think they saw your hole card and all went back to Montana.” Of course the Captain didn’t understand that kind of language. But we didn’t hear anymore from him. I don’t know what report he made—but the cattle continued to graze on Canadian soil for several years afterwards.

It was pretty soft for those cattlemen of those days. Every year two or three big outfits would pool together and take thirty or forty men, a big band of saddle horses, chuck and bed wagons, and go to the Port of Entry on the Canadian line. There they would report that they were going into Canada to gather and take all American cattle out of Canada which, of course, sounded good to the Canadian government.

Now, what they would do was go into Canada and work for several weeks and roundup all the American cattle they could find and bring them out to Montana and report the same just like they did when they went in. They would take them about three or four miles across the line into Montana—several thousand head—then they would brand the calves, cut out the beef cattle that was fit to ship—and then turn the main herd loose right there and, of course, in a couple of days those cattle would all be back in Canada, and nothing to bother about for another year.

Of course, it didn’t do any harm to anyone as the grass was going to waste and somebody should get benefit out of it. The amusing part about it was that my job was to keep all American cattle from crossing the line and to have all or as many as possible to drift across. But the Mounted Police and I got along fine. I butchered the finest beef I could find and that was all they wanted or cared about and didn’t question how many American cattle came into Canada.

I sure had a lot of fun with those policemen. A great many of them came right out of the city of London, England, and knew nothing about the West or Western ways.

While I was there the Mounted Police force bought a bunch of horses from a big horse outfit for the police to ride to patrol the line. Those horses had been broke by cowboys that rode and handled horses much different from the regimental way and the policemen had a great deal of trouble with some of those horses. There was one horse brought to a police station on Milk River that they could not ride and in order to get rid of him there had to be made a very lengthy report. I read that report and it covered a whole sheet of paper. It went into details as to his disposition, how he had bucked off several policemen, giving the name of each man, and pictured the horse as a regular man-eater. At any rate it took about a month to get this horse condemned. Then they detailed an army officer and a policeman to go and bring this horse to army headquarters, which was 100 miles. They stayed over night at Writing on Stone where I was at that time. I tried to get the officer to give me five dollars to ride the horse. He said he could not do that but would like very much to see him rode. So I rode him. He was a very nice horse and as far as bucking, he didn’t jump two feet off the ground. A lady could have rode him.

I joked the officer about the horse and he said the main objection was no one could mount him in regimental way. My description of the regimental way of getting on would be to fall on, instead of getting on and, of course, the horse didn’t savvy that. I tried to buy the horse, but they couldn’t sell him until he had went through the form of being condemned, which was surely some red tape.

Charlie Russell spent one summer in Canada and told me a funny experience he had. There was an old retired army captain up in northern Canada who went into the cattle business and had occasion to swim a bunch of cattle across quite a large river. He tried for several days and in different ways to make those cattle cross the stream but couldn’t make it work.

So he built some blinds made out of green rawhide stretched on frames and put them on the river bank where the cattle were to cross and put a man behind each blind. So when the cowboys drove the cattle to the edge of the river and the captain got his position he gave the command, “Men behind rawhide—charge!” which they did. Now one can imagine those wild cattle when a lot of men charged in among them on foot. They stampeded and went to the hills and the captain had a hard time gathering them and getting them back to the river, and he immediately removed the blinds, as the cattle would not work the regimental way.

That is something I never found out about cattle—you may try for days to get cattle to take swimming water and use every means that you can think of and they will not go. Then some other day they will walk right into the water without any trouble.

Another thing in the old days a cowman weaned his calves. The range cow would wean it herself and when I was ranching in a small way I would wean the calves and keep them away from the cows for months, and some of them would go back to the mothers and when the cow would have a calf the next year she would leave the young calf and take up with the yearling. I have had cows that would nurse a steer sometimes until he was three years old and bigger than she was. My guess is that nobody knows these secrets but the cows themselves.

I believe cows has different ideas just like cowboys have. I worked for an outfit one time and the boss sent two of us out together to hunt some saddle horses we had lost on the roundup. We had a pack horse, bedding and grub.

I noticed the first day out this fellow was eating some little pills and he wouldn’t tell me what they were, and thinking of his disposition and the way he acted, I know now it was morphine.

Those horses we were hunting were supposed to be ranging on a big flat down on the Missouri River and we had to take one certain ridge to get in there. The ridge was about 15 miles long and if at any time we found out we were on the wrong ridge we had to come back and take another one. Now we were both uncertain about this ridge and I tried every way I knew to get his opinion on which ridge to take, as he was in a very bad mood just at that time. It was getting late in the evening. I was anxious to get to the river and make camp before dark. Anyway I had to choose the ridge, which proved to be the wrong one and we had to make camp in a very disagreeable place—no shelter—and we were pretty cold before morning. While we were making camp, I made the remark it was tough luck that we got on the wrong ridge. He said he knew damn well we were taking the wrong ridge, but it was none of his business, and he wasn’t going to say anything about it, so one can see he had a very lovable disposition.

We didn’t hold much conversation while we were getting supper and soon after I saw he was dividing the bedding, which was a very small amount, so I decided he did not want to sleep with me. So I took my cut and went to bed. He set by the fire. We had coffee enough to last about a week, but he made coffee and drank it all night, so when I got up we didn’t have any coffee for breakfast. I think those little pills gave out on him and he used the coffee as a substitute. Anyway he must have got kindhearted in the night sometime, as when I woke up in the morning he had throwed his blankets on me.

In a few days we found the horses we were looking for, and as our horses were tired, we decided to catch fresh horses out of the bunch we found to ride. We drove them up against a cut bank and roped two of them. One was a nice looking little fellow—the other one was a big, sleepy-looking guy. So I offered him his choice of the two horses. He thought the little horse looked kind of wild, so took the big fellow. However, when he went to saddle him he found him pretty bravo.

Anyway he got on him and the show started. This fellow had the longest nose I ever saw on a man. Some way in the bucking and mix-up, the saddle horn hit him on that big nose, but he rode him. I went to stop our loose horses and waited for him to catch up. When he came to where I was, the first thing I saw of him was that big nose—all blood and swelled up twice as big as it was before. I pretended not to see it and looked the other way, and asked him how he liked his horse.

He said, “How do I like him? Look at my nose!” and, of course, I had to look. Well, I nearly fell off my horse laughing, which I was ashamed of, but I couldn’t help it, as he was sure a funny sight and he being such a grouch made it more comical.

I nicknamed him “Curlew,” which is a bird with a long bill.

When we got back to the ranch the other boys all took up the name and called him Curlew. This lasted about a week and he was getting pretty sore. So one day he called us all together and said, “The next man that calls me ‘Curlew’ can shed his coat and get ready for battle. I am not going to stand for this name any longer.”

Now this fellow could sure fight and we all knew it, so he got nothing but silence—but we still called him Curlew behind his back.

One day there was a bunch of us riding—most of us was behind him. I whistled like a curlew. He stopped and turned around and looked us over. He didn’t know who had whistled, but he looked at me pretty vicious, so I was careful where I whistled after that.

When I lived with the Northwest Mounted Police, working for the Montana cattlemen, I kept three horses furnished me by the cow outfits. I had very little to do. My horses were fed plenty of grain by the police and the sergeant detailed a policeman every two weeks on cook duty. Most of those boys had been raised in the city. Some of them were highly educated and were remittance men who had come from very wealthy families in England and were given a small allowance from their families. So they knew nothing about the West or camp life. The result was we got some very poor cooking, but they were perfect gentlemen and had the highest sense of honor I have ever known.

They had never known mosquitoes before (and we had plenty of them on Milk River in summertime). They called them “blooming American flies” and said “they not only bite one through to the pores of the skin but would bloody well bite through your trousers.”

In the wintertime we were quite isolated, as the snow usually got very deep and there wasn’t much travel. We played whist (which I believe is an old English game) those long winter evenings for 25 cents a game and would have some hot arguments as to the rules of the game, so that we all went to bed mad every night—but everybody would be ready for play again the next night. If someone from the outside had heard us, it would have been like the man shipwrecked on an island who thought he was in a country of nothing but wild animals. He finally saw campfire smoke. He crawled up close to listen and find out what it was, when he heard someone say, “What the hell did you play that ace for?” He thought for a moment and said, “Thank God, I am in civilization.”


When I was a kid, an old Indian told me a story about the badger and coyote and said they hunted together as partners. I had a very good chance to test that story when I was living on Milk River, as the badger and coyote were very plentiful. I have watched them travel together all right—but came to the conclusion the coyote forced his company on the badger. I think the coyote is the smartest animal that stands on four legs and a natural thief. I have watched them travel together for miles. The coyote would be about 50 or 60 yards behind. Now the badger is a natural digger and when he comes to a squirrel hole or prairie dog hole, he digs him out. I have seen a coyote watching him while he was digging and as the badger would always bring his game out of the hole to eat it, the coyote would grab it and run, and the badger being slow on foot and the coyote very fast, he would always get away with the spoils. I am sure there is no affection between them—and the coyote would kill and eat the badger if he could.

I have seen a coyote watch a band of sheep for hours and shift his position every few minutes—always watching behind, too, so that nothing would slip up on him. Then when he thought the time was right, he would dash through the sheep and pick up a lamb right in sight of the sheepherder and his dogs.

The wolf is a better killer than the coyote but not near so smart.

One morning on a roundup, we left camp just at daylight and we had gone about four miles and was riding at a gallop when we came over a little hill. We rode right into a bunch of wolves. They had killed a big fat cow and was eating on her. They evidently had been eating for some time, as there wasn’t much of her left. They were so full of meat they couldn’t hardly run at all. There were about thirty of us and not many had guns that morning—but everybody had ropes and we sure went to making loops. Of course, they scattered every direction and every cowboy was trying to catch a wolf, as the bounty that time was $5.00 a head. It was sure an exciting morning. Some of those cowboys’ horses wouldn’t go near a wolf and when they got a smell of them would snort and run the other way. Sometimes when a cowboy did catch one and took his wraps on the saddle horn, the horse would stampede, wolf and all. Sometimes when they would throw at one, he would snap at the loop and if he hit it, would cut it in two like a razor would.

It was a strange thing to me—but I was riding a young horse that morning that had not been broke long, but he cocked his ears forward and took right after them wolves. I believe he thought he was chasing a colt. I got two wolves and choked and dragged them until they were dead. One had been shot through the shoulder by the boss, so he was easy to catch. I met the boss coming over a little hill. He was sure smoking this one up with his six-shooter, and as I had killed mine, he hollered, “Get this one, Con. I saw a black one back here. I want to get him.” (The others were all gray wolves.) He had lost his hat and he had been chasing those wolves so hard his pants legs was up to his knees and he sure looked wild. He didn’t get back to camp until night—but he didn’t get the black wolf.

We got nine wolves out of the bunch—I don’t know how many got away—but we didn’t have any roundup or gather any cattle that day, as the cowboys kept stringing in all day, one and two at a time.

I have tried several times since that time to rope a wolf but always found them too fast for me when they were empty. Those wolves were a great menace to the stockmen. One couldn’t poison them, as when they got hungry they killed whatever animal they wanted, and they were sure plentiful.

I have seen places on Milk River when it had froze up and fresh snow had fell on the ice, it looked like a bunch of school boys had been playing where there had been a bunch of wolves.

They weighed about one hundred pounds and measured almost seven to eight feet long. Their first move to make a kill was to ham-string the animal by grabbing the animal by the fleshy part of the hind leg. That usually brought the animal to the ground and then, of course, they made short work of the job.

I broke a bunch of horses one time for a man by the name of Gordon near Ubet in the Judith Basin. He told me when I started he would give me sixty dollars for one month’s work—that was all he would pay out on them. He didn’t want them roped, but must catch them in a chute. Above anything else, he didn’t want them to buck, and as there was twelve head of them, it was impossible to do much of a job on them in that length of time.

I got along fairly well with them for awhile. I think I had rode about five head. I was out on the range riding one of them one day and saw a big wolf. This colt was pretty fast. So I thought I would give the wolf a little run. When I got close to him, I seen he was crippled, evidently had been in a fight with another wolf, so I roped him. Now when I started dragging that wolf, the horse went plumb crazy. He whistled, snorted, kicked and bucked and run away, but I still had the wolf and dragged him to the ranch. Of course, the wolf was dead. When I got there—well, that horse never got over that scare. He jumped in the manger, kicked the side out of the barn, and whistled and snorted like a lion and got worse from day to day.

The old man wasn’t there the day I brought the wolf in, but did come out in a few days to see how I was getting along with the horses. When he went in the barn, this horse started kicking and snorting, bumped his head against the walls and run the old man out of the barn—and to make matters worse, he was his favorite colt. He asked me what was the matter with him. I told him I didn’t know—but I didn’t tell him about the wolf. Then another day he saw one buck with me—that did settle it. He said I was spoiling his horses instead of breaking them. Anyway, I stayed the month out and I think him and I were both glad when it was over and I was on my way.

I went from there to the Horse Shoe Bar Ranch on Warm Spring Creek in the Judith Basin. It was owned at that time by T. C. Powers, who was a pioneer of the state and quite a politician of his day.

I remember a rather amusing thing happened to him. He was running for Senator one year and was having a pretty hard race and it was known he was spending plenty money to get votes. There was a precinct about fifty miles from the railroad on the Teton River where there was about fifty votes—mostly half breed Indians. There was a half breed lived there and claimed he had great influence among his people. So he looked up T. C. Powers and told him for one hundred dollars he could swing every vote in his precinct. Powers gave him the hundred. When the votes were counted in that precinct, Powers had not got one vote. Some time after he met this big politician. Powers said, “What was the matter in that precinct of yours? I didn’t get a vote out there.” The breed said, “I just couldn’t get them to vote for you, Mr. Powers.” He said, “Why?” and the names he called him wouldn’t look good in print, “You didn’t vote for me yourself!” He said, “I dassent, Mr. Powers, they would have kill me out there if I do.” Evidently Powers wasn’t very popular in that precinct.

When I got to this ranch I found a man there alone in bed and very sick. The outfit had left a few days before on the fall roundup, and as he was not feeling well at the time he figured to stay at the ranch a few days and when he got better would follow up, but he got worse. I stayed with him a couple of days and still he got worse. At night the only way he could rest was to prop him up in bed, then I would put my back against his and my feet against the wall, and move to any angle that suited him. I would have to change his position every few minutes and his back was becoming hot, as he had a high fever and wanted water very often. So he finally wore me out and I decided to go for a doctor, who was twenty miles away. At this time it was about nine o’clock at night. There was a good-looking horse in the barn, so I saddled him and started. It was very dark and for the first few miles he bucked several times (if anyone reads this that has rode a bucking horse in the dark he will know what the sensation is). I didn’t know where I was half the time—whether I was in the air or in the saddle. But after I got him going, I didn’t give him any time to buck anymore until I got to the doctor.

Well, when I found the doctor he would not come to the ranch that night, as he had been up with a sick woman for a day and a night and was very tired. After describing the symptoms of my patient, he gave me a bottle of quinine and a bottle of morphine with directions. I went back to the ranch.

This fellow was suffering terrible when I got there. I gave him a shot of quinine first, which I believe was in powder form and very bitter. Then shortly after I tried to give him some more quinine but he refused to take it, so I gave him some more morphine, but didn’t seem to relieve him. Now I was very tired and he was cussing me all the time, so when he would get very bad and in pain I would give him some more morphine. Along about morning he went to sleep and wouldn’t wake up, which was all right with me as I was getting some sleep myself.

About noon the doctor came. He tried to wake him up, but he couldn’t. Then he took his pulse. While doing so, he picked up the morphine bottle and said to me, “Where is the rest of that morphine?” I was sure scared then, I knew I had given him too much. I told the doctor I had spilled some of it. He said, “I guess you did!” He told me to heat a tub of water at once. We put that fellow into it—and I don’t know what the doctor done but we finally brought him to—and was I glad! I know now I gave him an overdose, but I believe I saved his life at that, as he was suffering terrible. The doctor said he had a bad case of pneumonia and made arrangements to take him to a hospital and I took his place on the beef roundup.

The boss put two of us night herding the cattle. We moved camp every day and they put new cattle in the herd every day that they gathered and the nights were long and cold—so we sure had a hard job.

We had a good cook that year—but like most good cooks he was sure cranky. He couldn’t drive four horses, so the boss told me to drive the mess wagon from one camp to the other, and we didn’t get along well at all. We called him “Big Nose George” and he was so mean I think he hated himself. I have seen him drop something out of his hands when he was cooking and would jump on it and stamp it in the ground.

After we had night herded about a month we had about a thousand head in the bunch—and the nights got long. We used to get hungry during the night. One day I asked George for a lunch to take with us. My partner spoke up and said, “How about a pie, George?” He looked at us like a grizzly bear and said, “Yes, I will give you fellows pie.”

That night when we started for the herd, he handed us what looked like a nice pie. On the way to the herd we talked about it and decided George wasn’t such a bad fellow after all. That was a tough night and the cattle drifted about three miles. We couldn’t carry the pie very handy, so set it down by a cut bank where we thought we could find it if the cattle settled down, but we didn’t get back to where we left it, which proved to be a good thing for us.

When the day-herders came out at daylight, they began kidding us about the pie. They thought we had tried to eat it. George had told them the joke he had played on us. So we went back and hunted up the pie to see what the joke was. We found it was made out of potato skins, onion peelings and clay, and other filth around the camp, with a cover on it in a pie tin and nicely baked.

So we held a council of war to decide what to do about it. My partner wanted to take it to camp and hit him on the head with it. I suggested we make him eat it. He said that was a fine idea. Now I told him, “He is a big guy. Let’s double up on him.” So we planned our attack right there, and George not expecting it, we had him at a disadvantage. We unsaddled—walked into the cook tent.

He said, “How did you like your pie, boys?” We said, “Fine—but brought part of it to camp so you could enjoy it with us.” I had the pie in my hand and he knew what was coming. He said, “The hell with you,” and started for a butcher knife—but my partner met him head on and they clinched. I nailed him from behind and we brought him to the ground with both of us on top of him. I got the pie to his mouth but he wouldn’t open, so I used the pie tin for an opener (not very gently) and got his teeth apart. I don’t think he swallowed any of it but he at least got a good taste of it—and any other dirty thing I could reach. When the pie-eating contest was over and had worked out to the messwagon tongue, and when we let George up, the first thing his hand found was the neck-yoke which was about four feet long, and a bad weapon just at that time, and George was sure going to clean up on us. But my partner had a forty-five Colts stuck in his chaps that George didn’t see and before he could get the neck-yoke into action, the gun was right against his stomach—full cock. He throwed the neck-yoke over his head and both hands in the air and said, “Don’t kill me.” Then we gave him some not too kind advice what his actions should be towards us in the future, and I will say George was a pretty good dog from that time on.

That is the only time I ever double-teamed on anyone but felt justified that time under the circumstances.

When the men came in off that day’s ride, George took his troubles to the boss, told him how we had doubled up on him and abused him. All he got was a hearty laugh from the boss (he was a Texas man). He said, “Did they sho ’nuff really make you eat the pie, George?”

When we got to the railroad with that herd, there was two other big outfits shipping beef and we had to wait several days to get cars for our cattle. Big Sandy was the shipping point. The town had two saloons, one hotel, one store, stockyards and livery stable, and a jail. We had plenty of help and we took shifts holding the cattle. Those that wasn’t on shift spent most of their time in town, and it was sure lively during shipping time—and looked as good as Chicago to some of them cowboys.

There was also a lot of half breed Indians gathering buffalo bones and brought them there to ship. Most of them drank plenty whiskey and with their families had dances every night. The musician would be some half breed with moccasins on, and he kept time with both feet while he played.

The town had a constable to keep order, and he was quite lame. One night he arrested two half breeds and was taking them to jail. One got away from him. He let the other one loose to catch him and he ran away, and he didn’t catch the first one, so he lost them both. Them breeds with moccasins on could sure run.

One night a fist fight started between the cowboys and the breeds. There was several fights going on at the same time. An old buffalo hunter was in among them, with his hands in his pockets, looking on. It was dark and some cowboy thought he was a breed. He took a run at him and hit him on the side of his head with all his strength and he went down. About that time he discovered his mistake and went to help him up. He said, “Fred, I am sure sorry. I didn’t know that was you.” Fred said, “I guess you are sorry all right—but that don’t help my ear any.”

There was several commission men in town that night, trying to get cattle consigned to their different houses in Chicago. One of them had never been West before. There were some of them playing a social game of cards in one of the saloons. Every little while some cowboy would shoot his six-shooter off right in the saloon. This fellow was very nervous and could not get his attention on the game. Finally he went to light his cigar. About that time somebody shot a gun off and his match went out. He jumped up right quick and said, “Quit playing cards. This is getting too damn close for me!” That tickled Charlie Russell and he told the fellow he saw the bullet go right by his nose. He said he knew it did.

Somebody stole my saddle that night off my horse which was tied to a hitch rack. So next morning I was in a pretty bad way. We hunted and searched all the breed camps but didn’t find the saddle. Everybody had given up when Charlie Russell came in and had found the saddle and the way he found that saddle shows what a close observer he was. He was following a dusty trail, looking for tracks, when he saw the print of a cinch-ring in the dust. He said he knew nothing else would make a mark like that. He looked around and saw a little box-elder tree about a mile away. He went to that tree and there was the saddle. That cost me a good many drinks but it was sure worth it. We joked Charlie and told him it took one Indian to trail another one.

There was a man by the name of Marsh kept the hotel in Big Sandy and was a great friend of the cowboys, as when they were broke they could always eat and sleep at his hotel until they got a job. I had known Marsh for some years.

One day we had got through loading cattle and I was in the hotel and he told me he had just bought two fine dogs, Canadian stag hounds, and he was anxious to try them out and see how fast they were, and asked me to borrow one of the cowboys’ horses for him to ride and we would take a ride with the dogs and maybe jump a coyote out on the range. Well, we got the dogs lined up and started.

He also had a bull dog and a fox terrier. They couldn’t run but just trailed along.

We hadn’t went very far until we jumped a jack rabbit and away went the hounds, the bull dog and the terrier bringing up the rear—all dogs barking, Marsh hollering and laughing at the bull and terrier. The hounds were making a pretty run and Marsh was trying to keep in sight of them and his horse was running his best, when he stepped in a badger hole ... and down they went. This was an unusually big saddle horse and Marsh was a very big man, and when they piled up it looked like a box car had jumped the track. Marsh must have fell on his head, as he had lost $80.00, his watch, pocket knife, and everything—it was all scattered around the wreck. He was not hurt bad any one place, but was jarred all over. While I was picking up his stuff I was so full of laugh I could hardly hold myself. In the meantime, the bull dog and the terrier had caught up and was licking his face and he was cussing them. Then I exploded and laughed ’til I cried—I don’t think he ever quite forgive me for that but I couldn’t help laughing at the pile-up.

Con and Claudia Price at the time of their Marriage, December 26, 1899

Con and Claudia Price at the time of their Marriage, December 26, 1899

Roundup Camp—Fall of 1896—DHS and CK Outfits On the Big Dry near Oswego, Montana

Roundup Camp—Fall of 1896—DHS and CK Outfits On the Big Dry near Oswego, Montana


In 1892 I went to Wyoming and broke horses there for a couple of years. Then I heard of the Cripple Creek gold stampede in Colorado. I sold my rig and went to Cripple Creek and it looked like everybody in the world went there. There was two railroads in there and every passenger coach would be loaded with people. The roads were lined with people of every description—some walking, some riding donkeys and some with wagons.

About every other house there was a saloon and gambling house. Of course, there wasn’t work for everybody and lots of them were broke when they landed there—that was in the month of November and shortly after the weather turned bitter cold. I have seen men lay down on the floor to sleep in those saloons which kept open day and night, and when the house man started to clean up in the morning he would find dead men under the tables and on benches. The altitude was very high. Those people had no place to sleep—and nearly all of them contracted mountain fever and that went into pneumonia and they would sometimes die in a few hours after taking sick.

New Year’s night in 1894 was sure a wild night in Cripple Creek. Every man that filed on a mining claim prior to that time had to have one hundred dollars’ worth of work done in order to hold it by law and, of course, there was the usual contention when people are crazy for gold, some claiming the required amount of work was not done—and others claiming they had fulfilled the requirements of the law. The results were that every man owning a claim was on his ground at midnight with a gun to protect what he thought was his property.

I was in a good spot that night to get a view of the Big Mountain around Cripple Creek, and the lanterns moving around from claim to claim looked like a bunch of stars. There was reported nine men killed that night over claims and I didn’t hear of one arrest.

I had a little money when I landed in Cripple Creek but soon lost it all gambling and then took down with mountain fever. An old prospector took me into his cabin and he took sick, too. We were both broke and had nothing to eat but a half sack of potatoes, but had plenty of wood and kept warm. We took turns, when one was a little better than the other, going out and gathering mountain sage and making tea out of it—and I am sure it saved our lives, as it broke the fever. When I got a little better I made a little money to buy food, gathering that sage and selling it to sick people.

When I got a little stronger I got twenty dollars for digging an assessment hole on a fellow’s claim, so I got in a poker game with that and won about a hundred dollars. I will never forget that night. People were being help up every night—sometimes hit on the head—sometimes killed, and the amount of money didn’t mean anything, as some of them birds would hold you up for five dollars.

This night when I had won that money quite a crowd gathered around me in the gambling house. I didn’t know any of them but bought a drink for everybody and thought I would slip away. There was one big tough-looking guy persisted in shaking hands with me and gave me some kind of a sign that I did not understand, so I was rather nervous when I got out of there.

I had to walk about a mile to my cabin following an old mining ditch. I had got about half way home when I saw a man’s head raise up out of the ditch just in front of me. That sure scared me. I turned the other way, back towards town. The farther I went the more scared I was ... and the faster I ran. I think even if a jack rabbit had seen me he would have admired my speed, and I didn’t stop until I got into town where there was light. I could not get a room in town, so sat in a chair all night in one of the gambling houses. I kept my hand on that hundred dollars and sweat with fear.

A few nights afterwards I was going home late. I had to go by a lot of wagons—a freighting outfit. Just as I got opposite the wagons I saw a man in the dark coming towards me. I had a gun that night so I got it in my hand and backed up against one of the wagons. This fellow came up about twenty feet from me and stopped—neither of us spoke for several minutes (but seemed to me to be an hour)—finally he said, “Hey, there.” I said, “Hello.” He said, “What are you doing here?” I thought quick and said, “I am working for the man that owns this outfit,” and said to him also, “Who are you?” He said, “I am the night marshal.” I believe I would have kissed him if he had been close to me because I sure had him sized up as a hold-up.

I stayed around there a few days longer and hung onto the hundred dollars, but decided it was no place for a moneyed man, so took the train for Denver and lived quite respectable for awhile until I was pretty near broke and started for Montana. I rode box cars the most of the way and saved my little money to eat on.

When I got to Helena I heard Charlie Russell was in Cascade and as I was badly in need of money, I headed for there and found him batching in a cabin with plenty grub—and he sure looked good to me.

After my experience in Cripple Creek I decided that I belonged back on the range among the cows, and wrote to the foreman of the DHS outfit at Shelby, Montana, for a job. I had known him several years before and he told me to come on, he would give me work. So after being outfitted by Charlie, which meant everything a cowboy needed, including some money, I went to Shelby.

I worked for the DHS outfit the first time in 1889 for only one season. They were one of the pioneer cow outfits of Montana and was owned by Granville Stuart and Reese Anderson, and were located near Fort Maginnis and ranged on Flat Willow country in the year of 1887. They moved all their cattle north of the Missouri River on what was known as the Little Rocky Range. They swam this big herd across the Missouri River at an old steamboat landing called Rocky Point.

The cowboys had a dance while I was in Shelby that I believe there is a record of in the files of some of the old newspapers of that day.

There was an opera troupe on their way to Spokane, Washington. For some reason they were sidetracked at Shelby and as they were from New York, some of the ladies had never seen a cowboy, so they said (I guess they thought cowboys eat grass and were only half human). Anyway, some of them left the train and went to the hotel where the dance was going on and mingled with the crowd and as those cowboys were very easy for a lady to get acquainted with and as there was considerable liquor consumed, the dance was a great success and the ladies found the boys much nicer than they had anticipated and invited some of them over to their train.

Now the male population of the troupe did not take to the cowboys too well and finally ordered them out of the car which, of course, insulted the boys and a fight started. But some of these fellows in the troupe were good boxers and the cowboys didn’t have a chance in a fist fight, so they brought their guns into the play. They didn’t shoot anyone but made the car very smoky, and the troupe quit the car and most of them scattered out in the sagebrush, Shelby being a little cow town on the Great Northern Railroad.

It seems that the worst thing that happened was one of the cowboys shot a lantern out of a brakeman’s hand. So in a few days there was railroad officials around there, thick as flies, but they couldn’t get any information and there wasn’t a cowboy in fifty miles of Shelby. The railroad sent several detectives there at different times but the population of the town was all in sympathy with the cowboys and nobody knew any cowboy’s name that attended the dance. So they could not get any evidence and didn’t know where to find anyone to arrest, and had to drop the matter.

My old boss was one of the leaders in that mix-up and he, of course, made a couple of days ride away from Shelby. It happened he stayed a few days in a locality where there was considerable stock rustling going on and he didn’t go to that part of the country very often, so his presence there created quite a commotion and fear among those fellows living there, as they thought he was after them. But the old man was simply dodging the railroad officials and was more frightened than they were.

At that time the DHS ran two outfits—one at Shelby and one at Malta on Milk River about two hundred miles apart. Those big outfits in the course of a few years all accumulated quite a few spoiled horses for different reasons, sometimes from bad breaking and sometimes on account of putting strange riders on them so often, sometimes from getting away when they were half broke, and maybe not finding them for a year. They would then be harder to handle than a green bronc and would buck a few riders off. They would get pretty tough and the average cowboy could not ride them. So the boss would hire a bronc fighter to ride the rough string. A strange thing about it was that most of those kind of horses were the best ones in the bunch when they were thoroughly broke.

The DHS had accumulated about twenty head of those kind of horses. So the boss sent me to Malta to ride some of those horses. They also hired another fellow to help me. The only name I ever knew for him was “Red Neck Davis” and he was a good bronc fighter.

The outfit was getting ready to go on the spring roundup and we went to their horse ranch on Milk River and gathered all the saddle horses—maybe two hundred head—and there was quite a lot of those horses needed touching up before we went to work on the roundup. The first day Red Neck and I caught two of the worst horses in the outfit. The boss had put two men to help us and herd for us (they are called pick-up men nowadays).

One of the cowboys had put his bedding out to air that day and had a nice woolen blanket laid on a pile of poles on the ground. When I mounted my first horse, he went up in the air and landed right in the middle of that blanket, and the poles being hard all four of his feet went through it. I believe the blanket belonged to the fellow that was herding for me, so I laid the blame on him.

Shortly after Red Neck mounted his horse, a big buckskin. He had quite an old man herding for him and rather cranky. He caught the best horse in his string that morning, one he was sure was gentle so he could pick up Red’s horse if he stampeded. As soon as Red hit the saddle the buckskin went in the air and let a roar out of him like a lion, which scared the old man’s horse and he stampeded. We were only about fifty feet from Milk River and it was time of high water, and into it he went and swam across. The old man was sure wet and mad, and cussed the whole outfit—horses and men—and said he wouldn’t have any more to do with such a damn wild west outfit.

That year—I believe it was 1896—our outfit was cleaning up their Malta Range on Milk River with the view of closing out their holdings in that part of the country. A fellow named Tom Daly and I worked with all the different outfits owning cattle in that part of the country. We were representing the DHS brand and all cattle we gathered we shipped to Chicago. We had orders to clean the range of our cattle the best we could, as they had missed several steers from year to year. We found steers 12 to 13 years old and some of them were sure wild and hard to gather and bring to the railroad for shipment.

It was quite comical and interesting to outsmart some of these old renegades. We usually found them in the roughest country. They would try to hide when they saw you, and when you got too close to them they would fight and as most of them had bad horns if you crowded one of them in a rough place he could easily kill your horse.

The outfit had a big old steer that had made his home in the Missouri River Badlands for several years, which was pretty rough and when the cowboys would find him with other cattle and he got a glimpse of the riders he would quit the bunch. As he was plenty fast, he would get somewhere and hide, and as the outfits only worked this part of the country about once a year on account of not many cattle ranged there, this old steer had gotten by for several years without being brought out and shipped.

I was repping with a wagon that worked that part of the country this time that I write about and we knew the day that we would camp and ride the locality that he was ranging in and several of the boys knew this steer, as he had gotten away from them at different times before. They were joking me about him several days before we got to this place and called him “Con’s steer,” and made me a small bet I wouldn’t get him.

We camped the chuck and bed wagon on a nice level spot of about 200 acres, just on the edge of the Badlands, and rode from there to the river, which was about 20 miles. Coming back we found him in a long canyon that led out to the camp and the rodeo ground. We put riders on both sides of the canyon on top of the ridges and some stayed behind. We had about 200 head of cattle, so we just drifted the band along slow. I told everyone to keep as far away from this old steer as possible so he wouldn’t break or get on the fight. When we got out to the roundup ground, some of the other boys had gotten in off their ride and had found quite a lot of cattle. We had about a thousand head in all. We bunched all the cattle together as easy as we could so as not to give this old fellow any excuse to break.

Now we had to cut out the cows and calves (to brand the calves) and also cut out the beef steers to ship, and turn the rest loose, and we knew as soon as anyone went to riding among those cattle this steer would break for the Badlands and we would lose him. He was going through the bunch ringing his tail and hooking everything that came in his way, as he was getting suspicious that everything wasn’t just right.

So we left about ten men to hold the cattle. The rest of us went to camp to catch fresh horses to work the cattle and cut out what we wanted.

I had a little Spanish horse in my string, didn’t weigh over 900 pounds, built kind of squatty and close to the ground, about 15 years old, but he knew more about working cattle than lots of men. I caught him. We went back to the roundup and started to work. I stayed on the outside of the bunch with my eye on this old bird. The boys had gotten out about 50 head when someone got too close to this old steer, and here he comes as fast as he could run, headed for the Badlands! I had a big grass rope about 40 feet long and had one end tied hard and fast to the saddle horn and when he came out of the bunch my little horse was watching him and went right along with him. I run him about 50 yards. He was going down a hill. I dropped my loop over his pretty horns and let him jump over the slack with his front feet, and turned my horse the other way as fast as he could run. When that rope tightened that steer went about 10 feet high and hit the ground with his head doubled under his body. One of his pretty horns was broken off right close to his head and he was bleeding badly, and he was bawling like a calf—where otherwise he would only snort when you got in his way.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the boys that I had made the bet with had framed on me—and it was understood among them that nobody was to help me—just to have a joke on me if the steer got away.

So after a few minutes, when nobody came to help me, I let him up with the rope still on him. The fall had taken most of the sap out of him. He made a kind of a weak attempt to get to my horse, so I busted him again. The next time he got up I led him back to the roundup and into the bunch where I wanted him, throwed him down, took the rope off, and he never made a break to get away. We took him to the railroad and shipped him to Chicago. He was a rather funny looking old fellow with one of his long pretty horns gone and blood dried all over his face. I don’t think he made very good eating but I tallied him: “One beef steer shipped to Chicago.”

In the year of 1897 the Circle Diamond outfit turned loose 5,000 head of Arizona yearlings on their range on Milk River in Montana and instead of settling down and locating there they kept on going north until the outfit heard of some of them 200 miles up in Canada.

So they sent an outfit of about 20 men with horses and bed and chuckwagon to bring them back and try to locate them on their own range.

The DHS outfit sent me with them, thinking some of their cattle had drifted with the Arizona’s.

The country was all open—north, south, east and west—for miles (I don’t know how far) and no ranches after we crossed the Canadian border. We didn’t know any particular place to go to find those cattle, so we just wandered around for days, first one direction, then another. After we got as far north as Moose Jaw, which is well north in Canada, we began to see some signs of cattle, and would pick up a few each day. And those cattle hadn’t seen anybody for four or five months and were plenty wild and, of course, we had to nightherd those cattle every night. And badger holes were so thick in that country you could almost compare them to a saltcellar—and the grass was thick and tall so a horse or man couldn’t see the holes. Somebody would get a fall every day and night.

One morning we were making a circle, looking for cattle, and we saw two animals standing on a butte. We got close to them—could tell they were two head of cattle—and away they went like a couple of antelope. We finally got ahead of them and got them stopped. They ran around in a circle for awhile, just like they might be tied together. One wouldn’t get no distance away from the other. When we got them to the roundup and could get a good look at the brands, we found they both belonged to the DHS outfit, and we knew from the Arizona brand on them and the year the outfit bought them as yearlings that they were 13 years old. They were pals and had ranged in that part of the country for several years alone, as we did not find any sign of cattle anywhere within several miles of them.

It was quite a problem to get those two old fellows to the railroad. They were easy to hold in the daytime but at night it took all of one man’s time to watch them two. We would bed the herd down at night and those two would lay down in about the middle of the bunch—and sometimes they would lay ten minutes when they would come slipping through the herd, heading back the way they came from. They wouldn’t make any noise and reminded one of two big cats trying to steal away. When they got to the edge of the herd, the man watching them would holler at them—they would shake their heads and go right back into the herd and lay down for a short time and then try again, and would keep that up all night. We finally got them to the railroad and shipped them to Chicago.

The man that had charge of that Circle Diamond wagon, or that part of the outfit that year was Win Cooper. He came from Jack County, Texas, and was a wonderful cowboy. He used to carry a 45 Colts six-shooter and had the trigger filed so it wouldn’t stand cocked, but fanned the hammer with his thumb. He told me the reason he had his gun fixed that way was for quick action. He could fill the chamber with bullets and start a tomato can rolling and keep it going until his gun was empty. He used to tell me about the gun fights they had in Texas a long time ago ... and I think he sometimes got lonesome for those old feuds and would like to go back and have a little excitement.

As I remember, Tom Green County, Texas, and Jack County were enemies and had a lasting grudge at each other. Win said the reason for that was Jack County had the better men and always beat the Tom Green County men in a fight.

Win didn’t have any education and couldn’t read or write—and when he paid a man his wages he had to send him to the superintendent and tell him how long the man worked.

This year I am writing about was election year in Valley County, Montana, and the Circle Diamond ranch was supporting a man by the name of Kyle for sheriff. They had put up a black flag with white letters which read: “VOTE FOR KYLE FOR SHERIFF.” Now Win had been up in Canada with his outfit for about six weeks looking for those cattle that had drifted north and hadn’t had any news as to the happenings around home. So when he had got the cattle back on their range and turned them loose, he started for the home ranch with his outfit, but he started several hours ahead of the men, horses and chuckwagon—they were to follow. But when Win got close to the ranch and saw that black flag (and he couldn’t read) he got scared and turned back and stopped the outfit and said it wasn’t safe to take the outfit home, as he thought that some sort of an epidemic had broke out and the ranch was under quarantine. So he sent a man to town to find out what was the matter.

I worked with several of those old-time gunfighters from Texas and some that had left Wyoming during the Johnson County war between cattlemen and rustlers, and found most of them pretty decent fellows. Some of them were under assumed names and it seemed to bother them to have to carry that load—and usually when they did talk and tell me about their trouble most of them were victims of circumstances.


The old man that run the DHS that I worked several years for was the finest old-tune cow boss I ever knew. Jim Spurgeon was his name. He always looked tough and hard and was about as good-looking as a bank robber, but he sure had a kind heart and would never let you know he sympathized with you.

I never knew him to fire but one cowboy. That fellow was supposed to stand second guard on night herd, but when the first guard went to call him, he was not in camp—had went to town and had not come back. The boy that came to call him woke Jim up and told him what had happened. Jim got up and stood the guard himself.

About the time Jim came off guard, the boy got back to camp. He had a bottle of whiskey and asked Jim to have a drink. Jim refused, which the boy knew was unusual for Jim. So he was suspicious things wasn’t just right and didn’t want to get fired. So he came into the bed tent about twelve o’clock at night, woke Jim up and said, “I believe I will quit.” Jim said, “Go to bed. You have been fired for three hours.”

Old Jim looked at him very pitifully next morning and I believe if the truth was known it hurt him worse to fire him that it did the cowboy. But he seldom ever talked much and few knew how tenderhearted he was.

One time we had lost about forty head of saddle horses on the roundup and Jim sent a man to look for them. He was gone a few days and came back without any horses.

Now Shelby was the great cowboy town of that time, and whenever a cowboy had any chance he went to Shelby. There was usually a dance or some other doings that a cowboy enjoyed—and maybe he had a sweetheart there.

So the night this boy got back from hunting the horses, we all gathered in the sleeping tent to get the news of Shelby from this boy, and it was quite interesting to the rest of us. I can see old Jim yet, sitting there smoking a big pipe, saying nothing, but listening to everything.

So he sent another man out on the range next day to look for the horses. He was gone a few days and came back without any horses ... but plenty news about Shelby.

The next morning he told me to catch a saddle horse and go and see if I could find those horses. I said, “Where will I go?” He said, “Damned if I know where to tell you to go, only there is one place there is no use going and that is Shelby. I have sent two men to hunt those horses and they both went to town and didn’t find the horses. So I know they are not in Shelby!” You could have heard a pin drop among those boys. They didn’t know the old man had been listening.

I remember one time the old man hired a stranger from Oregon to ride a rough string. Nobody knew the boy but he claimed to be a bronc fighter. The first horse he rode very near throwed him off. When someone caught the horse he was in a bad way, had lost both stirrups and his bridle reins. Someone made the remark he thought that fellow would ride that horse and whip him. The old man said he could if he had another hand, as he had to use the two he had to hang onto the saddle horn.

In those days the way we caught our saddle horses, when we made camp we pulled the bedwagon up behind the chuckwagon and tied a long rope to the front wheel of the chuckwagon and one to the hind wheel of the bedwagon. Then a man held up each end of those ropes and the horse wrangler took care of the gap. In that way we could corral quite a large bunch of saddle horses. But there was always some broncs in the bunch and the boys had to be careful in catching their horses that they didn’t scare them and cause them to break through the ropes.

So the old man gave orders for one man at a time to catch his horse—but Jim had hired a new man that was very fond of roping and he didn’t always obey orders, and he used a loop half as big as the corral. So naturally, when he throwed his big loop in among those horses he caught something. Sometimes two or three head of horses at once. Sometimes he caught one around the body and would cause the horses to stampede. The old man had told him several times in a nice way to be careful of that big loop.

This morning Jim was in the corral trying to catch his horse. It wasn’t quite daylight yet and the fellow didn’t see him. So he throwed that big loop in there and caught two broncs, the brake on the bedwagon and the old man—all in one loop. And believe me there was some commotion—the broncs jumping and the old man a-hollering. Charlie Russell helped Jim get out of the mix-up and he said Jim bucked worse than the broncs. He lost his hat and his big pipe and hurt his foot.

When he got straightened out, he went hunting this fellow. He said, “Where is that big loop S.B.?” and when he found him he told him plenty. He said, “I don’t think you are a cowboy at all. I think you are a damn sailor the way you handle a rope. If I ever see you throw another rope in that corral, I will shoot you. Somebody else will catch your horse from now on.” But he didn’t fire him, and the fellow was pretty tame afterwards.

There was a great friendship existed among those old cowboys of those days. They would quarrel among themselves and sometimes one would think they were bitter enemies, but if one of them got sick or hurt, even with their small wages they would soon raise a few hundred dollars for him, and as there was no compensation law those days it meant a great deal to them.

Old Bill Bullard, the fellow that used to put bacon in everything he cooked to give it tone, had a partner that he thought a great deal of, but when they were together they were always quarreling and when they were separated they would be lonesome. I believe they enjoyed their quarrels.

One time they made a trip together up in Canada. On their way back they had to make a long ride without water, and the weather was very warm. So the morning of their long ride, Bill told his partner to not put much salt in their food, as they wouldn’t get any water that day. But the old boy was out of sorts that morning and said he wanted plenty of salt—water or no water. All their breakfast was in one frying pan. So Bill got a knife and run a line through the breakfast and told his partner to not salt only half the grub. That made the old fellow very mad and he put plenty salt on his side of the frying pan. Bill said his partner nearly choked for water that day and it was dark when they reached Milk River and instead of stooping down to get water he walked right into the river so he could drink standing up.


Tom Daly and I worked together for several years and I liked him very much.

One time we went from the DHS ranch at Rocky Ridge close to the main range of the Rocky Mountains to the ranch the outfit owned at Malta, which was in the eastern part of Montana. We had two strings of horses, which was about twenty head. We had our beds packed on two horses on that trip. One day Tom’s pack slipped and got down on the horse’s side. We roped him and fixed the pack, but while we were doing so we turned our saddle horses loose with the bridle reins on the ground (which is the way Montana horses were broke to stand). Mosquitoes were very bad that day and was worrying the horses, and when we turned the horse loose that we had been fixing the pack, we turned around to get on our saddle horses—they both run off and into the loose bunch, which got scared and away they all went, leaving us both afoot and I think it was at least 20 miles to any ranch and the day very hot. I never saw Tom excited before as he was very easy-going, but when I looked at him and asked him, “What are we going to do now?” his lips trembled and he said, “Damned if I know.”

Well, a lucky thing I had my rope that we had caught the pack horse with. So I picked it up and we started after the horses on foot. They run about a mile and stopped and went to feeding—but when we caught up with them, one of our saddle horses would drag his bridle reins around some of the horses’ legs and scare them—and away they would go again. Finally we got the bunch in between us and one of the pack horses had his head down feeding—I made a run at him and when he put his head up to run I throwed my rope and caught him. We unpacked him and I got on him bareback, with a rope around his nose, and rounded up the bunch and brought them back to where Tom was. He had made a loop in the pack rope and caught his saddle horse. And after a good many trials of roping, we caught my horse.

When we got our horse packed again and on our way, we were sure a couple of happy boys. Tom told me I sure made a lucky throw when I caught that pack horse.

In my younger days as a cowboy I had a hobby on saddles. I always wanted a light saddle with as little leather on it as possible. I used to use a Clarence Nelson saddle, made in Visalia, California, which was about the smallest and lightest stock saddle made in those days. Then after I had got it, I would trim and cut off all the leather I possibly could get along without. Tom Daly always rode a double rig saddle and wanted it quite heavy. He was always making fun of my saddle and said I might as well ride bareback.

One time a big prairie fire broke out and the best thing we used to have to fight those fires was a “green” or fresh cowhide. We could tie a couple of ropes to it and with our saddle horses drag it along the fire line. If the blaze wasn’t too big, it would smother the fire out completely. This fire broke out close to our roundup, and we had a big jaw steer in our roundup and he wasn’t any value as a beef steer. So the boss told the boys to catch him and kill and skin him and use his hide for a drag to put the fire out.

Everybody got their ropes down in a hurry. Tom roped the steer by the head and I caught him by one hind leg. He weighed about 1,500 pounds and Tom was riding a big strong horse, and when he saw I had the steer by the hind leg he never looked back but was spurring his horse and pulling on the steer to try to throw him down so we could cut his throat, as nobody had a gun. My horse wasn’t too well broke to roping, but I got my rope fast to the saddle horn and Tom was pulling so fast and so hard, it must of hurt my horse and he went to bucking. I couldn’t get my rope loose from the saddle horn and I hollered at Tom—but he kept right on going and pulled me—saddle and all—off the horse. The boys joshed me plenty about my little saddle. I asked Tom why he didn’t stop when I hollered. He said he didn’t know I was riding bareback or he would.

Another time Tom and I were gathering saddle horses for the spring roundup. When we left our camp in the morning we went different directions and I got back to camp quite a while before Tom did. I had loosened my cinch and tied my horse to a post and went in the cabin to cook dinner. I heard someone holler and looked out and saw Tom coming with a bunch of horses. Those horses were sometimes very hard to corral. So I run out and got on my horse but forgot to tighten my cinch. Those horses came by me pretty fast and I run my horse in ahead of them to try to turn them. They dodged by me and when I turned my horse to head them off my saddle turned and, of course, I hit the ground and my horse got away and went with the wild bunch.

I got Tom’s horse and followed them. After a little distance he quit the bunch and took off across the country by himself. I followed him about ten miles and finally run him into an old roundup corral and caught him. The saddle was under his belly and there wasn’t a thing left of it—only the saddle tree and the cinch—he had kicked it all to pieces.

When I led him back to camp I felt like crying and called Tom out to show it to him. In place of sympathizing with me, he smiled and said he didn’t see any difference in it than it was before.

I had to ride 40 miles to town to order another saddle. I tied a rope on each side of the saddle tree to use for stirrups and rode that distance. Tom went with me—I think he had the time of his life that day laughing at my rig.

We worked together on the roundup that year and slept together. We worked pretty late that fall and the nights got very cold. We were holding quite a bunch of cattle and, of course, that meant we had to guard the cattle at night. Each man guarded three hours and then woke up another cowboy. One night was very cold. When I came off guard my feet felt like chunks of ice and I had noticed Tom’s underwear was wore out where he had been sitting in the saddle. I pulled off my boots and went out in the frost—then slipped into bed with Tom. He was asleep and didn’t hear me. I got into bed easy and found that bare place on his body and planted both feet right on it. He hollered and went clear out of the tent. He said afterwards he thought somebody had burned him with a hot iron. I think I got even with him for making fun of my saddle!


Most of the big Montana cow outfits moved their herds north of the Missouri River between 1888 and 1894. The point of crossing on the Missouri was an old steamboat landing called Rocky Point where Jim Norris had a saloon.

When I crossed the river there in 1889, there was no one living there but the little old man. He had an old hand ferry boat that he took people across the river with. The night I stayed with him, he told me he had some fine gin and gave me a drink, which I found out was straight alcohol and the one drink nearly strangled me, but old Uncle Jim, as he was called, drank it like water and seemed to do quite well on it. Every little while he would go to the bank of the river and holler at the top of his voice, “Do you want to bring your wagon over?” There would not be anybody in sight, but he seemed to get a great kick out of make-believe.

I worked with Kid Curry that summer on the roundup. He worked for the Diamond outfit and I worked for the DHS. Both outfits worked the range together. Kid was a fine fellow at that time and a good cowboy—that was before he became an outlaw. I have read where some writers told what a cold-blooded killer he was and where he had held up banks and so forth, and I know from some of the dates given that he was blamed for a great many things he did not do.

I am not trying to make a hero out of the Kid or say that I approve of some things he done, but the public at large does not know all the circumstances leading up to where he first got into trouble.

Charlie Russell knew Kid Curry and has given me his analysis of his character (and he seldom made a mistake in the reading of human nature). Charlie figured any normal man might have went the route the Kid did.

I am going to set down some of the facts regarding the Kid’s becoming an outlaw. His name was Harvey Curry. He had an older brother, Henry Curry. They had a little ranch in the Badlands of the Missouri River and ran a few cattle and horses. Both the brothers were fine boys at that time and would give anyone the shirt off their back if they were in need.

Now there was a little mining town sprung up in the Little Rockies not far from the Curry Ranch. The outstanding character in that town was a man by the name of Pike Landusky, a prospector who had found some fairly rich prospects, and as there was some excitement about the find quite a lot of people went to the mining camp and Pike being about the first one on the ground, the town was named Landusky.

The town was about fifty miles from the railroad and farther from the Sheriff’s office, so Pike was appointed a Deputy Sheriff. Now Pike was not a bad sort of a fellow as a rule, but had a reputation as somewhat of a gun-fighter and was rather proud of it—he didn’t have much education and very little intelligence—but was proud of his authority as a Deputy Sheriff.

The Kid was in town one night with some friends, having a few drinks and celebrating in the ways of the early West, when Pike decided Harvey had violated some law and arrested him, and not having any jail in the camp, handcuffed him for safekeeping. During the time he was handcuffed, the Kid said Pike abused him shamefully and cast reflections even on his mother, who was dead and whom Pike had never known or seen, which burned very deeply into the Kid. During the abuse the Kid told Pike, “I won’t always be handcuffed, Pike, and when I get out of this trouble, you are going to get a licking you will remember.” Pike said, “I will be ready.”

Some time after this incident Pike and the Kid met in the saloon in Landusky and had a fist fight. Of course the Kid started it and Pike got a bad licking. When the fight started both men had guns on. Neither one knew the other had a gun. Pike’s gun was in a holster under his arm. Kid’s gun was fastened to his pants. In the fight, the Kid’s gun fell on the floor. A friend of the Kid’s picked it up and when the fight was over handed it to him. Both Pike’s eyes were pretty well closed, but he raised up on his knees and was trying to get a bead on the Kid—so he shot Pike and killed him.

Of course this was a very serious offense as he had killed an officer of the law, and the sentiment of the people was divided—and the Kid did not know whether to give himself up or not. Anyway, he and a few of his friends went to the ranch and talked the matter over and decided it would be best for the Kid to cache himself in the Badlands for a while. And his friends would bring him food—and, of course, the longer he stayed a fugitive, the less chance he had of getting acquitted if he did give himself up. So after dodging around for a while and having lost his older brother, Hank, as he was known, who had died and was always the leader and adviser, the Kid and a couple of his friends held up the Great Northern Railroad train which had a shipment of currency—they got away with it all right and got the money, but it was new money and had not been officially signed, so of course it was not much good to them. However, they did pass some of it. The Kid had two half brothers who come to Montana from Missouri. Their names was Lannie and Johnny Logan, and they tried to pass some of the money without much success. Lannie was caught in Kansas City and killed with $10,000 of it on his person. Johnny was killed in the Little Rocky country in a gun fight with another cowboy.

The Kid was caught in Tennessee after several years and sent to the Knoxville pen—I believe for life. However, he didn’t stay there very long. The papers said he roped a guard and tied him up and got away. My personal opinion is he got help in some other way. I was told by a very reliable party that he went to the Argentine country. Anyway he has never been heard of since. If he is alive now, he would be about 70 years old.


Fred Reid was one of the old time deer and elk hunters in the early days of Montana. He told me the first bear he ever killed when he was a young boy, that he was so scared he didn’t go near it after he shot it until he saw some flies flying around its mouth. He said, he knew then it was dead.

Fred hunted for the market and said he often followed elk all day on foot until they got tired, then he would make the kill.

After his hunting days were over, Fred went to work as a cowboy and took charge of quite a big outfit. The man wanted a new range and sent Fred out to locate one. Fred found what he wanted and moved the outfit to the Judith Basin. Then he located his headquarters down in the Badlands of the Missouri River. It was surely a tough country, to get in and out of—had to pack in everything on pack horses.

I asked Fred one time why he picked out such an ungodly country. He said he wanted to be alone where nobody would bother him and he sure found the ideal place for that.

During the winter of 1891 he hired me to go there and ride what he said was some half-broke horses—about twenty head. He wanted them for the Spring roundup so he could use them to work cattle. Those horses were like Fred—plenty tough. I don’t know how he got so many mean ones in one bunch.

I never saw so many mean horses—they would buck, strike, kick, bite, or run away. Shortly after I went to work for Fred, very cold weather set in and I sure had a tough time with those horses. There was snow and ice everywhere and it was hard enough for a gentle horse to stand up. These broncs didn’t care whether they stood up or not when they made up their minds to buck or run away. The camp was on a ridge with very rough gulches and canyons on both sides. The ridge averaged about a mile wide and a good many miles long, and when I would get one of them lined out on this ridge I would sure speed him up and didn’t give him any time to think of his tricks. I had to dress pretty heavy in that cold weather and a lot of clothes on don’t go very good with riding broncs. But the worst trouble of all was, I would get two or three of them going fairly good and the weather would turn so cold I couldn’t ride at all, sometimes for a week and those horses would get bronco again and I would have all my work to do over again. I rode most of them with draw reins and I could always double or pile them up in a snow bank before they would get to a cut bank or a gulch, but one day I was out riding one without draw reins and the horse stampeded heading for a cut bank. If one went over it he would land in the Missouri River. I couldn’t stop him and that bank looked to be a million feet straight up and down, so when I saw I couldn’t stop him I quit him and that’s a hard thing to do when a horse is running away. I just let all holts go and fell off but he didn’t go over the bank as soon as I quit him. He turned and went to camp which was about four miles that I had to walk.

One morning one of those horses bucked pretty hard. Fred was there and saw it. He said, “I saw a lot of daylight between you and that saddle. Looked to me like you was about gone.” I told him, “Oh no, that’s the way I ride, kind of loose.” I don’t know if he believed it or not but the fact was I was just about thrown off.

The headquarters consisted of a dugout for a home, no floor in it and a couple of bunks made out of cottonwood poles, and a corral. We melted snow to make coffee and cook with as the water hole was frozen and about all we had to eat was sour dough bread and black coffee. Of course, Fred being a great hunter, we had plenty of deer meat. Soon after I came there the sugar was all gone so we didn’t have any sweetening the rest of the winter. As soon as the weather broke so I could get out I quit Fred and left that part of the country.

Some time afterwards I was back in that locality and went to his camp. There was nobody home. It looked like nobody had been there for some time. I looked around and found some grub. It was a very warm day in the summer so I picketed my horse and laid down on Fred’s bed in the dugout to take a rest before getting something to eat. While I was lying there I saw a snake’s head appear out of a hole in the dugout. It looked as big as my hand and when he got his whole body out he was a monster. He was about four feet from me and saw me. He stuck his tongue out at me a few times and crawled across the dugout to where there was a grub box and got about half of his body in it and stopped. I raised up on my elbow to see what he was doing. He had his head in the sugar sack. I was twenty-five miles from where I could get anything to eat. I saddled up and beat it out of there. That was a bull snake (Gopher Snake) but he sure didn’t look good to me and he took all of my appetite, eating out of the grub box. I saw Fred some time afterwards and told him of my visit and of my leaving without eating. He seemed very much surprised that that should bother me any. He said the big fellow had been with him a long time and that they were great friends. He also said the big fellow didn’t allow no rats or mice to come near the camp.

I had quite an experience with another couple of old timers—two brothers that had a ranch and quite a large bunch of cattle. They had this ranch for some forty years, did their own cooking and washed their clothes, in fact, lived in real pioneer style. Their names were Frank and George. I was working for an outfit several miles from where those old timers lived. They sent my boss word that we had some cattle strayed on to their range and he sent me over there to help them gather the cattle and bring them home, and while working with them I took a very bad cold. One night when we got home I was quite sick and went into the room where they slept and laid down on one of the bunks. Later George and Frank came in and started getting supper. Now, they had a kind of an old box fastened on the wall of the cabin. They called it their medicine chest and in there was every kind of a bottle and little pill boxes imaginable and they were so old and dusty that the description and contents of each bottle was unreadable. While I was lying down I heard George say to Frank, “Con is pretty sick,” Frank said, “Why don’t you give him some bromo quinine?” George said, “Where is it?” “Why, it’s in that thar medicine box.” So George went looking for it. Pretty soon I heard him say, “I think this is it.” Frank said, “Yes, I think it is.” George started in where I was, but Frank stopped him and said, “Wait a minute, let me look at that again.” There was a little pause and I heard Frank say, “Hell no, this is coyote poison, don’t give him that.” “All right,” George said, “I’ll go back to the medicine box and look again.” Soon he came into the room with several different kinds of packages but I told him I didn’t think I needed anything now. In fact, I felt much better.

He was very much disappointed that I wouldn’t try some of the medicine. But, oh boy, he couldn’t have gotten any of that stuff down me with a ten foot pole.


In the year of 1886 Chief Sitting Bull of the Sioux tribe got permission from the agent at Standing Rock Agency in North Dakota to make a visit to the Crow Agency in Montana to visit the Crow Indians.

So he collected about fifty Sioux warriors and made the trip, and went to the battle ground where General Custer and his army was massacred in the year 1876, which was a short distance from the Crow Agency. He asked the Crow agent for permission to have a war dance on the battle ground. He said he wanted to recall old times. The agent refused.

So sitting Bull collected a bunch of Crow warriors and had a party on the Little Horn River adjoining the battle ground. The party progressed very nicely until Sitting Bull got on his feet and declared he was the greatest warrior that ever lived, stating the fact that he had killed more white men and stolen more horses than any other chief living. That statement insulted the Crow chief and the party turned into a fight. Crazy Head, the Crow chief, pulled his knife, grabbed Sitting Bull by his long hair and throwed him down and made him smell his feet, which was the greatest insult one chief could offer another, as in the language of the Indian it made Sitting Bull a dog, which is the worst name an Indian can call anyone.

The party broke up, and the next night Sitting Bull, to get even, stole a bunch of Crow horses, and with his fifty warriors started back for the Sioux reservation.

But there was an old squaw man living with the Crows that was plenty smart in the line of stealing horses and he collected a bunch of Crows and followed Sitting Bull and overtook his party on the Little Horn River, and took the horses away from them and killed two Sioux bucks and scalped them. Sitting Bull and the rest of his party got away and beat it back to their reservation.

Now the Crows got very uneasy over this affair and were afraid the Sioux would go on the warpath and steal away from their reservation and come back and clean up on them. So the Crow chief, Crazy Head, called all the Crows together, which at that time was about 2,800, and made a blockade by putting all their lodges and tepees on a big fiat on the Little Horn River covering about 20 acres, and at night they put all their horses inside this enclosure, and put guards all around it at night. Also inside this enclosure about two hundred of these warriors had tom-toms and they beat them all night and sang war songs. I want to say here that all the noise they made was to keep their spirits up, as they were deathly afraid of the Siouxs.

The old squaw man was in this big gathering, all dressed up like the Indians with britch cloth and head-dress with all kinds of feathers in his bonnet. I recall a rather amusing incident about him. A few years prior to the time I am writing of, the railroad ended at Miles City, and the administration at Washington, D.C., had notified the Crow Indian agent to send several chiefs to Washington to try to make a peace treaty and give them certain portions of land if they would become civilized. The agent called this squaw man to the Agency to send him with the chiefs as an interpreter. Now the old man had never seen a train or railroad and thought he had to ride horseback all the way to Washington. He told the agent he thought he could make the trip all right, but would have to have a new saddle. When he returned from Washington, the Indians were very anxious to know what he had seen and some of them still thought they could beat the white men at war. So they asked the old man how many whites he saw. He picked up both hands full of sand and throwed it in the air. Said he, “The whites are just like that wherever I went.” It was said that this demonstration by the old man made it seem useless to most of the braves to carry the fight any farther.

They also had the scalps of those two Indians they had killed hung on a tripod and some of the young braves sure put on a real war dance around the scalps.

Another man and myself went there one night. It sure was some sight. We put blankets around us like the Indians wore. This man I was with could talk Indian and they told him they knew we were white men even in the dark from the way we walked. This man’s name was Herb Dana, and he lived on Tongue River in Wyoming. If he is alive yet he can verify what I have told about this incident.

That winter a man by the name of Ed Town and myself started across the reservation with a freighting outfit, which he owned. He lived at the foot of the Big Horn Mountains. We had forty head of work cattle (which was Texas steers) and six wagons (which was two teams, three wagons hooked together—ten yoke of cattle made a team). It was in the month of January and the weather turned bitter cold.

We were near froze to death one night. We made camp and unyoked the steers, turned them loose without any feed except a few willows that grew on the creek. We finally got the tent up and I was kicking around in snow up to my knees, trying to find wood enough to build a fire, but there wasn’t any to be found. About the time I had given up, an old Indian came up to me and made signs he had a good lodge and no grub and that we had plenty food and no fire, and invited us to bring our food to his tepee. We were sure glad to make the trade.

His lodge was about 200 yards from our camp. We took all the bacon and flour the three of us could carry and went with the Indian. That was as cold a night as I ever saw and am sure we would both lost our lives if it wasn’t for that Indian.

I don’t think they had ate for a long time, as the squaws made bread and fried bacon all night. There was ten Indians in the camp and did they eat!

The lodge was round with a hole at the top. The fire was in the middle of the lodge. They cooked the bread in a frying pan.

We stayed there three days during the blizzard and outside of a little smoke we were fairly comfortable, but I think when we left there we were two of the lousiest men ever walked. I traded an Indian a $12.00 Stetson for a muskrat cap—I could brush lice and nits off it in swarms.

When the storm broke we found enough steers to pull one wagon to the ranch. As far as I know the rest of them died.

The winter of 1886 and 1887 was the toughest winter of my life and I believe it will be verified by all cattle men of that period. There was men in Montana and Wyoming that had 5,000 cattle that didn’t roundup 100 head the next spring.

My boss paid me off when we got to the ranch. I met up with another kid about my age. We had about $20.00 between us and no place to go. So we made a dugout out of cottonwood poles and dirt. We had no stove, so built a fireplace to cook on—and on the coldest days it always smoked the worst. In the spring we smelled and looked like Indians. We rustled a quarter of beef, a few beans, a little sugar and coffee and lived on that until spring. We got a little tapioca somewhere for dessert. We cooked that with water but we couldn’t spare much sugar—there was no place to get any more (that was on the line of Montana and Wyoming and was 100 miles from the railroad).

That winter the Indians suffered terrible from hunger and after we set up housekeeping squaws and papooses would come to stay until we cooked our meal with the hopes of getting something to eat. We fed them for awhile but we were getting low on food and had to quit, but they would come every day and stay all day and we wouldn’t eat while they were there.

One day my partner said he wanted to eat, but didn’t know what to do with those damn Indians. They were all huddled around the fireplace. I told him to make a lane through them as if he wanted to put some wood on the fire. I had a 45 six-shooter under my head on our bunk. When he made the opening I opened fire on the fireplace and took a fit. I hollered and bucked like a bronc. I throwed ashes all over the Indians and they nearly tore the door down getting out. Then we cooked and eat, and wasn’t bothered with Indians for a long time.

About a week after a buck Indian came by there looking for horses. It was very cold and my partner asked him in to get warm. He looked at me for a while and shook his head and made signs I was crazy. I guess the squaws had told him about me. We had put out some poisoned meat for coyotes and the Indians found it and was going to eat it but was suspicious and tried it on a dog and it killed him, which didn’t raise us much in their estimation.

I will always think those Indians got even with me. That following spring I wanted to leave that part of the country, and I didn’t have a horse. So I got to talking to some Indians. They said they had a fine horse running in their bunch. It was a stray—nobody claimed it and I could have him. I made a date with them when they would corral their horses. I was there with my saddle. They showed me a beautiful big sorrel and told me to catch him, which I did. He trotted right up to me when I roped him and seemed very nice to saddle. I was wondering all the time why those Indians were so kind to me, but oh boy, when I mounted him I found out. After the first jump I never saw anything but a little piece of sorrel mane in front of the saddle. I have been bucked off a good many times and often thought I could have rode most of the horses if I had got a break, but there never was any doubt about that Indian gift horse—I never had a Chinaman’s chance.

I saw several of those Indians in years afterwards. They would think awhile before they would remember me—they would laugh and make signs with their hands how the horse bucked me off.

The Crow Indians’ name for me was the White Man Chews Tobacco—Masachele Opa Barusha.

One time an old Crow Indian told me quite a story about the Tribe that I don’t believe many people know (and I have seen some evidence of the truth of his story).

I was riding line for a cow outfit on the Crow Reservation and an old Crow Chief came riding into my camp one morning about daylight, and asked me for something to eat, as he said he was making a long ride on some important business. I knew him—he was the same Chief that pulled a knife on Chief Sitting Bull, grabbed him by the hair and made him smell of his feet. This old Chief’s white-man’s name was Crazy Head—his Indian name was Ah Shumoch Noch, which means “Curly Head.” His hair was curly (which is unusual for an Indian) and he had very thick lips, which made me think of the story the old Indian had told me. He said a great many snows ago, a Negro showed up among the Crows. Nobody knew where he came from or how he got there, but he lived with them for many years. The Crow name for a Negro is Masachele Sha Pit Cot (which means White Black Man). While this old Chief was enjoying his breakfast (and he was plenty hungry) I asked him in Indian if he didn’t have some Nigger blood in him, and it sure made him mad. I believe if he hadn’t been eating in my camp he would have done something to me, but he said “Barrett” in a very loud voice, which means NO, but I insisted that he must have a little Negro blood. Still his answer was NO, with an oath, but I kept on teasing him about his curly hair and thick lips. He finally stuck out the end of his little finger with his thumb on the other hand to measure with—ecosh cota, which meant about the size of a pin head. He sure hated a nigger.

There was another old Indian visited our camp sometimes, that was quite a character. But he could peddle the bull as good as any white man I ever knew. Sometimes when he came to our camp—we wouldn’t have much food cooked and wouldn’t give him anything to eat, and he would silently sit on the ground watching us until we got through eating. When we put our cooking outfit away, he would get up on his feet, hitch his blanket over his shoulders and go out of the tent and call us all the mean dirty names he could think of, such as dogs, skunks and snakes. Well, maybe the next time he came we would feed him and it was sure wonderful to see the change in him. He loved bacon and coffee. Sometimes we would give him a big plate of bacon and sour dough bread. He would sit on the ground, cross his legs and boy, how he would eat! He would get his hands all bacon grease and rub them through his hair, and get a few shots of that strong coffee into him—it seemed to stimulate him like a shot of hop. Then he would open up with his “bull.” He would talk part Indian and part English. His favorite line was how much he loved the white man, such as, “Me no steal em White Man horse—White Man he my brother—My heart very good for him” (and I know he would steal the coppers off of a dead white man’s eyes). He said the Piegan Indian and the Sioux was very bad and all the time steal white man’s horse, but he was always watching out for the white man and wouldn’t let other Indians steal white man horse.

I recall another Indian I knew several years later, his name was Christmas. I always thought that he had stolen my saddle. One time at Big Sandy, Montana, we had shipped a train load of cattle out of Malta, and as usual after the cattle were all loaded out, we proceeded to celebrate before we went back on the range to gather some more. I think there were about twenty of us when we started the night celebration, but sometime in the night I must have took a nap, anyway I came to about two o’clock in the morning and as it was late in the month of October it was quite cold, in fact I thought I would freeze to death, everybody was gone to camp, my horse was tied to the hitch rack, the saloons were all closed, and not a light anywhere. I was working my way around trying to find my horse. When this Indian showed up where my horse was tied, he evidently had been drunk too and seemed very glad to find someone to talk to or steal something. He came up to where I was and said, “By golly Con Price I sure glad to see you, you my brother.” I guess I must have got some bad whiskey and felt pretty mean for while Christmas was talking to me I thought it would be a good joke to swing on him. His hands were both hanging down by his sides, so I was not taking any chances. I braced myself and gave him all I had, right on the point of the chin. It turned him half way around and he fell on his stomach. He weighed about two hundred and twenty-five, he had on a pair of heavy cowhide boots, that must have weighed five pounds each. He had no sooner fell down than he was up again and running like hell, he didn’t look back or say a word, but with those big boots and his weight, it sounded like a bunch of horses running away. I saw him about a month afterward, he didn’t say anything, but smiled. I guess he thought it was a good joke too.

After Christmas left I got on my horse, and started for camp, of course there were no roads so I started out across the prairie, and it was very dark and I got lost. I finally landed in some heavy sage brush, I got off my horse and tied him to some brush, by that time I had got awful thirsty and couldn’t find any water. I felt something in my chaps pocket, and found it was a bottle of tomato catsup (where or how I got it I never knew). I couldn’t get the cork out so I broke the head off of it with a rock, and drank nearly all of it. I layed down and went to sleep but woke up in a short time with a terrible pain in my stomach, the first thing I thought was that I had swallowed some of the glass from that ketchup bottle and I was sure scared. It was getting daylight about that time and I knew where I was, and I got on my horse and started for the old DHS horse ranch. There was no one home as the boys were all on the roundup. I heated a tub of water and got into it and had a big sweat, after that I felt much better, I cooked something to eat and went to bed and stayed there until the next morning. As I knew about where the roundup would be, I found camp that day, nobody said much to me about my absence, as it was a legitimate excuse those days for a cowboy getting drunk to be late on the job.


In the days of open range, everybody had great freedom. A cowboy could change countries every spring if he wanted to and they were always drifting from one range to another—not only to different ranges but to different states. For instance, maybe he would be in New Mexico one year and on the Canadian border the next.

Every cowboy had a private horse of his own, pack horse and his own bed, which consisted of a tarpaulin and some blankets. And according to the custom of them days he could stop at any cow camp or ranch and was not under obligations to anyone, and if he wanted to stay a week and rest his horses that was O.K. too. If there was no one home, he always found grub and helped himself, so he was quite independent—and it did not take much money to travel. Nature provided him with new scenery every day, such as unclaimed land, rivers and creeks, and in my day plenty of wild game of all kinds. I don’t believe the tourist of today with his automobile has anything compared to what we had.

I am going to make a statement here that almost sounds fishy, but I can prove it. I worked for a cow outfit that run twenty-five thousand cattle and three or four hundred saddle horses to handle the cattle with, and they didn’t own one foot of deeded land. The land was unsurveyed and belonged to the government. They usually built a big log house, some corrals and a kind of stable, and called it their ranch, and no one disputed their title—even a sheepman must not get too close with his woolies. They paid no taxes on this land and as it would be impossible for the assessor to count the cattle in an area of two or three hundred miles, I would say a good honest cattle man might give in one-third of his number. An outfit the size I speak of, would hire about twenty-five cowboys during the summer months and keep four or five during the winter. That was the only expense they had, outside of buying saddle horses to mount their cowboys—which was ten or twelve to the man.

I have been asked quite often what a “Rep” was by people that was hatched at a later day. Well, for illustration, Tom Jones has a ranch at San Francisco—Bill Smith has a ranch at Los Angeles. Both run several thousand cattle. There are no fences between those two places, so, naturally, in the course of a year quite a number of both men’s cattle would drift out of their range where they worked their main range and it wouldn’t pay to send a whole outfit so far for what cattle had drifted—so they picked out a very reliable cowboy that knew their brands. He cut out his string of horses, packed his bed and started for one of those ranges to represent the outfit he was working for. There might be six or seven reps with each different outfit.

Now, when one of those outfits started to work their range, they started what they called a “Day Herd”—that was for the purpose of holding all cattle that the reps, or the home outfit wanted to hold—sometimes beef cattle, sometimes some outfit changing hands—those cattle were held by home range men and driven from one roundup to another and each day, and each roundup; anybody that found any cattle they wanted to hold or take home, they were cut out and put in that day herd.

This herd sometimes got pretty big before the roundup was over and was bunched up at night and held on what they called the bed-ground. Those cattle were night herded by all cowboys that worked during the day, by shifts of two or three hours each, the hours depending on the length of the nights—spring or fall—sometimes two men on shift, or more, depending on the size of the herd or how hard they were to hold.

The rep never done any day-herding as he was supposed to see all cattle rounded up so as to pick out the cattle he represented, as other cowboys didn’t know his irons as well as he did. There was also a little cowboy etiquette extended to the rep—he didn’t have to stand night guard unless it was absolutely necessary.

When this roundup was over and the range all worked, lasting from a month to six weeks, the big herd was worked and every cowboy that had any cattle in the herd cut them out in a bunch by themselves, or some other fellow that had cattle going home the same direction as he was, then they throwed in together. If a cowboy didn’t have help enough to move his cattle to their home range, the outfit he gathered them with sent some men to help him. This custom was practiced in all the outfits. Another fine practice in the early days by honest cowmen was if a cow was found in a roundup with a calf belonging to her and nobody claimed her, the captain of that roundup branded the calf with the same iron that was on the mother and turned her loose where she was. This was done with what was known as a running iron, which was a small bar and a small half circle—one can make any brand on an animal with those two irons. Now if that was a steer calf and nobody claimed him until it was grown and fit for beef, that same captain or any captain of any roundup had a right to load and ship that steer to any market with his cattle, say Chicago, Omaha or Kansas City, which were the principal shipping points in those days. There the stock inspector got a record of what state the steer came from and when he was sold. It was his duty to see that the money was sent to the stock association of that state, they having a record of the brand and the address of the owner. A check was immediately forwarded to the party.

For instance, Charlie Russell and myself got a check for a steer I had not seen for six years and had been loaded on the train four hundred miles from where I turned him loose. He was shipped to Chicago, sold and the money sent to Helena, Montana, where we had our brand recorded.


This incident I write about was known as the Johnson County War in Wyoming in the years of 1893 and 1894, and I presume some of the old-timers of today remember those days when those things happened.

The way it first started, some of the cowboys working for the big outfits bought a few cattle of their own and branded them and turned them loose on the range. The cattle barons objected to this, and passed a resolution that any cowboy owning a branding iron could not work for them—for the reason, them days there were a great many mavericks on the range and the cattlemen divided them up among themselves. This caused considerable bitterness, as the cowboy claimed any animal without a brand belonged to the first one that found it. There may have been some justification on both sides; at any rate it developed into quite a feud. I heard one old cattleman remark that he knew cowboys that even their grandfathers never owned a cow, had more cattle than he did.

This feeling between stockmen and cowboys got to be very serious, as each side took the law in their own hands to a great extent, and there was quite a few people killed. The rustlers got so bold they took a contract with one of the construction contractors to supply them with beef. They would go out on the range, and butcher any animal they found, regardless of what brand was on the animal.

The stockmen appointed a stock detective. His name was Chris Groce, who was very capable and absolutely fearless, and for a while held the rustlers somewhat in check, but as time went on the sympathy of all the little ranchers and cowboys were with the cattle rustlers.

I remember two boys that the cattlemen wanted put out of the way but could not catch up with them, so they formed a posse and went out after them. They finally run those boys into an old cabin out on the range and tried to get them to surrender without any success. They finally backed a wagonload of hay up against the cabin and set it on fire. When the cabin caught fire, the rustlers made a break to get away, and the posse killed both of them.

There was another ex-cowboy I knew that decided to go into business for himself. He would go out on the range, shoot a steer, butcher it, bring it to town and sell it. He went by the name of Spokane. He got along pretty well for a while, but one day the Sheriff was trailing some horse thieves across the country and run on to Spokane with a steer shot down and was butchering it. The Sheriff told him to throw up his hands, but instead Spokane crouched down behind his steer and opened fire on the Sheriff with his six-shooter and made it hard for the Sheriff to get him, but the Sheriff had a Winchester and could reach him at long range. He finally shot him in the arm and Spokane came up and surrendered. The Sheriff told me afterwards he sure hated to shoot him, as he was plenty game. I was in the hotel the night they brought Spokane in and the doctor dressed his arm without any anesthetic. He lay on the couch and smoked cigarettes just as unconcerned as if everything was all right and in no pain. They sent Spokane to the Pen for three years and when he got out he straightened up and made a very good citizen.

These conditions seemed to go from bad to worse until things got so bad the cattlemen took it on themselves to hire a bunch of Texas Rangers to come to Wyoming to protect their interests. That fact created more bitter feeling and anybody taking sides with either group was sure in danger of their lives at all times. I remember a bunch of rustlers and cowboys, went to an old deserted ranch and built a kind of temporary stockade. The Rangers followed them there and tried to arrest them on their own authority. One of the boys in the stockade told me afterwards that siege lasted several days, and they had to go to a spring for water, and every time they did so there would be considerable shooting from both sides.

Finally conditions got so bad that it got out of control of the local authorities and the militia was called out to settle the trouble. They arrested everybody—cattlemen, cowboys, rustlers and Rangers, and took them all to Cheyenne. That broke up the feud and nobody gained anything. Most of the cowmen lived in the East and they were sick of the whole affair. Some of them sold out and never did come back to Wyoming. The cowboys and rustlers drifted to parts unknown, and things in Johnson County got on a more legitimate basis. I met several of those cowboys afterwards in Montana. Most of them were under assumed names, and some of them had very good jobs, such as stock inspectors and foremen of big outfits. They generally made pretty good men, as they had had plenty of experience.

At the time those conditions existed, I was breaking colts for the PK Cow outfit on Soldier Creek, close to Sheridan, Wyoming, and Buffalo Bill Cody sent notice to Sheridan that he would be there on a certain day and wanted to buy a carload of wild horses to ship to Boston for his show, also he wanted to hire some Wild West riders to take back to Boston. That is a long time ago and there wasn’t the bronc riders there is today. Some rode with tied stirrups, some with buck straps. There was a quite a number of riders but only one boy qualified—his name was Scotty. I tried for that job, but Bill hurt my pride very much, as he told me I might make a rider but wouldn’t do at that time. The only consolation I had was to say to myself that Bill didn’t know a good rider when he saw one.


Several people not familiar with horses have asked me what a bronco-buster means, and they seem to think all cowboys are bronco riders, which is not so. I sometimes talk to an old-timer that once rode broncs and broke horses, and like most all old-timers in every line of work they claim the younger generation cannot compete with them the way they did it in their day. But the old boys are only kidding themselves when they think those young fellows can’t ride a bucking horse. They have made a profession of it and keep in practice. Another thing, the old-tuners never flanked a horse like they do in contest today—that’s putting a strap around his kidneys and cinching it up to make him buck—and it does make him buck harder than without it. He gets in a twist when he is up off the ground. That the horses of the old days never did. I have been judge at several bucking contests and shows and I would venture to say that no old-timer could ever have rode those horses with that rigging on him without first getting used to it.

Another thing, in the old days of the range the good riders tried to keep their horse from bucking, whereas today they train and teach them to buck for the shows. So naturally the horse and rider have more practice.

There is a great difference between a bronc-rider and a horse-breaker, or a regular cowboy—and still they are classed as the same by a great many people. Not saying anything against the modern bronc-rider, but all he knows about a horse is to ride him while he bucks. I have seen some the best riders that didn’t have any idea what a horse should do after he quit bucking, from the fact he saddles him in a chute and gets on him in there—then he is let out and the skill he uses is to stay on that horse a few seconds until the whistle is blown by the time-keeper and the horse is caught by the pick-up man—and many a time that whistle has saved many a boy when he was all in. But the poor bronc-fighter has a hard time at best. He has plenty of competition and they can’t all win and most of them, if they follow it long enough, wind up broken physically and financially. So the old saying still goes ... “all it takes to make a good bronc-buster is a strong back and a weak mind” ... as all it requires is plenty courage and practice.

But a good horse-breaker really does something. He uses intelligence and studies the disposition of his horse, as every one is different and requires different methods—and I wouldn’t attempt to say which is the best. Some cowboys are natural horsemen and seemingly without taking very much pains get wonderful results, while the other fellow will try ever so hard and never get nowhere.

Nearly every state has a different way of starting a young horse. In Montana the first thing we did with a wild horse was to catch him by the front feet and throw him down, and take one hind leg away from him by tying it up so he can’t touch the ground with it (that way he can’t hurt you or himself). He stands on three legs and if he tries to kick or fight he usually falls down. After a few falls he will stand and let you rub him all over his body and legs, and you can saddle and unsaddle him until he finds he can’t get away from you and that you aren’t going to hurt him. That was the system I used and I thought I got very good results.

However, I have seen cowboys use a blindfold on a horse that worked very well, too—using a soft piece of leather or a piece of cloth to put over the horse’s eyes and in that way learned him to stand while they saddled him and got on and off until he gets used to it. But I always preferred the way of letting the horse see what was going on from the first lesson.

But that is just a small part of breaking a horse. In the first place he may have a notion of bucking no matter how careful you have been in handling him, as there is no doubt some horses inherit those different bad habits from their ancestors just like humans do, and if bucking happens to be the favorite way of your horse’s showing his meanness, the cowboy must be able to ride him, as every time a horse bucks his man off he is getting that much nearer to being an outlaw. Then another thing—seldom ever any two horses buck the same. One will have some different twist from the other one. I have seen good riders get on a horse that didn’t seem to buck so hard and would get throwed off. When I used to ride, the hardest for me was one that bucked and whirled around and around.

But the bucking is usually the small part of breaking a horse or at least to make him valuable as a cow horse. Most horse-breakers first start the horse with a hackamore and sometimes never put a bridle on him for a couple of years and then sometimes he is not finished, depending both on what kind of a horse and man they are.

I think in the early days in Wyoming and Montana they got much quicker results with a horse, as they started working cattle with a young horse as soon as a man could pull him around at all, and there is no doubt but that is what makes a good horse. They are like people. One can read forever about learning to do something and will never learn much until they actually do the work themselves.

There is no doubt California turns out some of the best broke horses in the world, but the breaking sometimes costs the owner as much as two hundred dollars. So it can be readily seen that a big cow outfit like they had a few years back, that had a couple of hundred saddle horses and worked 25 or 30 men, couldn’t put in two years breaking a horse or pay two hundred dollars to break him. Even at that I have seen just as good, if not better, practical cow horses that never had that much time or money spent on them—but they worked cattle every day during the six months of the season—and I contend that’s what makes cow horses and cowboys.

Another difference in the professional bronc-rider is he has his horse in a chute to handle and saddle him, with plenty of help. The old-timer had to rope his horse out of a bunch of horses and saddle him alone and get on him without any help. Then maybe he would stampede, run over a cut bank or fall down—and he had to be able to take care of himself.


In the days that I write of there were very few women folks in the country and a less number of girls, but there was one family who had one girl of about seventeen years and I thought she was very attractive. I worked about twenty miles from where she lived and used to go to see her quite often, but she had two brothers about eight and ten years old and they were wild as Indians and their main sport and pastime was riding wild calves and yearlings. The girl was about as wild as them and usually joined in those bucking contests, so when I went courting her she wanted me to join in on the fun. As my every-day work was riding and handling cattle, this kind of sport didn’t interest me. I was serious and wanted to make love, so those boys were a great worry to me, as when I wanted to court the girl the boys wanted to ride calves. One time when I was particularly interested in talking to the girl they wanted me to go out to the corral and ride calves, and of course I wouldn’t go, so one of them suggested I act as a horse and he would ride me. To get rid of him I consented. He was to get up on my shoulders, put his legs around my neck and hold on to my shirt collar with his hands. Then I was to start bucking, which I did. When I got to bucking my best I bent over forward and threw him off pretty hard and hurt him some. He got up crying and the girl was laughing at him for being bucked off. He said, “Well, I would have rode the S.B. if he hadn’t throwed his head down.” Anyway, I got rid of him for that day and had a chance to court the girl.

As most any story is not complete without some love and courtship in it, I am going to write my experience in that matter.

I was married to Claudia Toole in the year 1899. She was a daughter of Bruce Toole, who was a brother to Joseph K. Toole, Governor of Montana at that time. Now Bruce Toole was a very fine aristocratic Southern gentleman and knowing that a cowboy didn’t usually climb very high on the ladder of culture he didn’t think I was desirable company for his daughter. So, we had to carry on our courtship secretly from the old gent, and as about the only amusement of those days was country dancing and as we all went to them on horseback (which usually was 15 or 20 miles) we would ride to a dance. As I could not go to my girl’s home to get her, we would designate a certain rock or creek out on the range to meet at and would go from there to the dance. That is where I would leave her the next morning after the dance. Her father thought she went to those parties with her brother, who was in on our secret, so in all our courtship it was unknown to him and it was the shock of his life when we slipped away and got married.

My wife had a pinto horse of her own that her father had got from the Indians and given to her and he must have had some fine breeding back in his ancestry somewhere as he could run like a blue streak. I usually rode the same horse every time we went out together and the two horses became very attached to each other. One time I had taken my wife to a dance and ventured a little closer to her home than usual. I unsaddled her horse and turned him loose in the pasture and rode away. Her horse ran along the fence and put up a terrible fuss about being separated from my horse. My wife’s father saw him acting up and wondered what in the world was the matter with him, but he hadn’t seen me. That was one time we nearly got caught in our secret courtship.

I was working for a large cattle company and we had a great many saddle horses. They used to stray away from the ranch quite often and I used to ride the range hunting them. There was an old German who had quite a large ranch about ten miles from us, and a good many cattle and horses. He used to try to keep in contact with me as much as possible to find out if I had seen any of his stock and to tell him where they were. So, he used to tell me whenever I was anywhere near his ranch to come there and eat and feed my horse.

About three miles from this old man’s ranch was an enormous big rock that one could hide a couple of horses behind very easily and my wife could get up on the top of the rock and see the whole surrounding country. That was one of our meeting places and we had a date one day to meet at this rock at a certain hour. I could always see her and her pinto horse coming for several miles, so I was at the rock this day waiting for my girl and the old German was out riding this day looking after his stock and saw me quite a distance away and came to where I was. He spoke very broken English and of course was glad to see me and inquire about his stock. He said, “Veil, Con—vot you look for?” I told him I had lost a horse and was hunting for him. He wanted a description of the horse, so if he found him he could hold him for me. Of course I had to give him an imaginary description and I wanted to get rid of him as I expected my girl along at any minute, but he insisted that I should go to his ranch with him and have dinner and feed my horse. I used every excuse I could think of—told him I was in a hurry to find the horse—thought he might be sick and would die if I didn’t find him right away—but he said, “Come on with me and have dinner and I vill go mit you and hunt the horse.” Of course, that was just what I didn’t want. I had a hard time, but finally got rid of him and went and found my girl.

Some months afterwards, my girl and I were at another rancher’s place and quite a crowd of people had gathered there that day. The old German came and in the general conversation he said, “Con, didth you findth that hos you vos looking fo’ and vos he sick?” I told him I had found the horse and he was fine. My girl was listening to the conversation and her face turned as red as a firecracker—of course I had told her about the meeting with the old man at the rock.

I think everybody has more or less trouble in their courting days, but it seemed to my wife and I that we had more than our share. As I said before, my wife’s parents didn’t know we were keeping company at all—in fact, didn’t hardly know me. There was a very noted dance coming off about 20 miles from her home that we had planned to attend, when, lo and behold, a few days before the dance a very wealthy and refined gentleman (and an old friend of her father’s) with a fine team and top buggy (which was very rare in those days) came to her father’s ranch to ask her parents to take her to the dance. They at once gladly said yes and she in order not to tip her hand had to consent, and mind you, we were engaged to be married at this time. Of course, with me not knowing anything about this transaction it placed her in a very precarious position, and she had a terrible time getting in touch with me to explain to me what had happened. It didn’t set too well with me, but in order to keep everything under control we agreed that she would go to the dance with this man and I would go alone. I guess the fellow must have had some suspicion of the way things stood, as he told her the next day when he was taking her home that he noticed she and I seemed to feel very much better when we had our first dance together. He tried to question her about me and told her I didn’t even own a cabin. She acted very innocent and unconcerned about the matter, but he must have figured he was out of the race, because he never came to call on her again.

When we got married we had to steal away like we did when we were courting. I borrowed a team and spring wagon and we had to drive forty miles and the snow was about belly deep on the horses. Then we had to wait over in Shelby until the next day to go to Great Falls. The job of getting her away from the ranch was the hard part of it. My wife’s room was upstairs in her home and we agreed that she would throw her stuff out the window about eight o’clock at night and I would pick it up and carry it to the wagon I had parked about 100 yards from the house. I didn’t have any idea how much stuff she had until she began throwing it out—clothes, suitcases, shoes and everything else that a woman ever wore, and besides, she used to play the piano and she had great bales of sheet music and every time one of those bales of music hit that frozen ground it sounded like someone had shot a high powered rifle and the stuff fell right in front of a window down stairs and the window curtains were up. Her father sat reading about ten feet from where I was picking it up. I would take all I could carry on my back to the wagon and came back for another load, and as she was still throwing stuff out while I was gone there would be a bigger pile than ever when I got back. I believe she would have thrown the piano out too if the window had been big enough, and the worst part of it was her father had two bloodhounds and they bellowed and howled every time she threw out a fresh cargo. It was a very cold night and I wore a big fur overcoat and every time I bent over to pick up a package they would howl louder than ever. They thought I was some kind of animal. I tried whispering to them to get out and keep still and that would bring a bigger howl than ever. I was watching her father pretty close through the window and every once in a while he would cock his head sideways to listen and acted like he was going to get up and come out, then would settle down and go to reading again. During those intervals, my heart was sure pounding and I was all sweaty with fear. I have often heard of people being very nervous when they placed the bride’s ring on her finger, but I know that is nothing compared to the ordeal I went through. I forgot, and left a lot of things around where I loaded the wagon and it snowed a lot after that. Every time my wife missed something of hers, we would go to that spot and shovel snow. Neither one of us had any idea of what it took to set up housekeeping and it is amazing what we bought. One thing we both agreed on was a carpet, as we intended to move into an old cabin that had big cracks in the floor. When we got home and checked our Outfit, it seemed to be mostly carpet. Then I think every friend we ever had gave us a lamp for a wedding present, so we had a whole wagonload of carpets and lamps. We had hanging lamps, floor lamps and lamps to throw away, but hardly anything else in the way of housekeeping. When we arrived back in Shelby there were about 25 cowboys in town that had come to celebrate Christmas (it being Christmas week we were married) and they were all at the train to meet us. Most of them had a good sized Xmas jag on and the different congratulations I got from that bunch would sure sound funny today if I could remember them all. They were all old time cowboys that I had worked with for years. We all went to a saloon to celebrate the event. Each one would take me aside to pour out his feelings and congratulations, and give me hell for stealing away to get married without telling them. Some of the names they called me wouldn’t look good in print but that was their way of showing their true friendship. One old bowlegged fellow that I had known from the time I was a kid had a little more joy juice aboard than the others. He didn’t have much to say, but stood at the end of the bar and drank regularly while the celebration was going on. He had one cock eye and kept watching me all the time until he got an opportunity to attract my attention. He nodded to me to come over to where he was. I went over to him and he looked at me silently for a moment and said, “Well, you’re married, are you?” I said yes, and he asked, “Did you marry a white woman?” I answered yes, and he said “You done damn well, but I feel sorry for the girl.” In the meantime, while we were away getting married, my wife’s father wrote her a letter to Shelby where we had our team and wagon and told her all was forgiven and to come home, which we did.

I went to work for him and as he owned plenty of cattle and horses I seemed to be just the kind of a son-in-law he needed, but we sure had a supply of carpet and lamps that we didn’t know what to do with.


Con Price and Charlie Russell At Great Falls, Montana (1903)


Charlie Russell with Sandy and Dave At the Lazy KY (1907)


A few years after my marriage we settled on a squatter’s right on the head of Kicking Horse Creek in the Sweet Grass Hills in Montana. The land was unsurveyed at that time and one did not know where his boundary lines were. So one staked off what one thought was about right and it was respected by most stockmen.

I lived seven years on that squatter’s right and when it was surveyed I proved up on it at once. The government allowed me from the time I established my residence. I also had fenced in about three thousand acres of government land, which I had the use of for ten years without any cost.

It was quite easy to borrow money those days. So I soon was in the cattle business for myself.

After some years Charlie Russell came to see me and in our conversation he asked me if I would like a partner. That suited me fine, as that would give me some money to work on. So I told Charlie I would gather the cattle and horses, and he would come to the ranch and we would count the stock and appraise the outfit.

He said, “You know what there is. You count the stock and appraise what other stuff you got, and send me a bill, and I will send you a check.” And when we dissolved partnership and sold out, we settled the same way. He had great faith in mankind.

Charlie and I built up a very nice little ranch. He and Nancy both filed on some land adjoining my old place and we run about three hundred cattle and about sixty head of horses.

Our cattle brand was known as the Lazy KY. Our horse brand was the letter “T.” It was very hard to get a desirable brand at that time, as the recorder of brands would not give you a brand you asked for, but would pick out a brand for you, and if what he sent you didn’t suit, you sent two dollars more until you got the kind of iron you wanted.

We had a great deal of trouble getting a horse brand until we got the letter “T.” Governor Joseph Toole owned this brand in the days when Montana was a territory, and he had not used it for many years. A great many people tried to buy it from him, but he would not sell it, but through his brother, Bruce Toole, who was a cattleman, he agreed to let us have the iron, and as he admired Charlie’s work would not accept any pay for it. Also the recorder of brands, in courtesy to the governor, transferred the brand without cost. So we owned one of the oldest brands in the state, and as we never transferred the iron to anyone I believe it still stands on record in our names.

But Charlie and I started in the cattle business too late to get the full benefit of the open range. The cattlemen were like the Indians. At one time they had everything they wanted—free range and free water—but the sheepmen soon began to squat on the watering places and it wasn’t many years until they had outnumbered the cattlemen.

There was a general hatred between them, as the cattle wouldn’t graze or water where there were sheep and the sheep would go everywhere. That was bad—but was nothing compared to when the farmers came from the East and homesteaded the land. I seen that country change in two years from where there was open range everywhere to where there wasn’t a foot of government land left, either in Montana or across the Canadian line, and in 1910 we had a very dry year and had to gather our cattle and bring them home. So decided to sell out. The farmers filed on every water hole in the country and they all had dogs, so the cattle didn’t have a chance. Some of the old-timers hung on for awhile and reminded me again of the Indians, as they said the farmer couldn’t last and would starve out and the country would all go back to open range. But when I seen those farmers raise fifty bushels of wheat to the acre on that virgin soil I could see the handwriting on the wall.

Course that land soon wore out for raising grain and most of those settlers sure had a hard time to get by but they are still there. It never will be a good farming country, but they have ruined it for the cattleman. They have even drove the sheep out.

One time when the sheep and cattlemen were at war, I knew two cattlemen that was very hard put by the sheep. They had monopolized all the free range and water, and as it has always been commonly understood that saltpeter would kill sheep, they decided to work on the sheepmen. So they sent away and got one hundred pounds of saltpeter and as it was a very serious crime to poison the range, they were very careful. They took the saltpeter in front of a band of sheep that was grazing on their range. One of them rode next to the sheepherder so he couldn’t see the sack the other one had on his horse. Then they cut a hole in the sack and rode slowly in front of the sheep and distributed the one hundred pounds. One of those fellows was quite a large cattleman and after the job was completed he got scared and left that part of the country for about a week so that in case of an investigation he would have an alibi that he was not at home at the time of the poisoning.

When he came back he hunted up his partner in crime to know what luck they had had. He told him the sheep had eat all the saltpeter and hadn’t killed one of them. He said, “I’ll be damned! I give up. Those sheep are too much for me.”

The range war got to be very bitter in that locality and I was very glad to get out. Whenever anyone lost a cow or horse, he blamed someone for killing it and the feeling got so bitter that it looked like it was leading up to where someone would get killed, and they did.

Charlie and I sold out to a man by name of Peter Wagner, and we had a neighbor by name of Al Pratt. He was very quarrelsome with everybody. Wagner was quite an old man. Pratt was a young man. He had chased the old man on horseback several times and once had beat him over the head with a wet frozen rope, another time had knocked him off his horse and run over him.

The surveyed road to town went between our house and barn, and in wintertime the snow drifted so deep it was impassable, and I had left about an acre of ground open where people went around the snowdrift.

About six months after Charlie and I had sold out to Wagner, one morning Pratt started to town on this road with a team and buckboard. When he came to this spot, the old man was there on horseback, standing on the detour. Pratt started to drive on Wagner’s land and he told him to follow the county road. Pratt said the road was impassable and tried to force his team past the old man, but he grabbed one of the bridles of the team. Pratt struck Wagner in the face with his buggy whip. Wagner jerked out his gun and shot Pratt once in the neck, once in the back and three shots hit the buckboard. Pratt fell out dead.

At the trial I was called as a character witness. The prosecuting attorney asked Wagner how many shots he fired. Wagner said, “One, to save my own life.” When he asked him to account for the other four shots, he said he was riding a hardmouth horse and he tried to run away at the first shot, and in pulling on his bridle reins with his left hand he forgot what his right hand was doing, and thought he must have kept pulling the trigger on his gun. It was an automatic and, of course, as long as he kept pulling the trigger it kept shooting, but he couldn’t explain how the gun kept pointing towards Pratt’s body.

The corpse laid there in the snow for twenty-four hours before the sheriff and coroner arrived and there was a gun found by the body. Wagner claimed self-defense. I testified that Pratt had pulled a Winchester on me once and threatened to kill me—which I think helped some.

Wagner was quite wealthy when this happened. He got free but he was flat broke when he got out.

He had told me several times prior to this incident that he was deathly afraid of Pratt, which I believe makes a very dangerous man when he is afraid of another man.

One thing about our neighborhood I never could understand was as long as the people were very poor they were peaceable and neighborly but when they got a little prosperous some of them were in court the year around.

We had a justice of the peace nearby and he sure had plenty business. I listened to one case that seems very amusing to me now. The judge liked to play poker and when he wasn’t busy with court duties he was usually in a poker game. This case was between two ranchers over the cutting of a wire fence. The trial was held in a little store. Each one acted as his own attorney, also testified in his own behalf. While one of them was testifying, the other one was sitting on the store counter, swinging his legs and listening, and when the other fellow made a statement he didn’t approve of he said, “That’s a damn lie.” The judge jumped to his feet and said, “Damn you, you can’t talk that way in this court.”

After the trial the judge took the case under advisement for a few hours.

Late that night I met the judge and asked him how the trial came out and when he told me I expressed some surprise. He said, “Hell, that other fellow couldn’t win in this court with four aces!”

Charlie used to come to the ranch quite often and enjoyed riding horseback, but I always had a hard time to convince him the horses were gentle. We kept about ten head and as I was the only one who rode them, they were always fat and rarin’ to go, and as when he and I worked together in the past, I was nearly always riding colts. He said he didn’t believe I ever owned a gentle horse.

So one time he came to the ranch to file on some land and we had to ride about fifteen miles. He told me to be sure to give him a gentle horse and I thought I did. I saddled his horse next morning and gave him the bridle reins and turned around to get on my horse, when I heard a terrible noise. I looked around and Charlie was down on his back with his foot fast in the stirrup, and the horse jumping and striking at him. I ran and caught his horse and got him loose. He had lost his hat and his clothes were dirty. He said, “This is another one of them damn gentle horses you have been telling me about. Now I have got to ride him fifteen miles with a hump in his back. I will feel good all day.” I don’t think I tried to get him to gallop but he said every time he tried to hurry that horse he would hump up like he was going to buck until he would pull him down to a walk.

He wrote me a letter when he went home and painted a picture of himself down on his back with his foot fast in the stirrup. He said it reminded him of a friend of his in Great Falls that sold a man a horse and told the fellow it was a regular lady’s horse, but had killed two men in Butte afterwards.

For thirty years, Charlie Russell owned a pinto named Monte that could almost talk. I don’t believe Monte was ever in a stable until he was twenty years old. When Charlie quit riding the range and went to living in town, he built Monte a stable but Monte didn’t like civilization and would not stay in the stable unless he was tied up, then he would be very nervous and would never lay down. But after some time Charlie found out there was only one way Monte would compromise and that was to leave the stable door open and Monte would lay down with his head out the door—he took no chances on being shut in.

Charlie and I had about fifty head of mares at the ranch. That was of the Mustang Stock. We raised some good tough saddle horses but in general they weren’t much to look at—pintos, buckskins, all kinds and colors.

So I began looking for a better grade of a stallion to improve our herd. I finally contacted a fellow by the name of Jake Dehart and he told me he had a fine stallion to sell, so I went to look at the horse. He was a terrible looking sight. He had been neglected, was sick and badly run down. His legs were swelled up almost as big as his body. He hadn’t shed his winter coat of hair and looked like anything but a horse. Dehart showed me the registered papers of the horse and they were O.K., in fact, he was an imported horse and of fine breeding. I didn’t know whether I could save the horse or not. Looked like he might die any time, so I told Dehart I would trade him a bunch of horses for the stud. We set a date when he would come to the ranch to look at the horses that I was to trade him. I told Dehart I thought I could give him about 20 head of horses for his stallion. Our horses run on the open range and it took several days to gather them.

When I got them all gathered and in the corral, they were sure a tough-looking bunch but when I would think about Dehart’s stud the Mustangs looked the best of the two so I began culling out the worst ones for Dehart, but he didn’t come on the day agreed on and looking the culls over I figured there was some too good to give him. Dehart didn’t come for several days and when he did arrive they were sure a sorry looking bunch of horses. Some of them crippled, some of them had been cut in barbed wire, some blind in one eye, some with their hips knocked down and some locoed. When Dehart did come he walked up to the corral and looked over the fence at the horses. He said, “My God, I thought you had better horses than those things. Where are the rest of your horses?” I told him that was all I had. Of course, I had got the rest of them out of sight.

Poor Dehart was in a bad spot. He had a lot of money in the stud and he was afraid he was going to die and it was either take this bunch of junk or nothing, so we traded. Shortly after I had made the trade Charlie came up from Great Falls to the ranch to see how things were getting along and didn’t know I had made the trade. There was nobody home the day he came. I was out on the range riding after cattle. This big terrible looking animal was standing in the corral. When I got home Charlie asked me where I got that mountain of “beauty.” I told him about the trade. “Well,” said Charlie, “he is sure a good sleeper. I watched him for an hour in the corral; he never moved an ear.” Charlie said Dehart must have got me drunk when I made that trade. I told him if he saw what I had traded for him he would think Dehart was the one that was drunk.

I doctored that horse and brought him out of his sickness and he produced the best colts in that country at that time and I later sold him for $500.00. In another way the trade proved to be very profitable. I wanted to vent the brand on the horses when Dehart took them but Dehart said no, he was going to ship those horses out of the country and didn’t want any more brands on them as it would hurt the sale of the horses. Instead of doing that, he sold them all at the railroad station where he had intended to ship them from. It was about 20 miles from our ranch and in about the middle of our range where our horses run and where I turned loose the rest of our horses, after the trade was made and the people that bought the horses from Dehart turned them loose on the range without either branding them or venting them. Consequently those horses in a few days were back on their range mixed up with our bunch without any way to identify them and all branded with our iron. I told those people about the matter and tried to get them to get their horses but they didn’t give it any attention so in a few months I sold all our horses on the range with the iron. When I sold the horses with the brand they sure put up a howl. They threatened me with court action, said they would have me arrested, but they couldn’t do anything about it as it was their own fault so I figured I got the stallion for nothing.

One time when Charlie Russell and I were in partnership in the cow business, I lost some yearling colts and as the country was all open in those days and no fences, our stock would sometimes stray two or three hundred miles away from home. So, after about three years after I had lost those colts I heard of some horses up in Canada which had my brand on them. I had a neighbor who had lost some colts about the same time as I had, so we decided to go up in that country and try to find them. We each took a couple of good saddle horses and started out. That country was very thinly settled those days, just a little stock ranch here and there, sometimes twenty-five or thirty miles apart. As it was late in the fall and the weather was getting quite cold, we had to make some of those ranches to camp overnight, on account of horse feed and a place to sleep.

One evening we rode into a ranch that a couple of Irish brothers owned and asked them to stay overnight. They said, “Sure, you’re welcome as the flowers in May.” Neither of them had ever been married and did their own housekeeping and cooking. The evening we got there they had just butchered a beef. We helped them hang it up in the barn and went to the house to cook supper. It was sure a dirty looking joint and the brother that cooked supper had his hands all stained with blood and dirt from butchering the beef. He had to make bread for supper and didn’t wash his hands, but mixed up the bread with his hands—blood, dirt and all. But we hadn’t had anything to eat all day and were plenty hungry, so we ate it and thought it was fine. We hunted horses all next day and along in the evening came to what looked like an old deserted ranch where nobody was home. After making a lot of noise and shouting, a man came out of the cabin. He was a Mormon and was living alone on this old ranch. Said he was sick and had been in bed three days and that there was no food on the place and that he couldn’t keep us overnight.

It looked like a bad storm coming up and we didn’t know any place to go. We told the man we were going to stay anyway, and as we both had six-shooters he didn’t argue too much with us. We put our horses in the old barn and went to the house. The Mormon went back to bed. We went to the kitchen to see if we could find anything to eat. It was the dirtiest looking outfit I ever saw in my life. The frying pans and kettles didn’t look like they had been washed for six months. We got a fire started and cleaned up things a little and looked through all the old boxes and found some beans, dried apples and flour. By ten o’clock that night we had what we thought was a pretty good meal. I went to the Mormon’s bedroom and asked him if he wanted anything to eat. He didn’t answer me, but began getting out of his dirty blankets. He hadn’t even taken his clothes off. We got him to sit down at the table and he ate more than both of us. After we got him filled up on food he got to talking quite friendly. He said he had been a Mormon missionary in some jungle country and had spent several years converting natives into the Mormon religion. In listening to his experience as a missionary I couldn’t help wondering what kind of a job he did, because if there is anything in the old saying that cleanliness is next to holiness he was sure a flop.

The next morning was very cold and stormy, but we were anxious to find our horses and our quarters were none too comfortable, so we bade our Mormon friend goodbye and rode away. He was about 40 miles from any town and we didn’t see any means of transportation around there, so we often wondered what ever became of him.

Well, we headed for a big lake about twenty miles from this Mormon’s place. We heard there was a lot of horses ranging in that part of the country and there found our horses, so we drove the whole bunch to an old roundup corral that we had located that day. I had three horses in the bunch and my partner had one. Those horses were three years old and were not halter broke. In fact, they had not had a rope on them since they were yearlings and then were only caught by the front feet and thrown down to brand them. So, we had to catch them that way now. We necked them to the extra saddle horses we had with us and turned them out of the corral and headed them towards Montana. Just before dark we spotted a ranch and some corrals so we headed for there. We found a man there who had come from Michigan and taken up a homestead out on the Canadian Prairie. He evidently was a man of some wealth as he had spent considerable money fixing the place up. He wasn’t very keen about letting us stay overnight. He kept sizing us up and I guess he had heard a good deal about cowboys and rustlers and thought we were a couple of horse thieves. We explained our condition to him and told him the circumstances and that we were a long way from home, so he finally decided to let us stay.

While this fellow looked like he had considerable wealth, he didn’t have very much to eat. As he didn’t make any excuses about it, I think we had his regular bill of fare. He didn’t have any meat, no butter or sugar or coffee. My partner was a coffee fiend, and this fellow gave us cold milk for breakfast. My partner was very blue all that day and said he felt very queer, like the world was coming to an end or something terrible was going to happen. But that was because he missed his coffee.

This man charged us ten dollars for very little to eat and a very poor bed, and as it was not the custom to charge anyone those days for food it made my partner very mad. When we got our horses saddled and ready to go next morning, my partner went to the barn and as he was gone quite a while I asked him what he was looking for. He said he was looking for something he could steal, to get even with that old guy, but he said this fellow was so stingy he didn’t have anything worth taking.

Well, we finally got going back towards home. If the weather had been good it would have been about two day’s ride, but about ten o’clock a bad storm came up and by noon it was a real blizzard and out there on the plains you couldn’t see a thing or know what direction you were going in, but after wandering around for some time we came to a coulee that we recognized (Verta Grease Coulee). It was about 25 miles long and we knew it put into Milk River which was the direction we wanted to go, also we knew there was a ranch on Milk River at the mouth of this coulee. We followed this ravine all day and about night came to the ranch. They welcomed us in and gave us a good supper and a feather bed to sleep in. It was a terrible blizzard and I think we would have lost our lives if we hadn’t found this ranch.

My partner was rather a spooky fellow and had some kind of a phobia. He was always worrying about a cancer or some other dreaded disease, so while we were lying in that good warm bed and talking how lucky we were to find this ranch a funny thought came to me to give my partner a scare. He had his head covered up and was about to go to sleep. I nudged him and said, “Bill, I forgot to tell you that this place was quarantined for Smallpox a short time ago,” and he made one jump and landed out in the middle of the room and said, “My God, I would rather go right out into the blizzard than stay here!” Then I had a hard time to convince him I was joking and I don’t think he rested very well the rest of the night. He told me afterwards I gave him the worst scare he had ever had in his life.

We got home the next night and it was a very profitable trip, as I had found three head of horses I didn’t know I owned.

Somewhere on the trip I had got lousy and I believe I had more lice on me than any man that ever walked in public, and big ones too. My wife threatened to make me sleep with the dog, but finally took pity on me and let me sleep in the house, providing I would sleep in a room by myself. I don’t know if all Canadian Greybacks are as big as those were, but I had to boil all my clothes about three times to get rid of those big tough babies.


I first met Charlie Russell in the fall of the year 1888. He was night herding beef cattle on the Judith Basin and Moccasin Range roundup. Charlie was very modest and never claimed to be a great cowboy, but I noticed the bosses always gave him a very responsible job, as the cowmen of those days were very particular how the beef cattle were handled.

We usually started the fall roundup about the first of September and the gathering and driving to the railroad sometimes took until the 15th of November. Now from the first day we worked the range, we cut out some steers fat enough for beef, and those cattle were under constant herd night and day, and the men were supposed to handle those cattle so they would gain in flesh while we were holding them—and any cowboy caught running or roping those steers was fired at once—and great care was taken to keep the cattle from stampeding. When we got all through we would have 2,000 or 2,500 head of cattle in the herd.

I remember a rather amusing story Charlie told me in years after we had quit working on the range. We were talking about people we liked and disliked. I said to Charlie, “I always thought you liked everybody.” He laughed and said, “No. There was one roundup cook I have never forgiven for what he done to me.” He said, “I was night herding cattle. One dark night the cattle were very nervous and kept trying to stampede. Just before daylight my horse stepped in a badger hole and fell—right in a nice patch of cactus and prickly pears!” Charlie said he didn’t miss any of those cactus. When he got up his body felt like a small cactus field. His partner caught his horse and stayed with the cattle, and Charlie headed for camp. The cactus was distributed in his body so he couldn’t sit on the saddle, so he walked and led his horse.

When he got to camp, the cook was starting breakfast. (I knew this old cook and he was plenty brave.) None of the cowboys were up yet. Charlie went in the cook tent where there was a lantern and took off his clothes to doctor himself and pull out some of those cactus. This old cook never spoke to anyone if he could help it, and as nobody had any right to come in that cook tent unless the cook called them to eat, Charlie was taking a privilege contrary to custom. Anyway the cook evidently did not notice him until he had all his clothes off and was disgracing his cook tent by undressing in it. He walked over to where Charlie was, said, “What the hell you think this is ... a hospital?” He had a big butcher knife in his hand. He throwed Charlies’ clothes outside and told Charlie to get the hell out of there too.

Charlie told me whenever he met a new acquaintance and he said he was a roundup cook by profession, he looked on him with some doubt as to his being human.

I was associated with Charlie for a good many years and I think I knew him as well as anybody could, and I think as a man and a friend he had very few equals. He was a fine Western artist, but Will Rogers said Charlie would have been a great man if he couldn’t have painted a fence post. I thing that told the whole story.

Charlie enjoyed telling jokes on himself, which very few people do. He told me about one time the Captain of the Judith Basin Roundup sent another cowboy and himself to the Moccasin Roundup to rep (that was to gather any cattle that had drifted from their home range). The other man took a violin which he played a little, and Charlie took some paint and some brushes. The next year the boss of the Basin Range met the boss of the Moccasin Range and said, “What was the matter last year? I had a lot of cattle over on your range. I sent two men over there and didn’t get hardly any cattle.”

The other boss said, “What the Hell could you expect? You sent a fiddler and a painter over there to act as cowboys.”

All during Charlie Russell’s life as a cowboy he drew pictures for pastime—sometimes with a lead pencil and sometimes with a paint brush and even in his earliest and rough work, one could always recognize the man or horse that he had used for the picture. We used to wonder at those pictures but he (or us) never dreamed that he was the making of the greatest Western artist of his day, which I believe has been conceded by art critics.

The last riding for wages that Charlie did was for the Bear Paw Pool at Chinook on Milk River. They were a combination of the Judith Basin Pool that he had worked for several years, but had moved their cattle across the Missouri River into the Bear Paw country. Charlie told me the reason he quit punching cows. The last winter he stayed in Chinook him and some other boys had a cabin that they wintered in and it was so cold they put on German socks and lined mittens to cook and eat breakfast, and nearly froze at that. I think it was in the year 1892 he bid goodbye to the range and saddled and packed his horses and headed for Great Falls to try his luck at painting. He told me he had tough going for quite awhile as he did not know the price to ask for a picture.

I have seen some of Charlie’s pictures that he sold for ten dollars at that time, that afterwards he sold one to the Prince of Wales for ten thousand dollars that I couldn’t see a great deal of difference. I think this money difference was due to his business manager—his wife, Nancy C. Russell, who certainly deserves great credit for making Charlie’s name famous. She is in very poor health at this time (1939) and has suffered for a long time but she has a great fighting heart and has never said “Whoa” in a bad place.

As a cowboy Charlie Russell was sure strong for cowboy decorations. As I look back on him now, I can see him, seldom with his shirt buttoned in the right button hole, and maybe dirty with part of one sleeve torn off, but his hat, boots, handkerchief and spurs and bridle were the heights of cowboy fashion. Of course those were the days when we didn’t get to town only two or three times a year, but when we did go to town we dressed like millionaires as long as our money lasted.

When Charlie quit riding and started painting for a living, some of his friends advised him to change his way of dress and get some city togs. That he would not do. He never liked suspenders or shoes and never wore them. He disliked fashion and said it was just an imitation of someone else. He always wore a good Stetson hat, a nice sash, and a good pair of boots—even after he had quit the range.

It reminds me of two city men I knew had come to a cow ranch on business and had an old-time cowboy taking them around. One day they were discussing the beauties of nature and when each one decided what he thought was the most beautiful thing he ever saw one of them asked the cowboy his idea of beauty. He promptly answered, “The prettiest thing I ever saw was a four year old fat steer,” and he may have been right, as nature had given the steer everything it had to make it beautiful in its class, and he knew he was a steer and was satisfied with his lot and didn’t pretend to be anything but what he was.

That was the way I knew Charlie. He loved nature and the West and was Western from the soles of his feet to the top of his head and had the finest principle and the greatest philosophy I ever knew in anybody.

Charlie told me one of the worst troubles he had was some fellow would rush up to him and say, “Hello, Charlie, I am sure glad to see you.” Charlie would say, “I am glad to see you, too,” and to save his life he couldn’t place him. He would talk to him about everything he could think of, hoping the fellow would say something that would refresh his memory but usually without any success, and he said he had to be very careful to not say “No” or “Yes” in the wrong place and give himself away.

I remember, when I went back to Montana from Cripple Creek, Colorado, in 1894, I came into town (Cascade, Montana—where Charlie was living) in a box car, but didn’t tell Charlie how I arrived. In the few years I was away from Montana, Charlie heard I had been killed by a horse. I didn’t know anything about that report. So when I walked into his cabin we shook hands and had quite a talk—and, of course I thought he knew who I was. He was sitting by the stove frying bacon and I caught him looking at me in a sort of a puzzled way and I knew at once he didn’t know who I was. So I said to him, “You don’t know me.” He said, “Yes, I do.” “Well, who am I then?” He said, “If I didn’t know Con Price was dead, I would say you was him.”

While I was with Charlie that time, just in fun he had me pose for him in a stage hold-up. I had a sawed-off shot-gun, big hat and my pants legs inside my boots. We found an old Prince Albert coat somewhere that I wore and a big handkerchief around my neck. I surely looked tough. He sure got a kick out of that model.

Well, he painted that picture in a rough way and didn’t give it much attention and never gave it any consideration as to value. It was more of a joke than anything else. I think about two years after he was married, he went to New York, and in some way this picture had got mixed up with the rest of his stuff, so it landed in New York with him.

He said New York was sure tough then for an artist breaking into the game. He said there was only two classes of people there: paupers and millionaires, and he had a hard time to keep out of the pauper class.

But some artist friend loaned him the use of his studio and Charlie was trying to do a little work and took this old picture there.

One morning a foreign nobleman came in and was looking the studio over—mostly the other artist’s work—and he came to this old picture. After examining it for some time, he said, “How much is this picture worth?” Charlie said he needed money pretty bad just at that time and wanted to ask him one hundred and fifty dollars, but didn’t know whether the old boy would go for that much or not. While he was hesitating Nancy, his wife, stepped over to where the old fellow was and said, “This one would be eight hundred dollars,” and the man said, “Very well, I’ll take it.” Charlie said he nearly fell off his stool with joy.

After the fellow left he told Nancy, “I’ll do the work from now on—you will do the selling,” and I believe that bargain held good until the day of Charlie’s death.

Charlie didn’t like the new set-up. He was a child of the open West before wire fences and railroads spanned it. Civilization choked him even in the year 1889 when the Judith country was getting settled up with ranchers and sheep had taken the cattle range. He hated the change, and followed cattle north to the Milk River Country trying to stay in an open range country. He said, “I expect I will have to ride the rest of my life but I would much rather be a poor cowboy than a poor artist.” He didn’t know he was graduating from nature’s school and the education frontier life had given him.

In the fall of 1891 he got a letter from a man in Great Falls who said if he could come there he could make seventy-five dollars a month painting, his grub included.

It looked good to Charlie, as he was only making forty a month riding, so he saddled the old gray and packed old Monty, the pinto, and hit the trail for Great Falls.

When he arrived in Great Falls he was introduced to a guy who pulled out a contract as long as a lariat for him to sign. Charlie wouldn’t sign it until he had tried the proposition out. This fellow gave Charlie ten dollars on account, saying he would see him later.

After a few days he met Charlie and wanted to know why he hadn’t started on the work. Charlie told him he had to find a place to live and get his supplies.

The contract read that everything Charlie painted or modeled for one year was to be the property of this man and he wanted him to work from early morning until night. Charlie argued with him that there was some difference between painting and sawing wood and told him the deal was off.

He hunted up a fellow he knew and borrowed ten dollars and paid this fellow that had advanced the money to him. Charlie said he wouldn’t work under pressure so they split up and Charlie started out for himself.

He put in with a bunch of cowboys (I was one of them), a roundup cook, and a broken-down prize fighter. We rented a shack on the south side of town. Our bill of fare was very short at times as Charlie was the only one that made any money and that was very little. We christened the shack and gave it the name of Red Onion. We had some queer characters as guests. Broken gamblers, cowboys, horse thieves, cattle rustlers, in fact, everybody that hit town broke seemed to find the Red Onion to get something to eat. Among them all it was hard to get anyone to cook or wash the dishes but at meal time we always had a full house. Along about spring time I got a job in a cow outfit and I told Charlie. So he said if I was going away he had an announcement to make to the gang—and in effect it was that the Red Onion would be closed and go out of business.

I believe it was the Spring of 1889 we met at Philbrook in the Judith Basin for the Spring roundup and a lot of the boys were celebrating at the Post Office and store. The postmaster told us someone had sent him a piece of limburger cheese through the mail. He didn’t know what to do with it as he didn’t know anyone civilized enough to eat it, so he gave it to the cowboys who put in a lot of their time rubbing it on door knobs, the inside of hat bands and drinking cups. They had the whole town well perfumed. When someone noticed an old timer that had come to town to tank up on joy juice and had got so overloaded he went to sleep in the saloon, his heavy drooping moustache gave one of the boys an idea. A council was held and it was agreed that he should have his share of the limburger rubbed into his moustache under his nose. Being unconscious, old Bill slept like a baby in a cradle while the work was done.

Next day Charlie Russell saw him out back of the saloon, sitting on a box and looking very tough. He would put his hands over his mouth, breath into them, drop them and look at them and shake his head. Of course, Charlie knew what was the trouble as he had helped to fix him up the night before. Charlie went over to him and asked, “How are you stacking up today?” Old Bill looked at him in a kind of a daze and shook his head. “Me? I’m not so good.” Charlie asked, “What’s the matter, are you sick?” “No-o-o not more than usual, I’ve felt as bad as this a thousand times. But—oh God—” then he covered his face again with his hands. After a few seconds he slowly lowered them, shaking his head and groaning, “Oh, it’s something awful, I don’t savvy.”

Charlie very much in sympathy with him said, “What seems to be the matter, Bill?” “Damned if I know, but I’ve got the awfullest breath on me. ’Pears like I am plum spoiled inside. You can tell the boys my stay here on earth is damn short. Nobody could live long with the kind of breath I’ve got on me. Oh, oh!” Then he would breathe into his hands again, saying, “Oh God!”

I believe he would have died if they hadn’t told him what was the matter.

All the years I knew Charlie, I never knew him to go to church (although I know he was a real Christian at heart) but there was an old time preacher, a Methodist by name Van Orsdell. He preached in cow camps, school houses or anywhere that he could get even a few people.

Brother Van told me when he graduated from the ministry he came up the Missouri River on a steam boat to Fort Benton. He had a very good voice. He said he sang hymns to pay his fare. That must have been in the early 1870’s. When I knew him first, he used to ride horseback through the country and hold services, and he was sure loved by everybody. I listened to one of his sermons in the cow country and there was quite a sprinkling of cattle rustlers in that locality and I remember in his talk he told us if we would do as God wanted us to do we wouldn’t need a fast horse and a long rope.

He told us he overtook a bull whacker (a freighter) pulling a big hill out of Fort Benton one time. Brother Van was riding a horse and he followed along behind this fellow and the language he used for those cattle was sure strong. He said the fellow called each steer by some religious name with an oath after it, such as Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and so forth.

When the bull whacker got to the top of the hill, Brother Van asked him what was the idea of giving those cattle such religious names. The man said, “It’s appropriate. For instance, there is old Methodist—when I unyoke him he walks out a little distance and paws on the ground, gets down on his knees and balls and bellers just like a Methodist preacher. Then there is that old steer I call Baptist. If there’s a water hole anywhere, he will find it and get into it and throw water all over himself—and old Bishop there, he leads all the other steers.” He had a religious name appropriate for each steer. Brother Van got a kick out of that.

Brother Van was a very devout Methodist and one time he and Charlie were discussing religion, Charlie said he didn’t believe in so many branches of religion and said he thought the people should have a general roundup and make them all one. Brother Van said, “That’s a fine idea, Charlie, and make it Methodist.”

One time at Malta, Montana, when we were shipping cattle, a cowboy got killed. He was riding a young horse and the train came by and this horse got scared and run away with this boy. It ran into a wire fence and hit the wires just high enough on his legs to cause him to turn a somersault and land squarely on top of the boy and broke his neck. Brother Van preached a sermon over that boy’s body. When I look back at it now, it seems to me the boy’s body was laid out in an old store and I think there were about twenty cowboys with their chaps and spurs on and the old time cowboy was a rather queer kind of a mixture of human nature. Sometimes he drank whiskey to celebrate and have a good time; other times he drank when he was blue. I guess to try to raise his spirits. Anyway, this morning quite a number of them had taken on quite a load of the old joy juice. When the sermon started, Brother Van preached a very forceful sermon and the tears rolled down his old cheeks like rain drops and in looking around after that sermon was over there were very few dry faces among that tough old bunch of waddies and they were all as sober as if they never had a drink.

Speaking of batching, some people of this day may not know what it means. But for us cowboys it meant this: four or five of us would get together in the fall of the year and get a cabin in some little town, buy some groceries and go into winter quarters, and everybody cooked according to his liking and if anybody didn’t like the way one fellow cooked he could cook to suit himself.

I remember one winter a bunch of us batched together and there was a great variety of tastes. One fellow loved maple syrup and lived mostly on that and a little bread ... but mostly syrup. Another old-timer wanted to put bacon in everything he cooked. He said it gave the cooking “tone” (he meant flavor). He spoiled most of his cooking for the rest of us. I believe if he would try to make a cake he would have put bacon in it. I liked hard-boiled potatoes; nobody else did, so that was my specialty. Charlie Russell was the coffee and hot cake man. We all agreed he had no equal in those two things.

One time we had a Christmas dinner and in some way got a chicken (I don’t want to remember how we got it) and we held council as to how it would be cooked and, of course, the old-timer came forward at once with his bacon idea. But we told him the chicken was old and tough and we would have to boil it. That didn’t make any difference to him, as he said any way a chicken was cooked it had to have bacon in it to be good and to give it tone. Anyway he won out and the bacon was put in. Really I think there was more bacon than chicken.

Charlie Russell volunteered to make some dumplings, which sounded good to everybody, but for some reason unknown to all of us, the dumplings turned to gravy and we had to eat them like soup with a spoon. Charlie himself didn’t boast about those dumplings but his alibi was Bill’s bacon ruined the whole mixture. I don’t know as to the truth of that statement as I never knew Charlie to make dumplings again.

One time I was in Great Falls, Charlie was circulating a petition to get an old-time cowboy out of the penitentiary. He had been sent up for rustling cattle and had served about four years. Charlie asked me to go with him on his rounds, and I did.

We called on people for several days and there was not a man or woman turned us down, until we met one of the wealthiest men in Great Falls. He read the petition and handed it back and said, “He can rot in the pen as far as I am concerned.” Then he began to criticize Charlie for circulating the petition. There was where he made a mistake and the things he told him must have cut pretty deep into his feelings.

Charlie said, “If you don’t want to sign the petition, that’s your business, but don’t you roast me. I knew this man. He was once my friend. I don’t approve of what he done, but he has a wife and two children praying for his release and he has been punished enough already.” Then he looked him in the eye and said, “You know, Jim, if we all got our just dues, there would be a big bunch of us in the pen with Bill.” I thought I could see the old boy’s whiskers tremble because he knew what Charlie meant.

I have never forgotten what Charlie said when we left this fellow. He said justice was the hardest, cruel word that ever was written. He said if all the people that were crying for real justice got it, they would think they were terribly abused and would not want it and would find out they wanted a little mercy instead.

While Charlie and I were partners, he got an attack of appendicitis and someone told him to stand on his head and walk on his hands and knees and it would cure him. He said he tried that cure until his head and knees were so sore he couldn’t perform anymore.

So he finally made an appointment with the doctor for an operation.

The morning he went to the hospital his wife, Nancy, was with him. When they dressed him for the operating table (he called it putting a set of harness on him) Nancy was very much frightened and looked like she might break down under the strain. So to quiet her, he began to tell her how simple the operation was and that he didn’t mind it at all and started to roll a cigarette, but his hands got to shaking so bad the tobacco all fell out of the paper and, of course, Nancy noticed that and it really made matters worse than if he had said nothing.

After he had gotten over the operation, he had some very severe pains. One day when the doctor came to see him Charlie asked him if he had lost any of his tools. When the doctor asked why he thought so, he said he was sure he had some of them sewed up inside of him.

There was an old doctor in Great Falls told Charlie and me a rather amusing experience he had about that time.

There was a fellow came through the country and camped in several places around Great Falls and one day he murdered a whole family and throwed them in the river. The officers finally arrested him and had him in jail awaiting trial. During that time he killed himself and he was buried in the paupers’ graveyard.

This doctor told us he had a great curiosity to know what a human brain and head was like that would kill those people without any known motive. For some reason, Doc could not get the body and as he didn’t like the idea of prowling around the graveyard at night, he chose one cold, rainy morning to go out and dig this fellow up. It took him quite awhile to get him out of the ground, and as he had just a small buggy to carry him in, he had to break the coffin open and put him in a gunny sack.

Doc said while he was working on the corpse the sun came out and the weather cleared and he thought everybody in Great Falls went for a ride or walk. There was people all around him and looking at him rather queer, and he was afraid he would be arrested for a grave robber, but he finally got to town without anybody seeing what he had.

Doc’s entrance to his office was on Main Street, and no other way to get in. So he drove into an alley back of his place. There was a Jew running a pawn shop there facing onto a side street. So Doc took his sack with the corpse and went in the back way of the Jew’s store and dropped it in his woodshed, and went into the front where the proprietor was standing behind his counter.

Doc slipped up to the counter and whispered, “Sol, I left a stiff in your shed back there. I will get him when it gets dark.” He said the Jew’s eyes began to grow large and said, “Vat’s a stiff?” Doc said, “A dead man.” The Jew began to scream and was attracting people on the street. He said, “My God, my God, take him out of here! I will be arrested for murder!” Doc whispered to him to hush, but he hollered still louder, so Doc picked up his sack, put it on his shoulder and walked up the main street into his office. He told us he was sure relieved when he got that corpse in his back room.

He had the skull on his desk when he told us the story and said whenever he looked at it, it reminded him of one of the most strenuous days of his life.

While I was working for the DHS outfit, I think it was in 1896, I got a letter from Charlie Russell telling me he was married. He said the gospel wrangler had caught him and necked him. The word “necking” didn’t mean then what it does now. We would sometimes have a wild horse that we couldn’t hold in the bunch and every chance he got he would run away and we would lose him. So it was the horse wrangler’s job to catch this horse and with a short piece of rope tie him to a gentle horse, and the old horse would lead him wherever he went. He had to eat and sleep and go where the gentle horse went.

So Charlie said he was necked and didn’t think he would get away for awhile, and gave me a pressing invitation to come and see him, and I wrote him the day I would be there and the train I would be on.

But something happened and I was a day late. Charlie met me at the train. After we had visited for a little while several other boys joined us and we were enjoying our general talk. Charlie turned to me and said, “What happened you didn’t come yesterday?” He said, “When the train arrived I was at the depot and looked on the blind baggage car, on top of the train and down under the cars and the brake rods.” The conductor knew Charlie and said, “What are you looking for, Russ?” Charlie said, “I told him I had a letter from a friend of mine that he would be on this train and I come to meet him.”

That was the first time I knew he knew I had got out of that box car several years before in Cascade.

I recall one time I was breaking horses close to the town of Cascade, Montana. I would ride a colt into town nearly every day.

A blacksmith and a barber got heckling each other about riding broncs. The blacksmith bet the barber four dollars he would ride the first horse that I rode to town. Charlie Russell was stake holder.

I didn’t know anything about this bet until I had come to town and both parties tried to find out the merits of the horse—whether he would buck or not, and as I knew the stake money was going to be spent for drinks, I told each one a different story—the blacksmith he wouldn’t buck, the barber he would, so as to be sure to have the bet go as the blacksmith was a little scared, but he was a big, powerful young man and the horse was rather small, he took a chance.

The bet was he had to ride the horse to the livery stable and back, which was about two blocks.

He got on. With a death-grip, with the reins in one hand and the other on the saddle horn, he started and was getting along fine—going slow—when a stock man by name H. H. Nelson started by him going home. He had a big canvas overcoat on and could not resist the temptation to shake his coat as he rode by the bronc—and down went the bronc’s head. I think the first jump the saddle horn hit the blacksmith in the eye, and the next jump he was on the ground. Somebody caught the horse and helped the blacksmith up.

He said, “That is all right. I have lost this bet, but I will make another one—I will whip Nelson the first time he comes to town.”

We sure had a great time spending that eight dollars and I think everybody else spent all they had besides.

We named that “A quiet day in Cascade,” and Charlie drew a picture of it, with chickens and dogs and everything running in all directions and some old man with a cane trying to get out of the way.

I remember a very amusing incident on a roundup. We had been out on the range for about three months, and nobody had shaved. We came into a little town (a shipping point) and when we had got the cattle all loaded on the train, we found out there was a barber shop in town, so we all patronized it, but there was one stingy old fellow in the outfit that wouldn’t spend a quarter to get shaved, so when we got started back on the range, he felt out of place, as we were all shaved and slicked up. He asked if there was anyone in the outfit that could shave him. I told him I could. Now I had never shaved a man in my life, the cook had an old razor in the Mess box, and God knows when it had been sharpened, (we had no safety razors those days). I started in on him, of course his beard was full of sand and dust, and I used cold water and lye soap to make the lather. When I got to working on him, the blood followed the razor wherever I touched him. We didn’t have any mirror so he couldn’t see himself bleed. The boys would ask him occasionally how he was getting along, he said the razor pulled a little but Con was doing fine. Charlie Russell was laying on his belly looking at the performance, and he laughed till the tears rolled down his cheeks. When I got through with him he looked like he had broke out with the small pox. He picked scabs off his face for several days, he didn’t complain, but he never asked me to shave him again. Nobody felt sorry for him because he never was known to buy a drink, and he had three thousand dollars in the bank, which was a big fortune to a cowboy.


As I grow older there are rather strange thoughts come to my mind about cowboys and cow people. I have mingled with most all classes of the human race and I have some very true and sincere friends among all classes—but I don’t believe there is any other people in the world that was as intimate and friendly on short acquaintance as the old time cowboy and cowman.

They would fight among themselves and some of them would steal from each other but let one of them get in a tough spot and his clan would come to his rescue when everybody else had throwed him down, I was on a roundup on the Moccasin range in Montana in the year 1888 and a small rancher lost a milk cow. He had come to the round up to ride with us for a few days to try to find his cow. The next morning we left camp about daylight and hadn’t went a mile from camp when his horse fell and broke the man’s leg above the knee. We got the bedwagon and fixed some blankets in it the best we could and drove him 20 miles to a doctor. The boys raised three hundred dollars for that fellow ... and none of them had ever seen him before that day he came to camp.

There was an old-time cowboy and cowman—lived at Gilroy, California, that I knew for twenty years. His name was Ed Willson. He is dead now—but when I recall the many kindnesses he extended to me in those years I knew him, it has burned a brand on my memory that time cannot blot out. He was as rough and tough as a grizzly bear, and to know him on the surface meant you didn’t know him at all. My wife and I had eaten Christmas dinner with him and his family for several years and he had planned for it again the year he died. He had been quite sick for a long time but came to see me on the sand of December with an invitation to come again to the Christmas dinner. I was sick in bed and told him we would come if I was able, but I got worse and on Christmas day could not get up. He was also in bed on that day—but when noontime came and we didn’t show up he had his wife, Pal, fix up a tray of turkey dinner and bring it in and show it to him. He smiled and said, “that ought to cure the old son-of-a-gun.” He had it sent three miles to my home. He died a few days after. I never saw him after he came to give me the invitation. That is just one of the many kind considerations that the old-time cowboy had for the other fellow—and I believe if they were organized they would be the greatest fraternity on earth.



Page updated:  11 Oct 2018