The C Ranch, Jordan Valley, OR
Saturday Morning, January 1, 2011
The C Ranch, Jordan Valley, OR
Even though I was a pretty good cowboy shoer, not a professional or corrective, I hated shoeing horses. I mean I absolutely despised it. You’ve heard those guys say they’ve shod 12, 14, or maybe 15 head in a day? Not me--2 was plenty for one day. I’m sure there was a time or two when I did 3 in a day, but that would have been considered as one of the worst days of my life and stricken from my living memory. Good gentle ones or bad ones that we had to throw down, it didn’t matter; I did not like putting shoes on horses.
During the winter on the Spanish Ranch we kept about 40 saddle horses to ride. The rest of the cavvy was turned out on a feed ground with some cattle. In the spring we would bring the cavvy in and trade our winter horses in for a new string. We would bring them into those two round willow corrals at the main ranch and work them there. Bill Kane, the cow boss, would be in one corral with them and I would stay at the gate. He would work a horse out, then I would give that horse a “hole,” and he would run into the other corral. This, of course, was all done horseback. I used to love working those horses, and sometimes it was hilarious to watch them as they came charging to me. When I rode out of the gate that horse might give a couple of feints to the left and right as if he was really faking me out, and then when he ran into the other corral he would arch his neck and hold his tail out and start prancing around and snorting and blowing as if he had really pulled one over on us. It was kind of strange--Kane would yell out that horse’s name and point at him, and there were many times those horses acted if they recognized their names and out they would come on the fly. I know that sounds crazy and doesn’t make any sense, but that is the impression I had whenever we worked those horses.
If you’ve been reading the Buckaroo Guide by Brenda you’re aware of what a hard ass she says Kane was and how bad those horses were for bucking cowboys off. It wasn’t really all that bad. However, Kane could be tough, and if you were to get a little off balance some of those horses knew how to finish you off.
As it was spring, that meant we traded in our winter caps and overshoes for cowboy hats and spurs. Kane was strict on how we were to ride those fresh horses the first time or two. He didn’t want us turning those horses in tight circles or turning them back on a fence. His reasoning was that would keep those horses “tight,” and he did not want that. When we stepped on those horses (there was a certain style in how you caught, hobbled, saddled, and climbed on those Nevada big outfit horses), we were to keep them checked up and let them walk out straight. That way they would loosen up and relax without tormenting some innocent cowboy. If you were slow or the last guy to get on his horse, then your letting them walk out straight only lasted for about 12 feet as by then Kane would be hitting a trot.
Those horses were fresh and gaining weight from all the new green grass they were eating. Cowboy, don’t stick your spurs into one of them first thing in the morning or else you might be telling your grandkids a story where you didn’t come out as the hero.
I would usually get a couple of rides on those fresh horses before I shod them. And then, like I said, 2 a day were plenty. I had learned the hard way from my time on the Circle A wagon that I was not known for taking care of myself while in town. Some say that when I was in my 20’s I was a little on the wild side. I prefer “footloose and fancy free” myself. I figured out to have all my horses shod and ride my “funnier” horses before I went to town. That way, when I came back to the wagon in my somewhat weakened condition, I would have it easy for the first few days.
I used this training the first time on the Spanish Ranch wagon. I started resetting my horses’ shoes, but instead of 2 horses a day I did 2 feet a day. That way when we went to town I was all shod up and ready to go when we came back to the ranch. Only one problem, Stanley Ellison wanted the cowboys to go haying for the summer and go back to cowboying after Labor Day. That presented a problem for me.
Stanley had just fired the “candy wagon” truck driver and wanted Kane to see if I was interested in taking that truck for the summer. Kane told him that he didn’t think I would do it, but I surprised him when I said I would. I knew the Ellison Ranching Co. had seven ranches. The headquarters ranch was the Spanish Ranch. Then going south there was Squaw Valley (that also ran a wagon, but not that year as we worked that side), the Upper Clovers and the Lower Clovers (hay ranches bought from the Allied), the White House Ranch (Stanley would later tell me the White House had as much deeded acres as the Spanish Ranch), and then Fish Creek and Cottonwood which were south of Battle Mountain, NV. Fish Creek was a feed lot that could finish steers for slaughter and Cottonwood raised alfalfa for those cattle. Altogether, the Ellison Ranching Co. at that time was said to be about 1.5 million acres counting all the deeded ground, BLM allotments, and US Forest reserves. The Spanish Ranch had good high cow country but it took a lot of acres to run a cow and calf. Nevada does not have the grass country as say, Montana or Wyoming, not to mention the Great Plains where the old buffalo used to roam. And that, simply put, is why those outfits were so big.
I wanted to see all those ranches, and the candy wagon provided the perfect opportunity. Kane told me it would only be for July and August and then I would go back to working for him when I came back from Labor Day. (On the big outfits in this country the custom was to go to town on the 4th of July and Labor Day. The other holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, etc., didn’t count--you worked those days.) He also said that Stanley wanted to give me an interview for the candy wagon.
Stanley asked, “You have a Nevada driver’s license?”
“You drink and drive?”
“OK, that’s it.”
A few weeks later Stanley captured me at Squaw Valley and told me to park the truck as I would be driving him and his pickup to all the ranches. I was with him for a full week, and I must say, that was an interesting week. At that time he was probably in his mid 60’s, and in the old days Stanley Ellison would have been considered as a sheep and cattle baron.
Sometime in August I received a letter from my old buckaroo boss at the Circle A, Brian Morris. He wanted to talk to me about going to work for him in Oregon, and he would meet me in Elko during Labor Day. When the Matador Cattle Co., out of Texas, leased the Circle A for five years Brian told them he would stay as long as he could run some cows of his own. That was not Matador’s policy, so Brian rolled it up and went to Oregon. He never said too much to me about it at the time so I didn’t know where he was or what he had going on in Oregon.
We met at a bar in Elko, and he explained the situation to me. Brian had two brothers; the older one was Jack, and the younger one was Clark. I had been with Clark and their father Nate at the Circle A, but I had never met Jack. Jack used to work for Sam Ross, and his son Bill, who owned the C Ranch out of Jordan Valley, OR. Jack was allowed to run his own cows and over a period of about ten years he was able to save his money and go into partners with Laz Mendieta (I think there was a third partner also) and they bought the Circle Bar Ranch which was about twelve miles north of the C Ranch. The Circle Bar had the 7SL iron. The 7 and L were connected with a kind of flat lazy S through the vertical bar. I was told there was no top or bottom to the brand. As long as you had it in the right horizontal position then the brand would never be upside down. Brian was offered the job at the C Ranch and he, too, was allowed to run his own cows. Brian needed help, and he wanted me to go up there with him. Brian couldn’t get the brand he wanted registered in Oregon, and he had to settle for the 222. He did not like that brand, said it was too big and just not a good brand to put on cattle.
I wasn’t too sure about going to Oregon. Kane had always treated me right, and I was looking forward to the fall wagon on the Spanish Ranch. However, there was the matter of spending another winter in that bunkhouse. To his credit, Brian didn’t push it. As the hours passed and the consumed drinks multiplied, I began to ask questions about this venture. Brian explained that there were no guarantees in it for him, but it would be a good experience for me. The Spanish Ranch and Kane will always be there if you want to go back. I said I’d do it.
When I went back to the Spanish Ranch a couple of days later Kane was riding a young horse in the arena they used for the 4H kids.
“Mooney, you ready to come back and cowboy for me?”
“Bill, I told Brian Morris I would go to Oregon with him and help him through the fall and winter, and maybe the spring.”
He didn’t say anything at first. Then, “You gonna be back?”
“Ya, one of these days I’ll come back.” I hated to leave Kane, but then again, I was off to see more new country.
Brian and I met in Winnemucca. He had a pickup that had a wooden rack built on it so he could haul a few horses or cows. I followed him in my ‘71 Pinto. Jordan Valley is about 175 miles north and then east from Winnemucca; still, it took us a couple of days to get there. Brian knew everybody in the country, and every bar we went into someone wanted to buy us a drink. Brian and I were bad about not turning drinks down.
We arrived in Jordan Valley and stopped at the main place, the JV Club, which was owned by Gusti Elordi and his son, Jimmy (they called him Smith). Brian didn’t want to stay at the bar for very long as we had enough daylight to get to the C Ranch, and he now had a reputation he must continue to build and keep up.
“Bill, I am no longer the cowboss on one of the big outfits, and we’re not buckaroos anymore. I’m a starving “cow farmer” (he thought that term was hilarious) and you’re my top hand. (I was his only hand, but hey, let’s not get technical). I’ll introduce you around, we’ll have one beer, and then we’ll get the hell out of here.”
I woke up just before the sun started to rise, and there we were--the same place we had parked the day before and in our bedrolls in the back of his truck. We had closed the bar. Brian was much chagrined by our barroom escapades so we got out of town before the locals began to stir. And so passed my first night as an Oregon cowboy.
There are two ways to get to the ranch from town, and they ain’t easy. You can take the road that goes through the Circle Bar or else you can go through Three Forks. I don’t remember ever going through the Circle Bar. Three Forks is where the Main, Middle, and North Forks of the Owyhee River meet. What they call the Main Fork is what I believe is the South Fork that heads up at Willis Packer’s Ranch and goes through the Spanish Ranch and down the canyon for 20 miles and then through the Allied. All this, of course, is in Nevada.
My memory may be a little foggy here, but it seems as if it was about 45 miles from town to the ranch. You drop from the desert rim, go way down into the river, and then you have to pull back out to get to the rim on the other side. It is very rocky, and I would recommend 4 wheel drive. I’ve heard the depth of that canyon is from 1,200 feet to 2,000 feet. I think once we pulled out of the canyon it was 16 miles from the rim to the ranch.
The C Ranch is right next to the Idaho and Oregon line and close to Juniper Mountain. When you go through the gate you pass some corrals and a kind of barn and then you drop down a little hill to the house which is on the left. There is a spring above the house, and a hose runs from it to the kitchen sink; that was our water supply. We always left the faucet open when the weather got cold. The front door opened into a small living room where we ate and off to the right was a bedroom. To the left of the living room was the kitchen and off it was a bathroom that had a bathtub in it. We cooked our food and heated our bath water on a wood stove. For lights we had small Coleman lanterns and a big propane tank that had a light mounted on it. There were two beds in the bedroom, and we threw our bedrolls on them. We would “walk” that big propane tank into whatever room we were in. Unbelievable, but I don’t remember if there was a toilet in the bathroom or if we used an outhouse. I just don’t remember. (NOTE: I called Clark about that and he told me there was an outhouse. OK, how could I not remember that? By that time I had been around enough camps and outhouses to know what miserable stinking places they were. In those days all I carried was a pocket knife in my Levis and toilet paper in my shirt pocket. I had my own personal bathroom…they called it the High Desert. I’m assuming, but that is probably why I can’t remember the outhouse, I didn’t use it.)
Brian’s parents, Nate and Edith, were there when I arrived. They had a home in Weiser, (I think) ID, and they wanted to go home for the winter. They were only there for a few days after I showed up, and when they left Brian was the head cook and I was the main dishwasher.
When Brian was a cow boss he wouldn’t allow any dogs on the wagon. He didn’t like having women out there either, but in the case of Stub and Irene Stanford he did allow her as she could ride and cook. But he was adamant about no dogs. It wasn’t that he didn’t like dogs, it was the fact that one cowboy would tell the other cowboy’s dog what to do and then the fight was on. He told me that over the years he had not hired some good cowboys for the fact that they wanted to bring their dogs. And some of them were very good dogs I was told.
But on the C Ranch, it was different. He had two dogs. Bart and Clyde. Bart was a big kind of half black lab, and Clyde was a Queensland Blue Heeler that had a tail like a raccoon. When Clyde was a pup one of his back legs was run over, and as a result he always had a limp. Clyde was a tough little guy, and he would heel anything. He would heel cattle, he would heel other dogs, he would heel a cat if he could get to it, he would heel us while we were walking, and worst of all, he always wanted to heel our horses when we got on them first thing in the morning. We wanted to beat that out of him, but we could never catch him to get the job done when he heeled our horses. Bart stayed with Brian, and Clyde stayed with me. I have to admit, he was a likable little rascal.
I’ll tell you about four horses that I rode; if I had more I have long since lost any recollections of them. There was a green broke, stocky sorrel quarter horse, and I can’t remember his name. He wasn’t too bad, nothing special, but you could do what needed to be done with him. One afternoon we were trotting home, and that horse blew up for no reason. He got his head down when he got the jump on me, and then I lost both stirrups. That horse didn’t know it, but he had me bucked off. Then he threw his head up and I pulled him out of it.
“Billy, you got lucky there. He had you bucked off, but he didn’t know how to finish you off. ‘Course it don’t take much to buck a man off going home.”
Then there was Whitey. He was gentle, but he was a dink, and I mean a real dink. He wasn’t very old, 6 maybe. He was about half Appaloosa and had good withers, but he was thin. No matter how much hay we fed him we could never get any weight on him. Rope a big cow on the fly, and he would get jerked over. He was lazy, didn’t handle well at all, and he didn’t know there was a cow in all of the SE Oregon. When I first caught him I noticed he had two shoes--both on his left side.
“Hey, Brian, whoever shod Whitey forgot to shoe his right side too.”
“That was me, Bill. I was in a big hurry, and I ran out of time. The next day I had to go to Winnemucca to get you.”
One day I was riding Whitey through the brush, and what a miserable ride that was. I had to spur him every foot of the way, and when a little cow trail we were on bent off to the left Whitey just kept on going straight and walked out into some rocks. I had to pull him or rein him around every piece of brush we rode by. I finally had enough, and I stuck him so hard with a spur that I drew blood. I knew better then to do that, and I also knew I would get a little pep talk from Brian for that display of temper. When Brian rode up I had Whitey’s right side facing him so he would see it right away.
“Is that plasma I see running down Whitey’s shoulder?”
“Ya, I did that.”
“He’s not worth a damn is he? I rode him for a half day one time, but that was all I could take. I should haul him to town and get rid of him.”
Before Brian was at the C Ranch, Clark, his younger brother went out one Easter Sunday morning to wrangle the horses, and there was an extra horse in the herd. Somehow or another a young stud came off the desert and got into the ranch’s horse herd. They threw him down, cut and branded him, and he was no longer a wild horse. Since it was Easter, they called him The Easter Bunny. Clark started him and when he left Bunny had never been ridden again.
The C Ranch didn’t have a whole lot of horses so I had to ride whatever Brian didn’t want. Brian gave me Bunny, and one day when we finished cowboying I caught Bunny while Brian went to the house to cook. I saddled him, checked him up, and he was fine. (Checking a horse up was done a lot in those days, I don’t know if anyone does it now or not.) I stepped on him, rode him around the corral a little, and he was fine. I knew Brian wanted to see him ridden so I took my snaffle bit off and left him in the corral saddled.
Brian had taken a few nips of whisky while he was cooking, and so when I got in I had a few snorts myself. While I was doing the dishes we kept that bottle out as we were waiting for Jack to show up from the Circle Bar as he was going to show us how to gather that country for a couple of days. Instead of walking up to the barn and finishing with Bunny, we stayed with the whisky. Jack finally showed up riding one horse and leading a pack horse, so we met him at the barn. Jack knew of Bunny, and he and Brian wanted to see me gallop him around the corral a little. I climbed on him and then I went stupid. I stuck my spurs in him and made him buck around that corral. I knew he couldn’t buck me off so I asked Jack if he would take me outside so I could gallop him around a little.
Feeling pretty cocky I said, “With a little luck he won’t buck me off out there.”
Jack said, “Oh, that horse will never see the day he can buck you off. I don’t think it’s necessary, but if you want to go outside, I’ll go with you.”
I galloped out of the corral gate, and Bunny bucked around a little bit. Jack caught up with me at the wire gate that took us onto the dirt road that went to the Circle Bar. Clyde was with us, and when Jack opened the gate Clyde heeled The Easter Bunny.
I was sitting under a juniper tree wondering who that dog with a ringed tail like a raccoon was. I noticed I was next to a dirt road that headed off towards the direction of the sun. I knew that was west, any idiot could tell that. I couldn’t see very far as there were juniper trees all around me. It came back to me that Jack Morris and I were out riding, and I was riding a young horse. Must’ve been a wreck. A good man wouldn’t sit under a tree after a wreck. I better get up and check things out.
I noticed there were two sets of horse tracks on that dirt road coming from the west. Obviously, that was the direction Jack and I had come from. I started walking the opposite way those tracks were going. That meant that I would go back to the place where those tracks came from. It was kind of hot, and I started throwing up. Clyde is that dog’s name. Now I remember; I’m at the C Ranch. Me and Clyde were walking down that road when Jack came galloping up.
“Bill, where in the hell are you going? I told you to stay under that tree until I came back.”
“Hi, Jack. See these horse tracks? I’m following them. Those are our tracks, and they will take me back to the ranch. Pretty smart, huh?”
“Those are my tracks from when I came from the Circle Bar. You’re going the wrong way. The C Ranch is that way.”
That didn’t make any sense at all to me. “Jack, are you sure you know where you’re at?”
He told me later that is when he knew I wasn’t right and he would have to be very careful in how he handled me. “Bill, I’ve lived here for years, and I know exactly where we are. Clyde heeled your horse, and he bucked you off so far that when you hit the ground you were four feet past the end of your mecate. Bunny doesn’t lead very well, and when I spotted you walking the wrong way I tied him up to a tree so I could get to you faster. I want you to do something for me, OK?”
“I want you to sit under that tree and stay there. Will you do that for me?”
“I’ll send Brian back with the truck to pick you up. If you start walking in these trees it may take hours to find you. Will you stay here?”
“Ya, I’ll stay.”
“Bill, I want you to promise me, will you stay under that tree until Brian finds you?”
“Ya, I promise. Jack, I don‘t suppose you have any whisky with you?” Turns out he had a bottle in a little medicine bag he had tied behind his cantle.
He took off, and there was just me and Clyde. Since Clyde was such a faithful little fellow I figured the least I could do was give him a little snort. I let him smell the open bottle, but he didn’t want any part of that stuff. I grabbed him and held his mouth open and gave him a good blast. He got away from me and started gagging. He never left me, but he wouldn’t get close enough to me where as I could touch him again.
Brian finally came driving up. “Billy, you know which way the C Ranch is?”
“Yes I do. You came from the Circle Bar and the C Ranch is that way.”
“Jack told me you might say that.”
When we got back to the ranch I threw up some more, and then laid down on my bedroll and went to sleep. Was that a good thing for me to do with a head concussion? I don’t know, but that’s what I did. It was dark when I woke up, and those guys were sitting at the table sipping some whisky. They asked me if I wanted anything to eat or drink. I did not, and I was starting to get hot. I needed to get outside and be by myself for awhile. I needed to think things over.
When I went outside my faithful little buddy Clyde fell in behind me. I walked far enough away from the house so I couldn’t see any lights or hear any noise. I sat down on the ground and grabbed up a hand full of gravel. I would shake my hand and single out a small rock, and then I would shoot it out with my thumb as if I were shooting marbles.
There was no moon out, and it was really, really dark. I could see a million stars in the sky. What I had done that day was very, very dumb. How could I have done something that stupid? That horse didn’t do anything wrong. It was all me and the whisky. You’ve heard “never mix guns and alcohol?” Well, “never mix broncos and whisky” is my new creed. I felt terrible, how could I have been that stupid?
I ran out of rocks so I shimmied over several feet and grabbed up some more gravel and started shooting them out again. I did this over and over. I don’t know how long I stayed out there, but I finally started to get cold. I looked up at the sky, at all those stars shining, oh, so brightly. I noticed that there was one star that kept winking at me. When I was nine years old my older sister died in a car wreck. I wonder if that is her up there, winking at me to let me know everything will be alright. I started to cry. I gave Clyde a few pats, and then we walked back to the house.
The next morning Brian and Jack kept asking me questions…How I was, how did I sleep, what day it is, and on and on. Finally Brian said, “OK, Billy, here’s what we’re going to do. You took a hard knock to the head yesterday, and you’re still not right. Jack can only help us for two days, and we have to have you both days. Jack knows how to gather this country with all these juniper trees, and he and I will ride on each side of the road and we will kick cattle down to you, and all you have to do is ride behind them. Whitey’s your gentlest horse, so ride him today.”
I knew what they were doing was right, they were only trying to help me, but still, I couldn’t help but feel like the village idiot.
A few days later Brian had a horse in the barn, and he had a hind leg tied up so he could shoe him. I wasn’t smart enough to be in the barn out of the hot sun. I threw Bunny down, and was shoeing him on the ground.
“Brian, these little ranches are a lot of work. We gotta do everything. Cook and clean, pitch hay, chop wood, and let’s face it…these ain’t the best of horses.”
“You’re absolutely right, Bill. They are a lot of work. I would rather be on the Circle A desert instead of doing this, but I have a chance to make some good money here. These little places don’t have the kind of horses we need. On the big outfits I had my choice of horses. And the cowboys could trade back and forth if they wanted to. Here, we have to ride what we have. I get first pick, and you get what’s left.
“Speaking of what’s left, you need another horse. There’s Blackie Crow. He’s Bill Ross’s personal horse. Bill’s really the only guy that rides him, nobody else wants him, but he told me that we could use him if we need him.”
A warning bell went off in my head. “How come nobody else wants him?”
“He’s hard to catch; he’s hard to shoe. You have to hobble him to saddle him. He’s hard to get on, and later in the morning when you get off to take a leak he’ll jerk away and run off and leave you. And if he doesn’t run off, then he’ll really be hard to get back on. He won’t buck first thing in the morning; he’ll wait a few hours and get you when you’re relaxed, and then he’ll run off and leave you. Other than that, he’s not a bad horse. You can ride him in a bridle if you’re not afraid of getting your reins broke.”
Jack needed some help, so the next day we rode two horses and led two horses with our bedrolls on them to the Circle Bar. We rode into the ranch yard about midmorning, and I noticed several nice looking 4 wheel drive types of vehicles parked in a line. It was a Saturday morning so we assumed some friends of Jack had come to visit him from Boise.
Jack came out and explained to us, “This is the richest woman in Oregon with her friends, and they are hunting birds. This is kind of an annual thing now so when you guys come in I want you to behave yourselves. No swearing, you know what I mean.”
When we went into the kitchen I had the feeling that some of the richest lady’s friends were very relaxed and enjoying themselves immensely. There was plenty of booze, but I didn’t drink anything as I wanted to shoe Blackie Crow that afternoon and I knew I was in for a hard time.
I was sitting on the counter leaning back against the cupboards with my legs hanging down. The richest lady asked Jack if he could boil some water for her as she would like some tea. This Jack did with a smile, and when he served her the tea in a cup she asked for some sugar. Jack kept on smiling, but I could tell that getting a bowl of sugar for her might be a problem.
Understand now, Jack is in his mid 40’s, and he is a hard core bachelor. He’s a hard man, and he is a tough man. The word around that southern Oregon and Idaho country was to not mess with Jack Morris in a bar or anywhere else. He had whipped a lot of tough men.
Jack wanted to open the cupboard door that I was leaning against so I scooted over a little. I could tell by the look on his face that there might not be a sugar bowl in that house. He rummaged around in that cupboard and as luck would have it, he found a sugar bowl. He set it on the bench next to my leg, and when he lifted the top off we could see the bowl was half full of sugar, but it was also full of cobwebs. Jack stuck his finger in that bowl and spun it around a few times and then wiped it off on his Levi’s. He looked at me, winked, and then he served the richest lady the sugar for her tea.
That afternoon I caught Blackie Crow and tied him up to a strong fence post. I had a pair of gunny sack hobbles, and when I went to flip the hobble around his front legs he set back and started throwing a fit; I was expecting something like this so I started hitting him over the head and neck and back with my gunny sack hobbles. I knew I wasn’t hurting him any, but I was hoping I would get the message across that I was doing some damage.
It worked. I had called Blackie Crow’s bluff. We got along great after that. I mean we really got along. And like Brian had said, he was a good horse. I could do anything with that horse. He was good with a cow, good to rope on, for a horse that wasn’t real big he was good to ride; I packed my bedroll on him. I used my half breed on him, and then I started using Brian’s spade bit with rawhide reins and romal. Brian couldn’t believe it. He said I looked good riding with a spade bit and that Blackie Crow was a better horse then he had given him credit for. Why this success? I don’t know, but as the years went by I noticed that quite often I could get along with those older horses when other cowboys might have some trouble with them. Probably because I wasn’t always hammering and spurring on them and trying to make them spin and slide. I would just go about those horses the right way, get the job done, and then give them a couple of pats on the neck when I turned them loose.
We were gathering some cattle one morning down by the South Fork of the Owyhee. I knew there wouldn’t be any cattle near that rim, but I had heard about how deep that canyon was and I wanted to see it. I rode my horse to the edge and what a sight. It was about 1,200 feet to the water. It was a vertical rim rock for about half way down and then it flared out and down to the water’s edge. I could hear the river from where I was, and it was green in color. Jack later told me that there was a trail near where I was, but it was a long and steep ride to get down to the river. Clark recently told me that it is called the Beaver Charlie Crossing.
We would load up and head for a camp called Bull Basin. It was 6 or 8 miles to get there from the ranch and through some of the rockiest country I have ever been in. At first, when we needed fire wood and hay, Brian would take the truck with our food and bedrolls and I would drive the horses. Getting those horses started was a chore. They knew where we were going, and they did not want to go there. I would take my lass rope down and throw it at them to get them going as it was almost impossible to trot around them. It took awhile, but once they all got on the trail then they would line out pretty good. I just had to hope that one of the faster walking horses was in the lead. The trail
cut across country whereas the road Brian had to take would make a big loop and I can’t really remember which one of us would get there first. That’s how rocky it was. For those of you that know what a rock jack is, I soon figured out why they build them in SE Oregon.
My Dear “7”---Stay tuned, this adventure ain’t over yet…..
January 11, 2011
We were camped at Bull Basin one time and it was pouring rain. Brian cooked a big breakfast, and as I was washing the dishes he said we would bore up for awhile until the rain quit. As I remember, the cabin at Bull Basin was just one large room. The wood stove was on the left of the door as you walked in, and the firewood and my bed were on the right. Brian had set his bed up on the opposite corner from where I was. We both retired to our perspective bedrolls and were reading the morning away. We each had a bottle of whisky and would take a small sip as we read. What with the big breakfast, the warm room, a little nip now and then, and our reading, we both fell asleep.
The next thing I knew Brian had jumped up cussing, and grumbling, and rubbing his head. “The damn raindrops keep falling on my head, and I can’t sleep,” he said.
This was several years after Burt Bacharach’s song “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” from the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid came out. Is that where he came up with those words or did they just come off the top of his head? Who knows. Anyway, he was tired of sleeping and doing nothing so we caught our horses and rode out in the rain. We didn’t accomplish much but at least we had made a “turn” (ride) for the day.
Having lost most of a day’s work because of the rain he wanted to get an early start the next morning. It was still dark when I finished doing the dishes, and Brian had run our two horses for the day in the corral. He had his horse caught and was saddling him by the time I had put my halter on The Easter Bunny. (Bunny never offered to buck again after that calamity when Jack was there.) It was very muddy in that corral, and when I led him over to the gate he put the brakes on. He wouldn’t go through the gate. I figured it was because it was still dark and I wasn’t opening the gate wide enough for him so I swung that gate open as far as it would go. You know how those big old time wooden gates swing if the gate post isn’t exactly straight up and down? At one point in the arc it is on the ground, and at another it is about 2 feet off the ground. When I swung that gate open it came from the ground and rose at least 2 feet in the air. I quickly turned back to Bunny and I got him to move his left shoulder and get untracked, and then I turned around to lead him out before the gate came back.
Too late. As soon as I turned around the bottom of the gate went over the top of my left foot and I was hit head on. It dropped me like a rock, and with my left foot caught I was lying in the mud and stuck. Bunny jerked away from me and ran off.
“Bill, Bill, what’s the matter? You sound like you been killed.”
After I told him what had happened he didn’t show me much mercy. I was covered in mud, and as it was still raining a little I had a long, cold, wet day.
The Stanford brothers had a ranch in Jordan Valley, and they had a camp not too far from Bull Basin on Juniper Mountain they called Red Camp. Lee and Gene and Stub were brothers. Stub was buckarooing in Nevada, and Lee and Gene ran the ranch. Lee had two sons, Dennis and Mike (I think), and they were both on the ranch. Gene was a bachelor, and he would spend the summer at Red Camp cowboying.
Around the first of October Brian and I pulled into Red Camp with our horses and bedrolls. The boys were there, and they told me that the Jordan Valley ranch fathers did not like their sons going down to Nevada and buckarooing. It spoiled ’em. When they came back to the family ranch they didn’t want to do anything if it couldn’t be done horseback. I thought that was pretty funny as here these kids were all ranch raised and they knew they had to irrigate, hay, and feed.
Red Camp was a nice camp. It was about half modern and a lot better than what Brian and I were used to. Gene and Brian would do the cooking, and the boys and I would wash the dishes and wrangle the horses. One thing about all the cowboy kitchens I was in--they were kept pretty clean, and the dishes were washed in hot soapy water and rinsed in scalding water. I usually used a knife or something else that was big to flip the dishes out so I wouldn’t burn my hands. The boys had a pair of tongs and those worked really well. Why am I telling you this? I don’t know-- life in a cowboy camp, I guess.
We were putting hard rides on those horses, and since we weren’t overloaded with horses they were being ridden a lot. Gene would put a block of salt in a tub of water, and when we finished for the day we would stir that salt water up and then dip some out with a coffee can and pour it on our horses’ backs and withers. We did that as it was supposed to harden their hides and keep them from getting sore backs and/or saddle sores.
We went back to the C Ranch, and I woke up one morning to find Ted Payne sitting at the breakfast table. Ted had just been married, and he had a beautiful little family ranch. (I think Ted now owns the C Ranch). He handed me a bottle of whisky and told me I had better have a drink. (The custom was that when you went to another man’s ranch or camp you took a bottle with you as a courtesy. That is why Jack had that bottle behind his cantle after Bunny had bucked me off.)
Note: As I write this I can’t remember how Ted arrived at the ranch. Did he ride or drive? I made a phone call to Clark Morris to refresh my memory on names, locations, directions and so on and so forth. When I brought up that I couldn’t remember how Ted got there…
“Oh, he might have ridden there during the night,” Clark said. “There’s some hard country over there and sometimes it’s just as easy and fast to ride across country as it is to drive all the way around. If the road was washed out…ya, he might have spent half the night riding so he could get to you boys. If you guys had some of his cattle then he would just push them home, and that way he wouldn’t have to come back later for a vehicle. Depending on how far he had to drive those cattle he might not have gotten home until the middle of the next night.”
And they say what hard rides the buckaroos make!
I believe his name was Dennis Swisher, and I only saw him the one time he drove through the C Ranch yard. He stopped, Brian introduced us, they talked for awhile, and he never got out of his pickup. He had a small place fifteen or twenty miles (I think) past the C Ranch. It was on the river and called Crutcher’s Crossing. He was another old bachelor, and he was by himself out there, no woman, relatives, or hired help. After he left I asked Brian what Dennis would do if he should get in a horse wreck and get hurt. How would anyone know he was down and then where would they look?
“I asked him that myself, Bill, and he said he was never without a pistol.”
We stayed busy that fall. What with gathering our own cattle and helping Jack and Gene we were on the move all the time. I rotated my horses every day, and whatever kind of a day it was that horse had to do his part. For instance, let’s say we had a hard day in front of us and it was Whitey’s turn to go. With a buckaroo string I would have skipped Whitey and used a better traveling type of horse. But at the C Ranch a hard day with Whitey meant Whitey was in for a hard day, and it would even be worse for me as I had to ride him.
We gathered a lot of Jack’s cattle for him. Brian began to suspect that maybe his older brother was taking advantage of us. In reality, neither one of us really cared; after all, what good is a little brother if you can’t take advantage of him. We laughed a lot over that. No matter what, Jack was very instrumental in helping Brian learn that country, and he was a great guy to be around.
Jack loved his race horses. He had a stud he called Serendipity. When the race season was over he brought Serendipity back to the ranch and turned him out with the saddle horses, all of them geldings. A couple of those older horses didn’t realize that “royalty” was amongst them. After all, what was a big young thoroughbred stud to them? They kicked, and bit, and beat on him just like they would any other young horse. That really surprised me. Jack told me that was common as long as there were no mares around the place.
We drove out of the ranch one afternoon looking to shoot a butcher cow. We had her hanging up on the racks of the truck but when we started to split her in two we broke the meat saw. All we had left was an axe. You talk about a “butcher” job. For the rest of his life Brian would always remind me of the day we split a cow with an axe.
We were running low on some supplies, and Brian had some business to take care of, and he needed to see Bill Ross and get the schedule figured out as we would ship some cattle out of Jordan Valley. Since we’d been hitting it hard and heavy for weeks on end he took me with him. We left our bedrolls at the ranch as we would be staying in a motel. Plan A called for us to behave ourselves and be back at the ranch the next night.
You’ve heard that song by George Thorogood, “House Rent Blues” where he says “Last call for alcohol?” We closed the bar that night. Sometime during the evening Brian agreed to help one of the local guys; it didn’t require horses. We got up early the next morning, had breakfast, and then helped the man with his project. As we were driving down the lane back to town I got sick. Violently sick. I swore off booze. I kept getting sick, and so I swore off cussing, tobacco, and anything else that might keep me out of heaven. My head felt like it would bust open; oh the pain, the agony. After about what seemed like the 10th time at stopping I got back in the truck and said, “Brian, there’s yellow bile coming up. I ain’t kidding you, I’m dying.”
“I can see that, Bill. What surprises me, you being a good Irish Catholic boy, you haven’t joined the priesthood yet.”
At that time Oregon law said that if you owned a bar, you had to also have a food establishment under the same room and connected by a door, or something to that effect. By the time we arrived at the JV Club I was feeling better and able to eat. There were two truck drivers in the restaurant; they were hauling beef halves from Boise, ID, to Sparks, NV. They would drive through Winnemucca and be back in Jordan Valley the next afternoon. We jumped in their trucks and went to Winnemucca, returning to the ranch the next night.
There were times when we could go to town and behave ourselves. I had a pair of high topped, French waxed calf Paul Bond’s ordered. We had to ship some cattle, and a guy in town had a truck load coming in so we stayed to help him. It was raining, and those corrals and chutes were a mess. For some reason we didn’t have our overshoes with us so I tucked my Levi’s into the tops of my brand new boots and I slogged out through the mud. Three of four horned cows ran back up the chute and into the belly of the trailer which had about three inches of soupy manure in it. I ran in after them, and when one of those cows bellered I knew that I had made a terrible mistake. I was the only thing between them and the way out. That one cow snorted and came at me so I hugged up close to the side of the trailer, and she hooked at me as they all ran by, covering me with manure. I ran out right behind them as I didn’t want them to come back in that trailer and find me standing there feeling sorry for myself. It was early to bed and early to rise for us on that trip.
Jack let us know that their dad was coming to the Circle Bar for a few days. We drove to Jack’s place and had a nice visit with Nate. He showed us his new bedroll that he had rolled out on the living room floor. It was an Eddie Bauer goose down sleeping bag that was rated at -30 degrees. Edith had fixed up some sheets and a pillow in it. It was on a 4 inch thick foam pad and placed in a canvas bed tarp. It being new, and the goose down all puffed up, it must have been 8 inches thick. It was the nicest bedroll I had ever seen, and I felt like climbing in it right then and there. However, it was expensive.
We went back to being busy. We were working out of the ranch and also out of Three Forks. We were shipping and getting the herd set up as they would winter outside between the C Ranch and Three Forks. That field was sixteen miles long and pretty wide--it varied from point to point, and I don’t remember how wide it was mileage wise. There were only a few springs, not enough to handle that many cattle, but Brian said those cattle would manage by licking snow. I had never heard of that before, but he said those cattle did fine.
It was a cold December morning, four or five inches of snow were on the ground, and when we left the ranch the thermometer read 31 below. We had cattle trailed out in front of us for over a mile. Brian had the right side; I had the left side. There was a strong wind blowing from the south, and we could see some dark objects against the snow way off to that side of us. We couldn’t tell if they were cattle or trees as the wind would make our eyes tear up before we could be sure. Since it was my side--me, Bunny, and Clyde headed off to see what they were. After about ten minutes of trotting into that wind I had to stop and turn around. My face was so cold it felt like it was on fire and the icicles were hanging off my moustache; the tears were rolling out of my eyes. I was wearing some Eddie Bauer mittens that were goose down lined and had beaver fur on the backs of them. It was like wearing small boxing gloves, but hey, they kept my hands warm. I would rub that beaver fur on my cheeks and try to get some circulation going and stop the stinging. I had to stop a couple of more times before I was able to establish that it was trees we were looking at, not cattle. I angled back to the herd and then we rode home.
The next morning we loaded the truck up as we would be camping at the Widow Anderson’s cabin in the bottom of the Three Forks Canyon. Brian took the truck, and I drove three horses down to the camp. We had a stray bull that had to go to town so we loaded him up, and Brian took off early that afternoon. He told me not to expect him that night as he didn’t want to drive on those ice packed roads in the dark.
As I remember, that cabin was not very big. It was made out of logs, and the chinking was not the best. The wood stove was on the right as you went in. We hung some meat in a little room, but I can’t remember if it was attached to the cabin or if it was a small building of its own. I could see where over the years guys had nailed different pieces of materials to the walls to try and insulate the cabin better. Over that they hung old newspapers and canvas. Don’t quote me on this, but it seems like the dates on some of those old newspapers dated back to the 30’s and 40’s. No matter how hard they tried with the insulation, that wood stove could not keep that cabin warm with the terrible cold we were experiencing.
And so began three of the coldest nights of my young life. I chopped the ice in the river and got a bucket of water and put it on the stove. I ate some meat and vegetables for dinner. There was no way the heat could get to the back of the cabin where my bed was. Brian had left his transistor radio with me and I put it in my bed so the batteries wouldn’t freeze. I had a US Army goose down mummy sleeping bag that was rated at 0 degrees. I woke up in the middle of the night and I was so cold my teeth were chattering. I kept thinking about that goose down bedroll that Nate showed us. I have to get one of those--I don’t care the cost--I’ll never spend another night like this again. I pulled the canvas tarp over my head, curled up in the fetal position, and somehow made it through the night. I cleaned the ashes out of the stove the next morning and rebuilt the fire. My bucket of water had frozen. I had plenty of meat and bread but the eggs were frozen. Actually, everything was frozen. I would chop on the meat to get enough to eat and then I would fry it. I threw bread on top of the meat just to warm it up; that and coffee was all I ate for the next two days.
At 7:00 o’clock I would turn the radio on to hear the news from Boise, ID. They were dynamiting the Snake River as it was so cold they were fearful of ice jams. Some of the coldest temperatures in modern history were being recorded. Remember the song “Nights in White Satin” by the Moody Blues? That was the hot song at the time. If the weather doesn’t start getting warmer, then this Knight in White Satin may get wrapped up in white satin. To this day I still refer to the buckaroos as Knights in White Satin. All because of that time and that setting.
It was Whitey’s turn so I went to catch him as I wanted to ride around and see what was going on with the herd. Kind of like riding a feed ground except everything was turned out. The horses would stand in the corner, and when I walked up to Whitey he took off running down the fence and made a turn around a lone tree that was at the bottom and stopped. When I walked down there he ran back to the top with the other horses. This went on and on. I was furious. This is what a dink does to you when you are by yourself. If only I had a rifle! I wanted to throw something at him, anything to cause him pain, but I knew that wouldn’t help the situation so I refrained from doing that. But only for so long. Sad to say, but I was so mad that I did start yelling, and cussing, and throwing things at him. I finally gave up and went with another horse. Whitey had won the day--but watch out, you ill-bred reprobate, my day will come.
When I rode back that afternoon I fed the horses and nothing had changed. The fire was out, and the bucket of water was frozen again. Brian hadn’t come back yet. That was unusual. Not to worry, there is still about two hours of daylight left. I started a fire but I would wait until Brian returned before I started cooking. I rubbed my face, and I could feel lumps on both cheeks. I had bought a “mirror” that was made out of metal. It was supposed to reflect like a regular mirror without breaking. It didn’t reflect that well so I couldn’t see what was wrong with me. I kept rubbing my face and was worried to no end. Am I diseased? Just what is wrong with me?
At dark I started cooking, and then I ate and moved my bed as close to the stove as I could. I put on clean underwear and long johns and socks to try and keep me warmer throughout the night. At that time I did not know that 90% of your body heat went out your head so I didn’t do anything in that regard. I laid my coat, slicker, and chinks on top of my bed and tried to go to sleep. It was the same as the night before --chattering teeth, the fetal position, and the tarp over my head.
The next morning I cooked with my hat and coat on. If anything, the news out of Boise was worse. More dynamite, more record setting temperatures. They played “Nights in White Satin,”--how I love this, ooohhh hooow I love this. My words, of course.
Still no Brian and the lumps seemed to be bigger. Then it dawned on me--I had frostbitten my face. That ride three days ago into the wind was the cause of this. I felt relieved, at least I wasn’t diseased.
I tried to catch Whitey again, but to no avail. I made a turn out in the brush, and I came in a little earlier. Still no Brian, by now I’m getting a little concerned. Has something happened? Should I saddle both his horses as they were the freshest, and ride back towards town? Firewood will be an issue tomorrow. There are some fence posts stacked up by the cabin, but I doubt if the Widow Anderson would appreciate me chopping them up for firewood. I’ll give him ’til three o’clock, and then I’ll pull out with his horses. Finally I could hear a vehicle coming down the canyon; it was Brian. He delivered the bull on the first day, and then he spent the night and all of yesterday in the bar. He had trouble making it today as the roads were bad. He felt terrible for leaving me out there by myself.
I told him, “Brian, it’s OK. Don’t worry about it; everything is just fine. We might want to think about pulling out of here tomorrow though as our wood supply is getting low. We’re in for a long cold night.”
What’s wrong with your face?” he asked.
“I think I frostbit it when I rode down to those trees the other day.”
“Ya, that’s what it looks like,” and then he told me some stories about other people he knew that had been frostbitten.
Another long night and then the news from Boise was the same. Brian wanted to get out of there, and then I told him what Whitey had pulled on me.
“I wouldn’t have blamed you if you’d shot him. OK, here’s what we’ll do. I’ll go down to that tree and tie my rope around it. You go to the corner like you’ve been doing and when he runs down to the bottom I’ll give that son of a bitch the surprise of his life.”
Good Lord, I thought we’d killed him. It should’ve killed him, just goes to show what a dink he really was. I rode a horse one time that you could drop out of an airplane and it wouldn’t hurt him. Take a good horse, put him in a padded stall, and he’ll come out of there crippled and bleeding.
Note 1: Years later Brian and I would hook up again and the conversation eventually turned to Whitey. It turns out that he did haul Whitey to town, and they sold him. A young girl from the Nampa, Boise, Caldwell area needed a gentle horse as she was a beginner and she wanted to join Pony Club; a wonderful organization. She and Whitey fell in love, and they went on to success all the way through high school. Is there a lesson to be learned from this? I like to think so--just because a horse can’t make it in that “good ranch horse” string doesn’t mean there isn’t a place out there for him somewhere. Even though I had no use for Whitey, I was glad to hear that it turned out alright for him, and that he had helped make a young girl’s dreams come true.
Note 2: I did buy the Eddie Bauer long and large goose down bag that was rated at -30 degrees. My mother sewed snaps into some bed sheets so I could snap them in, and she bought a new pillow for it. I was making $300.00 a month, and it cost $150.00. I didn’t care; I never spent another cold night again. That would be my “home” for the next five years, up until the time I was married. I rolled it out on the ground, I slept in it on a canvas Army cot in the buckaroo camps, I placed it on steel bed springs in bunkhouses, and I used it in an apartment in Reno, NV. After we were married, and Aline would visit her mother in Oregon, I would roll it out on the deck and sleep there until she came home. Once she found out what I was doing we bought an identical set up for her. Then we got to where we would both sleep on the deck. It would take about fifteen years to wean me from rolling it out on the deck. Today, the only time we use those bedrolls is when we’re on a planned event--hunting, packhorse trips into the mountains, or what have you. I take an Advil when I go to bed. The times, they have a-changed. (That’s from the legendary Bob Dylan, “7.”)
It was good to get back to the C Ranch. As far out and desolate as it was, it had a warm stove and it sure beat that cabin at Three Forks. Christmas was coming, and we wanted to spend the holidays with our families. Brian and I agreed on a day we would meet back in Jordan Valley and off we went. I drove down to see my sister in Carson City, NV. Clyde went with me. Whenever we would drive through a town he would sit up straight in the passenger seat and look around as if he knew what he was doing. People in other cars would see him and point and laugh. A few days after Christmas I was assaulted on South Virginia Street in Reno and took twenty-two stitches above the heart. I never saw the C Ranch again. I sent the newspaper clipping to Brian so he would know what happened to me and why I never made our “meet”. For the rest of the winter our only correspondence was through the US Mail.
That spring he brought my back eater and bedroll to the JV Club, and I returned Clyde to him. The C Ranch had changed hands, and the times they had a really changed. With new management they didn’t really need any more help. However, Brian wanted me to help brand for about six weeks, and there would be lots of roping. I would be on his payroll and not the ranch’s. I wanted to do it, but I saw myself as an expense to him. I hated to leave him, but the big outfits were “calling”. We parted on good terms. Years later he told me that he didn’t blame me for leaving; he said if it were him, he would have done the same thing.
I went back to the Spanish Ranch, and Kane wanted me to calve heifers. There were about four hundred of them. Francisco “Pee Wee” Lara had the day shift, and I would take the night shift.
“I don’t know how to calve heifers,” I said.
“It’s easy, I’ll show you.”
What’s wrong with the guy that’s been doing it?”
“I want you to do it. He let the milk cow die.”
“How do you let a milk cow die?”
“She would prolapse, and she had trouble calving. I brought her over here so they could watch her. She was a good cow, and I wanted to put leppy calves on her. The night guy went to the house with his wife, and the cow got stuck under a board fence. The next morning her and the calf were dead. I’d fire him, but I need him right now and Stanley wants to keep someone in that house”.
“Now,” he went on, “when you get comfortable with this calving, let me know. I’m shorthanded and I want you to help me brand. I want to brand 1,000 calves before the wagon pulls out.”
“Ain’t I gonna get a little tired calving all night and branding all day?”
“Take an alarm clock with you and check the heifers every two hours. If things are fine, then take a little nap. You won’t have to ride out with me in the morning, sleep a little more. I’ll tell you where I’m going to brand, and you can drive down in the pickup. Use my horse and saddle. When we get done you can go back and sleep some more.”
“I’ll wear myself out walking back and forth to the bunkhouse all night for those naps.”
“Quit arguing. You’ll sleep in the pickup. Take a blanket if you want.”
“Doesn’t the heater work?”
Not only did the heater work, but the radio did too. Remember “A Horse With No Name” by America? I loved to hear that song.
“OK, I’ll do it. But will you do something for me?”
“On the days that we brand, can you ride a nice gentle bridle horse?”
“Mooney, all my horses are gentle”.
And so I’ll bring this story to its close. In a matter of 18 months I had covered a lot of country. I had ridden most of the Circle A’s portion of the Owyhee Desert and parts of its US Forest allotments. I had been to all the ranches of the Ellison Ranching Co. (some have since been sold and new ones bought), I rode all of the Spanish Ranch and a lot of the high country of Squaw Valley, and I spent some time in southeast Oregon near Juniper Mountain. I rode in weather that went from 30 below to 105 above. The wagons I was on were the Circle A, Spanish Ranch, Squaw Valley, and later the Allied.
I rode lots of horses. Some of them earned their retirement, died, and were buried at a respectable old age on the same ranch as they were born. Others were loaded on a truck and never saw their 8th birthday. Thanks to the buckaroo I can ride a snaffle bit, hackamore, two rein (not a whole lot), and bridle horse. I learned how to catch a cow in front of me, to my left or right, and I have even roped them as they stood behind me. I was taught how to head and heel cattle and also to heel little calves in order to brand them. They taught me to rope bigger cattle with a head and a front leg, going left or right, it didn’t matter. On occasion I would even call the figure 8. I have branded horses by heading and front legging them and by heading and heeling them. I ran mustangs with a parada and even roped a few. Being on those big outfits like I was, I was terrible at recognizing a cow that I had seen before. I could do it with horses but I was never that good with a cow. In my own defense I’ll say that I if I should see a certain cow in March, there is no guarantee that I will not see that same cow until December. And by then I had seen thousands of others. What small success I enjoyed as a buckaroo can easily be described with four simple words…I had good teachers.
As a buckaroo, I would not go into any more new country. I chose to stay at home. I had no yearn to go to Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas. At one time Clark had talked to me about northern California, but I stayed in Nevada. My style was northern Nevada and southern Oregon. (Years later I would ask Brenda at the Buckaroo Guide what ION meant, as I had never heard that before.)
At no time did I ever possess a camera. Pictures of me are few and far between. The only time I ever wrote anything down was when I named 131 saddle horses at the Spanish Ranch that we could saddle and ride from Point A to Point B. I don’t know where that list is today; lost, I presume. When Terry Riggs and I had that huge pack horse wreck on the Spanish Ranch I actually thought about writing that down; of course, I never did. We brought 2,000 steers from the Nelson Field (Squaw Valley) one year, and we left them near Tuscarora. Some people, from Elko I think, drove up and took our picture. For some reason I was thinking that one day in the far future I would see that picture. I thought about writing down the cowboys’ and horses’ names just in case that day should ever come. The Elko Daily Free Press now shows old pictures sometimes, and people write in and identify those in the pictures. Will that picture ever appear in the newspaper? Who knows. If it should, I’ll probably be able to name most of the cowboys but not the horses, as I never wrote that information down.
When I came out of the brush I saw lots of new country as a government trapper by way of shooting coyotes out of an airplane and helicopters. With the Nevada DOT I would see almost the entire state of Nevada’s roadway systems. I would teach myself the One Man Diamond and the Double Diamond hitches and traipse into the Ruby Mountains with pack horses.
Have my adventures slowed? As I write this we just finished moving a herd back to the home ranch in Jiggs, NV. Aline wanted to go so she rode a gentle horse, and we beat a snow storm. We had a good day. I rode the thoroughbred Clark gave me that happened to be Brian’s last horse. The chiropractor for me tomorrow, and the next day we’ll take the big truck and pick up that trailer we left the day after Thanksgiving in Adel, OR, and where I met Mike O’Sullivan, Brian’s old friend. Next week we’ll load the big truck in Elko and head for Palmer, Michigan, which is in the Upper Peninsula between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.
Aline says, “I know we’re retired and the truck is supposed to let us see America, but the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in January? The only things we’re going to see are trillions and trillions of snowflakes.”
“Ah, Little Darlin’, look on the bright side of it. We’re going to the Great Lakes, and with a little luck the mosquitoes won’t be bad.”
How and when will we get home? I haven’t a clue. There is a load of pipe in Rock Springs, WY, being held for us and who knows, the gold mine might call and send us back to Houston, TX, to pick up that crane we delivered last fall. Maybe Aline will want to see her brother in North Carolina or her niece in Florida. It’s not like depending on the US Mail as Brian and I used to do. This little laptop can take us anywhere we want to go.
Aline likes to say, “Where will we be next week at this time?”
I don’t know, and I don’t really care. Perhaps, forty years later, I’m still “footloose and fancy free.”
And so my good “7”, I hope I’ve brought joy to your day and thanks again for your patience. May God be with you…until later…..Bill