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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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.