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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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