by Gilford E. (Dick) Youst
My nieces, nephews, other relatives and their friends have often gathered to hear me tell stories of western life, and “Uncle Dick” was so often spoken by sweet voices and kind hearts, that I will write some of my experiences as I recall them, so that my relatives may recall the pleasant times they have listened and have so kindly entertained me when I visited them.
My life in Marion County, West Virginia began as a boy eleven years old at the close of the Civil War, which was not a pleasant period in Virginia. I attended school at Teverbaugh, where we sat on benches with peg legs, for three and four months a year. Then I attended school at Harrison County, Virginia, at the Vinson school house, Clay Township in 1870 and 1871. At that school there were quite a number of girls who gave their age as sixteen. One of them, Jennie, I selected for a wife. Her mother was a widow and we began our married life with her. Some people seemed to think I was quite a young husband, and joked me about it. But when they had laughed, I just joined them in laughing. Eventually, the stork visited us, and left us a girl babe. Neighbor mothers who came to meet the stork, laughed and called me “Daddy”. That pleased me too and I laughed with them, happily. We called the babe Delphia. She now lives at Flagstaff, Arizona and has eight children herself, and a goodly supply of grandchildren. She is Mrs. Delphia Phelan.
We had a colored woman whom we called Aunt Suse, employed as nurse and to do the housework. In taking charge, she was one day instructing the young mother on all the main points, especially diet. Pickles were forbidden. Daddy said, “Suse, can’t I eat pickles?” She burst into such laughter that she could not control to answer me.
The ladies wanted some alcohol and sent me to the little town of Shinnston, which was about three miles from us. I rode horseback. I had never tasted alcohol, and when I was about half a mile on my return, I thought I would taste of it. I took a good shot and it went the full length of me before I could stop it. Scared? You bet I was, and I started to jump off the horse and make for the river to put out the fire. But when I got the tears out of my eyes, I saw that there was no smoke. I said to myself, “It looks like Suse would have given some instructions about that; give Dad some attention, as well as the mother. Maybe they gave me rat poison in town!” I tied my horse and went in, handed Suse the bottle and asked, “What is that stuff!” she began to take the cork out. I grabbed the bottle and said, “Don’t take the cork out. I tried that and it went through me like fire, got in my eyes and nose – don’t get me mixed up in anything like that again.” She laughed and I saw that I would have to look out for myself!
My mother-in-law died the sixteenth of June, 1872. We then built a house in Marion County and moved down there. A number of our relatives and friends had moved out to southwestern Kansas. My brother Leonard, along with several cousins and a sister of my wife, Savilla Heldreth, were there. So in 1874 we concluded we would go to Kansas. We had a sale, and I bought me a pistol; not a six-shooter, but a one-shooter, a twenty-two caliber. The barrel was three inches long; the hammer lay down on the barrel … I could stick one cartridge in at a time in behind, and while taking sight, be pulling on the trigger and the hammer would begin to raise. By the time I could get it sighted – Bang she would go. It was easy to carry it concealed which I did at that time.
We had to order emigrant tickets and I ordered two tickets from Farmington West Virginia to Wichita Kansas, over the Baltimore and Ohio and the Santa Fe. Wichita was the end of the Santa Fe at that time. Joe Heldreth and Jake Smith met us there, and took us forty-five miles southwest on the Chikaskia, seven Caldwell, Kansas, and I took up pre emption on the thirty-mile strip known as the Cherokee Strip. I engaged in wheat raising for five years, and while there two boys were added to our family, Albert and Claude. For the first five years, brother Leonard and his chum, Dan Jones worked on the trail as cow hands from Texas to shipping points in southern Kansas. They would go to Texas in the spring, get a job, and put in the summer grazing across Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). They were on the trail (or work) when I got there. I wanted to see my brother as I had not seen him in three years. cousin Tyler Stuarm got the best saddle he could get in West Virginia, before starting for Kansas. I borrowed Tyler’s saddle and went to the Texas camp to visit Leonard.
When I found the camp, Leonard was out with the cattle. I unsaddled, staked my horse, and left the saddle lying in the grass. Soon one of the boys came riding up. He stopped suddenly and began to bawl like a wild steer or cow, riding around my saddle. Then he got down to paw and sniff at my saddle. Everybody had a big laugh. And THIS was the way I was initiated into the cowboy camp! At night we put the saddle near our bed for fear it would disappear.
Many things of interest occurred the five years we lived in Sumner County. Kansas but on account of my health we changed climate in 1879. My family visited from West Virginia for the summer. I went west in search of health and a home, in …. Jake , Dan Cook, Ed Cook and John …., Landville ….. boom was a mining town at the head of the Arkansas ….. had wagons, the others were merely passengers. We followed.
Water was bad and the food for our team poor. We had started on the 13of April. We struck the Rocky Mountains at Canyon City, Colorado. There were lots of teams, and men, women and children on the road. The road cut through the rocks crooked and narrow. Sometimes there was a chance to roll down hundreds of feet and land in the river. The four horse mail coach came by on the run, hollering “U.S. Mail” and claiming the right of way. Many a time the driver was drunk. In times of boom they had more wrecks between Leadville and Canyon City than the autos do now. We got to Granite, within thirty six miles of Leadville and met the people coming back, reporting nothing doing – horrible reports. We got a job high up near the timber line, hauling and cutting cross ties. In about a week, Mr. Rarick took the mountain fever, and Mr. Cook said he would have to go for lower altitude was the only hope. As he and I owned the team, I thought some of them would go with him, but not one of them offered to go, so I said I would. I started in a run for our team, loaded him in and we started. The teams were good to keep the road, and I would run from our wagon to the other and draw brakes. He could not raise up. The first night I sat by him and feared that he would not live through the night – all alone and I loved him, but by morning he was better and I made another drive and stopped in Wet Mountain Village near Canyon City. Here there was good grass for our team and fine water. There was a saw mill there, and when he got able we cut saw logs on contract. First our horses eat grass. In about a week, he took a backset. I took him to Canyon City and he was down for three weeks. He told me to sell his team and put him on the train for home. And then he began to get better again and we hooked up my team and pulled for Pueblo. We did get some work there, but there were so many … work on that Leadville road, that we concluded to turn off and pulled for Trinity Colorado.
Jake worked in Trinidad, Colorado during the summer and went home in the fall. I met Harry G. Gray in Trinidad. He was foreman for Senator Dorsey’s cow ranch in New Mexico (brand Triangle Dot). He had thousands of cattle and horses, and controlled the country for fifty miles around. He also managed to own the land where there was water. They built houses and had large pastures, corrals, and made the ranch a beautiful place. (Just ask the son).
I got a job with Mr. Gray and to get there took the A.T. and S.F., crossed the Raton Mountains by switch-back (they were working on the tunnel then) got off at Otero about ten miles south of where Raton is now, it was then a cow ranch. From Otero it was thirty-five miles to the Dorsey Ranch with only one house on the road and it was vacant. There were two others who wanted to go to the ranch. We hired a man to take us out in a wagon. I took a job skinning mules. I got $20 for driving two, and $25 for driving four. I took four but got the wheel mules front feet in the stretchers before I got out of the yard. But they didn’t criticize me, seemed to think I understood my business.
We went to the timber, climbed the timbered mountain and loaded heavy. Dark overtook us and I could not see the team ahead. We got to the ranch for the night. The next morning we took our loads on to where they were building a pasture, and went back to the ranch for the night. This was our drive for some time. I talked but little. Where we delivered our loads and took dinner, there was a man working and I could not keep from looking at him. I saw him looking at me. I laughed and asked him, “Wat are you looking at me for? Are you a detective?” He said, “You answer that question, you started it. There is no man got any right to look at me that way unless he has been in West Virginia or Kansas.”
“Now what do you know about that?” He went on to say that he had freighted through Kansas. I asked him if he had been in Indian Territory and he said “Yes”. I said “Where did you cross the Chikaskia River, between Caldwell and Wellington?” and he said “Yes” “Were you alone and built a fire and did you always get dinner?” He said “I remember well one time I didn’t”. “That is the reason you have been looking at me.” “How is that?” “Well, that fire was built on my farm” I replied. “Starting a prairie fire in Kansas was a heavy crime, and dealt with like horse thieving. Those fellows would just as soon hang a man. The man who did most of the talking to this man on the day of the fire was Bill Corzine, a neighbor that joined me on the west. He was wealthy and had much property at stake. I had near 1200 bushels of corn in that house just behind a bunch of trees and 500 bushels of wheat just across the branch and no fire guards. I didn’t talk as I thought that Corzine had said a plenty, didn’t you – ha ha … give me your hand.” We were friends from then on.
There were six of us teamsters hauling fence timber. At night about thirty of us slept in the bunk house and took our meals in the kitchen of the hightoned. Dorsey had brought a negro cook from Washington D.C. and one of the teamsters expressed himself as being a negro-hater. He was Jim James from Missouri and said that he was a relative of the noted James brothers and had shot and cut people in Missouri and was driven out west to be among his kind. One evening when we gathered at the bunk house Jim claimed that the cook, Negro Bill, had stolen his pocketbook and thrown it out in the junk pile. Someone had seen him do it. Jim decided to hang him and no one seemed to doubt it and some offered to help. No one was afraid of the law, if they could claim any cause, and all
wanted to be tough. Bill slept at the bunk house. A rope was prepared and they waited for him to finish in the kitchen and come up. He came in as usual laughing and sat down. Jim got between him and the door and charged him with stealing the pocketbook and told him what was to be done. “Oh” he declared. “I never thought of such a thing. Who told you that?” Jim said he had promised not to tell. One of the boys with a six-shooter on sitting behind the outside door evidently no intending to take part, said, “Jim, who saw him do that?” With an oath, Jim answered roughly that it was none of his business. Then the man from behind the door rose quickly and stepped between Jim and the negro and spoke slow and fir, “Bring your witness or stop before you pass me.” Jim weakened and all saw that he was lying and gave him the horse laugh. They told him it looked like he had got too FAR west, it didn’t seem like Missouri to him. Ha, ha! He didn’t hang any more negros while we were on the Dorsey ranch. Some fellows asked him if he didn’t think he could settle down and go back and live in Missouri. Maybe he did. Anyway he went someplace. They detailed me to haul the freight from R.R. Otero on the Santa Fe ten miles south of Raton. (When Raton started, Otero moved from the ranch, too.) Otero was thirty-five miles hilly and part timber with only one house on the road. I never stayed at Otero overnight and didn’t want to for it was a bloody town. Their supplies were shipped loaded at the depot and driven out. I camped and seldom stopped inside of any building, and if I did it was not a saloon or a gambling house. I always made the trip in two days with four mules and trail wagon, seventy miles. Often I was out late at night and on the road before daylight. I loaded at the depot one p.m. and drove out one and a half miles and camped. I wanted to send a telegram to Trinidad, Colorado. I put a blind bridle and a blanket
over one of the mules and rode into the station. I was returning and when near camp, I saw a man coming at high speed. He was overdressed as a cowboy or a desperado, had a fine horse, six-shooter, chaps, lariat, quirt, silk handkerchief, gloves – all ear marks of the wild west. When he got near he yelled with the noise of a locomotive, on an Indian. My mule stampeded as he expected, I stopped it as soon as I could and faced him. He began to talk Mexican loud and fast. I did not understand Mexican at that time, and did not want to. I make no effort to answer him or smile, and he laughed and began to talk American loud and fast. I gave him to understand that his action was not appreciated. He stopped at my camp but I treated him coolly and went about my work. I did not honor him by asking his name, but I leaned that he was cowboy from another ranch beyond ours.
One evening we were gathered at the bunk house and several of us were out in front when a man came on foot carrying a satchel. Everyone was attracted to that satchel when he appeared and began to ask, “What’s in that things he’s carrying. (We used gunny sacks to carry our clothes). As soon as he got near, they began to question him and wanted to look at it. He told them it was for carrying clothing and they said, “How do you get them in? Has it got a door to it?”, ha ha. “Pard, you can’t keep anything like that there; the boys will steal it, they may take it in daylight even.” He pressed his way into the bunk house and was shown a bunk up stairs. He set his grip by his bunk and came down. All seemed anxious to get acquainted with him and have him tell all about himself that he would. He was from Arkansas and they asked him if he was acquainted with Senator Dorsey. Was he going to be a cow puncher with us; glad to meet him, etc.
George Breedlove rode in from lower Chico and was putting his horse in the barn; one of the boys met him and told him that a man had come and brought a carpet-sack for carrying clothes and told him where he had put it. George came
up through the crowd; … usually George was sociable but this time he hardly answered any of us or stopped. He passed on upstairs and the boys told the stranger “there is a fellow that you want to watch; he works with the fence gang in Chico and he does anything that’s mean, especially steal.” Soon, here came George through the crowd with the stranger’s carpet bag and quite a number of the boys began to motion to the stranger, “There he goes.” He did not seem to know what to do, and after George got some distance, he called him and claimed the grip. George told him to shut up and made motions of six-shooter bluff and started on towards the barn. They asked the Arkansan, “Why don’t you stop him? Haven’t you got a gun – you had better be getting one if you are going to settle here.” They pointed to one of the boys and told him to go get that grip and not let him pack the man’s clothes off. He started and examined his six-shooter and said “Do you reckon he will put up a fight?” The boys said “It don’t make any difference. Get the stranger’s clothes.” The man said no one would dare to do that way in Arkansas. They told him to forget Arkansas, and if he had a girl in Arkansas, to write and tell her he had spent the first evening with us and didn’t know when he would be back.
George Breedlove come up to the bunkhouse pretty soon, but he was inclined to be overbearing and insulting with the tenderfoot, as he called the Arkansas man; but the boys were careful to take his part and make George behave. They had to talk plain to George and give him to understand that he could not bluff strangers off who stopped on business either to buy cattle or to get work. He got the cook to take his grip to the kitchen – the boys assured him that Nigger Bill had a place he could keep it locked up and that he could depend on Bill. The carpet bag was nothing new to Bill. He had handled lots of them. The stranger took a great liking to the boys that treated him so nicely, and they
were careful to instruct him and were greatly interested in what they could learn from him. The boys would try to get private opportunity to talk to him and tell him not to talk before those roughnecks. Arkansas got work around the ranch and his new friends sure stayed with him. He was glad to find there were good men among them, but he said the toughs were worse than he expected and asked the boys if they weren’t afraid of them. They replied no, they were the biggest cowards on the range. This was a source of pastime for the boys for some time. I was detailed to the freighting from the railroad and from that to the timber camp for the winter. It has been over fifty-five years ago and I have forgotten part, but I remember we had many hearty laughs.
I told the folks at the ranch I had a family and wanted them to come. That pleased them and they arranged for my wife to cook for fours of us teamsters at the timber. During the winter I came to Hessville, Kansas and met my family on their return from West Virginia. The Santa Fe was by that time extended to Wellington. I got there at one o’clock at night – sure there were teams in from the Chikaskia, but I was in a hurry and couldn’t wait, so I started afoot – sixteen miles. Passing a freighter’s camp on Shufly at Welzes, a dog at the camp barked. I thought I might be mistaken so I walked to the camp and talked. I did not turn into the road but went across country, expecting to strike it; they had plowed it up and I began to hunt in the wrong direction and didn’t get in until daylight. In a few days I gook my family to New Mexico.
We spent the winter in the camp in the timber. I was in charge of the work. All was pleasant except I had a misunderstanding with Harry and Bill Burney, who were brothers. They were Texas men and high strung but good workers. We explained our misunderstanding. I wanted them to work on, but they thought it best to quit. I gave them a recommendation and they got work at the ranch. In early spring our job at the timber was finished.
A Mr. Woodard owned the Chico Springs ranch within three miles of the Dorsey ranch. Dorsey bought him out, ranch, cattle, horses and everything they had. Woodard had also kept the post-office that supplied them all. I moved in and was appointed postmaster of Chico Springs, New Mexico. They added another mess wagon to the Dorsey outfit and Harry Burney who was with me at timber camp, was made foreman of that wagon. His work put him in with the Dorsey outfit and me on the Woodard home ranch, to look after his thorough-bred Harford’s; milk and make butter. I quit regular teaming. Woodard had a red-headed puncher called Shorty, who was with him for two or three years. He thought his job would take him along me and Burney’s outfit. The spring work was being arranged and he thought he was one of the boys, but he got word he was fired. For some reason he blamed me. The boys were at the bunk house and some of them came and told me Shorty was going to kill me on sight. I had seen him handle a gun and heard that he was bad – had a killing record. Harry Burney came over from the ranch and came directly to the house, didn’t stop at the bunk house. He told me he had been put in charge of the C.S. wagon and they were fitting up for starting. I told him that Shorty heard he was fired, and blamed me and was going to kill me on sight. “Where is he, at the bunk house?” Harry said “Come on and go down. I can soon tell him who had him fired – the first thing I told them when I took the wagon was that I didn’t want that red-headed Shorty to come.” “Oh, I don’t want to go tagging along behind,” I said, “and I sure don’t want to go in front, ha ha!!”
We walked up to Shorty and Harry told him he had told them the first thing that he didn’t want that re-headed Shorty, and they seemed to know who it was and sent him a letter. He handed Shorty the letter, but Shorty could not read
and asked Harry to go with him to the milk house and read it for him. Shorty turned by the mantel and slipped a skinning knife up his sleeve. I called to Harry “He has a knife in his sleeve!” Harry said, “Bring all the knives and guns you want”. I have never seen Shorty since that day. That was in my favor I think, ha ha. I was not yet ready to meet those fellows, but later it did not scare me so badly. But I never tried to make people afraid of me and I avoided all the trouble I could.
Another daughter was added to our family while we lived at Chico Springs. Harry Burney’s wife came from Texas and helped my wife for nearly a month. They refused to take any pay – and help was hard to get for money, even. Mrs. Burney was a fine woman; both became fast friends of ours.
Monta had charge of the barn at the home ranch and we called him the ‘barnyard clerk’. He concluded he wanted a fancy saddle for his own. He broke horses the sold them for $25. They told him where he could buy a saddle and he wanted the best. So they ran in a big bunch and gave him first choice for $35. He made his choice of a beauty, but he was ten years old, had bluffed his way through and held his liberty; and enjoyed the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. A man of experience would have known he was an outlaw (horse). Monta led him home whip broke, and gave Harry $5 to ride him, and he gave John Hill $2.50 each time to ride him twice. That was ten dollars and the horse was yet unbroken. He took him to the lower Chico and turned him in the big pasture. Monta came over after the mail one day and I said, “Monta, I’ll give you $20 for that scissers (that was the brand) horse. He said , “That’s fine, be quick, I want to get back to the ranch.” Ha ha! Wasn’t that quickly done? He said it was none too quick for him. John Hazenbaugh was in charge of the pasture. I told him that I had bought
Monta a horse. He said it was a bad one to pen. We set the time to pen him and Harry went with me. John had selected three of the best company horses and we mounted and flopped him in the corral. I led him home, put him in the barn for about a week. One day Harry came by and I said, “Harry, if you will ride my scissors up and let me ride yours, I will go up with you and have dinner with you.” He said, “bring him up.” Harry rode him and we had dinner. After dinner I mounted him to start for home; he held the rope in my hand as Burney did, but I dropped it as I raised to the saddle – he let out thirty-five feet of rope dragging and him a hogging!!! I was half way home before I got the rope. I rode him most everyday during the summer but he did not get gentle.
Brother Leonard had come out from Sumner County, Kansas and wanted to get to the Double Bar Ranch sixty miles east to get a job cooking on the range. I asked him to ride my scissors and sell him. I was haying down at lower Chico as Brother Leonard got him up, but was afraid to get on him so he waited until evening and got another horse and led him down to where I was working. I rode him home. Next morning I was on him early and rode him while Leonard was getting breakfast. Then he mounted and made the sixty mile ride. He got a job at $50 a month and sold the horse for $35 before supper time. When they saddled him they had lots of laughter but they abused him and he died. They didn’t want people to think there was any horse that the Double Bar outfit couldn’t handle.
The Death of Harry Burney
I have told you about the man from Arkansas with his carpet bag coming to the Senator Dorsy ranch in 1879; and will mention another similar incident that resulted more seriously, causing the death of my friend Harry Burney and a stranger. Burney had quit the Dorsey outfit and was foreman for one of the Prairie Cattle Company wagons on the head of the Cimarron 60 miles west and south.
This was a large outfit (Brother Leonard worked there for nearly two years). The cowboys were not working and a big crowd of them were loading around the bunkhouse. This was in New Mexico and the nearest town was sixty miles northwest in Trinidad, Colorado. Whenever the cowboys saw a stranger coming they all began to celebrate. That particular day a stranger walked up and said he would like to have a room. Some of them told him that the high-toned lived in what they called the White House, a large two story building about two hundred yards beyond, with an outside stairway. The cowboys told the stranger to go take the first room upstairs, and he would be called for meals. He went; a woman saw and followed him. She told him to go to the bunkhouse. “This is the range boss’s room” she said. He came back and they asked him what was the matter. He said the woman told him to come to the bunkhouse and asked if that was it. They said “Yes, they must be getting funny down there, come on in.” They took his grip and began to joke started throwing his hat up and shooting at it. They did not know that he was angry or that he had a gun. Suddenly he drew a bulldog and shot Burney through the left lung.
Burney staggered; he shot at the stranger twice, the bullet holes hitting not more than two inches apart. The stranger never spoke again. He had no papers on him and they never knew who he was or where he came from. They buried him there on the prairie. Burney lived to be hauled to Trinidad but he died; Another proof that foolishness is folly. No one blamed the stranger.
Upon arrival at the Dorsey ranch the great display of wealth attracted attention. I was told that Dorsey was senator of Arkansas and in forming the Star Route mail system, Dorsey by help of and use of a brother-in-law’s names Mr. Peck, had gathered this wealth in Washington. The lawyers kept still until he invested it in New Mexico where they could get at it, and here they came like a flock of buzzards and sailed over him – part of them for persecution and part for defense … the same as they did with Secretary (of the Interior) Albert B. Falls a few years ago. The lawyers were a jolly bunch and didn’t stop for expenses – that is where Ingersoll built the fine resort and dipped the logs in oil, before adversity got hold. Senators, members and governors with their wives, visited the ranch. Their conveyance was ambulances, mules and champagne. Wouldn’t it have been nice if they could have had automobiles and airplanes.
At this time the lawyers were closing in on Senator Dorsey’s wealth and things were getting unpleasant, so I wanted to change jobs. We were haying at lower Chico, four of us running machines. A brother of the straw boss Andrew Young, was constantly in the way fixing his machine. We insisted he work on a land by himself – in starting a new land he was forbidden to follow but he came. One of the drivers called for a blacksnake and went after him. He sulked and wouldn’t move. The other started his mules and told him not to try it again. Andrew Young, the boss, came and fired all on both sides, and that hit me.
They had cut my wages 5 cent a month, cutting expenses as the lawyers were closing in on them like a bunch of wolves. Bob Ingersoll was one of Dorsey’s lawyers. He came and build a summer resort on the Dorsey ranch, dipping his building logs in oil and did not stop for expenses. Ingersoll had two daughters and they enjoyed the wild west, visited the round up and camps. The boys were always delighted to entertain them with branch riding, roping and wild west jokes that caused roars of laughter.
Raton was starting in the fall of 1880. The Tinsley brothers, Jerome and Homer had a cattle ranch on Tinaja Creek 25 miles from Raton, south of the Eagle Tail and Tinaja Mountains (or butts) and I got a job with them as cowboy; good men, had been raised in Virginia, served in the southern army, and at the close of the war, came to Missouri. They often spoke of the Ozarks. They were not married, drank no strong drink, did not play cards, and were honest. I never heard them swear. They went from Missouri to Texas and got a job on the range. Homer as a cook, Jerome to ride. They grazed time through to northeast New Mexico, and took the herd on shares and made good. They sold for $70,000 in 1884. I worked for them about three years. They mounted seven men. While I was with them both of them were getting knocked out – Homer had become very fleshy, and had quit cooking on the range. Jerome worked the first summer I was with them. He had frequent attacks of bilious headache so he quit regular work. Homer got married and they both moved to Trinidad, Colorado, sixty miles away. In shipping beef, we loaded at Trinidad $10 less on a car and we would drive and cross the Raton Mountains, lots of heavy pine timber, strike the head at Long’s Canyon and follow down near Trinidad and then follow the picket wire. There were Mexicans settled along the canyon; they had lots of dogs and they would be out and often in the road – women with red shawls on their heads and men with “hereford” shirts on. They would not get out of the way only when some of the steers would take after them. We had some hearty laughs.
A neighbor Mr. Blosser, had about fifty head of steers in the bunch and they were going to ship with us. Mr. Colman, a local buyer, met us in the canyon and bought Blosser’s steers. We had to separate the cattle. It was rough and there was no place to separate them. We found an opening near the city of Trinidad, where the main residential part of the city is now.
There were tents and scrubby timber around; the steers were wild with fear and strangeness anyway. They soon began to mill around like a bunch of gnats with their horns popping. The other boys were holding them and Mr. Tinsley and I were cutting out (or trying to). We came together with our horses on the run – we missed a head and got a side swipe but they kept their feet. Mr. Tinsley said he would just as soon have been in a railroad collision. We finally got them separated and got them quieted down. Then we penned them and loaded. After they were loaded, the boys said they were thirsty and broke for the city, all but Mr. Tinsley, the cook and me. Tinsley and I went over to the city to trade and get ready to start.
When we lived outside of town we kept medicine for man and beast, and we kept whiskey for snake bits (but I never had to use that on myself, ha ha!) I bought a quart of the snake remedy, some candy, nuts and things for the children; and Mr. Tinsley bought a quart. He offered the cook a drink but he refused; and we were glad to have a sober cook (his name was Rockey). We drove up six or eight miles and camped. Next morning we drove over the Raton Mountains and camped at the edge of Raton for dinner. We were driving the Govayard herd of horses and Rockey drove the mess wagon; with the Govayard we could go over the Eagle Tail mesa, much nearer, but the wagon would have to go around. However, it could make the ranch easy before night. We sat up late, and no Rockey; and at the break of day we were saddled and started. Got about two miles and saw Rockey and the mules coming. I said “Rockey and the mules are bareheaded – ha ha!” “Looks like it” Tinsley replied. We asked Rockey what was the matter and he said, “Nothing, but I couldn’t find a bit of water on that mesa”. With the two quarts of whiskey he had celebrated from noon until after daylight the next morning. He told us he had once been a victim but had reformed. The other boys did not return for several days; but that was no surprise in those days with the cowboys in 1882!
Mr. Tinsley came over from Trinidad to help gather the saddle horses to see if they were in trim for the spring work. We brought in a bunch of horses from the Eagle Tail mesa, penned them and walked round to the front door of the house. A man raised up from the sidewalk where he had evidently been asleep. Tinsley spoke to him and gave him cause to explain, for we did not have many close neighbors. The stranger said “Mr. Tinsley at Trinidad had sent him over to work as a cowboy”. Tinsley said “yes” and we laughed and Tinsley said “You don’t look like a cowboy”. He said “You want to look for the brand?” We all laughed again and invited him in. He said but little and we guyed him some and he seemed to enjoy it. We went to the corral and began to rope horses; the stranger watched for a while and said “Give me a rope.” Tinsley handed him a rope and he said “How do you want them caught, by the neck or the feet?” Tinsley said it didn’t make any difference and laughed as though he thought it was a foolish question. The man began to gather rope walking towards the horses, and got them started on a run round the corral. Then he threw the rope and caught one by both front feet. The horse landed near on his back and he jumped him and near hog-tied him. Tinsley said “Who-e-ee” and laughed! The man was Jack Berry; they had caught him with the small-pox, put him in the pest hose, kept his clothes and given him hobo clothes.
Tinsley’s brand was AT. We were making a second beef hunt and branding calves. We were camped on the creek below the AT ranch and penned the steers we had gathered, and the saddle horses we herded at night. The weather had been fine; I was on first guard that night watching the saddle horses when a heavy cloud gathered in the southwest and it began to mist. When I was relieved, I came to camp
and nobody had put up their tent, we all had tarpaulins around our bedding. I rolled in and didn’t put up a tent, when I woke up the rain was poring down. The boys were floating or swimming, but none got up. Water ran under me; I raised up on my knees and put my hands and my head on my pillow. Water two or three inches deep in my bed. I rolled out; there was plenty of driftwood but none had been gathered for a fire. It was dark and the wood was wet, but I finally got a fire started and the boys began to come. Soon it began to snow and by daylight there was a foot of snow on the ground. The guard that relieved me did not get in with the horses until daylight – he couldn’t find the camp and before the horses came the cattle broke the corral. As soon as we could get the horses mounted we did gather what steers we could find and headed for Springer, the nearest shipping point about 20 miles away, and shipped. We were camped two miles above town and when the cattle were loaded and supper over, we all went to town to spend the evening. We had had a rough trip and all that would drink, turned loose.
Jim Roach who had run the Lenhart ranch for three years (Brand LX) got to drinking and playing a losing game of cards and over-drawing. Brother Leonard and I managed to get him started for camp. There were Mexican houses along the road and Jim would ride right up in front and shoot and yell. We would not stay with him, but would ride on and call and coax him to come on’ we knew that they were liable to come out and shoot him up, or shoot through port-holes. The next morning at camp, all were up but Jim; we would take turn abut shaking him and finally he began getting a little life into him. One of the boys asked him who that was making so much noise in the night. His first attempt at an answer was “I guess it must have been them Youst boys.” That brought a big laugh and it seemed to put life in him. He lost his job and I never saw him any more.
Blosser lived near the AT ranch and Leonard rode for him one summer. Blosser and family visited in Pennsylvania and I moved into his house as they had things that needed care. Leonard laid claim to a watering place, mostly for Blosser’s benefit and thinking possible it might make him something (but it didn’t). Dwire sent a bunch of Mexicans to jump it. When we discovered them, they were building a house. We rode up and bluffed them, four of them, and they pulled out the next day. I concluded I had better get back on my claim; we had taken one load up and arrived with the second load when we saw sixteen men coming from the direction of the Mexicans.
I had a two room log house. We decided to tie the mules and go into the house and lock the door. If they talked us, shoot to get a man, not to make a noise; and get their number reduced. They rode up; they were mostly Mexicans but we saw Harry Burney was in the lead. We opened up and gave them something to eat; ha ha, heap good. The AT had two negros, George the cook and Sam the horse wrangler. We had some little specked skunks in camp. While we were proud of the little specked fellows we were afraid of them too. We were camped on the creek bottom where there were lots of cockle burs AND specked skunks. George and Sam had their beds on the ground, no tent up. Sometimes the skunks would bite people while they were asleep, and it was very certain that some of the skunks had hydrophobia, and we feared that above everything. Billy Homes came in off guard, went to the foot of their bed, got a hand on each of the boy’s legs and went crawling up like a speckled shunk. The boys started to run through the burrs without getting out of their beds. It scared Billy and he jumped behind a wagon and said, “What’s the matter with those niggers? They have run off with their beds!”
Frank Catlin worked for the Long H outfit. He rated himself by the number of men he had killed. It was in the fall and getting cool of evenings as we all liked to stand around the fire. Frank would come over to our fire and step in front of the boys and push them back, for several evenings. I asked Mr. Tinsley if he had seen Frank crowding Sam and Joe back from the fire; he said “I have, and could hardly hold myself.” I said, “Don’t try to hold yourself. I will be with you. Give him two chances to stop it or he can go to his own fire.” At the next camp he came as soon as he could get there; and pushed one of the boys back. Mr. Tinsley said “Frank, those boys are working here and we don’t want you coming and pushing them away from the fire.” He answered a little surprised; Tinsley said “There is no argument; this is our wagon.” After that, he stayed away with his ivory handled pistol (forty-five).
I got to be a bronco buster, had been breaking all the A.T. broncs. The Tinsley’s had a sister and a sister-in-law come out to visit them from Missouri. We were not working at that time and I was making some adobe not far from the house. Mr. Tinsley said the ladies wanted to see some bronco riding. I insisted that if it was a show, that he get some of the other boys, but no, he wanted me. He saddled and run a bunch of broncs into the corral. I went and saddled one that acted like he would be a pretty high jumper. The creek ran by there with banks about fifteen feet straight up, and boulders in the bottom. I turned him from that and would have led him out a little but as to a show I mounted there and when I mounted, he went straight up and came down on his front feet. He formed a circle with his head between his front feet, and headed for the cut bank, bawling and fence rowing.
I knew he would never see the bank with his head down, neither could I raise his head. I threw my weight to the left stirrup and all my strength on the left rein, and turned him just in time and put the quirt and spurs to him. Away we went and left the boulders behind. He didn’t come anywhere near throwing me, but it looked as if I would go off in a pile or roll off on short notice. There were loud cheers and hurrahs, but my narrow escape from rolling over the bluff un-nerved me and I was never as good to ride broncos after that, and much easier thrown off.
In the spring of 1883, the general round-up was to meet at Duck Lakes on Texicate mesa, eighty miles southeast, to begin the spring work on May 27. It was a backward spring, grass was poor and cattle too poor to work the range. East of us where we were not much interested, was better and that was being worked. I was sent to represent our range, to gather the herds on joining range . Part of the wagons had stopped at the HT ranch on Ute Creek. Brother Leonard was there cooking for the Marcx and Mr. Christian outfit (bottle brand). They had a killing there the day before we arrived, three men were killed. We were within ten miles of them but hadn’t heard of the trouble. Murray Johnson was foreman of the HT outfit; they had been below the mesa on a short hunt. He had a man called Windy on the trip. Murray had trouble with him. Windy threatened to to shoot Johnson if he fired him. Johnson called him to his room when they returned to camp and handed him his time. Windy drew his gun and aimed to shoot him through, but on of the boys near, struck and knocked the gun down. The shot hit Johnson in the knee – then the shooting began. Windy got crazy mad and it looked like lead wouldn’t kill him. He was down three times and came again, finally they put a rope on him and hung him.
Charley Norton, a bystander, was hit with a stray bullet and killed. He never spoke. Windy had got so crazy mad he would shoot at anybody and all realized he would have to be killed. There must have been a lot of wild shooting done. When we rode up, we went in and looked around. There was blood on the floor, doors and walls. All wanted to tell what they had seen and done. There was a long blacksmith shop near built of logs. The boys had to shoe their mounts and they had a log shop so they could handle several at a time. It seemed that all were trying to report something brave they had done during the shooting and one fellow chipped in and said when the shooting began, he ran down behind that shop and felt like he was sticking out all the way around – ha, ha! He said he maybe stayed there longer than necessary, but he wanted to be sure it was all over. Most of the men were stranger to me.
I took the mountain fever. The wagons would move twice a day and it seemed to hurt me more to ride in the mess wagon than on horseback. I would ride my smoothest horse, ride fast, then get off and rest for three hours. I gathered white sage, and made tea and drank it hot and cold, lots of it; ate and drank nothing else, waited on myself. We were in the Panhandle of Texas near the Rabbit Ear Mountains, 75 or 100 miles from anywhere. In a week I was in the saddle again. We worked north and took in southeast Colorado and crossed the Raton mesa. The mesa is comparatively level land, lakes and fine grass.
At our round-up there, Hugh May’s horse slipped and threw him forward. The waist band of his chaps caught on the saddle horn, hanging him with his head down. This scared the horse and he swung him around pretty rough, but the buckle tore out and he came off with only a shake-up, not hurt.
We had been out a month, the other boys had been lying around waiting for grass to start. We went south again and made our regular drive. The drought continued and in the spring of 1885 it cleaned the cow business out. The range was heavily stocked and no place to reach to move them, and they had to perish.
Wile there, another boy was added to our family – tow girls and three boys, and busted again!!! But all said I got along better than the single men. At least we were ever in want.
In 1885 Leonard had quit the range and gone east and married. In 1872 or ’73 he had preempted a claim, paying $1.25 per acre, $200 in which money he had to borrow. The cheapest that he could get was 24% on five years time. He was only able to pay interest and live. After I went to New Mexico I wrote him and he came out, and was able to get $40 and $50 a month and board, winter and summer, and paid off the mortgage, $200. Later when he quit he had $700 in cash. He married, improved his farm, and spent the rest of his life there in Sumner County, Kansas.
When the drought cleaned us out on the plains south of Raton in 1884 or ’85, my family went to West Virginia again, and I went up in the mountains at the heads of the streams, Red River, Vermajach, Castle Rock, VanBrimer, Carisosa, and Ponial. There was fine land; a part of it was very rough, fine water, fine for small bunches of stock. Billy How was living on the head of Carisosa; I had got acquainted with him wile on the plains and I stopped with him and looked around. Billy had cattle (a small bunch) and he batched.
While I was there, Bernard McGee (fictitious name) came. He was the “wild” man who had dashed up on me when I was freighting for Senator Dorsey. He wanted a location too, and said he had bought a quick claim of the Mamby brothers and made us a big offer to go and put up corrals and another house, and lots of work. We concluded to do the work. There was a one room house. He said it might be locked but for us to go and unlock it from the inside … that we could get in a window. The Mamby brothers had had invested 429,000 there at Castle Rock. Billy was acquainted with the Mamby brothers, and one of them, the oldest, Arthur, I had gotten well acquainted with on the range south of Raton. He rode there to learn the business and we got chummy. After Billy and I had opened the window and were making ourselves at home, one of the brothers rode by. Billy went out to talk to him and I was busy in the house. Billy turned to me and said “He won’t stop or speak to me … you are acquainted, holler at him and find out what is the matter.”
I called, but at first he refused to stop; finally he said “What are you doing in that house.” We told him that Bernard McGee had sent us and told us that he had bought it from him. He said that was a lie, that no deal had ever been even mentioned. I said “Mr. Mamby if that is the case, I will have nothing to do with it only to get out of the house.” I asked him about his brother Arthur and told him I was acquainted with him on the plains. He said that Arthur had been gone a week and he didn’t know when he would return. We told him as it was late, if he would let us remain in the house overnight, as soon as we got breakfast, we would come over and he could rest assured we would jump no claim for Bernard McGee or ourselves either. The next morning we rode up and I heard someone in the house say “That’s Dick Youst”. Arthur came out with arms outstretched and we embraced each other. They were English and of royal blood. We asked the Mamby’s if they would dispute Bernard McGee’s word, and they said “You bet your life!”
“If he told you he had bought that place does it look reasonable that we would sell that and have a man (much less Bernard McGee) move that near us with a bunch of cattle?” So they settled with Billy and me. I hired to them and wrote for my family to come. We moved into that house that we broke open and held the claim for them until they could arrange to hold it. The Mamby brothers and I had lots of dealings and worked together for the next five years, and parted the best of friends.
When we contracted with McGee to do the work, I gave him my watch to take to Raton for repairs. I wondered how the desperado would meet us the next time. We started to Kansas City with beef steers and camped within five miles of where McGee lived. I said “I am going to call for my watch, ha ha!” They asked me if I wanted any of them to go along and I said “No thanks, I can carry it.” They wished me good luck and I rode up in front of McGee’s and called. He came to the door and I told him I had come for my watch. He said that he had left it in the shop and gave me the check. He said we were early and I told him we were on our way to Kansas City. He never mentioned claim-jumping to either of us. His idea had been to get us to break in the house and they would rush in on us without explanation and we would shoot it out and maybe he could crowd in. The Mamby’s had killed a man six months before by the name of Griffin, one of the tough gang with another tough bunch who had tried to run them out. They were in their house and Griffin, one of the tough gang, thought he would go in alone and start the racket; they met him at the door and told him he was not wanted, and forbid him to come in. He crowded in anyway and fired a shot. One of them knocked it off and the other one shot him, inside the door.
The Mamby’s were fifty miles from the county seat but they went there of their own accord and were put under bond. They hired Tom Catron and gave him a thousand dollars to defend them. He help it in court two years and kept pulling them for more money. Court time came again and Catron had promised to get them free. I had to go to court on a civil case at that time; and he told me Catron had had it put off again. I feared to offer my counsel against a graduate and an Englishman, ha ha, but I said “Here it goes Catron is working you boys – you should have been released long ago.” He said “The longer it is put off, the weaker the evidence is.” I said “There never was any evidence, does he think he can weaken that? I feel rather small to offer you advice, but I would go to Tom Catron and tell him if he can’t get you released, you will get some one who can. Tom Catron nearly runs the Springer court, and if you will talk with force and let him know that you mean it, he will do it. The lawyers, judge and court are working you.” In less than an hour they were released. This might be hard to believe, but when New Mexico was territory, all the officers above sheriff, were appointed in Washington, D.C. and they just sent us the culls.
A few days after McKinley was elected, we were cleaning up the beef herd to start for Kansas City. We only had our own force and everybody had to mount to help. Gonzales, (a Mexican) rode the black mule (Jack by name). Joslin Mamby rode Injun Jim. He was a good cow horse but would make the rider grab leather sometimes. The ground was frozen and thawed on top. Joslin made a run and a turn and the horse slipped and nearly came down; Joslin pitched forward and the saddle horn caught under the belt of his chaps. His head was down and the horse was doing it’s best to kick him and buck. I asked Arthur if I should shoot the horse, but he said to wait a little and Joslin came loose, not badly hurt.
When the horse was slinging him around, Mamby made a peculiar noise, and the horse gave the war whoop. It was dangerous to try to shoot the horse, or rope him, for they were slinging things around lively. Gonzales made a run on his mule; his old saddle got loose; Jack gave a hump, and Mexican and saddle went over his head. I was near; the mule looked at the pile in front of him, snorted and jumped back as much as to say “Where did that junk come from?” ha ha. The Mexican laughed too.
On the way to Kansas City we stopped to feed at a town (I have forgotten the name). Clabe Young and I heard the bell for Sunday school; I proposed we go, and we went on time. It was a large school; they treated us nicely and we took part and showed respect. They were pleased to have us and after dismissal, they came to shake hands and we were glad to be there.
In walking around the town we saw loaded apple trees in a backyard; and two women on the back porch attracted there by us. The fence was boards – 1 x 12 about 7 feet long endways and the top ends sharpened. All began to make comical remarks and wanted to get at the apples; one climbed to the other’s shoulders and reached to the top of the fence and climbed on top. He wanted another one to come so he could climb on HIS shoulders to get out; a crowd had gathered and had a big laugh. He threw over plenty of apples and the women on the porch did their part of the laughing. We had fun all the way and made fun for the onlookers too. We returned safe and all wanted to know what we had seen in Kansas City; we could not tell it all for laughing.
At this time we were doing our own cooking at the camp. Norman Raney, a schoolmate and friend from England, had come to visit. I usually took the lead in cooking and one day we had a big platter of steaks for dinner; the four Englishmen were through eating. I had been waiting on the table and was finishing my dinner alone, when Norman picked the cat up and lifted him over to the meat plate.
My hand seemed to act before I thought and I knocked that cat. We all looked and seemed to wonder what was going on; probably five minutes went by and not a word was said, then Arthur began to laugh and wanted to tell something, but could not get started for laughing. The only funny part was to see him laugh, and the cat was never mentioned.
While Raney was still there, we made a round-up and corralled, got dinner and started back for the corral to brand; all were on foot but Arthur; he was dragging the branding irons and would do the roping. I said “Arthur, the first thing we had better do is to cut that yellow cow out.” He said all right, and we let the bars down for him to go in on horseback to cut her out. Raney jumped in afoot to help; we called to him to get out of there but he paid no attention. When the cow saw him, she made for him; he started for the bars with the cow after him. She beat him to it and caught her horn in the back of his shirt above the waist of his pants, tore a long slash, jumped over him, bawled and went out at the bars and struck for the hills. Raney got up and got out of the bars. He tried to laugh, turned spotted and seemed to be looking to see if there was any one coming. Arthur said “Come on, Norman, let us get another one. Ha ha!”
We were on the round-up and I was cooking. I heard them say there was to be a dance and that they were getting up a horse race. I never took part in racing. I was not interested. They matched with the Mamby brothers. The Mamby’s were going to run Injun Jim and all thought he was swift. Alfred was going to ride; the question was whether they could hold him to the track as Jim had lots of mustang in him. I heard the other side say they did not doubt that the Mamby’s had the fastest horse, but they were figuring on making him bolt, and bluffing the boys
out of their money – they put up a forfeit of $25.00. I told Alfred their scheme, and told him to get a loaded quirt; the first pass they made for him to hit the rider at the base of the ear and knock him off. I said I would be there to see that he came through, and Alfred said he would do that thing. But they heard that their scheme was known and forfeited the $25.00
Part of the boys went on a round-up on the head of the Red River, but I did not go. Alfred was telling me the news when he came back and was getting deeply interested. They had been camped near Clabe Young’s ranch and Alfred and some of the boys went up to Clabe’s ranch to spend the evening. When they returned to their own camp, all were in bed; Alfred was unsaddling; first he dropped the rope from the saddle horn all in a bunch, loosed a part of his cinches and pulled the saddle as far as it would go – but before he did that, he had his feet pretty well mixed up with the rope that was tied around the horse’s neck. (This was different from school in England.) He had his feet in the rope, saddle under the horse’s belly, and he said the horse set off with him. (That is an English expression.) I had to interrupt him until I took a good laugh. The rope caught both his feet, head dragging behind; the saddle came loose and he caught on a pine tree. The boys came to his relief. That horse sure took Mamby endways, Ha ha!
There are a lot of such incidents that I could tell but I must change and give some experiences with wild game. The first was an antelope. They were not far from the Tom Murphy ranch in Sumner County, Kansas. I crawled up a coulee from the Hessville side and thought I was within gunshot, but I was not. Was so far that my gunshot just broke his front leg. So I went home, got a horse and a grayhound, chased him around near South Haven , and around near Welses on Shufly and caught him.
I gave my horse a hard deal. There were buffalo there but I never took time to hunt them because I started in to be a wheat raiser. We were threshing at Jake Smith’s and a wild buffalo came through on the run. We took the horses off the machine, followed it and killed it near South Haven. I started on a roan horse but went by Hessville to get a gun and lost the trail; I had no saddle so I gave up the chase. William Nelson killed the buffalo and I got some of the meat. I had but little experience hunting until 1885 when I settled in the mountains of New Mexico at an altitude of nearly 9000 feet. I only hunted for pleasure and meat for table use. We had deer, turkey, bear, mountain sheep, coyotes, bob-cats and mountain trout. Once I stopped to the door and saw four turkeys; with my six-shooter, I killed three of them. Turkey was plentiful and I often hunted them. I was successful in killing deer and leaned to tax buckskin, and my wife learned to make gloves. I was usually busy; didn’t hunt a great deal as it kept me busy to provide for a wife and five children.
I had a contract in the Cimmaron canyon, four men working for me on county road; no one lived in the Canyon, and we did our own cooking. (I boarded the men). One day I was fixing to go home (18 miles) to kill a beef and had gone to instruct the men about the work. Tom was yet at the camp; and as I was returning, I saw a deer. I dodged behind a bush and got to camp and told Tom to get his gun and give me mine. H followed, not knowing what was coming; we got in sight; both fired and the deer dropped with two bullets through him. He was large and fat and within 200 yards to camp, while it was 18 miles to where I lived.
Tom Phelan, my son-in-law and I went hunting once on the high mountains west of us; the day was nearly spent and no success so I had begun to lose interest. I shot at a grouse and missed; we were in the thick pine, a limb near the ground had been broken; the needles were near the
color of a deer, and I shot at it twice. IT did not move and I walked up to it. Ha Ha! A bear hunter! Phelan fired a couple of shots up above me and I wondered if he had spied a pine limb! I came to an opening where there was a nice spring, grass and willows. I was going to get a drink when I saw a bear track along the edge of the brook where he had evidently been playing in the water and hunting for bugs and roots. I saw the track was fresh, so prepared my gun, went slow and looked far and near, watching the track. Nearby was a lone spruce tree, a big one with limbs near the ground; the track seemed to leave the brook and head for the spruce. I went very slowly and soon saw him lying within thirty feet or steps of me. (That was too close to suit me. He had a tree and I, nothing but the spring.) I saw him shake his ear, I took aim, supposedly behind the ear. The bullet didn’t more than have time to get out of the barrel till I had another one going in. I stood ready; he was was kicking high and flopping his short tail. As he began to weaken, I let my gun lean against me and lit my pipe. I began to walk up on him and saw that he was safe so I called Tom; when he came, I was sitting on the bear smoking. We skinned him and Tom took off his undershirt to put the grease in. We took a small amount of meat, hide and grease and pulled for home; we were sure tired. Western bear meat is not much appreciated; cubs are good, the grease is valuable and at that time there was a $6.00 bounty.
Van Whiteman and I went bear hunting up on the Costear fifteen miles high range. We took two saddle horses, a pack horse, grub and camp bed. It was so steep that it took a good part of the day to get there, but there was fine grass and good water where we camped.
There were lots of bear signs but it seemed they had moved. I got sight of two bears in the heavy pine timber, but no chance for a shot. I killed a deer and took part of it and dragged it by the saddle horn around a circle for a mile or so and cached it; took my horse to camp and went back where the deer meat was. I humped up under a small pine limb that came down to the ground and fixed myself to meet the bear. The day was still; there was no wind and I expected the bear to come to the meat in front of me. I was not looking behind me; suddenly a limb about the size of a police club came from the top of a tall pine and hit the ground behind me. I didn’t take time to look around but leaped forward in the direction I was looking for the bear. That limb is still a mystery to me and if the bear had been there or coming close, he might have thought I was going to jump on him just then. Ha ha!
When I had had my laugh, I crawled back under the pine and sat so I could see both ways. I waited till dark – no bear, no more clubs. I went to camp but did not tell Whiteman about the limb falling on me. He did not travel like I did, I guess he was a little lazy and didn’t kick up as much fun as I did. The next day we hunted and found nothing. He didn’t want deer; they were poor and thin at that time of year. We packed up and went about half way home; stopped and got dinner; hunted during the afternoon with no success; and came to camp a little early for bear hunters. It had drizzled rain and I was tired. We were camped on one branch of the Ponial, on a second bottom; the first bottom was low and narrow with thick willows along the water; the second, where our camp was, probably 200 feet higher with scattered large pines. Our pack horse was staked near the tent, saddle horses hobbled on low bottom. I was through my supper and Van was still eating. I was standing by, loading my pipe and talking. The horses stopped and looked and we did the same; then they went on eating and I to filling my pipe.
Soon the hobbled horses came up that steep bluff, the pack horse pulled the pin and away they both went. I dropped my pipe and grabbed the gun from the tent, jumped for the edge of the bank and saw a bear down where the horses had been. It was too dark to see well, he had his head down and was raising it. I fired and he jumped clear of the ground and snorted, turned for the creek and willows. I fired no more but started to run down the bluff; if he crossed the creek and started up on the other side (it was open country – no timbers) I would smoke him as he went up. He ran into the willows and did not come out. Whitman came running up with his gun like a bear hunter and I wanted him to go in and scare him out and I would smoke him as he went up the hill. He said “If you want me to scare him out, just wait a bit, ha ha! YOU go in!” He said he was not afraid, but just the same he was not going. I wouldn’t go myself, but I wanted to make a bear hunter out of Van!! If the bear was wounded and Van got close to him in the bush, the bear would jump on him. We went back to the camp for the night. The next morning we found the bear had reached the creek and rolled over on his back into the water. We rolled him out, then went and got our breakfast, then skinned him, too the hide and grease and went home.
I had a dog named George that would stop a man until some of the family would speak to him; we rode up in front of the smokehouse door. I said “See what George will do with this creature” (It was skinned for mounting.) We loosed the ropes and dropped the bear in front of him. The head looked natural, and the dog yelped and went for the brush – he was just as brave as Whiteman in meeting a hear, ha ha!
In the spring of 1897 my cattle were poor, losing lots of calves. On the second day of May it was very cold for the poor stock. It even snowed! The morning of the third I got up early and the snow was a foot deep! Also wet, the pines were loaded. I got my breakfast, took my Winchester and went out to look around. A turkey gobbled; I “sassed” him, located him and started for him.
I came where a bunch of horses had been and tracks of a bear and a mountain lion had been among them. (It was getting time for young colts.) They had been “tromping” around and it was hard to get the tracks straightened out. I preferred the bear as I supposed the lion would be too smart for me, but I got the lion. He climbed up through the stone wall about a mile higher. I had to hold to rocks and brush to climb it, went through a gap in the stone wall where there was a nice heavy pine. He went out the ridge between two creeks and I came to the end of the track. I thought he had leaped, but he had backtracked and I had walked in the tracks. I went carefully and under a pine where the snow had been, I saw where he had turned. I knew that meant he was going to bed down. Soon I saw him lying down; he raised his head up and I fired. I hit him at the base of the ear, and broke his neck. He never even saw me. He was nine feet long, from the end of his nose to the end of his tail and weighed nearly 150 pounds. I started to drag him and roll him off the mountain. I saw fresh bear tracks as if he had been routed by my shooting. I took the track in wet snow that would fall from the pines – it made a person wonder if it was the tree or snow coming down. I soon got a running start (shot) at the bear. I was sure I had given him a good one, and checked up as he would give up quicker if not crowded. Soon I overtook him; he was down and I fired another shot that really fixed him. I rolled them one at a time down to the little creek. I went home – it was only eleven o’clock and I had only fired three shots. The bounty was $6.00 on each and I took the hides to Elizabethtown and got $10.00 on each; and for a time forgot the poor cows.
Mr. Vest had a low wheeled wagon so I went to him and we took the box off to make it light so we could uncouple and turn in the creek. We cut skits and rolled that bear and the lion onto it, fastened them with poles and ropes and got home. The neighbors gathered and they decided to buy me a Stetson hat, but it was 60 miles to town, so I never did get it!!!
The turkeys would come down to my oat field and my boys got to killing them. Alfred Mamby went deer hunting, tied his horse and climbed the mountain, came back and couldn’t find his horse and saddle. He came home and reported the theft. We all saddled and went. We scattered out and started the hunt, and found the horse right where he had tied him! We had all hunted for half a day when the horse was found, so now we had to get the word around to stop the hunt for thieves.
Another time I went hunting for a two year old heifer down in John Bracket’s neighborhood. He had a wife and ten children and it seemed to me that they were all loaded. It was 25 miles to Bracket’s on the Raton road. He liked to come up and stop with me as there was good turkey hunting near. It was known that I was quite intimate with the Mamby brothers and I later leaned that Bracket’s oldest daughter Anna was interested in Joslin Mamby, so they all wanted to get acquainted. They had insisted that I stop with them; when I went in all came to meet me. I suppose our handshaking was similar to that of some of Roosevelt’s experiences; someway I got to a chair and John sat down beside me and all gathered round. All were talking on different subjects; Mr. Bracket was leaning near to get my attention and began to nudge me with his foot (kicked me in the shin to be exact!). I laughed and said that was too fast for me and they began to slap some of the smaller ones down or at least tell them to sit down. I was there two nights and they were still “on the bit”, John had quit smoking; he had a Meerschaum pipe he had paid $3.00 for. He gave it to me and they all seemed to feel good after having such a good visit. And me, I had just been so hungry for news when I had not had anyone to talk to for a long time, ha ha! I had not found my two year old heifer that I had started for, but when I started for home, on the way I saw her in a Mexican field; so I went in and roped her. It was late when I got home but I had gotten my heifer, had a good visit and got a dandy pipe besides.
The first year that I worked for the Tinsley brothers at the AT ranch, Jerome headed his outfit. He was a pleasant man and I learned the work and got along fine; but Mr. Tinsley had spells of real bad headaches that caused him to quit the regular round-up and the second year he put me in charge of the AT wagon. The two McGee brothers, Beauregard and Bob were working for him and Bernard with another wagon. But all worked together and when Tinsley put me in the McGee’s thought it was terrible. They thought that they had had more experience than I had. They were wild and tough and very disagreeable, but they WOULD do what I told them. We went on the first round-up and were gone for over a month.
I made up my mind that I wanted to quit and told Mr. Tinsley so. He asked me what the trouble was and I said “Just let me quit, I don’t want to make any complaint.” However he insisted and I said to call Beauregard as I would rather tell it before his face. He said he would fix HIM and he fired him. I lived a mile up the creek and when not working I often walked. The next morning about sun up I started down afoot. Bernard and Beauregard dashed over a rise on horseback like wild Indians. I stopped and stood still there … was nothing to get behind. Neither of them attempted to draw a gun and neither did I. They didn’t check their horses from a run until they were within 50 yards of me, and came to a stand at 25 yards. They did not seem to know what to say. I waited on them.
Bernard asked what Blosser’s address was. I told him to P.O. in Pennsylvania. That was all that was said. They turned and rode off in fox trot. They expected I would run, and if I had they would have shot me down. Why didn’t they shoot anyway? They didn’t have the nerve. It is unpleasant to stand; I would recommend running if there is any chance of getting away.
Brother Leonard quit his job of cooking at $50 a month and came over and rode for Blosser for $40 to help me out and things got better. Bob disobeyed orders twice during the summer. He came off guard and caught a fresh horse – he should have tied it and come to eat breakfast. The cook called him as he wanted to finish there and move to set up for dinner (10 or 15 miles). Bob started to saddle and fight his horse and the cook called me. I said “Bob come and eat, the cook wants to go.” He muttered something and went on fighting his horse, so I said “George shut your mess box and hit the mules over the back.” The cook was not long in getting on that spring seat and hit the mules and gave a war whoop. A lot more gave the whoop and George began to pass other wagons (mess wagons) and go for noon camp. About ten a.m. Bernard and Beauregard rode up to me and asked why I ordered the cook to leave Bob without breakfast. I answered slowly “You McGee boys know the rules of cow camp. We are not fixed to take care of “pets” and if Bob eats at AT he will have to comply with the rules.” They rode off.
We were laid off for a day or two when out on a hunt and we had a new man named Rods, I believe. He was from Missouri. Bob had been picking on him and while there in camp he got a romp with him, throwing water and mud. I asked him to stop it. Bob pretended to get mad and started gun play. I said “Bob I thought you were trying to pull off a bad man play. I have been watching you, now cut it out!” He did!
The cowboys only expected to get five or six months work out of a year but I got full time. I would do any kind of work; build corrals, make fences, cut posts or even help hay, therefore the Tinsley’s gave me a chance to make money on the side … for which I was thankful.
After the Land Grant troubles (see below) my family and I gathered up what herds we had accumulated and drove them across country and later to Belfry Montana where we located and made a new home and new life for ourselves; leaving our exciting and interesting experiences in New Mexico far behind.
In 1888, we received notice from the Maxwell Land Grant Company to abandon the domain we had so laboriously wrested from the wildness. Twenty four hours the company gave us to get off our land and out of the valley. Twenty four hours were given us to appear at a hearing in Denver, over two hundred miles away. There were no automobiles then, and we were thirty five miles from the railroad.
History’s pages are stained with lies about that great land steal. Coat after coat of whitewash was applied trying to cover up the stains of honest blood. The Maxwell company deputized armed men and sent them into our Stonewall Valley to drive the settlers there from their homes. Many men were murdered and unhappiness brought to their families through the loss of their homes on the Maxwell Land Grant.