From 'Echoing Footsteps', published 1967, Powder River County Extension Homemakers Council
By Gladys Cain
Among the hills on the Home Creek Divide is located the Oscar Cain ranch. The ranch is made up of several places, which through the years, have helped make up part of the history of Powder River County. Some interesting people have come and gone from the land, and their past almost comes alive today as we take a look at them.
In this year of 1964, Oscar Cain and his wife, Gladys, make their home on this ranch. We'll take a look at Oscar, or Sal, as most of his friends and family know him. He was born in Childress, Texas in 1907. Sal came to Miles City, Montana, in November of 1915. He spent part of his time, as a young man, working on a freight wagon. For several summers he sheared sheep with the same crew of men. They were Lew Griffin, Des Davidson, John Whaling, Dan Gaskill Sr., Dan Gaskill Jr., Roy Griffin, and his dad, Horace Cain. In 1928 he married Gladys Venable. She was born in Beaver City, Oklahoma, and had come to Montana in September of 1923.
Sal and Gladys came to the Sutton ranch after their marriage, and spent two years helping the Sutton Brothers run their ranch. Sal worked long hours caring for the cattle and breaking horses. One horse decided he was boss, and when Sal gathered himself up off the ground, his leg was broken. Crawling miles home was slow. After several months on crutches, Sal was ready to go again, working on the ranch. Gladys spent part of her time learning to cook. Even though she had worked in the Modern Bakery at Miles City before her marriage, the bachelor Sutton brothers, Bob and Buck, knew by some of her dishes that she was a beginner cook. The food improved as time went on and she learned many good recipes from the older women of the Stacey community. Two children were born while Sal and Gladys lived here. Their oldest son Donald, was born November, 1929, and a daughter, Helen, was born in May of 1931.
The year of 1931 proved to be a big event for Sal and Gladys as they decided to start out on their own. Three miles southeast of the Sutton Ranch they purchased a railroad section. In a short while Sal built a one room log house. This log building was home for the Cain family until 1943. He also built all of the other ranch buildings out of logs. In 1933, a second son, Gene, was born in February. Life on this little place in the hills had lots of interesting happenings. It was ten miles from the Stacey post office, so until 1936, when, the family got their first automobile, they didn't get their mail very often. Sometimes it would be weeks before a horse back rider would go to the post office and get the mail. Twice a year Sal would go to Miles City with some of the neighbors and get supplies. A yearly trip to Broadus was made to pay the taxes. The family's transportation consisted of two saddle horses and a team.
The drought came and lasted for three years. Afterward the crickets and grasshoppers moved in and ate most of the vegetation on the land. If you could take a quick glance, you might see three little kids dressed like hillbillies, beating on tin cans and yelling, trying to drive the crickets out of their Mother's beautiful garden. Old Mother Nature did wonders with the plant and wild life on this place. All kinds of birds came with the spring. The wild animals were abundant. Chicken raising was very difficult, as the coyotes and bob-cats usually helped themselves to a good meal very often. A bob-cat caught a duck a day until the seven white ducks were gone. This was the end of the duck business for the Cain family.
Sal stayed busy with the ranch work and every summer for twelve years, he sheared sheep. He had his own equipment and hired men to help. During these 1930's, Sal spent some time hauling shale for roads in the vicinity, under the W.P.A. A good team of horses was always found on the ranch. One horse might have been a bronc and several run-away wrecks could have been seen. A trip to Stacey, one day was soon ended as the team, with one bronc, took off down the road in a high lope, causing Gladys and the children to fall out of the wagon. They walked back home with firm determination never to ride behind a bronc again. Many horses and cattle passed over these hills, but if we'd listen, Sal could tell us about a noise he heard one day near the ranch. It was a herd of hogs passing through. Grandpa Lee Hanson and his well-trained dog were moving the hogs from the Sam Houghlan place to the Hanson ranch. They had a good trip without losing one pig along the way.
Almost every year on the 4th of July the Cain family would go to a picnic held at the White Tail Ranger Station. This occasion was an annual affair for 30 years in the Stacey community. The first time Sal and Gladys attended was in 1929. The people came for miles around bringing all sorts of good things to eat. After everyone enjoyed dinner, and especially the home-made ice cream, they spent the afternoon playing baseball and other games. In later years a dance at the C. C. Hall started after the evening meal and everyone enjoyed dancing to music that was donated by some of the local men. A good time was always in store for those who spent the 4th of July with these Stacey folks.
Sal and the other men in the neighborhood helped fight lots of forest fires. One of the most outstanding fires of the 1930's was on Home Creek Butte. It sprang up one evening, about sunset, on the northwest side of the butte and the lookout man, Edward Hanson, went to check on it. In no time a draft of wind caught the fire, and swept it to the top of the butte. Only six acres were burned but the area had many huge trees, up to 50 feet high. As the fire swept up them, the whole country side was lit up, so people came from many miles. The lookout tower and a few personal posessions of Edward's were burned.
It was a ride of six miles to the Camps Pass School for Donald, Helen, Gene and a neighbor boy, Ben Hully.
In 1937 the Pine Tree School was built close to the ranch by Sal and Russell Churchill.
As the 1930's came to an end, things were looking better for the ranchers. Plenty of rain fell and the crops were good for the family. Deer season opened for the first time and the wild meat was really enjoyed.
In December of 1943 a second daughter, Carol, was born. Sal, Gladys, and their family of four, moved from the log house in 1944 to a neighboring ranch. They leased and later purchased this Ernest Shy ranch. Life on this bigger ranch brought about several changes for the Cain family. The forest telephone, which had been in the house since 1928, was one of the most modern changes. Even though each ranch on the party line had their own rings, all ten receivers usually went up when one call came. Good and bad news was heard by all. If we'd been listening one day when the phone rang, we would have heard a two-year old say, "You old hens better get off this line and let me talk". Ella Mae, the youngest daughter who was born in March of 1947 kept very busy answering the phone for everyone. With the larger ranch, the tractors replaced horses and more farm machinery was bought. Electricity came in and the old kerosene lamps were put in storage. Today as we take a glance at the modern conveniences, we still see an old cook stove in the center of the kitchen. It does come in handy when the electricity suddenly stops.
The Cain family continued life in the 1940's and '50's on the Shy place. Donald went into ranching with his Dad. Helen and Gene spent several years in the teaching field.
In the 1950's Sal and Donald added the Joe Hannon place to the ranch. We'll stop and view some of the history of this picturesque place. Joe Hannon was one of the settlers who lived near the Home Creek Butte. Neighbors will remember him not for his cattle raising but for the "stills" located down the creek by one of the best springs in the country. He made good whiskey and also drank his share. In the late '20's he sold the ranch to Albert and Mattie Young, who came from Indiana. They had one son, Ben Hully, who lived on the ranch. He now lives in California. When they sold the ranch to us they moved to Miles City, where they still own their home.
The family increased in the 1950's. Donald and his wife. Constance Amundson, from Missoula, were married in January of 1954. Helen married Austin Cossitt from Quietus in December, 1952. A North Dakota girl, Marianna Welder and Gene were married in February, 1954.
Sal and Donald purchased the Churchill ranch in 1956. All of these places join and make the present ranch today.
As our story of this family of Sal and Gladys Cain comes to a close, let's step into their home and see the family watching television or maybe gathered around the old kitchen table, playing cards. Ella Mae is home during the summer from college in Bozeman. Donald and Connie have come from their trailer house to spend the evening. Their children, Mark and Marlene, have already spent the day helping Grandma make cookies and Grandpa milk the cows. Carol drove from Miles City, where she works. Gene and Marianna have driven from Nebraska with their three boys, Rodney, Wesley, and David. From Sheridan, Wyoming, Helen, Austin, and their boy Carl came to spend the weekend. Above the popcorn popping and the coffee pot perking, you can hear the laughter; and this family proves life in Powder River County has been a good one.