From 'Fanning the Embers', published 1971, Range Rider Reps, Miles City, Montana
By Gertrude Gilman
Now and then it becomes the lot of an individual to become something of a legend in a community and somewhat less frequently this comes about while a man is still living. In the latter class it appears would belong Johnnie Gilman, a cowboy of the range who now makes his home in the old cowtown.
Johnnie was born Nov. 26, 1903, at his grandfather, C. D. Newbary's ranch. Edgar and Nellie Wear, Uncle George and Aunt Clara Farwell and all of the cowboys working there were excited over the occasion. If the baby was a boy, he was to be named for one of the cowboys, John McNarie. Congratulations were in store. John gave Johnnie a sorrel yearling filly and she raised many colts for him. The last colt was named Silver and he still had him when we married.
When we lived near Ekalaka Johnnie wanted our family to meet the man for whom he was named and was living at the Doby Hotel. While we were visiting Gloria kept looking at his peg leg. All of a sudden he slipped it off, slid it over to her and said, "Here it is, if you want it." She screamed and ran to her dad. That was puzzling to her, but before we left they were the best of friends.
Another gift, a cradle made by Ace Bartlett, was used by Johnnie, his brothers and sisters, our three girls and all of our grandchildren.
Many Indians came by the Gilman ranch. One day a group of Indians came and some went into the house and upon seeing the grindstone decided to sharpen their tomahowks. They saw baby Johnnie asleep in his crib and pointed at him. Maggie Monroe, age 16, was there helping Mrs. Gilman who at the time was out getting clothes off the line. Maggie saw the Indians point to Johnnie; she grabbed him up and ran for the door, meeting Mrs. Gilman coming in. She said, "We got to leave, Indian after sharpening tomahawk point to Johnnie." They ran to the Maxwell ranch about half a mile.
Upon hearing the story, several men with Mr. Gilman went to see what it was all about, picking up diapers on the way. The Indians looked so frightened when they saw the men. Mr. Gilman calmly said, "What did you mean by scaring off the women?" " Ugh! We no hurt squaw, white squaw run!" An older Indian said, "We sorry. We like little baby. We just grind tomahawks." They were given some food and they moved on. Poor Maggie said, "Oh! I have been told of experiences with Indians; this time it happened to me.
Johnnie's hair was real curly and he didn't have a boy's trim until he was over three years old.
Johnnie's dad bought him a little Indian pony for $12.50. When he was old enough to ride, the pony would shy him off three or four times a day and then wait for him to get back on. The pony lived to be 26 years old.
In the summer he stayed with Grandpa Newbary and took his pony with him, helping with the riding. He had a good schoolmaster who also gave him a horse that he named Black Beauty.
One spring the Ekalaka pool set up camp close to their home to do the branding. Mrs. Gilman, Grace Thompson, Aunt Rae Gilman, Colin, Muggens and Johnnie went over. Dave Williamson was the cook and Jimmie Speelmon the horse wrangler. The kids were all eyes and ears and they spotted a bum calf and it was given to them so they named him Ord, after Ord Ames, a rep from the LO Ranch.
My dad remembered as a young fellow when he worked for George and Ida McKenzie they raised good horses. Dad needed a stallion and wrote George and a reply come that he had just the horse for him.
We had a Studebaker two seated buggy so in late summer my folks and all of us went to the McKenzies. The first day took us about 25 miles to Grandpa Newbary's place. We stayed the night with them and early the next morning we went on to the McKenzies arriving that evening, another 25 miles. We boys enjoyed every mile and lived it over and over again. One afternoon while there, Alice and Lila McKenzie, Colin and Johnnie rode over to the store and Post Office at Powderville, all riding on one horse and had to cross Powder River.
Mrs. Ida McKenzie is still living at the age of 93 and still has very good health. When we visit her it must bring back memories as she calls Johnnie, Lorin. She isn't the only one who says he looks like his dad.
They had many dances in their home but this one stands out in Johnnie's memory most clearly. The weather, as they say in Montana, is very unpredictable. The people came in sleighs as there was lots of snow but about midnight a chinook hit and did it ever rain and by morning you can imagine what the roads were like. The neighbors got home with little trouble but the men from Ekalaka had a long walk home. Sibley LaBree took the women home in a wagon.
There were no schools near his home so Johnnie went to Ekalaka and stayed with Billy and Grace Walker and later with his Aunt Carrie Burger. The men made their desks and he still has his. He also stayed at his Uncle George Farwell's. He finished the eighth grade at the O'Fallon School. His Aunt Clara gave him a yearling filly and he had a few cattle. He helped around home and worked for some of the neighbors.
After we married, he worked for different cow outfits on the Powder and Tongue Rivers, also worked for 18 months for Jack Peila near I-lines, Ore. He rode the desert range, about 50 miles from the main ranch, where the sagebrush was shoulder high to a man on a horse.
In the spring of 1931, the country between Timber and Alkali Creeks had too many horses and Jimmie Drake made a deal with the people to buy the surplus. Johnnie agreed to help roundup the horses and Jimmie agreed to split the profits. A roundup was started at the Billy Hickock Ranch and ended at the Fred Speiser place. They got a large bunch of horses; Jimmie sold and delivered them to J.M. Venable, who was buying for the packing plant in Miles City.
Johnnie worked with some of the rodeo shows around home but never took part in any of the events. He is still able to do some riding and works at the Sales Yard on sale day, here in Miles City.
He has enjoyed all of his riding days and the Old Cow Puncher belongs to the "Wide Open Spaces."