From 'Fanning the Embers', published 1971, Range Rider Reps, Miles City, Montana
By Bruce Brown
The following story in three parts is taken from the Miles City Daily Star.
The first cattleman was Abraham, in Genesis. His cattle ranged on the grassy hills across the River Jordan. The first cowboys were employed in Egypt. Pharoah instructed Joseph to pick out the men of activity for rulers over the cattle. George Washington had the first brand on the North American continent. a "GW" on the left shoulder.
The first cattle in Custer county was a bunch of cows owned by Charley Brown, in 1878. The first dairy was located two miles up Tongue River. The animals were brought from the west.
An adventure into a new business and into an unknown country had a lure for many people. The timid hesitate to follow the fickle guide called Fate, Her uncertainty keeps one guessing, and a good guesser never grows old. Did you ever see an Old Cowboy" Call him an "Old Time Cowboy" for he may have worked a long time.
Pharoah's men of activity are with us still. Bring up a good saddle horse and our "old time cowboy" will step in the stirrup, mount and ride off with the grace of a young lochinvar. He is weather hardened. The dangers of his work make him always ready for any emergency. He smiles when he is hungry. He whistles goodbyes and crosses "The Big Divide" with dry tears in his eyes.
Mrs. W. -W. Alderson (Little Sweetheart of the Half Century Club) writes this of the cowboy: "I have been dependent upon them for courtesies, protection and kindness and have always received it in the fullest measure."
Riding and Cattle Days
The following are some of the accounts of my early knowledge of riding and cattle days:
The first herd came up from the South. They were poor and did not survive the winter of 1880. (We came from Minnesota and nearly froze to death too, ate buffalo meat shaved off with a drawknife, until we were all buffaloed thinking spring would never come). The few guests we entertained were queer characters. One in particular, "Wall-Eyed Scout." He said his real name was McDonald. I think it was changed to whatever nationality the company he wished to cultivate. He brought a pack horse load of tanned deer hides of which he wished my mother to make a full suit of buckskin, even to six pairs of socks. He had moccasins beaded, the like of which I have never seen. He spoke three Indian languages, was a sharp-shooter, and could ride a barebacked horse, on the opposite side without being observed in the distance. All of which my father said had a meaning. He claimed he had forgotten the taste of an egg and would pay a dollar to see one. He would have been safe to have offered a thousand dollars. I remember him well, for I blistered my fingers cutting fringe for his suit, while he told the wildest stories.
The following years many herds came over the trails-up to the Big Cattle Days of 1886. In 1884 the Stockmen's association was formed to arrange for the dividing of boundary lines ridden by boys of the different ranges ("The Line Camp", by Hallie Bowles Jacobs), and setting dates for roundups and branding, the anniversary of which we are celebrating this year. The old buffalo trails were deep, leading to water, but the Texas trail herds replaced them.
In the summer of 1880 my father bought two ponies from an Indian. Their names were Red Bird and Black Bird. The latter stands in a picture by L. A. Huffman, "A Day's Hunt". Mr. Huffman came to the ranch when lie heard my father planned a trip to the north side of the Yellowstone river to get a load of buffalo meat. The hunters took only the hides and tongues. Mr. Huffman was to take the pictures.
A Difficult Task
Few people realize the task it was for Mr. Huffman to take the buffalo pictures that hang on many walls. He camouflaged in true Indian Style. It was necessary to wear heavy clothing on account of the extreme cold weather; therefore, strips of heavy gunnysacks were wrapped around outside of overshoes and long German socks, to protect and to keep the crusted snow from cutting and wearing out the clothing. He had a muskrat cap, with visor and ear-laps, and gauntlet gloves, the fur reaching to the tip of the fingers. They were issued to the soldiers who sold them to citizens. There was nothing warmer nor as light in weight; no better tan has ever been manufactured. With all these on, Mr. Huffman rolled in deep snow, sometimes fastening twigs of sagebrush to complete his disguise, carrying a heavy, large, square camera and glass plates, when he managed to get near enough to the wild hunted buffalo to get time exposures by cautiously crawling near, on the windward side.
Extremely Cold Weather
The weather was extremely cold. The snow was deep. Word came that the buffalo were drifting in toward the river. They took my Indian pony to help break the trails. This pony was of medium size, but could plunge through snow where larger horses would lie down on the job. I never dreamed that in sight of where these pictures were taken, 53 years later we would greet a son-in-law, Sherman Hunt, making a round trip from Dallas, Tex., in a flying machine.
Texas brings back visions of the old Jersey red Texas cow which I chased more miles than it would take to put 500 head across the continent. She was long in body, horns, tail, legs and stride, and could run like a deer. She was raised on the open range, and like Big Nose George. was always on her way to the border lines.
My father met the foreman of the first big trail herd to see about getting a milk cow. In the distance there were fine looking jersey colored cattle. Father discovered they were all steers, but the foreman said: "We picked up a fat cow with a yearling. She is over yonder. I reck'n she has milk."
She seemed to have forgotten that she was a cow away back yonder and Mr. Foreman didn't reck'n the amount of man and horse power it took to get the milk. I don't know how much my father paid for her, but whatever it was, it was too much. The foreman and two of the cowboys brought our purchase to the corral. They said she was wild and we might need help to get a rope on her and before this act was accomplished I thought we would need the outfit and all the buffalo hunters we knew. To my knowledge that rope was never removed as she eloped with a trail herd that fall wearing the same neck-tie. She was very touchy about her head, when she rolled her eyes and blew her nose, it meant "safety first". My mother said, "Good riddance to bad rubbish," when old Red ran away.
I learned cattle terms through my association with Old Red. During the summer 10,000 head came over the trail to be turned loose on the north side. Old Red prepared to depart with every herd that came. Pulling up and breaking down every thing she was tied to, posts, iron picket pins, sage brush, besides dragging rope, log and chain.
My horse was saddled at sunrise and Col. Sheetz. C. B. Towers, Harry Fearnall and William P. Flynn never surveyed the country between Miles City and Buffalo Rapids more than I did looking for that critter away back by the old lounge hill, as we called Signal Butte.
I was told to be cautious about the Badland, where it was reported there were horse-thieves' rendezvous. In some of their caches, between the Black Hills and Canada, like Jackson Hole, you were met by a committee, turned back or made to join the gang of horsethieves.