From 'Fanning the Embers', published 1971, Range Rider Reps, Miles City, Montana
By Clark Brown
Father-Horse Doctor
One early morning I was looking for Old Red: A young man rode up and said, "Good Morning. Little Cowgirl." I was shocked to realize, because I was always looking for Old Red, that he called me a cowgirl. I showed I was annoyed. He smiled, introduced himself and begged my pardon, as he lifted his hat, looked well groomed and was riding a beautiful horse, all of which helped his apology. He inquired if I knew where he might leave a pet horse. that had been badly hurt, and could not return with the outfit to meet another trail herd. We rode home together. I told him my father was quite a horse doctor, which seemed to please him. Jack Hart brought his wounded horse over from camp and said if he got well I might ride Cortez. Also that he was one of the best "cut horses" any outfit ever saw. I thought that a strange way to talk about the poor animal but I learned later what he meant when I rode Cortez after Old Red. She was in the habit of galloping, no, I should say loping, and when going at full speed would stop and dodge back of my Indian pony and gain time in another direction. This day I became interested in Cortez' movements. His head was almost over Old Red and he turned instantly when she did and in an instant all motive power stopped, but I went on, over "The Strawberry Roan's" head, the cow too I think, and landed not far from China on a cactus bed. From that day 1 knew a "cut horse" was educated to attend strictly to business, pick your animal and in a short time they will cut out from the herd, the one you selected.
Trail herd number three arrived and was browsing near where the Kircher school is located. It was the noon hour and the boys were at the mess wagon. The rider on guard was lying down, cowboy fashion, with his saddle horse near at hand. A camper on the river bank sauntered over to get a better look at the cattle, and all of a sudden a big steer spied Mr. Man. who started to meet and inspect the stranger, the herd following. There were neither trees, house or fences in the valley, (the only objects above the sage brush were the line of government telegraph poles much smaller than the poles of today). One big steer whistled for him to wait, but Mr. Man stepped on the gas (so to speak). His reserve speed carried him to the nearest object, he climbed the tall, slick telegraph pole. He was clinging to the top while wild-eyed steers threw dirt up from the bottom.
The boys came to his rescue, drove back and got the herd quieted down. They offered the pole climber all the money in the outfit to do it again, but he failed,
I have read that athletes have discovered unknown latent powers within themselves at critical moments. This runner found his.
One cold rainy morning as I watched the boys don their yellow slickers. nearly every horse pitched, The cook decided to go to town. He saddled up an old white bell horse. And if he didn't buck, it was a case of "bronco for breakfast". The scene was recalled to my mind a few years later in St. Paul, the day this picture of Russell's was on exhibition.
Roundup cooks had a cooney rawhide fastened under the mess wagon to carry extra pots and pans. When the team started, such a noise was never repeated until the old Model H Fords started to locate inside drains. A night wrangler conceived the idea of making a sleeping berth under the bed wagon. He fastened a cow hide, hammock fashion, under the bed wagon. All went well until they started to cross Powder River. Hogan, the driver, heard him holler. Hogan shouted. ''Shut your mouth, Kid. or you'll drown. I am whippinIg up. ain't I". The fact was he had forgotten his pullman passenger, and was whipping up on account of quicksand.
"The cattle they got frightened and rush in wild stampede.
The cowboy tried to head them, riding at full speed".
I saw two stampedes and care not to see another, The boys finally shot the leader. Another stampede was caused out on Fallon. A windy evening the outfit had made a big drive, cattle, men and horses were all tired. As the cook poured the pound of Arbuckle coffee into the coffee mill a breeze whipped the paper sack into the air. Away went the herd, pell mell. It was dusk, the tramp of those frightened cattle, their hoofs creaking and their horns knocking would put fear into a mountain lion. Horses and riders risking their lives every minute of the run through coulees. "Thundering Herd" is well named and I believe one could see lightning when the horns of the steers struck. The opposite picture is a herd bedding down just before sunset and the riders singing a lullabye. Each cowboy has his favorite song, "Sweet and Low", "Lie Down, Old Brindle, Lie down", etc.. and some of the boys play mouth harps.
The breakfast call in camp was two dutch oven lids rubbed together by the cook. You imagine this noise-unrolling a tarp -- and raising hair on a bald man's head.
Roundup No. 2 roused the boys out so early, Craig McDowell said Tommy Doyle described the situation when telling a man didn't need a bed. All he needed was a lantern to catch a fresh horse.
A herd arrived early one afternoon. The men were anxious to return to meet the following outfit. All these herds were turned loose.
Across the Yellowstone River, the journey's end. They were stubborn and refused to cross. Men and horses worked without success. Someone came to watch the herd and said an Indian scout at Fort Keogh managed stock in the rivers. He was brought but as soon as he arrived at the place of action, poo-hooed, saying, "No cross strange water, sun shining in eyes." Sure enough, next morning they crossed over without much fuss.
I watched many herds cross. A man that could manage a herd crossing a swimming stream cannot be found, better than Bill Case. One herd arrived when the river was bank-full and dangerous looking. On this side near the old town the boys began to prepare for crossing. They looked like circus riders in all colors of underwear. As each man loosened his saddle cinches, a young chap who had never ridden in swimming water, tightened his-just another case of thinking the little things of life don't count. Find out all there is to know about the business you give yourself credit for knowing.
The herd was crowded off the bank into the treacherous looking stream. When part way over the leaders tried to turn back, forming a mill. Some horses, like men, became seriously calm-looking when they sense danger. The shouting ceased; cattle, men and horses all realized what might happen as they drifted.
Bill Case seemed everywhere, he and his horse giving each other confidence as they tried to break the mill. A shout went out, "Hey, the Kid's gone down". His plucky horse swam until the tightened cinch cut his wind off. Case managed to go where he saw him last, as his head appeared he shouted, "Grab a steer's tail". The silent churning animals took action. The old steer seemed to think he had a crocodile on his tail and made for shore.
Case kept shouting. "Swim high". The boy was bouncing high when that old steer started for the big cottonwood trees, on the other side. He looked like a weight on the tail end of a kite when he landed on shore. He let loose and began climbing a tree as the herd's hoofs cracked over the stones through the trees and up the hillside. Dripping wet but happy, the kid dropped on the horse with the first rider to reach him.
His saddle horse drifted, came out away down opposite, where Leon Park is now, his ears hanging down, having filled with water when he sank, until he looked like a German dachhund -- then the tightened cinch was discovered.
A "Running" Dream
As I am writing, a young man on the radio is singing "Did you ever see a dream walking?" No, mine was always running. When Gabriel blows his horn to awaken us from the big sleep, I'll not be surprised to hear, "Wake up quick. Your horse is saddled. Old Red is gone."
Strange, our T-bone cowtown served roast pig at stockmeeting.
The opposite of what we possess seems most desirable, and often
disappointing. Stockmen resign to Fate. If old hard winter claims
their all, when spring comes, and grass grows, they take a new lease
on life, commune with nature in the silent places. A peace that passeth understanding and the song of the meadow lark thrills and makes him feel: "Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree."