Dad's Stories

by Joe Thorpe McCarter

Will and Joe McCarter Horseback
Will McCarter with his son Joe

Dad had to have been one of the great story tellers, and he enjoyed the telling of old experiences, some humorous, some otherwise, as much as anyone I've ever known.

Horses were his best and favorite subject and the horse stories that are here seem, in retrospect, a little thin based on the memories of the many, many horses he recounted to me.

For those of you who never knew Dad well, he was a real cowboy. This may not mean a great deal now, but when he was 20 years old he drew top hand wages from one of the biggest cow outfits in the state.

It's hard to think of a present day occupation that requires the same combination of skill, courage, and sheer stamina. Or for that matter was so looked up to by most of the other young men of the time.

The bad horses of today bear only a small resemblance to those of his era. It's interesting to note that he was allowed to try out for the position mentioned above because of a man's being killed by one of these horses. The dead man's "string" was, by necessity, his and he rode this same horse as long as he worked for the Diamond outfit. Ah, but that's another story.

Transferring the oral to print is awkward for me and, for that reason, I have used the first person. Also, I have added a little here and there to flesh out the story where it seemed appropriate. I tried to use as much of Dad's phraseology as possible and it may appear a little strangely in print.

A couple of clarifications that I might make concerns Dad's use of 'Janey' as a term of endearment for my mother Mattie, and the multiple names he had for his oldest brother. His name was Orla J. and was nicknamed Pete and more formally Orly or O.J. Dad used the three latter indiscriminately, based more or less on the role Pete was playing at the time in the story.

I hope all of you enjoy the following as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

How Corral Creek Was Named

Me and Card and an older feller named Bill Horton are finishin' up supper in Hornton's cabin over on the Salmon River. Bill leans back in his chair an' stokin' up his pipe says, "Whereabouts on the Camas Prairie do you boys come from anyway?" We both said Corral Creek, an' Bill kinda smiles and hesitates a little like he's reachin' back a long ways and then asks, "Do either of you know how Corral crik got its name?"

The time was a year or two before Janey and me were married, and we was over in the Salmon River country lookin' for some place to settle and maybe homestead where the snow didn't get six feet deep.

Bill's cabin was servin' as a district ranger station for the Forest Service ol' Teddy Roosevelt had set up, and Bill had been named a district ranger not long after. Most of them earliest rangers were people like ol' Bill that mostly just knew the mountain country, and I knew of more than one old buckaroo that got jobs.

We'd had a little spare time after hayin' to take a team and light wagon, haulin' our camp, and took off up the Wood River and over Galena summit and down the Salmon. We was most interested in the country around Challis and the Pahsimeroi as we'd heard the winters was pretty light there for some reason or other.

We'd hit Bill's cabin late in the afternoon the second day out, and he'd told us to unhitch and turn the team in with his horses and come in and visit. I'd heard of Bill when I used to help out over on the Ol' Man's place at Carey. He'd one time been married to one of ol' Archie Billingsley's daughters and though it hadn't took, he'd stayed in the country and buckarooed for different outfits around.

Well, to get back to Bill's question about the namin' of Corral Creek, I said we'd always figgered that it was named for the set of corrals the Hutchins and Moore outfit had built on the school section a couple of miles south of the baseline. They'd fenced the section for a gatherin' field sometime in the late seventies and were one of the first outfits to run cattle on the Prairie.

Bill said he knew of these corrals and their history, but the creek had been named after another corral, just a single big round one up the East Fork a little ways that had been built a good fifteen or twenty years before the Hutchins and Moore corrals.

Since he'd mentioned it, I remember when I was a kid, seein' the remains of a corral a half-mile or so up the creek from where Dave Harness had homesteaded. There hadn't been much left then, just rotted out fir poles and posts scattered around in a circle. I remember wonderin' at the time who woulda had use for such a big corral, but of course emigrants goin' to Oregon had been trailin' through the Prairie for many years before my time.

Bill went on sayin' he'd first seen that corral when he was fifteen or sixteen years old and it had been in good shape then. He'd hooked up with a horse trail herd outfit in eastern Nebraska and came west with them. He said in them days there were several outfits that did little but drive horses, both east and west, tradin' both ways between the big farmin' country in the east and the mostly western Oregon country that was settlin' up fast.

There were lots of range horses all through Idaho and Oregon - some of 'em sorta loose herded and claimed by Indains and others - and some that were plumb wild, although the early settlers had brought draft stock that had begin to get mixed in with the range horses. There was usually some kind of market, even for pure cayuses in the east and of course after all the trouble of trailin' a horse herd east and gettin' rid of 'em, it didn't make much sense to ride back empty handed, so to speak. Accordin' to Bill, these outfits weren't too picky about acquirin' horses at either end.

Of course in the west it was mostly a matter of just runnin' range horses and sortin' the most likely lookin' away until you had, usually, from three to five hundred head to take east. If some of them happened to be local-branded horses that had been turned out to flesh up a little, so much the better. Horses showin' harness marks were of considerable more value in the east.

Since it wasn't common to find loose horses in the east, they did some dickerin' and tradin' for stock to take back. But, again, if they'd run on to a horse that appeared to be loose, he'd usually get a free trip west.

Since a lot of what they done was usually a matter of hurry up, the trail outfits never used a wagon, but carried necessary grub, camp gear, and the hands' war bags on pack horses. After the horses were trail broke, they could cover 50 or 60 miles a day without too much of a strain.

Bill said most of the herds would trail through the Prairie since it was a little more off the beaten path, and the feed was always good. While it wasn't exactly half way east, it was easy to keep a herd together there because the feed was so good. Horses would tend to forget a little about leavin' for home the first time they didn't see a rider. The Corral crik corral was used if some work was needed to be done on brands or even, if there was time, breakin' likely-lookin' cayuses to lead.

He said the trail bosses were, for the most part, successful and later moved on to useful lives. Since their business was built around the sound principle of supply and demand - farmers would be short of horses after they'd got a drive together and, when a round trip was made, there'd be a good market back where they'd started from - most of 'em got out with some money. However there was one outfit Bill knew of though that got caught in eastern Wyoming and ever'one clear down to the cook was strung up.

"Anyways," Bill says, "it was a great life for a kid and a chance to ride some of the best horses in the country."

Archie Billingsley's Mules

He went on to tell about how on one of these drives he'd first run into Archie Billingsley. At the time ol' Arch had a pretty good stock layout started in the Hagerman valley. Archie was one of those real old time westerners. He'd been a pony express rider and later a stage driver and wound up marryin' a Mormon woman he'd run into somewhere along the line in one of old Brig's colonies. He'd settled on the crik in the Hagerman valley that was later named for him (there'd been a stage station on it).

But times were tough and when cash was extra short, he'd make up a horse drive to the east. Bill says he was really startin' to get ahead pretty well when on a gatherin' for one of his starts to the east he managed to get ahold of twenty-six government mules from an army camp somehwere in eastern Oregon. Now, each of these mules had US branded on their jaw and the government in them days was real thorough about trackin' down any property it came up short of. Archie's guts was much admired, but them in the business sure questioned his judgement on the mules.

It near turned out that luck would see 'im through with the mules, although it took two or three years to get rid of most of 'em. His real trouble started when he got real attached to one team. They were such a good team that while he'd had chances to turn 'em, he just couldn't bring himself to part the 'em and was finally caught red-handed by an Army Inspector General. Arch managed to stay out of the federal pen, but it cost 'im most of everthing he owned, includin' the Hagerman layout, and he wound up movin' to Carey and startin' over from scratch.

Archie and the Mormon Day Celebration

I can remember Archie Billingsley from when I was a kid and spent a summer or two over by Carey. Thinkin' back, I have to tell Bill about the best recollection I have of him.

It was about Archie at a Mormon Day celebration one year. Seems like the local Bishop for some time had been makin' a special project outta gettin' Archie officially into the church which meant gettin' 'im baptized. But Archie seemed to think this was takin' things too far, and he'd always managed, when things got tight, to get out of it some way.

Seems as though the elders had got their heads together and figgered out that since ol' Arch would be in a mood to celebrate the big doings comin' up the twenty-third anyway, it wouldn't take but a few more drinks and some wise preparation to get 'im into the Main Street horse trough.

Well the big day arrives, and the horse trough had been prayed over and ever'thing was all set. Things seemed to be goin' pretty well as planned as he'd drank even more of the elders' whiskey than they figgered necessary. I was watchin' as they begin easin' Archie from the church towards the trough. While he ain't lookin' exactly overjoyed, he's so far standin' bein' led along pretty good 'til they get 'im up next to the trough.

There wasn't any question about Archie bein' drunk, but all of the sudden it become plain enough that he ain't necessarily pacified as well. Archie, as has been said, was an ol' pony express rider and wasn't much bigger than the average jockey, but he seems at last to figger out the meanin' of the horse trough and starts diggin' in his heels.

He somehow manages to shake off the two brethren ahold of his arms and begins feelin' himself all over and findin' he's been relieved of his trusty old Colt don't improve his disposition none. So he starts lookin' around for some other weapon. The only thing close was a gate bar out of the corral by the trough.

Trouble bein' at first Archie was a little too full to get more then one end of the pole off the ground at a time, but after a few tries, finally does get the pole up over his shoulder and pryin' down as hard as he could, shoulders it and weavin' and unsteady as he is, makes a real fancy pivot. It ain't all that pretty, but I'll tell ya that fir pole aswingin' sure moves the crowd back.

This workin' so good seems to make 'im feel better, and he gets the pole shouldered agin and makes another pivot, not as fast as the first, but it coulda still smarted pretty good if anybody woulda been in reach. The last circle seemed to bring on some dizziness on top of the booze and Archie, still with the pole, just fell over in a heap and went to sleep.

There was quite a bit of sentiment among the crowd to just finish the job anyway, but the Bishop overruled it and they left Arch snorin' away and went on with the celebration.

Bill laughed pretty good over the story and said, "Ya know, the Mormons never did get ol' Arch baptized, but the government sure broke 'im of stealin' mules."

Bill Horton's Last Drive

Bill went on to tell about his last drive with Archie back east. They'd got back with a pretty fair bunch of mostly mustangs, but had got fair prices and were feelin' good 'til they'd had trouble gettin' much of a herd put together to take back to Oregon. Horse prices were pretty high with very few sound horses available, but they only had around fifty head or so for the drive back.

Comin' back up the Platte river they're still doin' some scoutin' along for likely horseflesh when they run into a stud horse that really takes Archie's eye. The stud is a big leggy, sorrel Shire as pretty as a picture and looks to weigh upwards of a ton. This one horse is worth more in Oregon than all the rest of their herd put together.

Trouble bein' he's in a little stud corral attached right to a barn and the whole place is painted up and well kept, prosperous lookin'. So figgerin' a way to get away with the stud is gonna take some doin'.

Their horse bunch is out on open land two or three miles off and they go back to start workin' on a plan. The next day, being' a Sunday, Arch himself rides back to see if possibly the farmer is a church goer and, sure enough, watches the ol' granger load the whole family and even what appeared like a hired hand into a light wagon and head off towards town which is several miles off.

Arch heads back feelin' pretty good because with good timin' come next Sunday, he could have several hours head start. Well, countin' the ol' feller that's come along on the drive for cook, there's five of 'em in camp and Archie lines them out. One feller and the cook will handle the herd and sorta ease along and they're gonna have to camp each night at certain springs or groves that's agreed on and easy to find.

Arch, who'll be leadin' the stud along and the other two hands who are gonna act as decoys will follow along, mostly to the north of the regular trail where there's good open country and buffalo grass sod that's hard to track on.

It'll be up to the decoys to follow along behind Archie and keep lookin' for riders and, when they come, to lead 'em away from Archie and the stud. He figures the farmer and his neighbors and county sherrif will be out in force and things ain't likely to calm down much 'til we get outta Nebraska which is about another 200 miles or so.

Well, we spend the rest of the week layin' pretty low, restin' and grainin' our saddle horses and stayin' out of the way in general. Sunday we pack up the camp and start the bunch and Arch takes me and another young feller named Jay, on the best horses we have, back to the farmstead. It lays off a main road, up a short lane and Arch heads up the lane and just walks right into the barn and unties the stud and leads 'im out while me and Jay watch the road. Well, things are lookin' pretty good, and we hit a good stiff trot while we're gettin' outta the lanes and onto open country. The horse leads along real good and though he's broke a sweat, seems to be standin' it pretty good.

As soon as we're outta the lanes and in open country, Jay and me drop back and spread out watchin' over our shoulders for the riders that are bound to come. The country is kinda rollin' and when toppin' a rise you can see a pretty good ways as there ain't a tree any place. Now and then I can see Archie and the stud horse and they're still gainin' a little on me like we'd planned.

I don't see a soul until late afternoon when, sure enough, after just toppin' a little hill I look back and see several riders. They're comin' at a pretty fair lick, but I ain't worried. The horse underneath me could outrun anything these jayhawkers had from a distance of a quarter-mile to the Pacific Ocean. Besides, he ain't turned a hair all day and their horses is bound to be jaded some. I let 'em get within about a quarter a mile, lettin' on like I don't see 'em. As soon as I whip up, headin' off to the north some, they begin to shoot. I ain't too worried as at that distance, shootin' off a runnin' horse, even comin' close to me is gonna be just luck.

I'm gainin' fast on 'em when I damn near get cut off by three more riders comin' in from my right. The bunch must of split up some, looking for hard-to-find tracks, and these fellers, hearin' the shootin', are comin' hell bent towards me and only a 100 yards or so off.

Well now it's really a case of hurry up. I'm standin' up in the stirrups and leanin' down over my horse's neck like a jockey and whippin' on both sides. These last fellers are beginnin' to show now, and I can see dust spurt up closer than's real comfortable ever now and then.

I'm startin' to gain on 'em pretty good though, when all of the sudden I hear a thud and damned if a round don't hit my saddle's cantle and lodge in the forks. Fellers, let me tell ya, it was just damn fortunate I was a standin' up in the stirrups or those ol' grangers woulda sure made a steer outta me.

After a few miles I'd gained plenty of room, and I could only see 'em now and again. I settled my horse down to an easy lope and finally clear back to a walk. The sun was about down, and I headed back to where we'd agreed to meet the first night out. I was the only one who'd seen anybody, but the slug in my saddle which I dug out with a pocket knife, showed 'em these fellers followin' meant business.

We started damn early the next morning with Jay and me on fresh horses to do the decoyin'. This day it was Jay who they give a run to, but since most of 'em seemed to be ridin' the same horses as the day before, so it didn't last as long as my chase did.

Me and Jay had two more brushes with 'em on later days, but we was pretty well into Wyoming by that time, and the races were fairly short.

We give Fort Hall a wide berth and headed for the Craters of the Moon country. It was another favorite of the horse trailers since there was almost no way you could track anybody through it. There were pockets of good bunch grass scattered around through the lava and we slowed up, although still keepin' our eyes peeled.

We finally pulled on over to the Camas Prairie country and let our stock enjoy the good bunch grass. It had been a rainy spring and there was places the grass would tickle your stirrups as you rode through it.

Arch fixed up a bill of sale for the stud. He always kept some blanks on hand, and we branded the horse in the Corral crik corral to match the bill of sale.

This was the last trip I made east. I guess thinkin' about that slug I'd dug outta my saddle helped make up my mind. I got a job buckarooin' with one of the early cow outfits in the country.


Well, me and Card continued on with our trip the next day. The country we seen was some of the best range in the state, but all the good land had been taken up by then, and we would be stayin' on Corral crik for the time bein'.

The Horse that Turned Hand Springs

The year before I went to work for the Diamond outfit, the range horses over in the Payette River country got the mange. It was a helluva outbreak and a lotta horses was sick. There were range horses pretty much ever'where those days. Most of them were branded and usually they were outta cayuse mares and a horse that was better bred up, some at least. A lot of the early ranchers had taken to shootin' the old mustang studs and turning their own, better bred ones, out in their place. It did improve the breed.

John Lemp, who run the brewery in Boise, had a lotta range horses that he'd gotta hold of one way and another, somewhere around fifteen hundred head, as I remember. They all ran west of Boise and most of them over in the Payette and Emmett valleys where the mange was worst. Lemp finally had some high powered vet come out from the east to tell 'em what to do, and that was that the horses all hadda be dipped - twice - and moved to a new range. I never did hear too much about what ever'body else did since horses are notorious hard to move to a new country and to make 'em stay, but Lemp's outfit gathered his and built vats and done the dippin' and trailed 'em over through the Prairie to the Craters of the Moon country. That was everthing - mares and colts and stud horses, as well as a good many three, four, and even five year old colts and fillies that weren't broke as well as a some older horses, some that had been rode and some not. They all had the JL on the left shoulder.

John Lemp had plenty of money, and at first he kept two or three riders camped over there keepin' those old brood mares from trailin' back to the Payette, but after the first year or two they kinda grew accustomed to that country and it seems like he quit sendin' buckaroos over there. It wasn't long 'til ever Mormon from Salt Lake to Salmon City was ridin' JL horses and lots of others besides. Seems like almost ever'one had a JL horse or two around.

Finally after five or six years, Lemp hired a bunch of pretty fair hands to go over there and make a gather, and they ran horses all summer and come up with less than three hundred head. I was workin' for the Diamond Outfit at the time, and we were there on Camp Creek north of Hill City. It was gettin' along towards fall when the Lemp outfit came back through with what horses they'd gathered.

We knew most of the fellers, as I remember there were four or five hands, and they were hopin' to put the bunch in the field we had fenced there on camp creek and do a little visitin' and maybe swap or sell a few. They'd been night herdin' this bunch all summer and, with as few of them as there was, it made a lotta extra work. Lee Barber was off in Mountain Home or someplace, wherever it was he went, so we told 'em to turn 'em in. They were sure tickled to see them horses corralled.

Lemp had give 'em orders to sell any they could as he was plum discouraged with the horse business and was anxious to get rid of ever'thing. We set up mosta the first night swappin' yarns and playin' poker a little, although they hadn't been paid for a while and didn't have much cash on 'em.

The next mornin' all the Diamond hands was anxious to look the bunch over a little closer as of course ever'body was interested in horses, especially if there was any bargains to be had. Not that the Diamond outfit was short of horses, we each had seven or eight in our strings, but then, hell, ever'body liked to look at new horses.

Anyway, we bunched 'em in a little field there by camp and rode through sizin' 'em up. They were mostly older mares and colts, and there were a very few threes and fours and a few more older horses. There was one small, well put together brown horse whose age was really hard to tell that looked pretty fair, but I really wasn't interested in any of 'em enough to do any serious talkin'.

Joplin was though. It was his first summer with the wagon crew, although he had worked around the headquarters a year or two, and he had a little money and was wantin' a horse of his own pretty bad. The brown I spoke of really took his eye and nothin' would do but we get 'em corralled for a closer look. The feller who was foreman for the Lemp outfit put a price of twenty five dollars on the brown and after a lotta fat chewin' and kiddin' with Joplin, came down to twenty, and Jop bought himself a horse.

One of the other Lemp hands rode up beside me and says, "When Joplin rides that horse the first time or two you'll see some fun. I broke that sonofabitch just eight years ago this last spring and he can turn double hand springs quicker'n a cat."

I says, "Christ, ya oughta tell Jop, he's just a kid and that horse might kill 'im."

The feller laughs and says, "Kill a Joplin? Hell, I've knowed that breed a long time, and you can't kill any of 'em with anything less than a thirty-thirty. He'll be all right."

Well, we spend the rest of the day kiddin' around and since one of the Lemp hands had a friend over at the Walker camp by Bennett Mountain and had rode over there to visit, a bunch of the Double P riders came back with him to look at the horses and, all in all, it was a pretty sociable time.

I first figgered Joplin would be in a helluva sweat to try out the little brown, but he didn't show much strain, and I then guessed he'd just as soon wait 'til there wasn't so much of an audience. The Walker fellers stayed well into the evening and there was a lot of laughin' and joshin' and we all had a good time. The next mornin' the Lemp crew broke their camp, and we helped 'em get the horses headed out down to the Boise Valley.

As soon as they was outta sight, nothin' would do but we get Jop's horse back in the corral and try 'im out a little. Jop wasn't the best of riders although there was far worse around, and he wasn't scared of nothin'. The brown stayed real cool through it all and in fact seemed to just kinda overlook ever'thing. Jop messed around with him some in the corral, saddlin' and unsaddlin' and never did really get the ol' brown's attention. He finally got on 'im and got a few jumps outta him, but nothin' real mean and, needless to say, Jop is feelin' pretty good about his horse.

It just happens to be a Saturday and long towards evenin' three or four of us decides to ride over to Corral as there will be a dance at the old cowboy dance hall and it will be a good chance for Jop to give the brown a little airin' out.

Ever'thing is goin' along smooth, and we're all kiddin' Jop about what the ol' brown can do (I'd told 'im about the hand springs) when, for no reason at all, the ol' horse took at Jop and is buckin' 'bout as wicked as he can. Jop looks like he's gonna stay with him, when all the sudden, sure enough, he does turn a hand spring. He just goes over frontwards, and it's a good thing Jop was a little loose as he kinda falls to one side and the horse misses him as he goes over. The ol' brown rolls around some gettin' up, and in the melee, while he's still down, I see him kick with one hind foot, real wicked.

Well the other guys take after the brown, and I jump down to see if Jop is all right. He is, although he's a little dazed actin' but I don't think too much about it. Jop gets back aboard with the brown now actin' kinda bored about it all, and we don't have no more mishaps.

We get to Corral and do some drinkin' at Arnold's saloon and take in the dance. Jop is kinda quiet, but holds up his end on the drinkin' at least, and we head back to camp about midnight. Again the brown is just actin' kinda bored with ever'thing and plum broke.

Finally, gettin' ready for bed, I notice Jop seems to be havin' trouble gettin' one sock off and, figgerin' Arnold's whiskey had finally got to 'im, offer a little help. The lamp is pretty dim, but I see the sock don't look the right color and, damned if it ain't stuck to his foot with dried blood. We all get to lookin' then and, rollin' Jop over on his stomach on his bunk, we find a cut at the base of his skull shaped like the brown's hind foot. It's look's deep, but has quit bleedin' so we leave it alone. The blood has run down Jop's back and leg and into his boot and stuck his sock on when it clotted up.

Well Jop's head aches some for a day or two, but outside of that he don't have any bad effects. He rides the brown his regular turn for the next month or two and, ever so often, the sonofabitch will take one of them spells and do his hand springs. Jop knows what to look for by now and gets loose quick and is never hurt much again. I worry quite a bit about it and finally talk Jop into takin' the horse to Soldier and seein' if he couldn't work out a trade with Goldie Barrett.

Ol' Goldie is a different kinda horse trader and one of the most successful I ever knew. He runs the restaurant in Soldier for years and trades horses on the side. He's got a big corral on the edge of town that's always got ten or fifteen head of horses in it. He gets some of the local kids to bring in a wagon load of hay ever' now and then and see to the feed and water.

When a feller wants to trade, he just rides up to the restaurant and Goldie comes out the front door in his apron an' all and sizes the feller's horse up. I've watched him many a time, and he don't say much, but usually if he thinks the horse is fairly sound he'll say, "Go down to the corral and pick ya out one and bring 'im back." This is the catch. Goldie comes out again and sizes this horse up and he'll say, "Hell, that's about the best horse I had in the corral." Goldie will walk around and look some more and finally say, "I just gotta have ten dollars boot for this horse." He'd seldom git the ten, but usually a five or seven and a half would come his way, and the feller'd go away feelin' like he'd pulled a helluva deal.

Well, Jop winds up with a six-year-old black geldin' that ain't been spoilt overly bad and is sound and, though it cost 'im seven fifty in boot, the black turns out to be a real good horse with less than the usual amount of re-breakin'.

I guess ever'body's happy cause not long after that I'm headin' to Soldier myself and run into Doc Higgs in his buggy with a nice lookin' pair of brown geldings and lookin' closer I see that the off horse is Jop's ol' brown.

We stop to visit a little, and I ask where he mighta come by such a good lookin' team. Doc answers that he'd owned the one for a couple of years and a mate to him had just died lately, and he'd been forced to work out a quick deal with Goldie for the little JL horse. He goes on to say that he never had a much nicer buggy horse as he breaks in much easier than most old saddle horses and is never nervous 'bout nothin'. I can see that ol' Juggy (Jop had named him Brown Jug) has got his usual bored look on.

Ol' Doc drives that little brown team for years and, long after, I remember one day seein' 'em tied to a hitchin' rack in Fairfield when a steam tractor comes down Main Street pullin' a separator. Now I don't need to tell you that this is about the noisiest, scariest thing to a horse that was ever invented and there is buggy teams and saddle horses goin' plum crazy all around. Not ol' Juggy though. He stands there at the hitchin' rack and never turns a hair. His teammate is doin' some nervousin' around, but with ol' Jug's bein' so quiet, they don't even tighten their halter rope knots.

I've often thought about ol' Jug since then, and I figger that he just hated ever'thing about humans so bad that he could put himself in sort of a trance to where he'd just ignore 'em and what was happenin' to 'im. Once in a while when he was younger, the trance would wear a little thin and that would bring out the buck and the hand spring.

As far as I ever heard, he was plum reliable in harness. I don't know if it's cause he never come out of his trances or just couldn't figger out how to turn a hand spring hitched to a buggy.

Buggy Horses

I'd pretty much always had a good saddle horse or two of my own to get around with and have sure owned my share of good horses. But after Janey and me were married gettin' around was a little more complicated. Altogether we owned fifteen or twenty head of horses about half and half saddle and draft stock. I had one good light team which was fine on a small wagon or hack, but not very stylish when it came to goin' somewhere. They'd done fine to drive to Hailey last winter when we got married and brought most of our stuff back with a set of light bobs. I had two other good heavy teams that Card and I had used for freighting.

What I didn't have was a buggy team even though I had a pretty good buggy and harness I'd picked up cheap at a sale the summer before. It had a padded seat and a canopy that didn't look too shabby and the wheels were tight and nothin' was patched up or anything. I'd never really took time to figger out which two of the saddle stock was gonna get elected to pull it around, but now it was necessary. Some saddle horses don't mind the harness a bit as well as most draft horses don't object too strong if someone gets aboard. But some do, and you never know for sure 'til you try.

The Mormons had finished up their reservoir on the south side that summer and had got their settlement at Manard pretty well goin' and were throwin' a celebration for Mormon Day. Just about ever'body you talked to was goin'. There was s'posed to be a little rodeo and foot races and a picnic all ended up with a dance at what they called their Manard Hall or Church House. As I say, ever'body was wantin' to go and that included me and Janey even though she was carryin' Marjie, but wasn't too far along.

I had a couple of brown mares, one was the mother of the other, that showed some breedin' and were stylish enough so I guessed they'd be the ones. Neither was broke much as the filly was only four, but neither one had ever showed any kickin' or hell raisin' and, with Claude's help, I hitched 'em one at a time with an old draft horse to a wagon and drove them around a little. They were both pretty insulted actin', but never raised any real hell.

Claude came over early the mornin' of the celebration and by blindfoldin' the mare and tying the filly to her, we got 'em hooked to the buggy with only a little trouble. With the mare snubbed to Claude's saddle horse, we circled the yard a few times and things seemed pretty calm. Claude said they were as classy a lookin' buggy team as he'd seen for a while. I'd taken time the day before to trim their manes and tails and curried 'em up good.

I helped Janey up to the seat and, takin' a good holda the lines, told Claude to turn 'em to me. He half-hitched the halter rope to the mare's hame, and we were off with about as wild a ride as we ever had.

In lessen two jumps they were both at a dead run and it seemed like they was never gonna run outta steam. The tugs had never tightened - I was pullin' the rig with the lines. With Janey hangin' round my neck and my feet braced against the dash board, I had a good deal of leverage on those lines, but it sure as hell seemed like a long time before I could get 'em slowed any at all.

Finally, with their gettin' some winded and their mouths gettin' a little sore, I got 'em down to a lope at least and was just about to a trot when I hear a damn car behind us and I remember Claude sayin' that he and another young blade had worked up a deal with Ed McMasters to haul them and their girls to the celebration in his Buick touring car.

As fast as we were goin' now the car caught up pretty quick and of course there was a lot of yellin' and wavin' and the horn goin' uuooga-uuooga as they came around. This sure set 'em off again and it was about all the Buick could do to finally get ahead. I had all my weight on the left line to keep out of the ditch and with some luck, managed.

Them two mares had about as much bottom as a horse can have - cayuse mostly with some breedin' on the horse side of it, and they never slowed beyond a trot for the fourteen miles or so we covered. Although by the time we got to the celebration I didn't have much trouble circlin' them, I was real glad to have Claude already there to help get 'em anchored.

Most of the hitchin' racks looked a little weak, but there was a good stout corral, and we tied up to one of the posts so they'd be sure and stay. Later that afternoon I got a pail and packed 'em each a couple of bucketfuls of water and, while they was pretty stuck up with sweat, they didn't show any bad effects.

Janey was a little weak, but all right, and we had a good time watchin' the doins' and visitin' with ever'body. The Mormons put on a pretty good do, all in all. To tell the truth though I was thinkin' quite a bit about the trip home in the dark. We was plannin' on stayin' for the dance, as most of the young folks was, so when Claude sidled up and asked what I'd take to trade rigs for the trip home, I didn't have to do a lot of studyin'. He and Ethel Fields had started a pretty heavy romance and seems they wanted a little more privacy for the trip home than they'd get in the Buick.

For Janey and me the ride home was fun. It was the farthest either of us had ever been in a car, and I guess you could say we both figgered they was here to stay.

When he brought the rig back, Claude wouldn't say much about their trip home. I don't imagine he had too much time for sparkin'. The rig and harness was okay though, so I knew he and Ethel hadn't lost any hide or anythin'. He was a little cool for a while, but afterwards we had some pretty good laughs about it. Claude was a good hand with a horse.

The filly turned out to be about as good a mare as a feller could want. Raised some damn fine colts as well as taught ever'one of the kids to ride. I named her Brownie, and she lived thirty two years.

Horse Traidin'

Horses ain't a lot different from people. They come in all sizes and colors and dispositions and speakin' of dispositions it can make all the difference in the world in gettin' along with a horse. Some are all good, just as others are all bad. They're one helluva lot bigger and stouter than a man, and to come out best you gotta be smarter. This ain't always the case, but if it is, most horses - even up to the very worst - can be made useful.

I've never really said this out loud much, but I've thought it a lot of times, and I was thinkin' it as Eldon Sheppard and I rode back to camp after gettin' our little bunch of steers and dry cows cut out and started towards home. It'd took most of the day for the six of us who'd been in camp for beef gatherin' to gather the field and do the cuttin' out and ours had been last, though we were leavin' Pete's in the field to come back and get later.

Normally we'd be trailin' along hurrying 'em just a little cause we'd been in camp almost two weeks and it'd sure be nice to get home. But Eldon had finally traded horses with George Sparks that mornin' and was anxious to try 'im out. He'd traded a pretty good geldin', gentle with just a little age comin' on, for a bay geldin' and a three year old filly that showed some promise.

Not a bad trade by no means, but the bay was safe to go in the air some and, what with gatherin' and workin' the field that day, he decided to wait until our cut was finished and started towards home before testin' him.

The horse was a good-sized, good-lookin' bay with a nice blaze and one white foot and George was just scared shitless of him. From the ears back, he was plum pretty – good withers and back, straight legged, and well muscled - but his head was a little different. Just kinda too full between the eyes and the eyes themselves was small and set a little wrong. Pig eyes some called 'em, and I'd bet that everthing he learnt would hafta be pounded in.

He was probably six or seven years old and no story was ever told on 'im, but he'd evidently been pretty green when he figgered out how to scare George, and he'd had life pretty easy since. There wasn't a saddle or cinch mark on 'im and in the two years George had had 'im around, I'd never seen 'im lay a hand on 'im.

The trade had took mosta beef gatherin'. There never was a lotta talk between the two as they weren't overly fond of each other. Eldon only had three head of his own and, while Pete really owned all of Spark's string, George could do what he wanted with 'em.

Eldon wasn't particularly taken with the bay, but he knew he could at least get some boot and figgered, at the very least, the bay'd make a good practice horse cause Eldon was still young enough to feel the rodeo bug bite now and then.

They'd settled on Eldon's horse early, and Eldon was holdin' out for a grey three-year-old gelding that wasn't even broke to lead for the boot and, while George didn't know much, he was smart enough to know that Eldon's horse didn't have that many years left. He'd offered the filly and held out 'til early that last mornin' we were all in camp. Eldon said the filly would do, and they shook hands.

As we rode back to camp, we talked over how we'd handle 'im. Time was a little short, so we figgered it wouldn't hurt much to take all the short cuts we could. This horse wasn't gonna bother to return any niceties we'd spend on him anyway.

We'd left the bay in the corral alone that mornin', so he'd had six or seven hours to gant up a little and think things over. He whinnied nice as you please when he heard us comin' and did a round or two in the corral before he met us at the gate sure wantin' out.

Eldon stepped off and swung the gate open a little, and I was ready and spurred through quick cause I knew this horse wasn't gonna set any records for manners and would run over a man and horse both with half a chance.

As I was gettin' my rope down, he circled the corral another time and then trotted right up to my horse and with his tail kinked up, let out a big snort with a long whistle. I got the loop built and, givin' it a swing, started 'im up again, and as he turned and come by me, I picked up his front feet and he did hit the ground hard and with a big grunt.

Eldon is right there with his saddle hobbles, and he's quick gettin' 'em on. The bay is groggy enough to not figger just what's what for a minute, but he gets up without much trouble, and I can see more action in 'im than maybe I'd figgered.

Eldon had left my rope on one front foot since we figgered he wasn't hobble broke and, sure 'nuff, he gives a try at takin' off again and I take a couple of quick winds and bust him again, not as hard as the first time, but still hard enough. When he got up this time, he stood pretty still. Eldon had slipped a bronc bridle with a buggy snaffle on 'im when he was down the first time, and he had 'im saddled quick.

In no time, Eldon's got the hobbles off and back on his saddle and made sure my loop was well let out and layin' on the ground. Pullin' the bay's head around with his left hand he steps on. This brought the ol' horse out of it a little and he gave a few short jumps – nothin' like we both knew he could – and in no time Eldon had him lopin' around the corral and turnin' him back a time or two, testin' out how bridle-wise he was, and it was about what we expected.

Well, I've got my rope done up and back on the saddle, and I ride over and unhook the gate, and we're feelin' pretty good as we head on out of the field and pick up our little bunch of beef.

I watch the bay close and can see he's doin' some figgerin'. He knows he's been blind-sided a little, and he's the disposition I was talkin' about at first – he's gonna want to get even. He's travelin' long peacable enough, but one ear's laid back and I mention to Eldon that when the bay figgers he's got an edge, he better be ready to do some ridin'.

It's just startin' to get dusk and the cattle are trailin' along single file nice and easy. We're followin' a good trail half-way up around the side of a good-sized and steep hill. I'm just behind the last steer and Eldon and the bay are just behind me. All of the sudden the bay lets out a groan and takes the first jump straight down hill.

Now I don't need to tell ya that the ground can look far, far away when a horse does this to ya. I'll bet the sonofabitch covered thirty yards with that first jump. I'm right behind makin' sure if there is anything I can do to help, I'll be close enough.

Eldon gives me one look, and I can see he's scared, so I yell out "Stay with 'im ol' kid. If you can ride 'im any place you can ride 'im here." Eldon settles in a little and for the next three or four hunnert yards or so, puts up a nice piece of ridin'.

About half way down, the slope eases a little and there's a small meadow with some scrub willows around, and the ol' horse really does his damndest here. Eldon's fear by now has most turned to mad, and he's givin' 'im a damn good spurrin'. I'm figgerin' the horse is about played out, when he heads for a big gully that leads on down off of this little meadow.

The gully's pretty narrow and six or eight feet deep in places and the sonofabitch goes right down it. Not buckin' now, but fightin' his head and sullin' and with Eldon spurrin' he'll go a ways with his head down between his knees and Eldon can't get him out of the damn gully even when they come to a place he could.

I trot on ahead and find a place where I can cross the wash and ride down in figgerin' I can turn 'em out. When he sees me he stops, and Eldon gives him a little extra spur, and what did the sonofabitch do, but come bullin' right on down the gully and knocks me and my horse over against the side of the wash, but never turns a bit.

Well, I think 'all right you sonofabitch' there's a big fir tree a little ways on down and ridin' under I break off about three feet of a dead branch and gettin' ahead of the bay and back in the gully again, I'm ready for 'im.

When he gets close enough this time, I bring the club down right between his ears. I'm hoping to knock the sonofabitch clear down, and he does go to his knees. When he gets up this time, Eldon rides 'im outta the wash as nice as you please.

Well, the rest of the trip was kinda uneventful as the feller says. We get home about nine and had a big supper and reunion with Janey and the girls.

When we was all gettin' ready for bed, Eldon says, "Bill, I sent a saddle bronc entry fee down to the Hagerman rodeo for tomorrow. Will you help me get that bay sonofabitch over to the lanes? If you will, I'll have him goin' by the time I get back." I was a little surprised, but I said sure and the next morning about four we've got the bay saddled agin and over in the field, across the second bridge, before he offers any objection.

But again, he lets out this awful moan and has at Eldon about the worst I've seen him yet. Eldon's ready and puts up a damn nice ride. With enough spurrin' the bay don't last too long and, when the bucks out, damned if he don't get in a big irrigatin' ditch and try the same act as last night, only this time I just have to get in front and wave my arm, and he comes outta his trance. I get 'im through the last gate and Eldon hits a long lope and holds it for as long as I can see 'em.

Eldon's back in a day or two and said he rode into the rodeo grounds just as his name was bein' called. He hadn't drew much of a horse and rode 'im, but was outta the money. The worst was, when he'd left, he'd had three or four dollars and a watch in his levis, and they were gone when he got there. The silver dollars were all the money he'd had, and he'd had to bum meals till he got back home.

Afterwards, the kids followed the bay's tracks over in the field and managed to find the watch and two of the dollars where he'd bucked 'em right out of Eldon's levis. I guess he'd got back a little even with Eldon, anyways.

Eldon rode that bay for two or three years before he traded him off, and said he never got back down in a gully with 'im again.

Will McCarter on White Eagle
Corral, Idaho (circa 1910)


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