by Joe McCarter (In His Father's Voice)

What you could call rodeoin’ has been goin’ on even before I was a kid, I guess. Not like what you see now at the big fairs or, for that matter, even the small town celebrations. Seems like nowadays almost ever' community around has to put on a fair and rodeo where ever'body, whether or not they’ve ever so much as sit on a horse, can git themselves up in levis and boots and go watch from the grandstands and make a lotta talk about this ride and that ride and this horse bein’ tough as compared to that horse and so forth.

Today rodeo producin’ is all some folks do for a livin’, and it takes up a fair sized ranch just for rough stock – horses and bulls and all the other animals such as team ropin’ steers, and calf ropin’ calves, and maybe even goats.

When I was a kid workin’ for the Diamond outfit in the Boise Valley, it wasn’t uncommon on most Sundays through the summer and early fall to have a get-together at some corral or other. Fellers from around the valley and the closer in cow camps would come and bring their most spoilt horses and different ranch hands, and even kids from town, would see if they could ride ‘em. Dependin’ on who showed up with horses, and how many real horse-breakers had Sunday off, you could sometimes see a pretty good show.

There wasn’t no real admittance or nuthin’ charged, but after whoever had been the actin’ judge – usually somebody like Lee Barber the Diamond foreman – would name the winners and the hat would be passed around. Usually, the pot would be split between the rider and whoever owned the horse. Course there was lots of bettin’ between the riders and spectators. There sure weren’t no grandstands, and the best seats were the top rail of the corrals and the rest of the crowd had to just stand around and stay out of the way.

There weren’t no saddlin’ chutes. The bronc was just led into the corral snubbed to a saddle horse and, depending on if he was bad enough, blindfolded for saddlin’. Once in a while there’d be a real bad actor who’d have to be throwed and rolled into the saddle. This way the rider had to ride the horse and get his stirrups while he was gittin’ up. This wasn’t always easy to do. If the horse was snubbed and blind-folded, the rider just got on makin' sure he had both his stirrups, and the snubber handed ‘im the halter rope and lifted the blind. It was then up to the snubber, after the ride, to get the rider off, if he was still on after the judge called time.

Now this was in the days when there was always plenty of buckin’ horses around. I guess it was because there was so many more horses in the country, but ever' outfit had several horses that you could easy call outlaws and god only knew how many range horses was runnin’ loose because they’d scared somebody off. You could pretty well bet that if any older gelding was runnin’ loose and carryin’ a brand that he wouldn’t be real friendly to rope or saddle.

It was well into the twenties and even thirties before the supply of horses that just loved to buck begin to run out. This caused the rodeo people to start flanking all buckin’ horses and, to my way of thinkin’, sort of ruint the sport. The flankin’ makes horses kick while they’re tryin’ to buck and while this kickin’ might cause some inexperienced riders a problem, they learn to adjust to it. The thing I don’t like about it, the horse is more interested in gettin’ the flank off than the rider. The old time broncs could really concentrate on throwin’ the rider, and they learned new tricks all the time to do this.

John Hailey

Back when I was workin’ with the Diamond outfit, John Hailey was breakin’ colts and ridin’ the rough string for ‘em. If he showed up at one of these events I been talkin’ about, all bets were off. I don’t think there was a rough horse in southern Idaho that Hailey hadn’t taken a turn at, and rode for that matter. Hailey was one of those natural born athletes. He could outrun any of us, and I’ve seen him throw a rock and knock a cow down from twenty-five yards away. He was usually the pitcher for any baseball team that the different cow outfit crews would get together to play the local teams. When he was pitchin’ he sometimes tended to be a little wild, and it took a lot of guts to stand into the box and swing.

But goin’ back to rodeoin’. One time at one of these gatherin’s I was watchin’ Hailey ride a bronc that some outfit down in the Bruneau owned, and this ol’ horse could really buck. Now I’d seen Hailey ride the horse several different times and, like I said, he could make the toughest of them seem to be easy, and this ride was no different. Hailey was scratching from damn near the ears to well past the flanks on ever' jump, but as Hailey’s legs came forward one time, the ol’ horse was watchin’ and turned real sharp, right out from under him.

Hailey lit on his feet just like a cat, and the ol’ horse, who was buckin’ in a pretty tight circle, just kept on buckin’ and celebratin’ and hopin’ to throw the saddle too, I guess. He only made about one turn around Hailey when what does Hailey do, but grab the halter rope with his left hand and the saddle horn with his right and land right back in the saddle and go back to scratchin’ the old pony like nothin’ had ever happened.

I forget now who was doin’ the judgin’ that day, but whoever it was called Hailey the day’s winner, and I think most ever'one there would of agreed, but Hailey wouldn’t take the money. He said he’d been bucked off fair and square and to figure him out of the money.

Years later, Hailey came up to the place with another feller wantin’ to borrow some horses to go up on the backside of old Soldier prospectin’. Seems as though Hailey had picked up some rocks up there when he was huntin’ goats one time, years before. He’d finally got around to havin’ them assayed, and they showed real good gold content.

I was glad enough to let them have a couple of horses, we were just gettin’ ready to gather beef anyway, and they came up to the pasture and camped with us. Hailey really surprised me when he damn sure told me he wanted only a gentle horse. Said he had a hurt or two in ever' part of his body from ever' bronc he’d rode back in the old days, and it was damn well past time he was gonna collect anymore.

It was years later I had a chance to see the best riders in the Northwest, not only contest ride, but practice some too. I didn’t see any of them put up better or classier lookin’ ride than John Hailey.

The First Spokane Rodeo

This is how I happened to, one time, get in the rodeo business. It musta been in 1921 or '22, while Janey and me were still in Montana, that Art Larrivee hit me up to help with a rodeo he was gonna produce over in Spokane.

Larrivee was like most of the rest of us tryin’ to keep things together in the worst drought that western Montana had ever seen. He was a little better off cause, bein’ a half-breed, he had a better outfit (an allotment, of course) and was a good stockman and horseman. He was a big man, six foot six and weighing around 350 without a bit of fat. I’d seen him front foot two-year old colts in a corral on foot and set down on the rope and that ol’ colt would turn over like he was hitched to a snubbin’ post.

Anyway, I guess Arthur had figgered that there could be a little extra money made from some of the resources that was available there on the Flathead. Larrivee was one of those fellers that got around and made friends with a lot of different people. He knew Charlie Russell well and always visited him when Russell came to his cabin on Flathead Lake.

Somehow he’d got acquainted with some fellers from the Spokane Chamber of Commerce, and they’d told him about Spokane wantin’ a rodeo for their Fourth of July celebration and had wound up makin’ Arthur a deal to put it on. They had a race track and fair grounds with some pretty fair-sized stands and would make a deal to use these for the rodeo with the fair board. The only catch bein’ there ain’t no rodeo fencin’ or chutes or nothin’.

The deal called for Arthur to come and supervise the buildin’ of these, and he was to get a percentage of the gate with a guarantee of at least $500. This didn’t sound like very much money figgerin’ shippin’ broncs to Spokane and back, so it damn sure was gonna depend on gettin’ good crowds.

Spokane was the biggest town around a pretty good-sized area, and the Fourth of July was about the holiday of the year. The promoters made arrangements to have a carnival and some side-shows come in, and the way Arthur described it made it sound like a pretty good deal. Arthur told me he’d pay me double wages for the time I spent and what he wanted me to do first, while he was in Spokane makin’ an arena, was to get together the best broncs I could find on the reservation and get them and me on a train for Spokane in time for the rodeo. This was better than six weeks away and the wages looked pretty good. There wasn’t any crops to worry about anyway, so I said sure.

I’d guess there was way better than a thousand head of horses runnin’ on the reservation at that time. The tribes claimed ‘em, but most of them were un-branded and very few had been handled. Arthur had said he figgered we’d need somewhere between fifty and sixty head of broncs and, of course, it depended on how many contestants showed up and how well the broncs would get over the train ride and handlin’ and stuff.

We figgered the best place to start would be the Indian rodeo they held most Sundays by Big Arm. One of the Indians, sort of a chief or somethin’, kept forty or fifty head of broncs pastured all summer for this rodeo, and most of them were experienced buckers, and some damn tough. Arthur had already made some kinda of a deal with the Indians that I could take my pick of the ones they had, and they’d also agreed to try out any more broncs I could run down.

Since the reservation covered a good deal of territory, I was gonna have to do some huntin’. There was several pretty good-sized cow outfits to the south and east, and I figgered they’d have some in their rough strings, although Arthur's instructions were to just try to borrow ‘em. Ever'one on the whole Flathead knew and liked Arthur, so this could probably be done.

I headed down to the cow outfits first and, while it took a while to find all the wagon crews, it worked out pretty good. Most of them were just finishin’ the spring roundup and brandin’, and the wagon bosses were all interested in what we were doin’ and real helpful. Like we figgered, they all had four or five horses in their cavies that were just too much for their regular riders and were only ridden by their horse breakers in case they got short of horses. Since the spring roundup was pretty much over, they’d have little use for these broncs until fall.

One wagon boss named Baker, a particular good friend of Arthur, was really good. He told me about a horse they had who’d never been rode on a regular basis. He’d thrown the best riders and was as sneaky as hell about it. He was not in the cavy now, but was runnin’ with a bunch of mares and colts, and the feller had seen them just a day or two before and offered to help me corral ‘im.

The bronc turned out to be a real good lookin’ big bay horse showin’ lots of action, and there wasn’t a saddle mark on him. They’d called him Half-Moon because of a markin’ on his forehead, and the wagon boss said he guessed they’d only kept ‘im around because of these looks and hopin’ somebody would come along some day that could make him into a useful horse.

I’d brought a pack horse with a light camp and a bed-roll along with me and had a good time visitin’ with those buckaroos. Each time we’d pick out the horses they had to spare, I’d tail ‘em together and lead 'em to their headquarters ranch. I'd leave 'em in a field where I could easy pick ‘em up when I got through and was ready to start home with ‘em.

Baker’d told me one of his men would help me get started home when I had the bunch together. Times were sure different them days. There wasn’t one mention made of money by any of these fellers, and they all went to some trouble helpin’ me get my little cavy together.

Anyways, I got home after about ten days with twenty-two head of horses that were chuck full of promise. It was a Thursday when I got home, so the next day I took ‘em on up to the rodeoin’ Indians, and they agreed to buck ‘em all out that comin’ Sunday.

All in all I was real pleased with these horses. While the Indian kids rode some of them, there wasn’t a one that didn’t buck and several showed some real promise. We’d saved the Half-Moon horse 'til last for one of the best of the Indian riders, and he only lasted about four jumps. After watchin’ him, I see Baker wasn’t kiddin’ me any about him and also why he kept him around. He was one good lookin’ horse and had action left over for two or three more.

The Indian ponies were different to deal with. For one thing very few of them were broke to lead and, while this wouldn’t cause a lot of trouble, it’d be easier for the pickup men to get them out of the arena after the ride if they could lead. Outta the forty-so head they had on pasture at Big Arm, there was at least thirty that I figgered were good enough to take, and most of these would lead. They’d all been bucked out a good deal and chances of ‘em misfiring out of the chute was pretty slim. Also, they were experienced at gettin’ riders off and that counted for a lot.

But it was pretty plain that I should try and come up with at least ten more broncs. This took some doin'. Two or three of the Indian kids said they knew of different horses runnin’ loose that had been used for practice and other things and, if we could find these, they’d be glad to try ‘em out of a chute. Anyway, we put in several days of horse runnin’ and corralin’ and sortin’ and finally come up with fifteen or so that would do for a try-out.

By now each day brought us a little closer to the the sixty-five or so number Arthur had said we’d need. I’d picked out the most likeliest of the Indian ponies that weren’t broke to lead and, with some of the Indian kids’ help, was workin’ on ‘em. Arthur had told me I was welcome to use any of his horses since I was short of good ones of my own, and for the lead breakin’ I’d picked up his main horse, Billy Buck. He was a big good lookin’ buckskin with the black streak down his back. He weighed upwards of 1200 pounds and was one of the best horses I ever rode.

We’d corral these cayuses and rope and halter them and leave them tied to the corral fence overnight. The next mornin’ me and Billy Buck would lead each of them to water and back. We’d let ‘em graze in a small pasture durin’ the day and tie ‘em up again durin’ the night. After two or three days of being tied up, most of them would lead a little at least.

About this time, I got a wire from Arthur sayin’ that any time I was ready, I should get loaded up and come on to Spokane as he was having problems gettin’ ever'thing done, but had made arrangements for pasturin’ the horses close in. I went ahead and ordered three cars and, eight days before the second of July, found myself and saddle and war-bag in a Northern Pacific caboose with seventy head of horses.

The ride over took the best part of a day and a night, but we didn’t have to change trains or nothin’, and after gettin’ to Spokane the railroad people managed to get the three cars switched off to the stockyards in less that a couple of hours and one or two even helped me unload the horses. I caught Billy Buck and my best horse. I saddled both, tied my bedroll and warbag onto Billy Buck, and started out. I’d found out which direction to take for the fairgrounds from one of the railroaders that helped me unload, and it turned out to be closer than I figured. Arthur was there with several fellers diggin’ post holes for the new arena fence and doin’ other things when I rode in.

Arthur is sure glad to see me and Billy Buck, and asks me if I’d ate breakfast yet, which of course I hadn’t. He takes me over to a spot nearby in the race track infield where there’s kind of a camp with a tent or two set up. We unload Billy Buck and put my stuff in one of the tents, and Arthur gets on Billy Buck and says come on, he’ll take me down to a restaurant and get me some breakfast.

While I eat some ham and eggs, Arthur tells me about what a hell of a time he’s been havin’ with all the chamber of commerce fellers and the problems that they’ve been havin’ with the fair board and it all sounds pretty complicated. Arthur's so wound up about it all that I can’t hardly get a word in edgewise about the buckin’ string that I’ve got together and that I’m pretty proud of.

From what Arthur tells me, the Spokane people have been jealous as hell of the Pendleton Roundup and the notoriety that Pendleton (in their words, a jerk-water town) has had over the Roundup. Spokane is considerable bigger than Pendleton and a lot richer seein’ as how at least a little of the silver they’ve dug out of the mountains over around Wallace and Kellogg has stuck there in Spokane before goin’ back east. The Roundup folks in Pendleton has been callin’ their saddle bronc winners World Champions and this, in particular, has rasped the Spokane Chamber of Commerce since one of the best riders of all, Yakima Canutt, comes from over in the Yakima river country and several other good buckaroos claim Washington as their home.

Anyways, these chamber of commerce fellers figger that they otta be able to beat out Pendleton, Oregon in about any kind of an event you could name, and they’re gonna build this Spokane Rodeo on the Fourth of July into somethin’ really big. I can see that somethin’ is botherin’ Arthur a little, but he’s still pretty enthused and says maybe we better see about gettin’ those Flathead broncs over onto some pasture, and he wants me to see about findin’ some small yearlin’ cattle some place close that will do for the calf ropin’ event.

The calf ropin’ is a newer event in rodeo seein’ as how the regular steer ropin’ where the steer is yandered or busted has been drawin’ some fire from the humane societies around the rodeo towns. Arthur says he’s already checked around to find some bull doggin’ stock, and there ain’t none within gatherin’ distance of Spokane. Bull doggers need steers with reasonable long horns and most ranchers have been dehornin' yearlin’s for several years now. He says it looks like the closest is over in central Washington, and he’s already arranged for a short carload to be shipped over. He says he’s just now findin’ out how expensive it is to be a rodeo producer, but if we get some good crowds there’ll still be some money left over.

I spend the next day or two scoutin’ around tryin’ to find some calves for the calf ropin’. The spring crop of calves which was in pretty fair supply around was too small, but I finally find one fair-sized ranch located on west of Spokane, about ten or twelve miles, that’s got enough fall calves and dogies around that look like they’d do.

I also need twenty head or so of cows with calves for the wild cow milkin’ which is always a popular event. Arthur had reminded me he sure was hopeful of findin’ cattle that was good and wild, sayin’, “We sure don’t want buttermilks for rodeo stock.” We get what I need cut out and settle on twenty dollars for the use of the stock, and I trail ‘em back to Spokane and put them in the same rented pasture with the broncs. The bull doggin’ steers are at the stockyards now, so me and Arthur bring them over to the same field, and it looks like we’ve pretty well got our stock together.

The rest of the rodeo preparations hadn’t gone so smooth. There was a pretty fair set of grandstands set up at the racetrack, and the idea was to just convert the infield of the track into an arena with the chutes and catch pens built next to the back side of the track. Trouble was, most of the action was gonna be a pretty good distance from where the crowd was sittin’ and, to make things worse, the fair board stopped the rodeo committee in most of what they wanted to do. There weren’t gonna be any real good seats for the rodeo.

All of this trouble hadn’t stopped many of the good rodeo riders and ropers from showin’ up. Each day now there’d be a few comin’, but the last two or three days before the second of July, they really begin showin’ up. Most of them come horse back, although a few bronc riders that didn’t need horses came other ways, some even by automobile. They’d all show up at the grounds and look things over.

There was a younger guy named Nep Lynch who rode in with five or six good lookin’ horses tailed together, and who I got to be pretty well acquainted with. He was a World Champion relay-race rider. Anyway, he’d won the last two Pendleton Roundup relay races. This is an event that sorta went back to the old Pony Express days. It was run on a regular race track only doin’ four laps instead of just one, each with a different horse. This meant the contestant had to change his (or her as there was one for women too) saddle each time. Nep had figgered out a way to make a cinch out of an automobile tire inner-tube. It was stretchy enough that he could just pull it up tight and hook it on a special D ring he’d put in his racin’ saddle riggin’, and it would hold the saddle on for the lap. This was a good deal faster than threadin’ and tightenin’ a latigo and allowed ‘im to pick up good time changin’ mounts. If everthing worked good, he could stop pull the saddle off, put in on the new horse, and be off in less than four seconds.

One feller rode in with his wife and little kid and caused quite a stir. I was visitin’ with Nep when he rode up to the grounds and asked ‘im who it was that ever'body was circlin’ in on. Nep tells me that it’s Yakima Canutt who was right then figgered to be the best bronc rider, both bareback and saddle, in the west. Since ever'body includin’ the fellers putting up the last of the arena fence had gathered around the Canutts, we walked over and Nep give me an introduction. It was only a year or too later that Yakima went on to Hollywood doin’ the hard horse tricks and falls in the western movies and got to be about the most famous Hollywood stuntman of all times.

Ever'body is askin’ Yakima to give ‘em a demonstration, and he finally grins and says okay. He reaches up and takes his little boy off from behind his wife, and she gets off. She’s ridin’ a real nice put together smaller, good-looking gelding. Yakima changes saddles from the one he’s ridin’ to his wife’s horse and gets on sayin’ he just can’t ride this horse. Sure enough, this ol’ horse just turns outlaw and really begins windin’ into Yakima. After a dozen or so jumps Yakima begins to loosen and comes off, lightin’ on his feet. I had a pretty good hunch that he coulda rode this horse to kingdom come, but he sure makes a good show and not that the horse didn’t buck. Yakima tells us that this is one of the best practice horses he’s ever owned.

The First of July comes on and a carnival comes in and gets set up. Really ain’t much of a carnival, just a merry-go-round and ferris wheel and some side shows and booths, but it makes things look a little more lively. There is one old boy with a side show that wasn’t connected with the carnival. He’s got a couple of old broncs that he says just can’t be rode, and he puts up a good sized tent with a little indoor arena and a small grandstand in it. He puts up signs around sayin’ anybody that can last eight seconds on either of these horses will earn 25 dollars.

Now, seein’ as how I was sorta in the bronc business, I just figgered I drop by and see what he really had in the way of horses. When I get in the tent he’s dickerin’ around with an ol’ kid who looks like he just come from milkin’ the cows. The side-show feller is standin’ in the arena with one of the ol’ horses that he’s got saddled and blindfolded. He’s tellin’ the kid that this horse is his plowboy special, just right for farm kids, and he finally gets two dollars off the ol’ kid and the kid gets on.

The side-show fellar says, “Now kid, I’m gonna give you some advice.” I can see ‘im lookin’ at the kid’s shoes, some ol’ lace up brogans, and he says, “Now you need to take ever advantage of this ol’ horse you can, and you sure ain’t gonna do that with only your toes in the stirrups.” Sure enough, the kids feet are barely in the stirrups. “Now act like a bronc rider and get those feet into the stirrups to the heels and tighten ever'thing up, cause I’m gonna turn this horse over to you.”

With that he hands the kid the buckin’ rein and lifts off the blindfold. The old horse lets out sort of a groan and goes straight up. So straight I’m afraid he’s gonna come clear over on the kid, but it’s just one of this old horse’s tricks, and he comes down sorta one leg at a time really shakin’ things up and of course looses the ol’ kid on the next jump. The kid lights close enough to crawl under a fence with the old horse nippin’ at his behind. I never see anybody, before or since, crawl as fast as that poor kid.

This ol’ side-show guy does pretty good durin’ the three days. Some of the real good cowboys got tossed by these two old outlaws, and he’d usually figger out some way to not pay those who did ride ‘em. I have no idea how many times he bucked those two old horses at the show. Ever' so often he’d kick ever'body out of the tent and make ‘em repay to get back in. I guess he was makin’ a livin’ out of those ol’ ponies.

Well the mornin’ of the Second of July comes on nice and clear, and by noon we can tell we’re goin’ to have a pretty good crowd. Arthur and me, and a feller named Red Miller, had brought in from the pasture all the first go-round stock that had been drawed. We’d put most of the best broncs we had in the first drawin’ figgerin’ we’d see how they did and then use them again for the finals on the afternoon of the Fourth.

Even though me and Arthur were amateurs ever'thing goes real smooth. A lot of the contestants help handlin’ the broncs and gettin’ ‘em into the chutes, and Miller is a real good hand. The two or three hours went real fast and, when the dust had all settled, Yakima had won the saddle bronc first go-round and a feller named Lee Caldwell the bareback. One of the real famous Pendleton Roundup rodeoers, a Nez Perce indian named Jackson Sundown, had not showed up. I was disappointed over this as I had heard about him for years. He was supposed to be a nephew of Chief Joseph. The contestants all seemed pretty pleased about the way the Montana broncs had bucked. While there was several rode the eight seconds, there was a good many unloaded too. The Half-Moon horse had thrown a real good rider and made it look easy.

Nep Lynch had won the men's relay race and a sister of Yakima’s had won the women's. Nep was probably the biggest crowd pleaser of the day. He’d trained the horse he used for his anchor lap to start the second he hooked his inner tube cinch, and he’d grab the horses tail as it came by. Hangin’ on to the horse’s tail and runnin’ and jumpin’ about two or three times to keep up, he’d finally give one good sized jump and land right in the saddle. By this time the horse is doin’ his damndest and it’s about the neatest stunt I’ve ever seen pulled off.

Anyways, Arthur and me is feelin’ pretty good about things the next mornin’ as we’re gettin’ the new day’s draws sorted out and stuff. But by the time we get back to the arena, you could see there sure wasn’t the people comin’ in early to the stands and, while we put on a real good show, the second day the crowd was downright disappointin’. It was pretty clear that a lot of them just didn’t feel like comin’ back, and the only thing we could figger out was that they couldn’t see enough from the grandstand. There’d been a pretty good bunch of ‘em who’d quit the stands the first day to come and stand by the fence.

The Fourth was the worst yet. It was rainin’ a slow drizzle when I woke up early and, although it finally quit and cleared off some before the show, there was a lot of folks just didn’t show up. Yakima won the saddle bronc and Lee Caldwell won the all-around money and of course Nep Lynch and the Canutt girl won the relays. The most of the contestants told us that while it might not have been the Roundup, they thought it had been a good enough show and couldn’t understand why more people hadn’t showed up the last two days.

Because we were short on corrals at the arena, we’d been usin’ some of the fairground buildings to keep stock in between events. When I went over to get these horses back to the arena so we could trail ‘em back to the pasture, I made a helluva discovery. Somebody had lifted our Half-Moon horse who had been tied in one of the show barns right out in broad daylight. I’d told you what a good lookin’ horse he was, and evidently they’d figgered he was valuable, which of course he was. Nobody who drew ‘im could ride ‘im, and it would have been fun if Caldwell or Canutt would have had the chance. I was sure dreaded takin’ the rest of Baker’s horses back and not havin’ the big bay. Arthur had got ahold of the Sheriff and told ‘im what happened and all the circumstances. The sheriff promised to get the horse back to us if he turned up, but it was a pretty slim chance.

The next day I took the wild cow milkers and calf ropin’ dogies back to their home and that went okay since there’d been no harm done to any of ‘im. We loaded the bull-doggin’ steers back on a railroad car and was left with just the horses. Miller and me had been doin’ these last chores while Arthur was settlin’ up with the rodeo committee. When we finally got back to our little campground, Arthur was there and lookin’ pretty grim. He ain’t slow in givin’ me the bad news sayin’ what he had comin’ was next to zero, and he’s plumb broke and for sure not enough money to ship the horses back.

He tells me that it looks like I’m gonna have to trail ‘em back to the Flathead. Says if he hadn’t bought a round-trip ticket he’d come along, but since he’d been away from home for so long, figgers he better get back and see if he can talk his banker out of enough money to pay some more bills and my wages. He also says that he thinks Miller could be talked into helpin’ trail ‘em back since he’s mentioned he’d like to see Montana after buckarooin’ in Washington and Oregon. Arthur gives me most of what money he’s got on ‘im, about thirty dollars, and says if that ain’t enough I’ll have to sell one of his horses he guesses.

I figgered I could make it alone, but Miller was out of a job and was interested in comin’ along. The way things turned out, I was damn glad he did. For one thing, Miller was pretty well acquainted with gittin’ around in these parts, and he says the easiest way would be to trail over what he called Rathdrum Prairie to the southern tip of Pend Oreille Lake and ferry boat over to the mouth of the Clark Fork river on the east side of the lake. The only other way would be to trail clear around the lake sorta followin’ the Northern Pacific Railroad, and he says it would be tough trailin’ as some places there’s hardly any road at all. I’m wonderin’ how these old Montana broncs would enjoy a ferry boat ride, but he’s the one who knows the country.

Well, anyway, we start out early on the seventh of July and those ol’ horses are pleased to be headin’ in the direction of home. Horses are the greatest homebodies there is, and this bunch is sure enough homesick. Miller’s up in the lead and tryin’ to hold ‘em back from a long lope, and I’m bringin’ up the rear. Arthur had decided against loadin’ his saddle on the train tellin’ me Billy Buck just as well wear it home, and that it might come in handy. I’ve got a pack horse with the bed rolls and what little grub we could find around camp anyways. So Billy’s just got the empty saddle on, and he seems pretty content just to keep me company at the tail end.

For the most of the way we’re goin’ through scattered pine trees and passin’ some sorta hard-up lookin’ farms now and then on a county road with fences. Then it’d sorta peter out and the road would just change into two wagon tracks. Anyways, when we’re maybe fifteen or so miles out and in a lane, I see a pretty good bunch of horses in a pasture beside the road, and they come runnin’ over to get a look at our trail herd. There’s somethin’ familiar about the big bay leadin’ the way and, as they get closer, I can see sure as hell it’s our Half Moon horse.

I slow up and so does most of the drag end horses, and I start lookin’ for a gate. It ain’t long ‘til we come to the fence corner, and I ain’t passed any gates, but I’ve got some shoein’ tools on the packhorse. So I reach in under the beds and manage to get my hand on the nippers, and I’ve got a hole in the fence in no time. Half-Moon don’t need no second invites. I just stand aside, and he steps through the hole and soon he’s caught up to the leaders. I break off a piece of wire and splice the top wire back up so the rest of the horses won’t follow and get back on my horse feelin’ better than any time since I been on this trip.

We finally trail through the little town of Rathdrum about mid-afternoon and hit some fairly open grassland where the trees ain’t too thick, and the horses slow down a little and begin grazin’ along. I ride up to where Miller is, and he says we’re probably within ten or fifteen miles of the ferry and, if we can find a field in the next hour or so, maybe we can make arrangements to hold these cayuses overnight. It would sure be better than night herdin.’

We pass another little settlement called Athol, and it ain’t long ‘til we see a nice fenced field with belly-deep grass and there’s not a head of stock in it. A fair lookin’ house is right by the road, so I stop and ask the feller if we could buy a night’s pasture, and it seems to just please ‘im no end to accomodate us. In fact nothin’ would do, but after gettin’ the horses taken care of, that we come in and have supper with ‘im and his missus. They’re glad to hear all about the rodeo, and Miller and I bed down in their little barn that night and have breakfast with them in the morning. I ask ‘im what we owe him, and he says not a dime, but I manage to slip three dollars under my breakfast plate.

We get a good early start cause the feller tells us the ferry usually makes the first trip at about ten o’clock, and lettin’ the horses do a little lopin’ we make it in plenty of time. I sure ain’t much impressed by the looks of the boat. It’s more like a big barge with a little house with a big stove pipe sittin’ on one end of it. There's a fair railin’ around the edges, but it ain’t near high enough to hold a bronc should he decide on takin’ a swim.

The ferry boat feller says he don’t haul too many loose livestock, but guesses he won’t have any trouble. It’s a pretty good sized outfit, and he figures he can take all of us over in two loads. I ask ‘im how much it’ll be seein’ how we ain’t exactly flush, and he says twelve dollars a trip. This ain’t gonna leave me with much money, but there ain’t too many choices now.

It’s a cinch that Miller’s gonna have to go over on the first trip since the ferryman says there ain’t no more corrals or anything on that end more than there is on this end. He’ll have to keep the bunch together until I get over on the second trip. Loadin’ ‘em sure ain’t gonna be a snap. The boat's tied up to a pier that juts out into the lake a ways, and he’s got a big ramp that crosses over to his boat that he says will hold a four-horse team and wagon. Trouble is there’s no fences or way to crowd ‘im to get ‘em started either out on the pier or up on the boat either.

I catch one of Arthur’s gentle horses and ask the ferryman to see if he’ll lead out. Miller and me crowd ‘em up as close as we can on the bank, and the ferryman starts out with the gentle horse. I’m really surprised how easy loadin’ turned out. Miller and I quit pushin' when it looked like we had about half of ‘em on the pier and onto the boat. Worst trouble was we got a few too many on, and they were a little crowded for space. The ferryman thinks they’ll be okay, but it didn’t turn out to be the case.

There was a little island stickin’ up about two or three hundred yards from shore and, when they passed it, some of these old ponies decides it looks better than the boat and start bailin’ off. I’m plumb helpless to do anything, but Miller gets to the place they’re jumpin’ the rail and gets it stopped, but not before five head have got off and swum to the island.

Things seem to quiet down after this, and the boat’s soon around the bend and outta sight leavin’ me wonderin’ how in the hell to get those five head off that island by myself. I finally figger I’m gonna have to trust the rest of the bunch to graze around while I swim a horse out to the island to see what I can do. I remember Arthur tellin’ me one time about what a helluva swimmer Billy Buck is, so when the rest of the bunch has got to grazin’ pretty good, I switch saddles and start ol’ Billy off.

Theres a nice little sandy beach runs forty or fifty yards or so on both sides of the pier, so I just ride down the beach into the water. Seems like ol’ Billy’s got it figured out. He’s a big horse and swims strong and high and the seat of my saddle stays dry all the way to the island, which makes it a little more pleasant.

The island is mostly covered with thick timber with just a little beach where the horses are. Gettin’ ‘em back into the water turns out to be pretty tough, but I’m lucky in findin’ a narrow place on the beach where a dead fall tree is reachin’ across to the water. Crowdin’ ‘em up and whirlin’ my rope I finally get ‘em all back in the lake. I’ll have to say it might have been impossible on much less of a horse than the old buckskin. He was so quick, seemed like he could head off two of these broncs at the same time. The rest of the bunch has stayed pretty well together while we were takin’ our swim, so now it’s just a case of waitin’ for the boat.

The main problem gittin’ the rest of them aboard turns out to be the same five head that sure ain’t exactly lookin’ forward to another boat ride. With me to crowd and the ferry boat feller leadin’, we manage to get ‘em aboard, except that one of the island horses gets by Billy Buck just as we’re gettin’ onto the pier.

After the rest of them’s on the boat and the gate's shut, I go back and rope the one that got by me, and ol’ Billy boards him pretty easy. The boat ain’t as crowded this time, and I just keep this one outlaw anchored to ol’ Billy, and we make the trip without any problems. We get unloaded and join up with Miller and his bunch and head up the Clark Fork.

We’re another three days makin’ it to the Flathead, but ever'thing goes pretty easy from there on. It’s sure good to see Janey and the kids, and it's only a matter of two or three more days of gettin’ horses put back where the belong, and I’m out of the rodeo business for good.

If we’d had two more crowds like the first day, Arthur’d come out pretty good. As it was, I didn’t get all of what he owed me for more’n a year, and I don’t think he ever did any more rodeo producin’ either. For that matter I’ve never heard nothin’ about a Spokane rodeo since ours. One things for sure, the Pendleton Roundup folks had nothin’ to worry about from Spokane.

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