by Joe McCarter (In His Father's Voice)

William Senter McCarter on his horse, White Eagle
Will on Whitey circa 1910

Most ever'body who's been around horses has a favorite that they'll remember better'n all the others they've rode or worked. There'll be things about a certain horse that make 'im and you jibe so special that you'll never forget.

You'd sometimes see fellers go crazy over some ol' horse most others wouldn't give a damn for, and this'd mark them as not knowin' too much about either horses or buckarooin'.

They'd take ever' opportunity that'd come up to brag up their pet, and it'd sometimes get so bad you'd hafta turn away and cough in your sleeve to keep from laughin'. But still, I guess ever'body's entitled to at least one pet horse and most buckaroo's have had a good one.

The good horse didn't need you braggin' 'im up much round a cow camp with all the fellers watchin' and gradin' each other's horses. If he was good enough, the other riders would do it for you. It was nice havin' guys braggin' up one of your string, 'specially when you was ridin' with other outfits on a big roundup.

I've rode horses of all kinds all my life, many of 'em good and a few damn good, but the horse I always remember was ol' Whitey. I'd named him White Eagle at first, but this was a little fancy for me, and I soon shortened it out.

He was a horse raised by the Walker outfit than ran horses all over the country north of and between Mountain Home and Glenns Ferry. He was a five-year-old when I first seen him, and he was already damn near white. Grey horses usually whiten up as they age, but he was almost white enough to have been an albino altho' neither eye was glassy.

He was just a nice-sized, nice-lookin', well put together horse. He had all kinds of life, but never got silly. I weighed 'im once on the railroad scales at Mountain Home. He was hardened in good, not packin' anything extra, and he weighed 1040. He tended to be just a little rangy, but his back was probably shorter than the length of his legs would show. It was the way he carried himself that made 'im ketch ever'body's eye. He could walk a blue streak and was always just watchin' and knew ever'thing that was goin' on.

Walker's foreman showed up at the Diamond camp early one fall with 'im and five or six other good lookin' geldings tailed together, all a little better than green broke, wantin' to do some tradin'. He hit our camp at a good time cause Lee Barber was there. Lee was, of course, T.C. Catlin's foreman and the only man amongst us who could trade in or out of the cavy.

Johnny, the foreman, and ol' Lee chewed the rag most of the day with Johnny showin' his colts, and most of them had a pretty good rein and none showed any buck. But then he was the best at showin' green horses I ever seen.

Lee wound up with three head of the Walker horses, one of them bein' Whitey. He'd took my eye right from the start, and I was real pleased listenin' in on the arguin' because Lee had saved him for last and wound up tradin' one of the best horses outta my string and ten dollars to boot for 'im.

Usually, this woulda meant I'd get the horse back in my string, but Lee was quick to tell me that he himself wanted the white horse from the first and would take him down to the valley with 'im the next day. The horse had took ever'body's eye by just the way he moved and his good looks. I've always wondered afterwards why the Walkers let 'im go.

Lee and me seldom seen things the same way, and the longer I stayed with the outfit, the more often it seemed like he'd go out of his way to get at me. But anyway, I asked 'im what I was s'posed to do for another horse with the fall ridin' just startin' big and me short one of my best. He said they'd be bringin' up some broke colts of our own from the valley and that I could have first pick outta this bunch. I didn't much like it cause I really wanted the white horse, but there wasn't much I could say, and I knew there'd be some good colts in the bunch he was talkin' about. This sure wasn't the end of Lee and me and Whitey, though.

Sure enough, he left the next morning, but I noticed he was leading the white horse instead of ridin' 'im. Lee wasn't takin' any chances on gettin' bucked off in front of his crew. Lee knew a lot about the cow business, but he wasn't a first class rider and generally stayed away from anything that might show some buck.

We did hear later that he'd bucked 'im off the first time he tried 'im out. This usually meant one of us would have got 'im, but since it woulda been me, he kept 'im down at the ranch. If he got on 'im again, we never heard about it.

It was midwinter before I got another look at the white horse. Another feller and me had spent the first part of the winter camped out west of Nampa keepin' cattle from driftin' too far down river. We were not ridin' too hard, and we're only keepin' three head of horses apiece in a field Lee had rented from a farmer. Word had come that I was to bring my horses and bed to the Eagle Island headquarters and help with the stock there.

This work was mostly calvin' two-year-old heifers and watching after older cows with late calves that were bein' fed. All in all, it was pretty good work because I stayed in a bunk house and could get cleaned up a lot easier and go to town more often.

There was six or eight fellers around this part of the ranch, most of 'em hay pitchers who fed cattle kept in the fields and did other ranch work. Most of these fellers, for some reason, had come from Missouri and the Diamond buckaroos and even T.C. himself always called ever'one that wasn't a buckaroo a "Missourian."

I'd seen that the white horse was with the ranch cavy when I'd turned in my three head. One mornin' I caught 'im instead of one of my usual. He appeared to be winterin' well and was pretty snorty, so I took my time saddlin' 'im and led 'im around a little before I got on. Even after leadin' 'im, the back of the saddle still lacked about three inches from touchin' the blanket. Old T.C., who was there givin' us directions says, "My, my, Billy, you're pretty brave gettin' on the white horse this mornin'. He's bucked off ever Missourian on the ranch this winter." Afterwards, I found out that all of the feeding crew who wanted a chance to be a buckaroo had been practicin' on 'im.

I stepped on 'im easy and started 'im in a walk around the corral. After makin' a couple of loops walkin' like he was on eggs and not wantin' to break a shell, I worked 'im up to a lope and the saddle's back lowered a little, and I asked a Missourian who'd been watchin' to open the corral gate.

I figgered I could probably ride 'im anyway, but I'd just as soon he didn't buck, and I made sure I didn't encourage it any. I could see right away that he'd had some pretty good breakin' as he was more than just bridle wise and mannerly.

Three of us, includin' T.C., were sortin' a few smaller, heavy heifers out of a big field into a smaller field closer to the buildin's where it was handier to watch 'em. One I'd been pushin' along for a ways all of the sudden, like cows will, took off on the dead run. She was headin' for a fill across one of the sloughs that divided up the Eagle Island headquarters ranch. The fill had a big culvert in it and was really a bridge to git to the rest of this one big field. I'd been easin' along on Whitey up 'til now, but I was gonna need some speed to keep the heifer on the right side of the slough. He was watchin' and it only took a touch of the spurs, and he was doin' his best.

Five or six more heifers had followed the one, and we all got to the fill 'bout the same time with the heifer I wanted leadin' and makin' it a little ahead of me. It looked like we was beat, but here Whitey really surprised me and showed what action and strength could do.

Without even thinkin', or me urgin', he jumped kitty corner about 20 feet from the meadow across water to the other side of the fill. It was pretty soft and muddy where he landed, but he picked himself up and never missed a jump. While the fill was now pretty well crowded with cattle, he managed to get ahead of the one we wanted and turned her back with me doin' very little reinin'. I don't think I ever rode another horse before or since that could have turned that heifer the way he did.

Early that afternoon, when we was through, T.C. rode up beside me and says, "Billy, you and the white horse seem to get along, so why don't you just keep ridin' 'im." He didn't say much more, but I could tell he liked the horse and the way I was ridin' 'im. I figgered, too, that he'd heard about Lee tradin' one of my good horses for 'im, mostly because he wanted 'im for hisself, and then not ridin' 'im.

T.C. was as square a guy to work for as there ever was, and though I always figgered it wouldn't of hurt 'im to have paid a little more, he was always fair and good to me. He'd almost raised Lee Barber. The Barbers had lived neighbors to T.C., and Lee's mother had died when he was just a kid leavin' 'im and several others. Lee had come to stay with the Catlins and sorta grew into the foreman job.

T.C. and his wife had just the one boy, Trude, who'd caught the scarlet fever when he was small and it had effected his mind. He wasn't ever much good, although he did some odds and ends of chores 'round the ranch.

Anyways, as I was sayin', T.C. knew the story and, while not wantin' to make Lee sore, he wanted me ridin' the white horse, which I did and really enjoyed. I rode 'im in the fields what little was left of the winter, and when we started with the wagon long about the middle of March, I just kept 'im in my string and for a while nobody said anything.

For the next two months our wagon, along with two or three smaller outfits, gathered all of our winter range north of the Snake from Marsing to Grand View, first brandin' calves and then slowly pushin' ours over towards Mountain Home. A lot of the older cows this time of year would take small bunches and head for the higher country of the South Boise river, but a lot wouldn't and there was other cattle on the desert that went to the Owyhee mountains and other summer countries, too.

So usually we wound up loose herdin' three or four thousand head of cows and calves, as well as yearling's, two, and three-year-old steers between Orchard and Mountain Home. Then we'd loose-sort ours out and start them up country. Usually, as the herd got smaller and more workable, we'd gather and hold ever'thing close outside of Mountain Home and ever'body'd be there and take theirs to where they'd summer.

Now when several different outfits were workin' together, there'd always be one feller picked as a range boss. He was usually some older hand that knew the country good. The range boss this particular year was a south-side feller they called Scotty who I really wasn't much acquainted with. I was surprised, when the after gettin' the herd pretty well bunched for the last big cut, Scotty rides up by me and says to ride the white horse tomorrow and be one of the cutters.

What this meant was that I would be one of three or four fellers outta thirty or so who would do the sortin' of different brands outta the bunch. Now, this was a real honor and 'specially so for such a young horse. It made my two hour turn at night herdin' early the next mornin' a lot more enjoyable.

This last roundup, so to speak, had got to be a pretty big event. There was usually riders and even some people in buggies come out from Mountain Home to watch the proceedings, so all the buckaroos would ride either their best or worst horse (the latter figgerin' they might put on a little rodeo for the town folks).

Workin' cattle outta a big bunch like that is hard and fussy work and must be done just right. You worked around the edges of the bunch and never, ever, while you was in the bunch let your horse git above a walk. When you'd worked a critter to the edge, they'd usually try to go back. If you was close enough to the edge, you could move a little faster and head 'em. After you was free of the bunch, you could get around as fast as needed.

The riders holdin' on the outside would help some, and when the animal cut out was past 'em, they'd make sure it went into the right cut. These were bunches of the same brand bein' held outside of the main herd. The main thing was to not get the big bunch stirred up because it made things harder for the other cutters and the fellers holdin' on the outside as well.

Whitey could work a wringy steer out the best of any horse I ever rode, and I guess ever'body noticed, because I heard that night that one of the outfits offered ol' Lee two hundred dollars for 'im. I'd knew all spring that my ridin' the horse had eat on ol' Lee, although he never said anything. Of course, he or T.C. had neither one said he could go into my string. So I guess I wasn't too surprised when after we got up to the main Diamond summer camp by Hill City, Lee told me he was takin' the white horse back to the valley with 'im. There wasn't too much I could say, but I argued with 'im some anyway.

Whitey, though, had his own opinion of Lee because he hadn't had 'im back there long, when he bucked ol' Lee off again. This was kinda strange since after that first time I got on 'im he'd never show'd much buck with me. He'd hump around a little first thing in the mornin', but it was mostly play. Once he'd got started, he was like any old broke horse. But I guess he remembered buckin' Lee off the summer before and could tell Lee was scared of 'im and thought it was fun.

Ever'thing sorta repeated itself that coming winter. I wound up helpin' with the cattle kept in, and I asked T.C. right off I could ride the white horse. T.C. was a little edgy about it and thought a little while before he said I could. I rode 'im all winter, and he just seemed to get better. I put 'im in my string when we started out with the wagon and, again, nobody said anything. But as luck would have it, the first week we were out, I crippled him pretty bad.

It'd been a wet winter and there was mud holes in the coulees all over the desert country and some of them could be deep and dangerous. Crossin' what would've been a hard dry wash in a month or two, he bogged bad enough that I had to get off. Flounderin' out he hurt his left shoulder some way. Pulled it, I guess. He wasn't real lame as I rode 'im back to the wagon, but he was limpin' bad the next mornin', and I never rode 'im again for the better part of a year.

I think his bein' lame seemed to Lee like a way to save face. Although he never told me, he told Lou Clark he was goin' to sell 'im, and said if Lou could get a decent offer to go ahead and take it.

Lou ran a little bunch of cows of his own with the Diamond outfit winter and summer. He was the straw boss when Lee wasn't around, and I've often thought later in life that probably T.C. had a deal with 'im to keep an eye on Lee and sorta keep 'im outta serious trouble.

I never did know whether Lee had told Lou not to mention sellin' the horse to me or not, but Lou knew he sure wouldn't be pleased if I wound up with 'im. Anyway, Lou thought the situation over for a day or two and finally told me what Lee had said. I asked Lou how much they wanted, and he said there was nothin' set, but if he got over bein' lame the horse was worth a lotta money.

I was kinda taken aback by the whole deal. I'd never for once doubted the horse'd get over his lameness, although it was takin' longer than I figgered. Afterwards, I figgered out that it was the easiest way of gettin' 'im away from me, and it seemed like that was what Lee was most interested in.

I'd saved a pretty good little stake in spite of only gettin' thirty dollars a month, and I told Lou I'd give 'im a check right now for a hundred dollars, lame or not. Lou thought it over some and finally said he thought that to be a fair price. Ordinary horses were going from thirty to forty dollars at the time. I gave Lou the check, and he wrote out a bill of sale to me on a piece of paper.

It was just in the nick of time for Lee showed up the next day ready to take the horse. He said he had a buyer in Mountain Home and got sore as hell at both Lou and me. He wound up tellin' me to get 'im outta the cavy that very day, that he was sick of lookin' at 'im. That evening I lead 'im over to the old home place and made arrangements with the old man to keep 'im.

Ol' Lee never did really forgive me for the white horse deal. He was odd in lots of different ways, and that summer I begin thinkin' about doin' something different. I'd had a good time workin' for the Diamond outfit. It was one of the biggest in the state and T.C. was specially good to me in many ways, but late the next winter I told Lee I'd work through the spring roundup and quit, and that was the way it worked out.

Funny, but the only time Whitey ever bucked with me was the first time I got on 'im at home. He was runnin' with a bunch of the old man's horses over in the foothills and me and Claude, who was wantin' to get one or two outta the bunch, corraled 'em in a little corral they'd built over by the cemetery.

He was actin' pretty snuffy after the long lay off. When I changed saddles from the one I'd been ridin', I see that the back of it was some distance from the blankets, but this was about the usual. I guess I was a little careless about all the formalities.

When I stepped on 'im, he never wasted a breath and begin to really wind into me. I found out one thing that kinda surprised me. Although I hadn't been real ready, I doubt I could have rode 'im if I had. I lasted about ten or twelve jumps and went off.

I hit the ground harder than I liked and was still sittin' there after Claude had caught 'im and led 'im back up to me. Claude had a pretty good laugh outta it because I'd bragged Whitey up to 'im a good bit. That was the last time he ever bucked with anybody, though there weren't too many other than Claude ever rode 'im much.

One mark of a good horse is doin' whatever you ask of 'im. One time I'd helped two neighbors take a little bunch of beef down to Bliss to ship. There was just the three of us and one of the guy's kids went along to drive a wagon with a camp since it was a two day drive. Ever'thing went along pretty good as the cattle cars were on the sidin' when we got to Bliss early in the afternoon, and by evenin' we had 'im loaded and on their way. Me and the kid camped the second night and started back home early the next morning.

I noticed that one of the team wasn't feelin' too good when I harnessed 'im, and by the time we got to Clover Creek I could see somethin' was gonna haft to be done. I'd been drivin' the wagon and leadin' Whitey and the other two horses.

Sizin' it all up, I unhooked the team. The one horse was now almost down with what appeared to be the colic. I threw his harness on ol' Whitey, and he was pretty surprised. It took a lotta adjustin' to take up the harness so it fit at all and, of course, the collar was way big, but he took it all better than I expected. Pullin' the hill outta Clover Creek, he held up his end as good as any old work horse.

I rode Whitey for many years and done about ever'thing off of 'im that a feller can do. Later the shoulder begin to bother 'im some, so I didn't take 'im to Montana. When we got back, he had died there on the ranch.

Back to Dad's Stories