My Early Years: Essays by an Idaho Cowboy
by William Senter McCarter (1887-1977)
Will on White Eagle
At the age of 79, William McCarter sat down with a pencil and spiral notebook and, over the next four years, recorded the events of his youth. He dedicated these "scribblings" to his children as "a memento of their old Dad."
His son, Joe McCarter, writes, "Dad had to have been one of the great story tellers, and he enjoyed recounting old experiences, some humorous, some otherwise, as much as anyone I've ever known. He never forgot how to laugh.
"Horses were his best and favorite subject. For those who never knew Dad, he was a real cowboy. This may not mean a great deal now, but when he was 17 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 being killed by one of these horses. The dead man's "string" was, by necessity, his. He rode this same horse as long as he worked for the Diamond outfit."
"Just Like a Glacier"
The place was Flathead Reservation, Montana – the year 1919. We had been trying wheat farming. There hadn't been a crop that amounted to anything raised since '16. Everybody was broke, but we had got used to it and had some fun out if it.
One evening my wife had a big dinner fixed up, and we had two of the neighbor families and a prospector by the name of Bert Wring over to break the monotony. They wouldn't allow any prospecting in the reservation before it was opened for settlement. There was quite a lot of quartz cropping out in the hills, so as soon as the reservation was opened, the prospectors came in.
This fellow Wring was no ordinary guy. He had prospected everywhere – Alaska, Mexico, South Africa and was quite interesting to talk to. He had wintered in Boise one winter that I had been around there.
We were all setting around the table talking about what a wonderful place this would be to be from, when Bert spoke up and says to me, "Billy, I can't see how come you left a place like the Boise valley and wound up in a place like this."
"Well," I says, "Bert, I never lived in Boise valley. I was working for wages there. I was raised about 80 or 100 miles east of Boise."
Bert studied for a while then says, "Where were you from, Hailey?"
I says, "Thirty or 40 miles west of Hailey."
He says, "You don't mean to tell me you was raised on that godforsaken place they call Camas prairie do you?"
I says, "Yes, that was where I was raised."
He says, "No wonder you are here. I wouldn't be surprised to see you in Alaska farming one of them glaciers." Then he went on to tell this story.
"In the spring of '92 or '93 I wanted to get to Rocky Bar because the mining was dying down in the Salmon river country. I had wintered at Challis so the last of March I took off afoot, of coarse, with a little pack on my back and made it to Hailey all right.
"Laid over there a day or so and got in contact with the fellow that carried the mail to Soldier. We left Hailey the next morning, early. He had some kind of a sled. We got along very well till we got over the hill and hit this so called Camas prairie. There the wind was blowing and the snow was going with it. They stuck willows in the snow so they could tell where the road was. When they snowed under, they stuck up some more.
"We finally come to a ranch and changed horses there and made it on to Soldier. There was maybe a couple dozen people there and a store, hotel, and feed barn. I didn't stay there long. They had diphtheria there, and I sure didn't want to get tangled up with that. I was lucky enough to get a ride with a fellow that had stayed the night there at the hotel. He lived 15 or 20 miles west and was going home. I stayed with them folks overnight. They were a German family (the Traders).
"The snow was three or four feet deep, and there was no sign of a road showing. The young fellow drawed me a map to guide me to Louse creek and down that to the Boise river, but I would be on my own. I took off next morning with my pack and a lunch that the lady had fixed for me for the 20 mile hike to the Boise river."
At this time one of the other fellow says, "Now Bert, ain't you getting a little out of line? You were going to wade three feet of snow and hike 20 miles?"
"Wade nothing," says Bert, "you could walk on top of it. It was just like a glacier."
If Bert had been a couple of months later in crossing Camas, he probably wouldn't of thought it was so godforsaken. When it had greened up, there was grass everywhere in the hills as well as on the flat. There was no sagebrush on the prairie in them days, and settlements only along the creeks.
Camas prairie was surely a cow's paradise for summer range. I have heard old-timers tell of trailing their beef cattle to Soda Springs to ship them east in what must have been in the late '70s or the early '80s, for Hailey had a railroad in '83.
So into the '80s the prairie was commencing to be the summer range for cattle and horses from the Boise valley to the west, the Wood river on the east, and Snake river on the south.
Among the first (if not the first) to use the prairie was Wheeler and Sockman with their home ranch on Canyon creek, a few miles north and west of Mountain Home [see maps].
Then came Hutchins and Moore of the old muleshoe brand with their home ranch on an island in the Snake river, south of Mountain Home. Their summer camp was on Corral creek on a school section joining the present highway on the south. Their foreman was Frank Bown. They ran cattle until the late '90s and sold out to a Montana outfit.
There was O.P. Jonston's home ranch in the Hagerman valley and summer camp at what was later known as the pole corrals on the east end of the prairie.
Bill Black from the Wood river had a summer camp on Elk creek. Phil Ditto, also from the Wood river or Spring creek, had a summer camp on Willow creek. Ditto, in later years, moved his cattle up Willow creek and into the Smokey country and had Forest Reserve rights which was later turned over to the farmers on the prairie.
Then going west along the south edge of the prairie from the pole corrals, we would come to Davis flat. There, Davis of Clover creek had his summer camp. Dean Perkins rode for Davis for several years. Radamacher, also from Clover creek, ran cattle on the prairie, but I don't remember where he camped.
Then on west to Monument gulch, there was the camp of Billy Wilson. His home ranch was on Cold Spring creek. Also on Cold Spring creek was Stanfield and the Walker boys. The Walkers had bought Stanfield out ranch, cattle, and everything but in the last settlement, the Walkers kept the ranch and Stanfield shipped the cattle to Oregon. Their summer camp was the nicest camp on the prairie with some big springs that flowed on and spread out over a big meadow which stayed green until late fall. Dan Hice rode for this outfit.
Then there was Bill Blackman who also had a ranch in the Cold Springs area. I don't remember just where he had his camp, but I do remember his buckaroo Jimmy Armalagy. Blackman was a bachelor and very close, but once or twice a year he would get on a drunk, but it was always out of a bottle. He didn't throw his money away in saloons.
One time Blackman took Jimmy back to Omaha with him. Them days the railroad gave the shipper, or the man in charge, a pass and also passes for his helpers. There was one man for every two cars, but they wanted the head man to keep these passes and to identify his men at the end of each division and turn in their passes to get a ticket for their return. Anyway, Blackman got mad at Jimmy in Omaha and wouldn't get him a ticket back. He was going to get rid of Jimmy.
When Blackman got back to Mountain Home, he figured he had a celebration coming. He didn't go out to the ranch for a few days, and when he did, Jimmy was there to greet him. He had beat his way back and was known thereafter as Hobo Jimmy. I don't think Blackman ever fired Jimmy again.
On Moores flat there is a big spring and down the creek that flows from it, Fin Yearian of Boise valley had a camp. His brand was the two stripe, which he later sold to Fred and Tom Wilson, also of the Boise valley. Edgar Joplin was Yearian's buckaroo.
Then, to the east of Moores flat, Daileys had a camp. They were also from the Boise valley. In 1905, they trailed their cattle to Alberta, Canada, and their camp went to a fellow by the name of Parkins. He ran a dairy close to Boise and at one time furnished Boise with most of its milk. He used to bring a bunch of young jerseys up there in the summer and finally fenced a lot of the country. He eventually got a deed to the land that is still known as the old Parkin's place.
Then later on, Sumner and Falk had a camp on Hunter creek and Rosco Snider had a camp in Sheep basin.
Now we'll come over the hill to the old diamond camp owned by T.C. Catlin of the Boise valley. It was one of the biggest, if not the largest, cow outfits to run on the prairie. However, his range wasn't altogether on the prairie. His range started just east of the Little Camas, and he never had many cattle get east of Corral creek. He counted his cattle up into the thousands, and I don't believe anybody ever, including himself, knew just how many cattle he really had.
Then on south to the Cove (west and little north of Hill City) there was an awful nice place for a camp that had a big spring and had been fenced. Bill Palmer, who usually run a ranch herd out of the Boise valley, camped there, but Catlin's outfit would fix the fence and use the pasture when gathering beef. In later years, when the country was settling up, Miss Bessie Laird filed on the land and proved up on it. Incidentally, Bessie was the writer's last school teacher.
The Pollards, also of the Boise valley, had a camp on Chicken creek north of the old Trader place. Then there was McMahon, also of the Boise valley, who had a camp just west of Three Mile on the creek that bares his name today.
I shouldn't miss the Ake camp on Nigger creek. Frank Ake was a banker in Mountain Home. His home ranch was on Canyon creek part of the Wheeler and Sockman ranch.
Then there was Dutch John who had a camp in the Moores flat neighborhood and wintered in the Mountain Home area in the rye grass country. He didn't feed but very little.
He wouldn't buy himself any clothes. He always wore heavy brogan shoes and rockford socks that were always down around his shoe tops. In the fall, he'd wear an old pair of secondhand chaps that were about eight inches too short on him and some kind of old canvas coat. Anyhow, he saved his money.
John, being an old bachelor, finally sent off and got him a mail order woman. A bartender in one of the saloons where John went in to get a beer once in awhile liked to kid John. John liked him pretty well, so he told this fellow he had sent for this woman, and that she would be coming in a few days.
The bartender says, "How you going to tell which is the right lady? There may be half a dozen women get off the train."
John says, "We got that all fixed. She will have a little piece of blue ribbon pinned on her coat, and I will have a piece pinned on my coat."
So the day finally arrived for the gal to appear, and ever bartender and hoodlum in town (and some from the country) was there to meet the train with a piece of blue ribbon pinned on his coat.
When the train finally pulled in, the gal got off and sized up the situation as some of the boys, along with John, began to close around her. She walked through the most of them and grabbed a big, nice-looking young fellow and give him a kiss on the jaw and says, "Dear, I knew you was the one."
This fellow was quite a bashful sort of fellow, and it really got his goat as the rest of them began to cheer her on. John couldn't talk nothing but German, and I guess it was just as well that nobody could understand what he said.
Anyway, they finally got it all straightened out and got them married and had a big dance, and John took his bride home to his shack down in the rye grass. But they didn't live happily ever afterward. They had one child, a girl, and then got a divorce. She married some other fellow there in Mountain Home.
John would always come up to his camp during roundup time. He had a good string of horses that he had got from some fellow over in Bruneau. But when it come to cutting his cattle out of the herd, the roundup boss wouldn't let him in. His cattle were wild and hard to handle, and he would tear the herd all to hell.
The boss would tell him, "Go over there and get either Jess Hailey or Bill McCarter to cut your stuff."
So John would take around the herd till he came to one of us and would start cussing the boss and say, "Will you cut my cattle out?" We would usually make him trade horses with us to save our own. But if we was riding one of our top horses, we wouldn't want John on him.
I remember one time when we were rounding up the Moores flat country, the roundup boss told John to take a couple of men and ride the country from Louse creek down the river to Wild Cat canyon. So John took Jess and I to ride.
This Wild Cat canyon has a dead end. You can't get out of it at the top. You have to take everything down to the Boise river, then up the river and up Louse creek.
We had found quite a bunch of cattle and were coming up Louse creek. The weather was hot (it was the beef roundup in August) and the cattle were brushing up on us pretty bad. I was leading John's horse, and he was down in the brush afoot.
There was a couple of bulls fighting up on the hillside, both big bulls. Finally, one thought he'd had enough, and he broke away right down the hill with the other one hooking him in the rear. John stepped out from a bunch of brush right square in front of them. The lead bull hit him and, somehow, John was under the bull's neck and up against his chest. The bull carried him down the hill for 50 or more yards, and then they both ran over him. I thought that would be the last of John, but no, he picked up his hat and went back in the brush scaring cattle out.
In two or three years after John got a divorce, he sent off and got him another wife. Everybody said she was a real lady, a trained nurse. Shortly after they were married, John had rode up to town to get his mail. As he was riding out of town, the wind blew a piece of paper under his horse, and he bucked him off, and John hit the ground pretty hard. The doctor took him home and told him to stay in bed several days. But that wasn't for John. He got out the next day and started to fix some fence. He got wet in a shower and caught pneumonia and died. The story goes that he left an estate of 150,000 dollars half to his wife and the other half to the daughter by his first wife.
Well that is all for Dutch John. I don't know why I have carried on so much about him, unless it is that we had so much fun with him. He was always in some kind of a mess. Sometimes with a little of our help, but usually all on his own.
In the '80s, Camas prairie was a part of Alturas county [see map] which embraced Elmore, Gooding, Lincoln, Jerome, Minidoka, Blaine, Camas, and parts of Butte, Custer, Bingham, and Power. In these early days, Rocky Bar was the county seat of Alturas and had a lot of mining going on. Freighters hauled all the supplies from Kelton, Utah and all come through (or most anyway) Camas prairie.
The fine natural pasture land of the prairie was known far and wide. The freighters would lay over a few days and let their horses or mules rest up and put on a few pounds of flesh. The caravans of emigrants headed for Oregon would also stop for a few days to let their stock rest up.
The freighters would usually travel together in groups of three or four outfits. Each team had 16 to 20 head of horses (all were jerk lines) with two or three loaded wagons and a lighter wagon behind with grain and the camp. Each outfit would have a helper along for brakeman, etc.
The stage line from Kelton, Utah to Boise also passed through the prairie going both ways ever day. The stage from Hailey met this main line at Timmerman hill and forded the Wood river at the Stanton Crossing the same as the freight wagons had to. There was one of the main stage stations on Poison creek, and I have an idea there are some of the old remains still there.
(I have no records of the following, but take it from old-timers' tales.) Anyway, some enterprising fellow figured these people, especially the freighters, would be getting dry and started a saloon on Nigger creek which is a few miles north and west of Hill City. This was a pretty wild place for three or four years. There were two men buried on Grave creek (just a little ways east of Nigger creek) that died with their boots on. Whether they were killed at the saloon or was emigrants, I don't know. I do know there is the grave of a little girl by the lava butte on Corral creek that died from an emigrant train in the '80s.
Among others that liked to take advantage of the prairie's fine grazing during the '90s were the Oregon horsemen. Almost every summer they would trail large herds of horses (1,000 or more) east to Nebraska and Kansas to sell to farmers. They would lay over for a week or ten days to rest up and let the horses fill up and would trade horses. The cowboys would usually hold their own in the trades, but the farmers would usually get skinned. I remember one instance very well.
McGowan, a farmer on Corral creek, bought a horse for his boy George who was about 12 or 13 years old. They told him he would make a good kid horse, and they would bring him up and tie him in the barn and, for several days, there he was. The old man and the boy couldn't get in the barn with him, let alone lead him out to water. They tied a bucket on a pole to water him.
Bill Skyles, a young fellow whose folks lived five or six miles west, heard about the deal. He had worked for some of the cow outfits and was a pretty good hand with horses and a good rider. He came down and got the horse out of the barn and saddled him up and rode him.
Bill was about 18 or 19 years old and had never went to school much, but wanted to. So he made a deal with McGowan. If he would board him and let him go to school, Bill would ride the horse to school every day and maybe get him broke. It was only about a mile to the old log schoolhouse on Corral creek, where we had three months of school in the winter.
Bill was in the third grade and would ride the horse up there every morning. When he would get on him when school was out, the old horse would buck and bawl around the schoolhouse and finally take off down the road in a run. Bill finally traded the boy a nice little bay mare for the old bawling horse.
When someone found some gold at Thunder mountain, I believe in '99 or 1900, there was quite a stampede to get there. Bill Skyles and his brother-in-law and another fellow took off for there and got killed in a snow slide. Their bodies were not found until the next summer.
As the prairie was beginning to settle up, the main worry of the cowpunchers was who was going to roll up the wire after the homesteaders pulled out. We didn't think they would ever make it, but they did, and in a few years there were wheat fields waving in the wind as the grass had 15 or 20 years before.
The first main settlements were along the creeks such as Soldier, Corral, Willow, and Chimney [see map]. In 1892, the grasshoppers ran most of the settlers off the prairie, although a few of them hung on [see article].
Prior to 1900, the farmers' main market was the mining camps in the Smokies, Rocky Bar, and Atlanta. There was a market for vegetables, oats for horse feed, and, in the fall, pork and dressed beef although not too much beef, for the rustlers could furnish beef cheaper than the farmers.
In later years, I had a good many talks with Johnny Baxter about the early days. He tells about coming to the prairie for the first time as a scout for the army in 1877. He came from the south and ran into this lake [the Malad, now Camas creek] late in the afternoon. He said it looked miles wide, and he didn't know how deep. His horse was tired, so he camped and came on the next morning and didn't get in water over his horses knees.
The Malad heads in what is now Elmore county and runs east. After entering Camas county, it spreads out and forms a lake of high water over several sections of land, usually till about the 1st of July. The part of the Malad known as the swamp lays south of Hill City and some west and east of the same. This was a great hog pasture in the early days. Someone would take the hog herding job and hogs would come from as far as Wood river and Clover creek. They would usually stay in the swamp until September.
As the prairie later was named the Bread Basket of southern Idaho, this swamp should have been named the Hay Basket during the grasshopper siege in the '90s, especially for the people on Corral creek and west, and also to some of them from the Fir Grove settlement.
After the water went down, and as soon as the ground dried out a bit, then haying started. There was lots of grass meadows with very little Camas or weeds, and that was where we made hay. One wouldn't think that would have been possible with hundreds of cattle, horses, and hogs roaming the country, but after the hay was cut, they never bothered it. Neither did the Indians that came to dig Camas. Although the Indians did complain about the hogs taking their Camas.
Johnny says that a good many people thought that in the treaty with the Indian, they were to have Camas prairie but that the word Camas in the old documents started with the letter K and that some clerk got the word Kansas instead of Kamas. When the governor could find no Kansas prairie on the map it was stricken off. I do know that all the old Indians such as Mayor Jim White Bear and others always insisted that the prairie was theirs.
In 1883 there was a battle between cowboys and Indians just west of Butte (about a mile or so west of Hill City and south of the highway). At least one white man and maybe two are buried there. If any Indians were killed, they took their dead with them when they left.
In 1880, Johnny tells of delivering a bunch of beef steers to the army or cavalry that was camped east and a little north of where the town of Soldier sprang up. As Johnny was heading back west, and was traveling a little late to get to where he wanted to camp for the night, he saw a fire in the distance and something out of the ordinary, like a screen or something behind it. Anyway, he camped and went on the next morning.
When he got to where the fire was, it was the new stage station going up. The fire had been at the east end of the building, and the newly peeled logs had reflected the blaze.
This was Charley Babington's station for the stage from Hailey to Boise on Corral creek, about three-quarters of a mile east of where the town of Corral sprung up. This is the same log house that is the home of Jimmie Babington son of Charles.
At Thanksgiving 1881, they gave a dance at this station the first dance ever given on Camas prairie. There were 11 ladies and 40 gentlemen.
Some of the early settlers (starting at the west end) were the Sweeds that homesteaded on the head of the Malad Johnson and Nelson (partners), Iric and Magnes Anderson (brothers), and Charley and Otto Johnson (also brothers). The Malcomsons and Olsens came a while after.
Also on the west end were the Burkharts, Roberts, Hopkins, Mousers, Osburns, Hicks, and Davises.
There was a schoolhouse at the south side of the butte where Hill City now stands. Several children went there for a few turns, but several of the settlers pulled out and never proved up on their homesteads.
Then up to the foothills on the north side of the prairie there were the Traders, the John Skyles, and Cas Arnold.
On Chimney creek there were the Grants, the Fletchers, Andy Bowerman, Jim Bowerman and his son Chet, the Burnetts, and the Hobdeys. About a mile east of the Hobdeys, Green Boardman proved up on a homestead. He had come to the prairie as a trapper and later got into the sheep business. Bob Clark had a homestead adjoining Boardman on the east. He also was an early day trapper.
On Corral creek the settlers were (starting at the upper end on the west fork) the three Carter boys, the Wilsons and the Jonas. Tom Carter was the farthest up the creek. He was a carpenter and built several of the first settlers' houses. He was killed from being thrown from a wagon loaded with lumber that he was hauling from Mountain Home to finish the Trader house. Tom hadn't proved up on his homestead, so Teen Harness took over his place.
Charley Harmon filed on the east fork of Corral creek and Marty Davis filed where the two forks came together. He later sold this to Koontz and went down to homestead in the swamp.
Joe Jones filed on a half section at the Hot Springs and sold the upper 160 to Mank. Mank later sold it to Wondershack. My dad bought a 320 acre relinquishment (160 timber culture and 160 homestead) from Hicks who also went down and homesteaded in the swamp.
Further down Corral creek were the McGowans, Kromeris, Babingtons, Heddens, and Clark who ran a store and the post office. Ed Gibbons had a homestead down at the Malad and a water right out of Corral creek, but didn't get much water only in very wet seasons.
The first town on the prairie was started at Peck's and called Crichton. A townsite was laid out in 1884 and, at one time, consisted of a general merchandise store run by D.C. Daugherty, a hotel, a blacksmith shop, and a post office.
In 1892 Daugherty moved his store to Soldier, close to where the road came out of the hills from the Smokey country where there was a lot of mining going on. The post office discontinued in '94 and Crichton became a ghost town.
William Phinney opened a blacksmith shop in Soldier shortly after Daugherty moved there, and Bashford started another store known as the Pioneer Store. Cap Boyce put up a hotel, livery, and feed barn. So Soldier was the main town on the prairie until the railroad came in 1911.
In about 1905, about three-quarters of a mile west of the Babington stage station, the little town of Corral began to show signs of life which consisted of a little store and post office, and a saloon and feed barn owned by H.L. Clark. Finch also put up a hotel and feed barn.
Harrison and Hale bought Clark out and rented the saloon to Cap Homer. Joe Jones put in a good line of groceries and also some farm machinery and a hotel. In about a year, Clark put up another store across the street and Cas Arnold another saloon. So Corral was on its way.
Corral got its name from the creek which was named by Hutchins and Moore of the muleshoe. I don't know just when they started in the cow business, but it was probably in the later '70s. They had a camp on the creek about one-half mile south of where the highway crosses at the present time. This is a school section which Lloyd Barron has now.
They built a house and a lot of good corrals and had about half of it fenced to hold the cattle in while they were gathering. When they would get what they wanted cut out of the roundup, the boss would have the boys take them to the "corral creek" pasture and that is how the creek got its name.
Anyway, along came a salesman who wanted to establish a creamery at Corral. They put up a nice little building and he made a go of it. The old-timers were the main subscribers. In the deal the salesman would send a butter-maker and the subscribers was to pay him 100 dollars a month. So everything worked out very well. The fellow they sent was a good butter-maker, but the trouble was getting it to market with a team and wagon in hot weather. The fellow they got the next year was just out of college and didn't turn out very well, so they closed it down. The building stood there for a year or two and was moved to Soldier and didn't have much better success there.
In 1900, the Bell Telephone put a line through the prairie from Hailey to Boise. But it wasn't finished till 1901. This made it better, especially in regard to sickness. The people up to that time had to get a doctor from Hailey. Someone would have to ride to Hailey and the doctor would drive out with team and buggy. The round trip would take 12 to 14 hours to Corral. But it was about the same time that Dr. Higgs came to Soldier.
The coming of the railroad in 1911 was hard on the old towns. Soldier and Corral were both missed by over a mile. Corral struggled along for a couple of years or so with the post office and a pool hall. Harrison and Hall had went broke and left. Clark had become an alcoholic and didn't live long. Cas Arnold moved his building to Hill City. Cap Homer also moved to Hill City. Joe Jones was shot to death by Ben Higgs in Soldier.
About the time Corral was being moved away or torn down, Amon Wilson bought the land and built a house and other buildings right where the town set. Some of the buildings were moved down to the railroad, and the store and post office was run by John May and his wife.
The town of Hill City had begun to take life even before the railroad ever got there. Hill City was first called Prairie City, but when they tried to get the name recorded, they found there already was a Prairie City in Idaho, so they changed to Hill City.
I don't remember just when the railroad came in, but I believe they drove the golden spike either in August or September 1912. So Hill City became a town at the end of the railroad with two or three good stores, a pool hall, grain elevators, and good farm land all around.
By this time, the sheep had begun to pore into the country. No longer could the settlers cut hay along the creeks in the open country, or did the bunch grass wave in the wind on the hills as the sagebrush had begun to show up.
Hill City got to be the biggest sheep shipping station in Idaho. It shipped a trail load a day during June of the 1920s and for a while in the '30s.
Trailing all these sheep into these corrals, and the ewes back out, didn't do the country any good and just about put the cow outfits out of business in the country north and west of Hill City. This had been the center of the range for Catlin and Ake and other Boise valley outfits.
But Hill City wasn't to last very long. I don't know just what happened to make it become almost a ghost town. I haven't been there for quite a while, but I think there is a store and post office and grain elevator and the railroad, but not very many trains. But that seems the way of this world. Build up and tear down.
Growing Up on Corral Creek
In 1886 my dad came out from Virginia. He had a brother, Jim, here in Idaho that had come a few years before during the mining boom. Jim had located a claim in the Smokey country. He called it the Tyrannus. I remember all of us (that is in the family) going over to his mine when I was probably four or five years old. What I remember most was that he had a Chinaman cook and several other men working there.
Jim had also filed on a homestead in the Wood river valley which is now part of the old Bill Black place. Him and a fellow by the name of Charley Davis had been prospecting in Wyoming and had come on to the Wood river excitement. They, of course, traveled ahorseback and had some packhorses. I don't know just what time of the year they landed there, but I remember Uncle Jim telling about them cutting hay with a scythe and stacking it up the best they could to winter the horses. Along towards spring, they finally had to cut down cottonwood trees for the horses to eat the bark.
Anyway, my dad landed in Idaho in 1886 looking for a place to build a home. He finally bought out Hicks on the old place there on Corral creek. Hicks had not proved up, so my dad had to file on the land. Hicks had filed a homestead on what is the Boardman place and built the log house there. He also filed a desert claim on the 160 just east of his homestead and a timber culture on what is our home place. Hicks later gave the Boardman place to Green Boardman for moving the log house over into the timber culture.
My dad also filed a timber culture on the home place and a homestead on the dryland. I can remember when we would move over on the dryland every summer for a few months. He had built a small house there which was later tore down and rebuilt as the kitchen on the home place. In the meantime, he had build another room onto the log house.
After my dad had made the deal with Hicks, he went on back to Virginia and disposed of his property there and the next spring moved to Idaho. As they came through Kansas City, Dad bought some machinery and had it shipped to Bellevue. He bought a wagon and two plows – one 12 inch that they called a half breaker for sod and a 14 inch stubble. Of course both were foot-burners or walking plows. There was no riding plows in them days. The breaking plow would lay the furrow over and not break the sod from one end of the field to the other. The other would lay the dirt over very nice in old ground but was not good in sod.
He also had shipped a grain drill and a harrow. The drill didn't take too much of a swath (two horses would handle it) and the harrow was the same. He had also bought two sets of harnesses and a saddle with a horn six inches or more across at the top and a very low cantle and buckle stirrup leathers. But he rode that old saddle for years, in fact, as long as he ever rode.
Dad bought a team of mules from William McCann (Jim McCann's father). Later on, he bought a team of good big mares from a prospector that placer mined along the Snake river in the wintertime and prospected in the hills in the summer. He would come up to our place in the spring with team and wagon and leave his wagon and pack his horses and go in the hills. But one spring, he never got away from the place. He took down with the spotted fever and died and was the first person buried in the Corral cemetery. This was before I can remember.
I don't know how Dad got the folks and his other stuff moved out from Bellevue. It may have been that he came out on the stage bringing his saddle and got the mules, as one of them was a good saddle animal, and hitched them onto his new wagon and moved out there that way.
I remember Mother telling about when they stopped for noon by a little stream of the nicest clear water she had ever seen. After they had eat their lunch, she walked up the stream a ways, and there was a dead sheep in it. Anyway they got out to Corral creek and moved into the old log house. I was born there the eleventh of November 1887.
During the first several years, the times were bad with the grasshoppers and crickets. Oats was the best cash crop because there was always a sale for them in the mining camps such as Rocky Bar and Atlanta. But oats were the main target for the hoppers. A swarm of them would light in an oat field in the forenoon, and by sundown they would have every oat cut off at the stem and laying on the ground.
The hoppers were so thick on the ground that I can remember us kids would run down the road and could grab handfuls of them as they flew up in front of us. The team of mules would fight them about as bad as the horses would fight the nose flies later on. [See this newspaper story on how neighboring communities came to the aid of the Prairie's farmers.]
After the grasshoppers had worked us over for a few years, then came the crickets. I remember a bunch that was coming into our field from the east. Most of the land in the east forty – on the other side of the Hot creek – was still in sagebrush. We all got out there with tin pans or cow bells, anything we could find to make a racket, and we finally turned them back. There wasn't as much cold water run into the Hot creek then as there is now days, so when the crickets hit the creek lots of them drowned or scalded. So many of them perished in the hot water that, for a week or two, it had an awful smell.
About the first thing I can remember was the school teacher, Miss Helen Daugherty, taking me to school with her now and then. I think I was three years or would be four soon. I can remember laying on a bench in the fore part of the schoolhouse and going to sleep.
The schoolhouse was only a quarter of a mile from our house on our land [see map]. It must have been the same fall that my dad had Tom Carter build an addition to the log house. That was how come Mother could board the school teacher as she did several times thereafter.
My school days wasn't too many. It was during the disastrous grasshopper years. The school year was only three months – December, January, and February. We also had interchange with the Chimney creek district. Any of the Chimney creek kids could come to the Corral creek school in the winter, and the Corral creek kids could go to the Chimney creek school in the summer.
The folks sent Card and me over to the Chimney school three different summers, I believe it was, and we hated ever minute of it. To get to this school, Card and I rode our old standby horse named Camas – a great old palomino pony. That was our first introduction to Mrs. John May, as you children will remember. When we went to school to her, her name was Miss Alley. She also taught in Mountain Home.
The school at Chimney creek started two weeks before the Mountain Home school was out, so she sent a young high school grad to teach the first two weeks. Her name was Miss Turner – a very nice-looking girl and a very good teacher. Us kids all loved her. When Miss Turner left, the girls all cried, and I think the boys eyes were a little wet. The morale was very low the beginning of the third week when Miss Alley rang the bell, and it lasted through most of the term. However, Miss Alley turned out to be a pretty good-old girl. She was courting Green Boardman (a sheepman who made his headquarters on a 160 that joined our place on the west), and she finally landed him.
One other teacher I remember was a woman named Dee Weston. I don't think either of us learned much there.
My first teacher at Corral creek school was Miss Helen Daugherty and my second was John May. This was a summer school. The next, I believe, was Clay Waldren. The pupils were Joe Babington; Pearl and Edith Combs; Ollie, Sal, Siddie, and Clarence Hedden; Manda and Della Kromeri; Jim, Dave, and George McGowan; our own clan – Orla, Sallie and myself; Arthur, Ethel, Ida, Victor, and Harry Hicks; and Frank and Minnie Wondershack.
The grades them days was designated by the reader. When you got to the fifth reader, you was supposed to be about the top, and you was supposed to be able to take Algebra and so forth. It was a long time before I got there.
Our next teacher must have been Andy Carson. He was an old Virginian and, I believe, a brother to Mrs. Meg Perkins, wife of old W.Y. Then our next was a Mrs. Chester from Atlanta. Poor woman had more than her hands full. She had more pupils than had ever been there before.
There was a young one from most every family on the creek, although the Combs girls only came the one term and, I believe, Joe Babington and Jim McGowan had dropped out. So that left my brother Card, Joe Hedden, Albert Wondershack, Mamie Kromeri, Orla Hicks, and two new ones from up the creek – Bob and Clara Lansing. The Lansings were both in the upper grades and very nice kids. The teacher had a daughter Ruburta – a very nice girl one or two readers ahead of me.
Next was a girl from Bellevue and a dud. The school was not much that winter, although they had lengthened the term to six months, I believe it was. But our next teacher was a Miss Harnett. I don't know where she was from, but there was a real teacher. The kids had to get their lessons done, and she had good order. The next was Miss Helen Daugherty again. She also was a good teacher. The next was Dewitt Higgs, who later became our doctor along with his bother Ayer. Both were very good doctors.
The last teacher I had was Bessie Laird, a girl from Nebraska. She had been a neighbor of Jesse Carey who had bought the Hot Springs place. She was a very good teacher and would have probably got me through the eighth grade, but I left school and home and went with some other guys out to Mountain Home to seek a job.
In the fall of '98 or maybe '99, little Charley Babington was hauling fruit from the Boise valley and peddling it around the neighborhood. My folks thought it would be a good idea to send me along with him with a team and wagon to get winter apples and other fruit for canning.
When I got down to Charley's, he wasn't ready to start, but he said if I would help him, we would start at noon and go to Little Camas for the night [see map]. So that was what we did.
We spent the next night at Indian creek and the next day we pulled into south Boise about noon and ran into Lew and Sal Hedden. They were picking apples there. We didn't load up where they were working.
Instead, we all went over to town that afternoon. Sal and me got on the streetcar and went up to the Natatorium and took a swim. Then we went back to town and just looked things over, which wasn't much of a job them days.
We camped there in the orchard. The next morning we started picking what fruit we wanted and took some that was already picked and got ready to pull out the next morning. While we were getting supplies, I heard a familiar voice. I stepped out of the trees and, sure enough, there was Ray Williams asking if he could stay overnight. The owner didn't seem too interested about the proposition. Ray was an orphan boy. He stayed at the Cas Arnold place about a mile or a little more south of the Chimney creek schoolhouse.
Ray was traveling on a bicycle. He had been some kind of a messenger boy at Caldwell. He had on good clothes and a bundle tied on his wheel and was headed for the prairie to help Fred Burnett feed a bunch of cattle down in the swamp through the winter. So we took him in.
As we were pulling up Bennet creek the next day there was a cold wind, so Ray said he believed he would get on his bike and go on ahead and wait for us at Dixie.
There was a stage station about half way up the Dixie hill. As we came down (Charley was some ways ahead of me), a fellow came out and stopped me wanting to know if I knew anything about a boy coming down the hill on a bicycle. I, of course, told him yes. He had been away from the station, and when he returned, this boy was laying along side of the road – plum knocked out. He picked him up and had him laying on a bed in the station. When I went in and commenced to talk to him, Ray began to come out of it. He said the bike got the best of him and throwed him. Anyway, we loaded his bike back on the wagon and came on over to Little Camas and camped there that night.
When we got out our grub box, there wasn't anything much left in it but salt and pepper and a little piece of bacon. I thought maybe Charley would suggest we eat over at the house or buy something out of the store – maybe a few spuds – but Charley says, "No, we got lots of grub."
The store was run by ex-senator Jeremiah Bailey. It seems Charley had asked before what spuds were worth, and Bailey told him he didn't know what they was worth, but he sold them for four cents a pound (spuds them days was usually about seventy-five cents a hundred, or maybe one cent a pound).
Anyway, Charley got a bucket of apples out of the wagon and after frying some bacon, he dumped the sliced apples in and fried them, and they sure tasted good. That was the first fried applies I had ever eaten.
We, of course, got home that day. Ray quit me as we came along close to Burnett's (Harry Kunkle's now). I never saw much of him for several years. He had got to working tending sheep for the Skillern outfit on the south side of the Snake out from Bruneau some miles. In this same area, Kitty Wilkens had some corrals for corralling horses right near a good spring. She tried to protect the country around the corrals for their saddle horses while they were gathering the range horses. (She was the horse queen of Idaho – probably didn't know how many horses she had).
When Ray pulled a camp into this spring, Kitty's foreman Joe Pellissier, looking over the range and so forth, seen it and told Ray to have it out of there by the next day. Ray didn't get out, and the next day when Joe came riding up around the corrals, Ray up and about killed Joe right on the spot. At the trial with the Sheep Association's lawyer and so forth, Ray came clear, although they did bar him from working with the sheep anymore but gave him the job of trapping and poisoning coyotes.
I never saw much of Ray afterwards, but I remember seeing him once on the road west of Corral. He had been trapping wild horses over in the Laid Low Park country. He was riding one and leading one with a pack that wasn't much to brag about.
We used to cut hay down in the swamp. My dad had bought 166 acres in the swamp (south and east of Hill City) from a fellow with quite a family of boys by the name of Osborn. They had lived there long enough to prove up. It had a log cabin that must have been 40 feet long and had three rooms and a good well, so we had a place to camp. But the next year, someone stole all the lumber, windows, and doors out of it. They must have done it in the late fall. Anyway, when we pulled down there to hay, we had to camp outside as usual.
The country was all open them days. I always enjoyed camping and making hay down there, especially in the mornings. There were lots of cattle run there, and the old bulls would get up early and start sending their calls, and they would get answered from all directions, and then the cranes would start their songs.
We would rake the hay up into big shocks, and when we thought we had enough would start hauling it home. Or sometimes we would stack it down there and O.J. would go and batch in the old Hicks house and feed it out.
One time O.J. wasn't down there, but Dad, Card and I were doing pretty well. We had quite a lot of hay in the shock, and some that wasn't, when it commenced to rain. The next morning there was two inches of snow on the ground. It was the third day of July, so we came home and the next day went down to Soldier to celebrate the fourth.
Card and I went down ahorseback. As we came out the lane there at home, we saw a boy over at the Hot Springs go out to the barn and get on a horse. He caught up with us before we got very far. He says, "You boys going to the celebration?" We told him we were. He says, "Maybe I could go along with you." We told him sure.
He was a clean nice-looking boy, a year or two older than I was. He said they had come up from Boise. His dad was taking baths in the hot water for whatever ailed him. He said his name was Wister. I have often wondered, and do yet, if his dad wasn't the Wister that wrote the book The Virginian, as he was supposed to have done his writing in Boise.
In the fall of 1902, my dad took a trip over into the Wood river country to buy hay, as we had begun to get more cattle than we could rustle hay for. He wound up buying at Carey on the Little Wood.
The next spring he and Orla bought the place that he had got the hay on, and he loaded all the machinery he could get on what we called the big wagon and started me to Carey. The roads were soft and muddy with some snow yet in places. I hadn't drove four horses much and got stuck just west of the Pearson place, about four and a half miles east of Soldier. I didn't know what to do and was there two or three hours until George Peck came along. He says, "What's the matter sonny? You stuck?"
I says, "I sure am."
He says, "Your horses balky?" I told him that they wasn't but hadn't been worked all winter and was a little cold-shouldered.
He says, "You watch my team, and I'll give them a try." He got up on the wagon, gathered up the lines, and spoke to them, and they pulled her out. He was a teamster.
He wanted to know where I was headed, and I told him my story. He says, "You had better stay at my place tonight. When you get there, unhitch your team and put them in the barn. I'll be back in a couple of hours."
When he got back, I had a campfire and was cooking my supper. He wanted me to come in the house and eat with them. I wouldn't go in – too many girls there. I was up and pulled out before they were stirring around. I nooned at Rock creek. There was nobody living there at that time.
As you leave Rock creek going east to Poverty flat and across the bridge on Wood river, there is quite a little range of hills to cross. As I pulled up near the top of the road, where it makes a turn to the right under the brow of a ridge, there was a snow drift I knew I couldn't possibly get through.
I was pretty scared and sized up the situation for quite a little while. There was only one thing to do – take off straight down the hill (which was pretty steep) and across the draw (where there was a little stream of water) and see if I could get over onto the next ridge. I was afraid I'd bog down in the draw and if I didn't, could I pull up the hill back to the road? Anyway, I had to try it. I had a good wheel team that I knew would hold back all they could, and my brakes were good.
So off I took down the hill and across the draw. It took me quite awhile to get back on the road, but I made it on over to Poverty flat and camped that night at an old fellow's place. He let me have hay and turn my horses in his corral. He had a few head of cattle and was having trouble with his calves coming with goiters and choking to death. A few others around the country had the same trouble, but I don't remember of us having any trouble that way.
The next day I got to Carey without a mishap. There was plenty of work to do, because most of the place was still in sagebrush mostly higher than a man's head. What was cleared was seeded to hay, and O.J. and I cleared what more we could and put it in grain and a half acre in potatoes. We shoveled ditches and made some new ones.
We, of course, had to batch, and O.J. was one of the world's worst cooks. The log cabin was the only building on the place and chuck full of bed bugs. When the weather got warm, we had to move out and sleep outside. There was a good well and good water, and we burned sagebrush for wood.
Along in the latter part of May, we took off with the team and some running gears of a wagon up into the Muldoon country to get some timber for a derrick to stack the hay with. It was about 25 or 30 miles away. We forded the river over to the west side, to a gulch they called the Hi Five. It had quite a lot of fir timber, but we had to hunt for quite a while, but finally found some that would do. We got it cut along about sundown and went back to the wagon.
We had hobbled the horses and turned them loose. There was good feed and they hadn't got very far. We brought them back to the wagon, gave them a feed of oats, tied them up over night, cooked supper, and rolled out our beds. Got up early the next morning and turned them loose for a couple of hours then harnessed them while they were eating another feed of grain. We had to drag our timber quite a ways. We got it drug out and loaded and headed out about ten o'clock.
Everything went alright until we were coming down across Muldoon flat and spotted a big rattlesnake alongside the road. O.J. says, "Let's kill him." We couldn't find a rock or a thing to smash him with, so O.J. got hold of a piece of bark hanging down from one of the logs and peeled it along the log for a ways and broke it off. He had a strip probably about ten feet long. So he pops the old snake with that. The snake started to rattle and our team did too. They took down the road for a ways and then off to the west.
They had got about a quarter of a mile away from us, when they came to this draw that ran west to the river. On the north edge of this draw was a rim rock, about four or five feet high. When they hit this rim, over they went. When the hind wheels went over, they couldn't get to the ground because of two or three logs that were probably 30 feet long. The weight of our load had been two-thirds on the rear axle. Anyway, when the ends of them logs hit the ground, it stopped the runaway. In fact it stopped everything. The team couldn't pull it off, try as hard as they could.
We sure hated to unload them long logs, so we finally decided to loosen our rear binding chain and let the rear wheels to the ground. We carried rocks and built up under the wheels, so, when the weight came on them, they would roll to the front and give the team a little help. We also took the back binding chain and put it on the front to keep the logs from pulling out.
So everything was ready. O.J. picked up the lines and spoke to the team. Everything started to move a little, and when the hind wheels came off the rocks, it give them a start, and they kept it moving until they were up onto solid ground. O.J. stopped them, and we rebound our load. We vowed that if there were any more rattlesnakes along the road, we wouldn't pay them any attention.
Everything went along all right for a while. We got the derrick built and the first cutting of hay up. O.J. took a team and went over to the prairie to help put the hay up there, while I was to irrigate there at Carey. I got along very well for a few days, then my water begun to fall off. I went over to see Simpson, who lived just west of us about a quarter of a mile. He said he would see what he could do, although he had his own irrigating to do and was also helping someone else.
Mrs. Simpson came out to where we were talking and asked me if I was feeling all right. She says, "You don't look like you are feeling too good." I told her I was all right, but I wasn't. I had dysentery.
I never got out of bed alongside of the hay stack the next day. But the next morning, Mrs. Simpson sent their oldest boy, Ray, to see how I was and if it wasn't all right to bring me back with him. I sure hated to go over with him, but I hadn't eat any for a couple of days and was really sicker than I knew.
Anyway, Mrs. Simpson took me in and give me medicine. She put me to bed with hot cloths on my stomach, and it really brought me out of it. I was there for two or three days. When I was leaving, she asked me what I was going to do. I told her I thought I would get on a horse and go back to the prairie and tell O.J. to come and tend his farm. She says, "You do that."
The next morning I caught a bay horse that O.J. had traded for that spring. He was a pretty good horse but mean to get on. I rode him home that day and was sure tired that evening. I hadn't eaten anything since morning and not too much then.
I asked Mother where Orla was. She said he was with several other young people who had gone over to Red Fish lake for an outing. About then my dad came in and said, "What you doing back here?" I told him about the water situation.
He says, "You get back over there and see if you can't do something about it." I didn't go back for a couple days, as I had lost all interest in Carey. I had only been there two or three days when O.J. showed up and started giving me hell about things. So, I saddled a horse and pulled out again.
When I came back from Carey, I didn't do anything much for a while. Then one day Fred Koontz and I was riding up the road from Corral and met a fellow, a man probably 35 or 40. He stopped us and says, "You boys live around here?" We told him we did, and he says, "These are my horses here in this pasture (that was the old McGowan and then Hobdey place), and I want to take them to the railroad in a few days and would like to hire you boys to help me take them down." We said we would – that was just what we would like to do.
His name was Abe Wertz, and he had bought the last of the old FF horses and had some more in different brands – about 200 head in all. He had been running horses all summer. Stover Mink had been helping him some, as his brothers had traded for some horses on the range that belonged to a fellow named Carter Edwards.
In a few days the morning came to start with the horses. Four of us – Wertz, Stover, Fred and I – took them down across the Malad and up the trail to the top of the divide at the east end of Davis mountain.
There is a basin, or quite a flat, there where the head of the east fork of Clover creek heads. There, we held them up. There was pretty good feed, and they all started to graze. Wertz told Fred and me to watch them and let them quiet down. He and Stover was going up on Davis mountain and get a bunch up there that they had never been able to corral. There was one bay gelding who led the bunch that was hard to handle.
Wertz says to me, "You are riding a pretty good horse. You see them three trails coming off the mountain through the rim rock?" I told him I did.
He says, "In about an hour, or a little over, you go up and get close to the highest one where it breaks over the rim. But get out of sight, because when this bunch hits here, that bay horse will try to double back and come back up one of the other trails. We will be right behind them and head him off at the two lower trails. So keep a good watch and, as soon as they break over the hill, don't lose any time getting to that other trail, because he's fast and when he sees this bunch of horses here, he'll know something is up."
I got up to my station and hadn't been there long, when here they come. That horse leading the rest tried just what Wertz said he would. He tried all the trails. I guess he had done it before, maybe several times.
After we got him in the bunch, Wertz said he was going to take the lead, and for Stover and me to take each side and for Fred to bring up the rear. Mine and Stover's orders was to stay even with this bay horse. If he worked up towards the lead, we was to work up the same way and the same if he worked back. So we started them off on a long trot back down across the Malad and up across the prairie to the Walker cow camp.
We put the horses in a well fenced pasture and stayed all night with Charley Walker. We started out the next morning the same way and were in the Glenns Ferry stock yards quite awhile before sundown.
There were several Indians camped around there and they came right over when they seen the horses. We did have a few Indian ponies, and they spotted them right away and would point them out and say, "Him my horse."
Wertz would kid them along, "Where you get a good horse like that? Maybe him no lead. How you get 'em?"
"Yaw, him lead. Me get 'em."
So after quite a powwow Wertz would tell us to catch 'em and sure enough, they would lead. They were the regular Indian ponies, weighed about 800 or 850, but would carry a big fat Indian all day.
The next trouble was the cars wasn't there and didn't come until the second day. Wertz stayed close to the yards. I think he slept there by the gate. Whether he had a bed, or not, I don't know. Anyway, the next afternoon we turned the main bunch out to water at the river but not the bay gelding. Wertz said he would swim the river and probably take some more with him. We left three or four in the corral with him and did the same the next day before noon. The cars finally came a little after noon. So we loaded them and away they went for somewhere in Nebraska. We stayed another night there in the Ferry and came home the next day.
In the spring of 1904, about the middle of March, a bunch of us left school and came out to Mountain Home to get jobs lambing with the sheepmen. In this bunch was Dee Miller, Fred Koontz, Clarence Hedden, Cliff Carpenter, and myself. This Carpenter kid was an orphan. He had been staying with his grandparents who had moved into a vacant house on Three Mile creek, but he had stayed most of the winter with us there at home.
When we left the Corral settlement, Arthur Hobdey took us up as far as Trader's with a team and sleigh, and from there on it was skis. Clarence Hedden had a big bed, or anyway it was heavy, so he had made a sled to haul it on. Cliff and I took turns with him for the privilege of sleeping in it.
We got to Little Camas the first day and stayed at a ranch south of Bailey's store. The next morning we took off for that low divide at the foot of Bennet mountain (the range of hills that lays between Little Camas and Dixie) [see map]. I don't remember where we got rid of Clarence's bed, but we got it on the stage, and it was at Finch's barn when we got to Mountain Home. Anyway, we got over the hill and came out on the road again on Bennet creek and were still in snow.
About four or five miles down the creek was the old Johnny-Behind-the-Rocks place. He had taken up land there along the creek and had leaned boards up against a big rock alongside the road.
He had seen us coming, and when we got near, he came out and hailed us. "Come in boys. Come in and have a cup of tea." We did, and it tasted pretty good.
I believe Johnny was the dirtiest man I ever saw. I don't believe he had ever washed his face in years, but he had a big heart. He must have been of Irish or Scotch descent, because his name (I learned several years after) was McCune. When he got sick, they took him to the hospital and give him a bath the first thing, and he died the same night, poor old fellar.
After Johnny's place, we went on down the creek a mile or so and had to leave our skis, for it was mostly mud from then on. We stuck them up on end in the willows and, as far as I know, they are still there. We took off at a pretty good gait. Seemed good to be on bare ground in through the Devil's Dive, Sagehen flat, Toll Gate and down Rattlesnake creek.
When we got within a couple miles of Mountain Home, a fellow came along with four good-looking horses and an empty wagon and asked us to climb in. His name was White, and he had taken a load of coal out to somebody. We didn't hesitate to get in. Our feet had been picking up mud for quite a ways, and his wagon wheels was doing the same. There were a lot of freighters with headquarters in Mountain Home, and some of them wouldn't have let you climb on their wagons under any consideration.
When we got into Mountain Home, there were lots of guys there looking for a job, so Miller and Koontz took the train to Glenns Ferry. I think it was about the second day, when I was walking by a blacksmith shop, someone hollered at me to come in. It was Neil Cheever. He had been working there all winter. He quizzed me about what I was doing here. I told him my story. He said, "Just what I expected. If you get low on money, drop in."
It was later that day that the three of us was standing on the sidewalk, when a fellow stopped and says, "You boys look like you have come out of the snow." We told him we had.
"Can you handle skis?" We all said we could.
He said, "I have the mail contract from here to Atlanta and one of my men that carries from Rocky Bar to Atlanta got hurt. I need a man to take his place. The wages are good – three dollars a day and twenty-four cents a pound for anything you carry besides the mail."
Cliff says, "I'll take it." And that was that. I tried to talk him out of it. Poor kid only had a dollar when we left home. I had five dollars and had paid for his last meal or two. We were only eating once a day. Could get a good meal for twenty-five cents. I had maybe a couple dollars left, but wasn't feeling too bad.
Anyway, Cliff took the job. I never saw him but once after that, and he passes me right on by. Don't know what ever became of him.
The next day I was walking around out in the outskirts and ran into Charley Porter. He had moved from the prairie a year or two before and was running a kind of haywire freight outfit there in Mountain Home. Before that he had homesteaded what is now the east 160 of the old Collis place. He had, of course, known our family for several years.
He says, "You one of the boys that come down from the prairie?" I says, "Yes."
He says, "You looking for a job lambing?" I told him I was.
He says, "Come go along with me. I'm just going to see a fellow about hauling his wool, and he wanted to take a man out as he went."
I went with him, and we met this fellow. His name was Satanen, and he was a Finlander. After Porter had given me a great recommend, the fellow says, "Yes, I take you out." I asked him when he would be going. He said, "Not for another day or two. Have lots of things to do. Going to take a big load out. See me tomorrow at Finch's barn." I told him I didn't have a bed. He says, "I fix you up."
So Satanen and I finally pull out early one morning. He had a heavy load and four pretty good horses. Everything went all right till we got to the ferry across the Snake. As he pulled off the board on the far side there was a drop of a foot or so, and when the front wheels went off, the axle broke. The ferry man let him take the axle, wheels and all, from a wagon of his. It was quite a job to get it done, but we made it and pulled on over to Bruneau and stayed all night there.
The next morning we went in the general store and bought me a bed and pulled out again and stayed the next night at the Joe Black ranch. Black ran quite a lot of cattle and used to be a good roper. He competed at Boise fairs and won a good deal of the time. It was either Joe Black or Jesse Hailey (the dad of the boys I worked with later) that always won the roping contest.
It started to rain that afternoon, and we got to the headquarters camp awhile after dark. The next morning, after jacking up his partner for bringing out a kid to herd sheep, Satanen's partner, old Honga, packed up a horse with my bed on top and started up the canyon. Honga was a hard old customer. Him and Satanen were brothers-in-law – had married sisters. They had been in the Klondikes during the big gold stampede. Had made a little money and came to Idaho to get into the sheep business.
Anyway, we started up the canyon with him riding and leading the pack horse, and me following along behind. This was what they called Shoo Fly creek. We went up the creek about a mile and took off on a side gulch. When we got to the top, the country leveled off and didn't look so bad.
When we got out on this flat a ways, the pack horse took off bucking and got away from Honga. He had a set of tent poles and some groceries, besides my bed, on him. The horse got the poles loose and, when the end of one pole hit the ground, the other end ran through my bed. It ripped a hole about two feet long in the tarp and poked a hole in one of the quilts. Before we got straightened up, here come an old Basco. His sheep was just over a ridge. Old Honga told me to take over the sheep. He was taking the Basco with him and would leave my bed and the grub at the camp down in the canyon.
So my first day as a sheepherder started. I had about 1,000 head of old ewes, some yearlings and bucks, and no dog. Anyway, I stuck it out for about ten days, when someone came and told me to start down on the other side of the canyon for the corrals there at headquarters. I was sure glad (and was gladder still) when them sheep went into the corral. They was to be dipped the next day. The outfit was quarantined there and couldn't leave that country [see map]. They had to dip, shear, and then dip them again.
I don't know where they got all the shearers, but they had quite a crew. Most of them was pretty fast. Got more than 100 a day. They would talk about working on north – winding up in northern Montana. It was two weeks or more before they were through with the whole rigmarole, and when they dipped the last band, the lambs had started to come.
When it come time to run my bunch out, old Honga told me I could stay there and work in the corrals. Some other fellow had sooner herd. I was sure glad.
There was a kid about my age, Jim Goldman, that had been working at the corrals that had stayed on too. Him and I used to scuffle around, as kids do, until old Honga would get after us. "Stop. Stop." he would holler at us. "You play and laugh around here. You never saw any hard times. You all foolish."
The evening they turned my bunch out with the other herder, I walked up to where my camp was and got my bed and carried it down to the corrals. They put me to picking up the ewes with lambs that had strung out from the corral. I would work them along until I got a few head, four or five, or so, and would leave them and would go on and start it again. They were moving the whole outfit clear off this country they had been quarantined on.
The first night I came back to the headquarters camp, I had just got there, when here came Honga. He rustled up some lanterns and sent me back to set them out where I had left any sheep.
The next morning I went and carried on as the day before. Had to take some white flags and find a juniper stick to tie them on, to keep the coyotes away. Finally I came to a little stream and got a good drink. I walked up the stream a ways and there was the old Basco's camp. He says, "You hungry?"
I says, "I sure could eat something."
He cooked a pretty good meal, and he showed, the best he could, where I would find the other camp. I started out and finally found it, but thought for a while I was going to have to lay out.
The herder at this other camp told me what the score was. They had throwed the whole works together except the yearlings. I was to help him herd the big band of about 7,000 west. The Basco and another fellow or two would pick up the lambs and put out the flags and lanterns.
This fellow's name was Seagraves. He was a Virginian, who had come from the same parts as my folks and had knew my Uncle Ken Senter and his family. Seems as though he had been an orphan kid. Had worked in the coal mines in North Carolina driving a mule hauling coal out of the mine until he was 15. He made up his mind to get out of there.
To hear him tell it, he got on a freight train and beat his way out to Oregon and finally got a job herding sheep in the western part of the state. From there, he had wound up herding for old Bob Noble in the Owyhee country who, at that time, was the biggest sheepman in Idaho.
From there, Seagraves had wound up with the Finlanders. Had loaned them 2,000 dollars and had quite a role of money in his pocket. He hadn't been to town for over two years. Him and I got along fine.
Seagraves and I had it pretty easy for a while. We would let the old ewes scatter out and feed for three or four hours. The feed was good and they wouldn't move much. Then we would start them to all feeding in the same direction and would leave 40 or 50 lambs and, of course, their mothers. One night something got into a bunch and killed about 20 head of the lambs, regardless of the lanterns. Satanen set a trap the next night and caught a big lynx.
As things went along, our drop band begin to get smaller and Seagraves could handle them alone. I had to go to helping with the lambs, some of which was old enough to mark, etc. We would build a pen out of juniper and sagebrush and get a bunch of about 100 or more and work them. In two or three days, we'd do it again with another bunch.
In the meantime, they had moved Seagraves and the drop band two or three miles to another camp known as the Three Lakes. The lakes were just potholes in the lava that were maybe 200 or 300 yards across. The antelope used to come and water there at night.
I worked at this camp with Seagraves picking up lambs and putting out flags and lanterns. Then I'd go back and help mark. This went on for a few days until there was enough marked and throwed together for a band.
There was quite a lot of lambs over towards this first camp, and the old Basco was left there with them. I was sent over to his camp to help him to get them moved together for some more marking. As I went along, I noticed his lanterns hadn't been taken in or the lights put out. So I gathered them up as I went along. When I got to his camp, there he was with a white cloth wrapped around his head. He had been knocked out.
There had been an old muzzle loading rifle in his camp all spring. I don't know where it came from. He told me the coyotes had been bothering around there in the early mornings. So, he had loaded the old gun with a good charge of powder and had got up early in the morning to blast it off to scare them away. The old gun had evidently had a load in it already, for it had blowed up and cut a big gash from over his eye to over his ear.
He didn't know how long he had been knocked out – whether for just a few hours or for over 24. Anyway, I cleaned his lanterns and filled them and offered to cook him something. But I knew he wouldn't let me cook. He wouldn't let anyone, besides himself, cook in his camp, even old Honga or Satanen.
So I took his lanterns and found most of his sheep and hung them out. He wouldn't let me do any more. He wanted me to stay all night, but I couldn't do that. I told him someone would be over in the morning. When I got to my place of duty, old Honga was there, so I reported the Basco accident to him. He took off first thing in the morning.
So this is the way things went along until we finally wound up with the main camp on Battle creek. Then one morning, as Seagraves and I were getting up (we had our beds in the same locality), he says to me, "Bill I have cause to believe that Jim is lousy. You and him were scuffling around together. You had better examine yourself." And, sure enough, I had 'em.
Old Honga went wild when he found it out – fired Jim right on the spot. He rustled around and found two or three empty coal oil cans and had me cut the tops out of them. "Now," he says, "you boil clothes, bed, everything. Then the next band you take, you go to the hills for the summer."
I says, "No, I don't want to go for the summer. When we get done with this lambing I would like to go back to Bruneau."
"All right," he says, "I go about a week or ten days." And that's the way it was.
When I got back to Bruneau, I struck up an acquaintance with a young fellow about my age named Jim Whitson. He was tending the feed barn that belonged to a fellow by the name of Portlock. Portlock had some horses on the range there somewhere, and someone had stolen one. They had finished the trial the day we got into Bruneau. Portlock had got the horse back and wanted to get him broke, so wanted to know if I wouldn't ride him. I offered to flip heads or tails with Jim. We did, and it fell to me to ride him.
We caught the horse and he was well broke to lead. I could use Portlock's saddle because the stirrups happened to be just about right for me. We saddled him up, and I got on. He turned out to be about half bridle-wise – never done anything. I rode him around the corral a few times. Jim says, "How about if I saddle another horse, and we go for a ride?" So we did.
The next day Jim had to go over to Mountain Home. His folks lived there. So, I took off down the valley to look for a job.
It was about the first of June. I hadn't gone too far, when I stopped at a place, a nice-looking house with a man mowing out in the front. I went out and asked him if he needed a hand. He says, "I sure do." I told him I'd go back up to town and get my bed. He says, "Where is your bed?" I told him at Portlock's feed barn. "Well it's all right. Just leave it there. We have plenty of beds." So I went to work shocking hay.
Them days alfalfa was nearly always shocked by hand with a pitch fork. He didn't have too much hay, and we pitched it on the wagon and pitched it off by hand (no derrick).
This fellow's name was Milt Reynolds. His wife was a nice person and very good-looking. They had just been married and had come from somewhere back east and had bought the place that spring.
He asked me one day where I was from. He says, "Do you know a doctor up there by the name of Higgs?" I told him I had went to school to him before he had ever got to be a doctor. He told me that him and Dee and Ben Higgs had been in the Spanish American War in Cuba together. He had been sergeant of the bunch that Dee and Ben had been in. He said Dee was a good soldier, but he sure had a lot of trouble with Ben.
Later, Reynolds picked up another boy that had pulled out from home back in Minnesota, I believe. He was crippled – had a big ankle. Said it had been broken and was never set. His old dad wouldn't take him to a doctor when it was done.
It sure was hot weather – 115 degrees in the shade one day. I remember I got to having a nose bleed ever once in awhile. I had a nice place to sleep on a screened-in porch in a nice clean bed with sheets and a pillow. One night I woke up, and my nose was bleeding. Had bled all over the pillow and some on the sheets too. I sure hated it. The next morning at breakfast I told them what had happened, and his wife says, "Don't think anything about it. I have lots of pillowcases and sheets."
After we got his hay up, I went up to town and there was quite a commotion. Christenson, that run the store there in Bruneau, had went off his rocks and was running around the country. He had left the store unlocked and had taken the stage to Mountain Home. Everybody said he had been acting queer for several days.
There was no telephone them days, so they decided somebody had better go after him or, anyway, notify the authorities. Some fellow said he would go and says, "Anybody want to go along?" So I told him I would like to go over to Mountain Home if he had room for me and my bed. He says, "I got a whole buckboard. Where is your bed?" I told him it was up at the feed barn.
He says, "Go and roll it up and I'll be there in about 20 minutes." I can't remember that fellow's name and don't believe I ever saw him again after we got to Mountain Home.
Anyway, they found Christenson at Boise in a hotel trying to entertain the people playing a guitar and singing. I never did know how he came out.
About the first fellow I ran into at Mountain Home was old Honga. He says, "Well, now that you got your money all spent, maybe you want to go back and herd sheep this summer?" I told him no – that I would go back up on the prairie after awhile and get a job punching cows. Anyway, he bought me a beer.
Then I ran into Mick Skyres. He was a kid that had beat his way into Hailey a couple years before. He had been dead broke, with hardly enough clothes to cover him. Now he was dressed about the same as me, only he was wearing riding boots, and I had on hobnailed shoes.
He says, "For christ's sake. Have you been herding sheep?"
I says, "Yes. What have you been doing?"
He says, "I been over in the Bruneau country running horses for Kitty Wilkens all spring." Then he says, "We had better go over to a store and change them shoes of yours." So we did. I got me a pair of boots and felt a lot better.
We fooled around town there for two or three days – eat lots of strawberries and cream at a little stand that a woman had fixed up. She had grown her berries and picked them herself every morning and, I expect, milked the cow too. We also hired bicycles and went out to the reservoir about four miles out of town every day and had a good swim. There usually were two or three other guys that would go too.
In the meantime, I had seen Bill Koontz who had a place rented right outside of town. I was going to help him hay. He would have given Mick a job too, but Mick said no. He was going to try and make it ahorseback from then on, and I never seen him again. I asked Mrs. Alf Baldwin a few years ago if she knew whatever became of him. Her dad and Mick were cousins. She said he had been drafted in the First World War and they had never heard from him again.
Fred Koontz and Barney Card came down from the prairie to help Bill get his hay up. I started pitching in the field and blistered my hands the first thing, which was not uncommon. Had bought a pair of gloves of brown color that faded on my hands from sweat, and my right hand began to swell after a few days.
Right after breakfast one morning, Mrs Koontz says, "Let me see that hand of yours." After examining it she says, "You go see a doctor. You could get blood poisoning from that." So I did.
After examining it, the doctor says, "I will have to cut into it." I don't think they had anything them days to deaden any part of you, so he had me lay my arm down on a bench and strapped it down from my elbow down.
He says, "This is so I won't cut more than I want to. It is going to hurt some." He cut a gash in the palm of my hand and the puss came rolling out. Then he took a probe and probed around. He pushed up the skin on the back of my hand and says, "That poison has sure got in there in great shape, but we'll fix it up." Then he squirted something in there to wash it out and bandaged it up and says, "You be back here tomorrow morning."
I went back out to where they were stacking and Barney says, "I'll trade jobs with you." He was driving the team, rolling the hay off the wagons with ropes. Anyway, we finished the job.
I had to stick around town there for a few days on account of this hand. I saw the doctor every morning till he finally told me I could go. He gave me a prescription to get filled at the drug store. He cautioned me to keep it wrapped up and to wash it every day with this medicine in some water and, if it didn't keep on healing, to come right back. I forgot how much he charged me, but it made quite a dent in my little savings.
Barney Card hadn't gone back to the prairie yet. He had been working some place else after Koontz got done. When I seen him on the street, he says, "What you going to do now?" I told him I was going to the prairie the first time I get a chance. He says, "I got a pretty good old horse here, and I'll ride and tie with you."
I says, "Ride and tie? What do you mean?" He says, "We'll start out in the morning. You get on the horse and ride out here four or five miles and tie the horse up. I'll start out walking at the same time, and when I come to the horse I'll get on. When I catch up with you I'll go on four or five miles and tie him up."
I told him I hated to leave my bed. "Hell," he says, "they got lots of beds up there. Leave it over there with Bill." So I did, and we started out the next morning and made it to the prairie that day.
We was just in time to help Dave Harness put up his hay. When we were through with that, I went over to Hugh McMahon's cow camp, on what is still known as McMahon creek, to see if he would need somebody to help him gather beef. He said he sure would.
He was a rugged individual – an old Minnesota logger. We had got pretty well acquainted from riding in the fall gatherings. He could keep the bunch laughing and, when things got serious, he could shut everybody up. So I went to work for Mc. He was one of the best friends I ever had and had been for three or four years before I came out with him.
When we got the beef gathered, we throwed in with the Corral creekers and Fletchers on Chimney creek. When we got to Bellevue, we had to wait two or three days for rail cars that had been ordered for a week or so. When we got ready to load, Mc asked me if I would like to go to Omaha, as he couldn't spare the time. For one thing, he had to get Neil, his boy, down to Boise to school. I can't remember just who all went on that trip to Omaha, but there was three or four of us.
Anyway, I stayed with Mc the rest of the fall and went to the Boise valley with him for the winter. Roy Carey, who's folks had bought the Hot Springs place on Corral creek, drove our camp wagon and cooked on the trip down. Roy was going on to Oregon to work in a saw mill.
Mc had sold his ranch in the valley and would have to buy hay. He didn't have too many cattle – about 300 head. He told me he would give me the job of feeding, if he could find the right set-up. He bought pasture, so we had a place to turn the cattle in.
We pulled the wagon into the pasture, and he left me there for a few days to see that none of the cattle got out (as the fences wasn't too good), while he was getting located for the winter. He had a nice home on Warm Springs avenue there in Boise and, of course, wanted to stay home a few days with his wife and two children.
Anyway, he showed up after four or five days. He had bought hay about three miles north of Meridian. But in the deal the fellow wanted to feed the hay himself as he had a grown son and they wouldn't have much else to do through the winter.
"But," Mc says, "the Barber Lumber Company is putting a dam across the river just about eight miles above town. They want about 300 men, so you can get a job there. I wish you would stay here and go out with me in the spring and stay with me until about the first of August. Then I am going to ship everything, as the prairie is going to settle up and my range will be gone. I'm going to file on some land myself and you had better too."
I says, "If it is going to settle up as fast as you think, I won't have much chance. I'll be 17 years old in just about another week."
"God, Billy," he says, "I thought you was older than that. Well keep your eyes open."
So I went into Boise. There were a lot of men hanging around there on account of the dam. I ran into a fellow by the name of Campbell, who I had got acquainted with at Bruneau the spring before. We hiked up to where they were working to see about a job. They put us right to work driving team.
There were somewhere around 200 head of horses at work at that dam, and there were all kinds of skinners. They sure had some sorry teamsters and a few good ones.
They put me to driving a dump wagon, but that only lasted a few days as the men that owned the team I was driving pulled his horses off the job to work on the railroad grade they was building up to the dam.
The Cook brothers had the best horses on the job – 72 head. They were freighters from Nevada. I stayed until the first part of March when the Cooks pulled out.
So in the spring of 1905, I found myself back in Boise. I was just hanging around for a few days till I ran into McMahon. After we had talked for a while, he says, "There's a fellow down the valley that lives close to where my cattle are. He wants to throw in with us and go to the prairie this summer. His name is Wolfkeil and he has some cattle and is buying more. He wants to hire another man. So if you want to go down and work for him for a month, we will all go out together."
While we were talking, Mc spotted him walking up the street, so he hailed him. "Yes," Wolfkeil says, "I could use you till we go out. Haven't got much to do, but could pay you 20 dollars a month and board." He had bought a pony for his boy that he said I could ride out. He took me over to a sale and trade corral and showed me the pony. I told him I would go over to the Hailey boys' barn on 16th street and get my bridle, saddle, and grip that had been there all winter.
So I went to work for Wolfkeil. If it hadn't been that he was going to throw in with Mc, I believe I would have walked back to town the next morning. His wife had died some time before and there was three children – a boy about 8 or 9, and two younger girls. An old lady in her 70s was trying to do the cooking and raise the children.
Me and the other hired hand slept upstairs on the floor. A bare floor is lots worse to sleep on than the ground, unless you have plenty of something under you. This other hired man was fresh out of Missouri and very wise.
Anyway, we were feeding 300 or 400 head, and the boss was buying more every time there was a sale. He would buy all the cattle, whether they were dairy or range breed.
The month drug along and finally the time come to start the cattle for the prairie. McMahon came down and we got his bunch and turned them with Wolfkeil's overnight. We also brought out Mc's wagon.
Mc told me that morning that I was working for him from there on. We would take turns driving his wagon, which would haul the camp. Wolfkeil would have a wagon to haul calves that would come along on the way and such.
Wolfkeil had a nephew named Charley Murry who had shown up from somewhere, and he was going to drive the other wagon. I don't believe he had ever drove a team before. Wolfkeil also hired his neighbor, Frank Mace, to help drive the cattle. He was a young fellow who was a pretty fair hand.
We started out the next morning. McMahon, Wolfkeil, and Frank were driving the cattle – about 600 or 700 head. Charley and I were driving the wagons.
Right from the start it was a mess. Mc's cattle knew where they were going and took off. But them Wolfkeil cattle (especially them 200 or 300 young stuff he had bought around the country) would crawl through the fences on both sides and would take off any direction. They would have to be chased down afoot mostly.
Anyway, Wolfkeil came back to us fellows on the wagons. He says, "We will have to double up the wagons (trail one wagon behind the other)."
I says, "All right."
Charley began to holler, "I can't drive four horses."
"Well," I says, "I sure can." So that is what we did. They liked to run poor Charley down, chasing them buttermilk doggies.
We got to the New York canal the second night. At least we were out in the open country. We uncoupled Mc's wagon, and he took his team and went to town and stocked up on groceries and so forth.
On a trip like this, the one driving the wagon is supposed to do the cooking. So as soon as it would start to get daylight, I'd roll out and get a fire started or, if I had been on night herd, I would come in and get the other fellows out. They would go out and let the cattle start to graze and scatter out, but not too far. There was always plenty of fire wood or sagebrush, as we would throw a rope around a big bunch of dead brush and drag it in as we come to camp.
The camp wagon's grub box is set in the back end of the wagon. The end gate was taken out and its rods were run through the box which was about four feet high and the same width as the wagon. The box's end gate was fastened at the top and had hinges at the bottom. A leg was fastened to this end gate about three quarters of the way up from the bottom, so when you opened the box from the top, it would make a nice table to work on or set your plate on while you ate.
About the first thing the cook would do was throw the dutch oven and lid on the fire and peel some potatoes. Then he'd get out the sourdough, some flour, and the dough pan and mix up batch of bread. By the time the dough was worked to about the right thickness, the oven would be hot.
Then, throw a little grease in the oven and break the dough up to about biscuit size, dipping the biscuits and turning them greased side up. Repeat this until the oven's full. Then put the cover on and take a shovel and lay some coals to one side and set the oven on them. Lay some coals on top and in a little while you will have some of the best bread you ever eat. After you got the bread started to bake, the next thing was to get the spuds in the frying pan, then make some bacon and coffee.
Mc would get on his horse and go out and let the other fellows come in and eat. They would bring the horses in as they came. We would have a temporary rope corral with one end of the rope tied to the hind wheel of the wagon and to a sagebrush out about 20 feet and then to another sagebrush about 20 or 30 feet at the same angle as the wagon. This way we managed to get hold of our horses anyway.
After these fellows got their breakfast eat, they would lay down and sleep for about two hours. After I had the dishes washed and had everthing cleaned up, I'd get on a horse and ride around the drag end. Mc would be up towards the head end because some of these old cows of his knew where they were going, as they had been on the road before.
Driving the wagon and doing most of the cooking didn't exempt me from night herding. When Mc and I were night herding and daylight started to light up, he would tell me to watch them leaders, and he'd go get the other fellows out and get breakfast started. I was to bring in the horses in an hour or so.
We had been out three or four nights, when Mc says, "There will have to be a change." Mc had been helping me with the cooking and so forth when he could. But sometimes we wouldn't get the dishes washed and so forth until ten o'clock or after and there was night herding the last half of the night. Wolfkeil and Frank had the first half of the night, so that gave us just about two hours sleep. So Mc says, "Tonight, Bill and me will herd all night and tomorrow you fellows can have it all night." So this is the way it went from that time on.
Anyway, we finally got to Bennet creek north of Mountain Home and it just happened to be Wolfkeil and Frank's night to herd. It had been cloudy and storming a little, so we put up the tent the first time since we had been out. Mc and I was congratulating ourselves that we wouldn't have to go out, although we always kept up night horses in case anything happened.
Along after midnight we woke up. We listened a little while and heard Wolfkeil running his horse and hollering and cracking his bullwhip – the very worse thing he could have done. Mc says, "I'll have to get out there. You stay in bed, Bill." As soon as he got out there things quieted down a little.
The next morning they figured we had lost 100 or more cattle. There wasn't any use trying to get them back at this time because they had took off north and there was other cattle scattered all over that country. There were other outfits on the road at the same time. We kept in touch with them, for if we had mixed it would have taken a day to separate. If I remember right, it was about 12 days we were on the road as it was.
Nearly all the cattle that ran on the west end of the prairie, and north of the Malad, came from Boise valley them days. But we got through pretty well except that bad night at Bennet creek.
The cattle traveled better after that, as there was about six inches of snow and they didn't try to graze. We only had a few more days till we would separate the two herds.
The afternoon we got to Grave creek, the bosses decided to let the cattle graze, as the feed was good. We would loose herd them and everybody could get a good night's sleep. The next day we would round them up and cut Mc's out – which we did.
After cutting out his cattle, Mc and I night herded them on the flat that is now covered by the Cow creek reservoir. The next day we brought them on over to Three Mile.
When Mc had started in the cattle business, he had bought 160 acres for a camp and pasture from a crippled fellow by the name of Johney Andregg. There was a two room house on the place which served very well for a camp.
When we got to the prairie, he filed on 320 acres more as a desert claim to be irrigated from two or three springs. So we started building fence. We worked at this till the first part of June when the calf roundup started. Then he sent me up to the west end to pick up the cattle that we had lost that night at Bennet creek.
I stayed with Wolfkeil, who had also bought 160 acres of deeded land that a fellow by the name of Osborn had proved up on. I was up there for two or three weeks and got 60 or 70 head of cattle and held them there in Wolfkeil's pasture. When the roundup was over, Mc came up and we took them to Three Mile with the rest.
Then in the latter part of July we gathered all 4 cattle (Mc's brand). The first part of August we trailed them over to Bellevue and loaded them on the train bound for Omaha and Mc went out of the cow business. We all hated to see him quit.
I don't know whether he knew, but at the time I suspected that he had TB, and about three years later he died of that disease. He was about the best friend I ever had.
A Year in the Life of a Cowboy
There was a dance in Corral the night I got back from trailing Mc's cattle to Bellevue. I, of course, had to go. About the first fellow I ran across was Lee Barber, T.C. Catlin's foreman.
He says, "Did Mc ship everthing?" I told him he did.
He says, "Do you want a job?"
I says, "I sure do."
He told me to come up in the next two or three days, as they were going to start gathering beef. One of his men, Alvan Lalors, had got hurt when a horse fell over backward on him. They had taken him to Boise, to the hospital with a fractured skull, and he may not live.
So I went up to Catlin's camp. I didn't suppose I would last only till they got the beef gathered, but it turned out to be my summer home for the next three or four years. (What follows is a whole year's outline of a cowpuncher's life, or what it was like in the early days.)
Mr. Catlin was an old-timer in Idaho. He ran the biggest outfit in this era. He had been in Idaho City and Coeur d'Alene in the 1860s and had also tried out the Wood river country when the boom was on there. He had also helped clean up a mess where the Indians had massacred an emigrant train in the Nampa area. He was the first to file on land in the Boise valley and the first to take water out of the Boise river. On top of that, he was a very religious man – went to church ever Sunday when he was where he could.
When I got to the diamond camp [see summer range map], they had just finished building a new camp house (16 feet wide and 30 feet long), as the old log cabin had sunk down in the ground till they bumped their heads on the ridge logs. (The diamond was Catlin's brand.)
There were several men at the camp, including Mr. Catlin himself. Most of the men were ranch hands. There were four regular cow hands – Lee Barber, Clark Cox, Arthur Howard, and Lew Clark. I was acquainted with the cow hands, as I had worked with them before during the calf roundups.
When I was a kid my dad always had cattle – not too many, usually from 200 to 300 head, sometimes less. Anyway it was enough till somebody had to represent us at the roundup. I had one older brother who was a hard worker and good on the farm, but he was an awful poor hand on a horse – hated to ride. So I had to be the cowboy and had, after I had rode awhile, two or three pretty good horses. By the time I was 13, the roundup boss would let me in the herd to cut my cows out.
Anyway, when I got to the camp Lew Clark says to me, "How much of a bedroll you got, Bill?"
I says, "Not much – a couple of quilts and a pair of blankets."
He says, "We had better throw in together and sleep out under the trees." So we did and were bunk mates the rest of that summer and the next three.
I don't know just what kind of arrangement Lew had with the Catlin outfit. He had 200 or 300 head of cattle of his own and rode his own horses. I know Catlin thought a lot of Lew. Lew was one of the best cowmen and could handle things better than the foreman, we younger guys always thought. He was the stabilizer in the outfit. If any argument came up, or if Lee started getting after one of us younger guys, Lew would say "now hang onto yourself, boss" and everything would quiet down.
The first morning Lee says, "Bill, you will take Lalors' string. That little brown horse there is the horse that fell over backward with him. He was broke a year ago last spring, and the fellow never had too much trouble with him. He would buck sometimes and fell over with him a time or two, but outside of that he's a pretty good horse. Do you want to try him this morning?"
I says, "Catch him. I'll see if I can ride him."
When we all got saddled up, Lee says, "When you get on him, he won't move. Just let him stand there. We will all start off, and I think he will come too. He will buck some, and you can pull all the leather off your rig if you want, but don't tighten your reins, or he will come over on you."
When they started to ride off, this horse swung his head around and sized me up a time or two. Then he gave one big jump, bucked a few more times, and broke into a run till he caught up. I never tightened them reins or pulled leather either, and I never had any more trouble with him. He never got to be a good cut horse, nor too good a rope horse, but he was a joy to ride to get over the country. In fact, he turned out to be the best walking horse in the cavy.
I should say something about the cavy. Cavy is short for some Mexican word meaning a bunch of saddle horses. One of the main things is to have a good bell mare and, if possible, one with a colt. We had a good one – a little black and white pinto we called Butterfly. She had been the colt of a former bell mare.
When we were at camp, we used rope corrals. They consisted of a one inch rope about 100 feet long. We would tie the rope around a tree or a bunch of willows and would sometimes have to set two or three posts to wrap the rest of the rope around. At one end of the corral was an opening for the gate. The rope was just about high enough to hit the horses just about the breast.
The colts would usually be given a few lessons about the rope corral in a big pole corral. After they had been caught by the front feet and throwed a few times, they had some respect for the rope. As the horses would try to run around the corral, two or three men would grab hold of the rope and would wave it up and down. When the horses come up against this rope, they would nearly always stop. If a horse tried to go over it, the men would try to throw him if they could. The horses soon learned to stop when they got up against it and would all line up against the far side.
Nobody went into the corral to catch his horse. Someone that was good with a rope (in our case, Lee or John Hailey) would ask each man what horses he wanted. He would stand on the outside of the corral with the horses lined up with their heads away from him.
There would be no slinging the rope around over your head. It was just a straight throw. The fellow whose horse was caught would go in and put his bridle or hackamore on him and lead him out.
If the horse that was caught didn't want to turn and come out, the fellow that had rangoed would be standing there on his horse and would take the rope and drag him back. This didn't have to be done very many times until the horse would come, and easy.
The spring and fall roundups usually started at the east end of the diamond range. Of course, there were lots of other cattle there besides Catlin's, so some place would be designated for the representatives of each outfit to meet and elect a foreman of the roundup. There were usually 25 men there.
Sometimes one man would represent a dozen or more brands. Usually a group of farmers would throw their herds (mostly young dairy stuff) together and would pay this good hand so much a head to take them out for the summer. One such fellow was Bill Palmer. He also had a good hand working for him by the name of Harry Maddin.
Anyway, a representative could nominate anyone he wanted to be the boss of the roundup, and sometimes it would get a little warm. Everybody could vote – not just the owners.
After the boss was elected by vote, he would scatter everybody out. He would say, "Jack, you take two men with you and ride such and such." This man then could choose the two men he wanted to go with him. If this man was an old hand, he wouldn't take two other old hands, for he knew the boss would want to send them somewhere else.
We rode no farther than Three Mile on the east and to the Malad on the south. Everthing was brought to just a little west of Corral creek – to where the Herman Miller place is now. I don't know just about how many cattle we would have to work, probably about 1,500 or 2,000 head, and we would also have about 50 or 60 horses in the cavy.
Anyway the roundup would be under way, and about noon there would be cattle coming from every direction. When they were all together, the boss would ride around the herd while we held them. He would tell which men to start cutting out. He would sometimes put some fellow's hired hand in the herd and put the owner to holding what the hand cut out. Lew Clark and Clark Cox cut out the diamonds and Mr. Catlin cut out a few, but didn't last long.
In the fall roundup, we usually cut cows and calves first. These were the calves that had come since the calf roundup in June. There wouldn't be too many of them, probably about 50 or 75. Later, we'd cut the beef which was three-year-old steers.
The next day's roundup would be held just east and a little north of the Mink place on Cow creek. At this place we would get more diamond cattle than at any other gathering.
The third day's gathering would be held at the flat where Nigger creek and Wildhorse come together. The next day we'd meet at Wood creek, which was the first creek west of High prairie. The next day we'd move on to Cat creek, and then we would move north to Moores flat and then east to Hunter creek. That would about wind up the gathering.
Everything would be turned loose after the calves were branded in the spring roundup. But in the fall roundup, the three-year-old steers and dry cows would be cut out and taken to pasture to be shipped later on after the calves were branded.
If we were farther than five or six miles from any corrals, we would brand in the open, which was usually better if there was plenty of help. The cows and calves would be brought in about the middle of the afternoon. Someone would have went on ahead and got a fire started and the dozen or so branding irons in the fire.
The foreman would notice what horses we were riding and would tell two of us that were riding good rope horses to limber up our ropes, and the others would wrestle the calves.
It was quite a job to get the calves mothered up. No calf was let out of the herd without its mother when branding out sick (outside of the corrals).
When you was sure a calf belonged to a certain cow, you'd ketch the calf by the hind legs and drag him out to the fire, and the other fellow would see that the cow came too. One fellow would sit down and grab the calf's hind legs and slip the rope off and another would hold the front end. Then the iron man and the knife man would go to work.
When the calf was branded and marked, then you'd turn them loose away from the herd. We'd usually turn a calf loose one a minute which amounted to 200 or 300 a day. When we were finished, we could go to supper.
During roundup we would butcher a beef and have a cook, as there were usually ten or 12 men. Mr. Catlin would come up and bring a bunch of his farm hands to help wrestle calves from what is now the prison farm on Eagle Island.
As far as food, we had just about the same as everbody had in those days – sourdough bread; beans; potatoes; and canned stuff, mostly corn and tomatoes; cured meat such as ham and bacon; and dried fruit – peaches, apricots and prunes. The dried fruit came in ten pound wooden boxes, and we would have a cold box set in a spring with a good lid to keep the beans, sourdough, and sometimes meat.
Breakfast was before sun up. We would have hot sourdough biscuits; steak, ham, or bacon; fried potatoes; fruit; coffee; and oatmeal or some other kind of cooked cereal. There was no Corn Flakes or Shredded Wheat in them days. Later we usually had a pot of beans, a pot of fruit, and a few biscuits ready. So if someone came along hungry, and in a hurry, he could have a plate of beans.
In that first fall roundup  I worked for Catlin, we cut out about 1,100 head of steers. It had been a dry year – not much snow in the mountains – so the feed and water was getting pretty short in the pasture where we were holding the steers.
Mr. Catlin says to me "Billy, they tell me you are pretty well quartered in Corral creek. Do you suppose we could get some pasture to hold these steers for a few days?"
I told him to see the McGowan boys, Jim and Dave, about it. They were working for the Ake outfit and were at roundup ever day. He talked to them and got some of their pasture.
So the next day he took me down with him to investigate and see about the water. He thought it would do, but he would like to see a little more water in the creek.
He says, "Do the people irrigate out of the creek?" I told him they sure did.
He says, "You know everybody here. How would you like to go up the creek and see if you could get them to turn a little more water down for a few days?" He says, "Your folks live here don't they?" I told him they did.
He says, "Why don't you visit with them overnight and then meet us tomorrow. We will be bringing the steers down here." So that was what we did.
After we put the steers in the McGowan pasture, he says, "We are not going to start these steers to the railroad in Hailey until they ensure us that the cars will be there."
In a few days, he got the word over the telephone that the cars would be there. In the meantime, the water had got a little short where they were, and we took them to the Malad just east of the Gibbons place where they got filled up. We night-herded them and started them out the next morning right across the prairie for Willow creek.
We found plenty of water below the Willow creek ranch and night herded just east of the creek. The next morning Catlin took the lead and headed them up in the hills west of the canyon. He was the only one of us that knew that the first road from Hailey to the prairie came down that way.
We got to the old Gelman place that night and, for 100 dollars, he let us turn them in a pasture of 200 or 300 acres which had been pretty well grazed out. But the boss figured it would be worth it to give them a good night's rest.
The next morning we took them down through Hailey without too much trouble. The stock yards wouldn't hold near all of them, so some of us had to hold them outside, while some loaded. It took us most of the day.
They tallied out at just about 1,100 head and filled up 52 cars. I'll bet there never had been that many three-year-old steers, or that many cattle of any kind, loaded out of Hailey at one time. Mr. Catlin and the foreman went with them, and the rest of us pulled out for camp the next morning and arrived that evening.
Within the next day or two, the farm hands and all, even Lew Clark, took off for the Boise valley. Cox had already gone to Mountain Home with the dry cows. They had been sold to a buyer from the west coast, as had the Ake cattle. So I was left alone with nothing much to do but to look after the cavy.
I made one ride toward the east end, as far as Soldier creek, to pick up a few head of the smaller steers that Catlin had cut out as we had trailed through. Cox was supposed to be back in time to go with me on this ride, but he never showed up. Anyway, I guess I got all of them, as no more showed up in the fall gathering.
I was alone until about the first of October. Once in awhile, one of the fellows from the south side would show up. I remember Charley Glenn came riding into camp one evening. Charley was the son of Gus Glenn who put in and run the ferry across the Snake river in the early days [Glenns Ferry]. His mother was an Indian woman, and he was a good cow hand.
As I was out catching my horse for the next morning, I see Charley riding up to camp, weaving back and forth in the saddle. He was riding for some of the fellows on the south side, and I could see he had been on a celebration.
Charley says, "No use to go, Bill. I just come from Soldier and Corral. Everthing gone to hell. No use to go."
I says, "Get down and stay all night Charley. Are you hungry?"
"No," he says, "not hungry. Just want some tomatoes."
"Well," I says, "get down, and we'll see what we can find."
He finally gets off, but I had to help him to the cabin. I says, "Can I cook you something Charley? I've had my supper."
"No," he says, "just some tomatoes." I opened a can and put a plate and spoon on the table. He never used the plate, just ate out of the can, and when he finished I got him to bed.
When he woke up the next morning he didn't know where he was. He says, "Did that old black b––– bring me up here? He never done that before. He always takes me home." He says, "You working here Bill? Whose camp is this." I told him what camp it was.
He says, "Where's Lee and the rest of the crew?"
I told him where everbody was and says, "You stay in bed for a while. I'm going to rango, and then we'll have breakfast."
I brought in the cavy, turned loose the horse I'd had up all night, and caught another one. The main thing in a cow camp them days was never to turn yourself afoot before breakfast.
I fried some bacon and some potatoes, cooked cereal, and baked some bread. Then I waked Charley up, and we had breakfast. Charley says, "And you caught my horse?"
I says, "No Charley, I turned yours in the pasture with some colts we have here." After I got the dishes washed, I went and got his horse. I tried to get him to stay for a few days, but he wouldn't.
Anyway, the days went by and it was along to the first part of October, when Lee and Cox came in. Cox had been over to Sweet, just where that is I don't know, somewhere over towards Weiser. He had come back by Mountain Home and had run into Lee there.
Lee says, "The cattle have begun to drift west quite a bit. So Bill, I'm going to move you over to Little Camas. If there is anything you would like to see about at Corral, you had better do it today." I told him there wasn't anything for me to see about, but I would like to shoe one more horse. The rest of my string was all shod up.
He says, "All right shoe him up, and I'll get up the wagon team and go to Corral and get some supplies." So, Cox and I shod horses all day. (Cox was a Colorado cow poke. He was a little fellow – didn't weigh over 120 pounds, but was a good buckaroo).
The next morning we separated my string from the rest of the cavy and put together a pack of a teepee tent, part of the rope corral, some grub, my bed, and what few clothes I had. Then Lee and I took off for Little Camas.
At Little Camas there was a wide lane for campers with a camp house on the north side. This was a nice place for the emigrants to stop and rest at for a day or two. The camp was just a building with walls, a roof, and a ground floor so that you could build a fire and cook. On the south side was a store and a barn with lots of hay in it.
Lee had arranged to camp and pasture the horses in a field on the McCay place, about a mile south of the Little Camas store. We set the tent and the corral up against some willows. After we got the rope corral up, we drove the horses in and let them stand there till evening.
My job here would be to hold up the cattle that were trying to get back to the lower country. The cattle, being pretty wild, would mostly hold up and not go through the lane. But there were always some old cows that knew the country too well and would lead a bunch through at night.
Some others would take around the fence where it ended about a mile to the north. (This country is now flooded by the Little Camas reservoir.)
I would hold them back for about a week, and then the boss would bring over the crew. They'd work the dry stuff out and take them to a pasture. Then we would turn the cows and calves loose through the lane, and they could drift out as they pleased. While we were doing this, the crew at the camp would be riding at the east end and doing the same thing.
One trouble we had was keeping cows and calves from getting in the brush. We would have to stop and work them out at Dixie and start them over the hill towards Long Tom. When the country had been ridden, and the last bunch had been worked at Little Camas, I went back to the main camp to help start the dry stuff towards the desert. By that time we had 2,000 head.
First we took them down by the Ake ranch in Canyon creek and throwed in with the Ake dry cattle. They were all taken to the desert on the Snake river, north of where the town of Grand View is now. This area was big white sage flats which was very good feed, especially if it had rained some in the fall.
Anyway, when they were ready to leave the Ake ranch, the boss says to Lew Clark, "You take Bill and go back up to the main camp and put in a few days over the whole country to see if you can find any more cattle."
So Lew and I went back up to the prairie. We stopped at my camp on Little Camas and cooked dinner. I got my horses in, caught a couple of my best, and we came on over to the main camp.
It was raining the next morning as I went out and rangoed and Lew got breakfast. After we ate, we caught our horses and turned the rest out. Lew says, "We'll just turn these two loose here in the corral. If it keeps this up, we'll lay in today." Which we did.
There was three or four inches of snow on the ground the next morning, but it was not storming. Lew says, "This is the time to cover as much of the country as we can. The tracks will show up good."
So after we got our chores done, Lew says, "I'll go north over in the Hunter creek country, and you go south, Bill. Be sure to look in that Cove pasture, as that is where we held the dry stuff. There might have been some missed when we got them out." So we took off.
I went through the Cow creek country and the Cove pasture and then went through what are called the potholes and up Wild Horse and back by the Ake pasture on Nigger creek. Never saw a track all day. Lew had found a little bunch of six or eight head and had given them a good start towards Moores flat.
The next morning Lew says, "Bill, you take over where you left off yesterday and catch the country south of the road. I think you will find some cattle in that country. If you do, put them through the lane at Little Camas and stay at your camp tonight. If you don't get the country pretty well covered, try it again the next day. By that time there should be a man back from the drive to the river."
I found the first bunch on Castle Rock creek and give them a good start over to Cat creek. Then I went up Cat creek and down Chimney creek. I found a little bunch on Cat creek and started them down.
Anyway, by the time I got to Little Camas, I had pretty close to 100 head. I put them through the lane and went on up to camp, caught a horse for morning, and turned Little Brown Jug loose (that was the first horse I had ridden for the diamond outfit). I was glad that my bed and everything was in the tent and dry. The wood was a different proposition, but I managed to get a fire started.
The next day I went back and found another little bunch on Wood creek, down below the road. I figured they was the bunch that Lew had started over across Moores flat the first day that we rode. As I was coming into the lane, I seen Lew coming from the north with another bunch. I dropped mine and went to meet him.
We put them through the lane and I told Lew, "I'll have to go to the store and get some bacon and potatoes and coffee." Lee had told me to get anything I might need, and Bailey would send the bill to Catlin.
"Well," Lew says, "we'll both go back to the store."
While we were at the store, Dave McGowan rode up. He had went to the river with the dry bunch and had come back to help us. He said he was going over to the Ake camp to get his bed and some other stuff he had there. I didn't know that he had been working for the Catlin outfit all fall. Lew decided to go along with him and get his bed and stuff and the horse cavy. They would be back to my camp the next day and would stay the night. Then Lew would leave me and Dave there and take the horses.
They got back to my camp the next evening. The next morning we got up early. Dave and I got our strings out, and Lew put his bed on a horse and started out. He says, "I'll probably stay at Corder's tonight." That was on Indian creek.
So Dave and I started to ride, in earnest, the country south from the Boise river to the road from Dixie to Boise. After that, we rode the country west from Little Camas around Dixie, Long Tom, the Cottonwoods, and Bennett creek and pushed everything that we would find west to Canyon and Syrup creek. Then we moved camp over to Case creek. This is just south of Smith's prairie which is on the north side of the Boise river.
We very seldom had any cattle across the Boise river. If we did, the Lemp outfit, which ran cattle in that country, would pick them up and bring them to the valley with them. We would do the same with theirs if they crossed to the south side.
From Case creek we would ride back as far as the Cottonwoods and Canyon creek and start everything down Indian creek. We would also have to ride west from there down Willow creek and the Big and Little Fiddlers. On west of there was a fellow by the name of Mallatte that run a summer herd. He would also bring in anything of ours that he found.
Anyway, when we had covered this country, we would move camp down to just above the ranches on Indian creek and put in a few days from there. In the meantime, cattle would have been drifting into the lanes, and the boys there would be picking them up. From this camp on Indian creek, we would put in about a week's work – three or four days east and north, and about the same west and north. Finally, we would put our camp on a horse and head towards the ranch at Eagle Island and pick up all the cattle we could find and give them a good start towards the valley. By this time our horses had begun to show wear, and we would be glad to get a fresh one from the cavy.
The next day, we came back and picked up what cattle we had dropped and brought them in. We brought them down through south Boise and up onto the bench right where the Union Depot stands now. In them days Boise was a branch line out of Nampa. Anyway, when most of the cows were in, the next job was to wean and dehorn the calves. Catlin was one of the first to have dehorned cattle. He did it with pruning shears, and he was the one that did the job. He didn't allow anyone else to cut off a horn, and he always did a good job. You would never see a cow of his with a stub horn, or a steer either for that matter.
When we started to work these cows and calves, first we'd cut out the cows with calves that were too young to wean. We put them out of the way, over in the back pasture. This amounted to between 200 and 300 head. They were to be left there for the winter on the home ranch at Eagle Island.
We would separate the bigger calves out for weaning and they were also left on the ranch. The cows we weaned calves from would go to the desert. We'd take these cows out past Nampa to the Walters Ferry country. They would soon scattered all over that part of the country where the town of Kuna now stands, but would rarely ever get far enough east to mix with the dry stuff at Big Foot Bar.
They left me for the winter at the camp in the Walters Ferry country [see winter range map]. It was located at the Waggle ranch where there was a house, old rock barn, some corrals that we used, and a haystack that Catlin had them stack close by.
The name of the people that lived there on the ranch was Durock, and it seems they had worked for Catlin at one time. Anyway, they were old friends.
My main job was to keep the cattle from working back towards the settlement which, for a while, was a full time job. The trouble was that these cows wanted to get back to the good pasture at the ranch, in the lanes, and in town. There wasn't very much of the white sage in this part of the country, just dry grass. I don't remember just how far it was back to the settlement, but it must have been 12 or 15 miles.
Nampa, at that time, was right on the edge of the settlement and a one street town. Although, there was the Dewey Palace Hotel there, and they also had a pound. If any cattle got in the town, and I suspect anywhere very close to town, they would get put in that corral, and it would cost one dollar a head to get them out.
Anyway, in a few days Lew Clark showed up. He says, "I came out to see how you was making it."
I says, "Lew, I think we will make out all right now, being you are here. The cattle are trying to get back to the green feed. Everyday I have to go almost to Nampa and pick up 200 or 300 head. I've only got three head of horses and no grain. You can see how they look." I says, "Where is everybody? Where's Dave? I haven't seen him since we got to the ranch."
Lew says, "I can't stay Bill. I got my own to look after. I have to start feeding in a few days." (Lew never brought any to the desert).
"Cox is at the upper camp with George McGowan, who is working for Ake. Dave had to go to Okley, and Lee is off somewhere. You won't see much of him until maybe gathering time."
I says, "How about one of the Mace boys that had been helping with the weaning and dehorning?"
Lew went back, and in a few days a young fellow showed up. He had been to the ranch looking for a job, and Mr. Catlin sent him out to help me. I was glad to see him. His name was Jim Shears, and he had an outfit with a silver mounted bridle and spurs and a good saddle.
I says, "Where you from?"
He says, "From the south side. My brother and I bought the Bob Noble horses and have been running them for the last two years. We just shipped the last of them about a month ago."
Bob Noble was an old-timer who had settled on Reynolds creek during the Silver City boom. He went into the horse and cattle business, but later sold his cattle and went into the sheep business and, at this time, was the biggest sheepman in Idaho.
This fellow told me how many horses they gathered. I have forgotten, but it was 2,000 or 3,000 anyway. He had brought two more horses besides the one he was riding, which was his own, and a good-looking horse.
About the third day that Jim was with me, we were pushing 200 or 300 head back toward the range when Jim rode over to me and says, "Can't we get these things on a trot? Do we always have to poke along like this?"
I says, "You mean move these cows like you would move a bunch of horses?"
He says, "Yes. I don't see why they couldn't trot."
I says, "Jim, if we could get them on a trot their tongues would be hanging out in less than a mile and, if we kept forcing on, they'd lay down on us probably. This is about the way it always is unless we would turn them around and start them back towards the ranch and that green feed. Then they would travel out, but not on a trot. Sometimes you can cut a big steer or dry heifer out of the roundup and, if they are off of their range, you can get them to trot for a mile or two, but for these cows, we just have to punch them along."
He says, "You know, I don't think I want a job cowpunching. I think tomorrow I'll take off and see if I can't find some more wild horses to run."
I tried to talk him out of it, but he says, "It's too slow for me." Then he says, "Bill, why don't you come on over to Reynolds creek next spring? I think we can show you some real buckaroo life. We are dickering for some more wild horses, and if we get them, we could sure give you a job. You ain't living, Bill. Come on over."
The next morning he saddled up his horse and shook hands with me.
I says, "Will you go back to the ranch to get your time?"
He says, "No. I won't go back, as what I got coming don't amount to anything, unless you want me to take them horses back." I told him he needn't go back just to take the horses, as I could use them. That was the last I ever saw of Jim. A nice guy and a good wild horse runner, but no cowpuncher.
Anyway, everything settled down, and I would make a ride over towards the settlement ever two or three days. The cows had about stopped trying to get back, although some had got on the railroad and four or five got killed. The railroad paid Catlin, and then sued some fellows that had skinned them. I guess they had to pay for them.
Around about the time of Christmas or New Year's, I came in one evening and there was Mr. Catlin's team and buckboard tied to the fence. So I didn't unsaddle my horse until I would see what was up. I began to cut some wood and get a fire started, for it was very cold and I suspected I would have the boss for supper and maybe for breakfast the next morning. Before I got a fire started, he had seen me come in and was coming from the house.
As he came up, he says, "No, Billy. Let's have supper with these folks up at the house. How do you like the fellow I sent out help you?"
I told him what happened and he says, "My, my. (That is about as near as he ever come to swearing.) I thought he would make us a good hand."
So we unhitched his team, turned them in with my horses, fed them and went up and had supper with the Durocks. They also invited me to come and have breakfast with them the next morning. I got a nice surprise, for the boss asked them if they would board me, and Mrs. Durock said she sure would.
The next morning the boss says, "The reason I came was that I want you to go to the other camp up at the Big Foot Bar (about 30 miles if I remember right) and have Cox help you gather about 18 or 20 head of bulls and bring them down here."
I told him I had better make a ride back toward Nampa to be sure there wasn't anything getting too close to town, and I asked him, "Could you let me have a few dollars? I would like to go on into town and get me some clothes and find a laundry and take a bath. I haven't had a nice bath since we all went swimming in the river when we first got to the ranch last fall."
He says, "Yes, Billy. That would be good." He gave me 25 dollars which was all the money he had with him. Twenty-five dollars would buy quite a lot them days.
He says, "Billy, I had better take two of them horses back to the ranch, for I'm afraid our hay ain't a going to last when we start to gathering. There will be several head of horses here for a few days and we don't want to run out. You pick out the horses you want me to take, but give me something that will lead pretty good."
I says, "I'll stay right behind you for a ways and scare them up till they get the idea." When I left him, they were trotting right along.
I took a short cut off through the sagebrush. There was a pothole I wanted to go by and make sure wasn't froze over so that the cows could get water. It was all right. The ice was broken and there were quite a few cattle there.
When I got to town, I rode around until I saw a sign, Laundry and Baths. I had stuffed everything in the line of clothes in a flower sack and tied them on behind my saddle. When I took them in, the lady says, "Are you a sheepman?" I told her I wasn't.
She says, "You must have been out in a camp to have that many dirty clothes." I told her that I worked for Catlin and had been keeping the cows out of town.
She says, "I'm glad somebody is. Why last winter I got up one morning and there were three of them grazing on my lawn. I went out and waved a dish towel at them, and they was so scared they ran through my clothes lines and torn them all down. I called the police and they got some men on horseback and finally got about 15 or 20 head in the corral."
I asked her if there had been any in town this winter. She said she hadn't seen any. I says, "I'm going up town and buy some more clothes and then come back and take a bath, if I may, and you can put these clothes right in with the others." She said that would be fine.
When I came back from the store and took my bath and combed my hair and came out to the office, she says, "My, now if you had a hair cut and a shave I could find you a pardner to take to the dance tonight."
I says, "I'm not much of a dancer. Anyway, I have to get back to camp tonight."
She couldn't have got me to take a girl to that dance for 100 dollars. I had just turned 17 in November and was girl shy, always had been for that matter.
I told her to figure up what my bill would be, and I would pay her now, as I didn't know just when I would get back. Then I went and got a hair cut and shave at the barber shop next door.
I got on my horse and took back to the sagebrush in a circle off to the south and west. I seen there was quite a few cattle drifting into the Deer flat country which is now covered by a reservoir. I went on back to camp and had a good supper with the Durocks.
The next morning I saddled up Little Brown Jug and took off for the Big Foot Bar which, if I remember right, was about 25 or 30 miles away.
Along in the afternoon, when I began to hit the white sage country, I see a bunch of something coming towards me on the rim. I thought first it might be deer, but as I got closer, I see it was a bunch of wild burrows. As I got closer, they saw me and took off south and into the breaks that led down to the river.
Back in the early days, when Idaho was a mining state and there were not many roads, a man by the name of Dorsey had a string of burrows he used to pack supplies to the mining camps. When he quit the packing, he settled on this place about four miles north of Snake river where there was a big spring and lots of level ground below to irrigate. This place is still known as the Dorsey ranch. Anyway, he turned his burrows loose and at the turn of the century, and after a few years, there were hundreds of them running wild until the sheepmen killed the most of them off for coyote bait.
Anyway, as I was riding along – enjoying the country with no sagebrush, good feed and the cattle looking good – I see another bunch of burrows come over the horizon with a couple of men after them. Then it dawned on me what was up. This was George McGowan and Cox having some fun trying to rope one of them. As I got closer, I saw that both of them had caught one.
They ride up and George says, "Why didn't you get here a little sooner? You maybe could have got one too."
I says, "I haven't lost any burrows."
He says, "They are worth ten dollars apiece."
The burrows just stood there as we were talking, until all of the sudden they both took off like they was shot out of a gun. But the boys managed to stay with them. After they got them under control again, they tell the story.
"There is an old fellow camped right across the river from us that has a pack string of burrows. He packs into the Thunder mountain country. He told us he would give us ten dollars apiece for ten head of them if we would catch and swim them across the river."
I says, "Have you delivered any yet?"
They says, "Yes. These two will make five."
Anyway, George and Cox took these two others to camp and tied them up overnight. The next morning they got one down to the river where they had a boat. Where they got the boat, I don't know. They both got in the boat with the rope and had me push from behind. That burrow went right into the river and swam behind the boat. So they landed that one and came back and got the other.
I had, of course, told them why I had come to see them. So they says, "We'll help you. It won't take long to gather the bulls, but you won't get away with them today."
When we got out of the valley and on top, Cox says, "You see that butte off yonder? Well, that's where we work towards. There's a pothole just south of there where a good many cattle water. We'll scatter out and see how many we can get. They're not going to be hard to handle. They have fallen off quite a lot, and I think they'll stay put."
Anyway, we got to this watering place along in the afternoon and had several bulls. We decided to go back to camp and try it again the next day. After we had ridden back three or four miles, we spotted a bunch of burrows. We stopped and sized the situation up. They wasn't too far away, so we decided for me to take off to the north and see if I could get between them and the sagebrush. If they got into the brush, it would be all over as the brush was taller than the burrows.
So I took off on a fast trot, and in a mile or two, got into the brush myself. I could keep the burrows in sight most of the time. As I got about even with them, I seen the other fellows coming. As I swung out to the east, the other boys was coming from the west. Anyway, everything worked out all right. We all hit them about the same time.
I didn't intend to try to catch one, but I let out a yell and got my rope down, and in less than a couple of minutes, we all three had one. When they were caught, they would lay into the rope and pull for all they were worth straight away from you until they found they were fast. Then you could walk right up to them, but you had better watch out, for when they thought they had a chance, they would take off. Anyway we took them to camp. They were about half-lead and half-drug.
I had forgot to mention, that a few days previous come a man who had some cattle over on the south side somewhere that he wanted to go over and see about. He also had a boy about eight or nine with him, I would judge. As the weather wasn't too good at this time, he left the boy there at the camp with George and Cox and got one of them to row him across in the boat and swam his horse behind. The boys had caught a little red or sorrel yearling burrow and had brought it in to the boy. He thought a lot of it, and had got him so that he could ride him around and guide him to some extent.
Anyway, when we got to camp, someone mentioned it would be a good idea if each saddled up his burrow and we'd all take a ride. So, after adjusting cinches and so forth, we all mounted, but nobody could get started until the boy came up over the river bank. He had dug a cave back into the bank and had him a barn. When his burrow seen the others, he gave a big loud bawl, and we all three took off on the run. George had a big old Jack. Cox and I had Jennies. Ours took up the river, but George's took back for the top of the rim.
After we had run a mile or two, Cox hollered to me and says, "Don't you think we've gone far enough?"
I says, "Yes, but how we going to get stopped?"
He says, "I think I can stop mine." Then he stepped back behind his saddle and hooked his spurs in the burrow's flanks and she set right up. When mine seen the other stop, she stopped too.
But when we started back to camp, that was another story. A man could move them a little on foot, but that was all. We finally got them around to where we could neck them together with one of us in front and the other behind, each with his lasso rope on his burrow. With driving, leading, and pulling, we finally got back to camp and there was George, a mile or so off to the north. He had jumped off his and hung onto the lasso rope. He had got drug about 100 yards or so.
We knew he would be stuck, so I saddled up a horse and went out to drag him and his burrow in, while Cox got supper. Before we got back to camp we seen someone coming across country from towards the Dorsey place. George says, "That's the foreman. Now we'll get hell. You fellows will probably get fired, and then little Willie will be out of a job." George and I had grown up together. He was two or three years older than I and had always had a lot of fun kidding me.
I says, "How about you packing your saddle in? We can turn your mule loose, and you can tell Lee that your horse bucked your saddle and all off, and you had nothing to do with these burrows."
But he handed me his lasso rope and went back and got on the burrow. He hadn't much more than got started, when the borrow took off and went by me on the run. I took another dally and thought maybe I could upset him. But George was up to about what might happen, so he stepped off and hit the ground running.
Anyway, when we got to camp, sure enough, the foreman was there. As we rode up, Lee came out of the tent and says to me, "What the hell you doing up here? How did you get word of this burrow roundup? Who's down at the lower camp?"
I says, "Nobody is there right now. I'll be back there in two or three days. The boss sent me up here to try and get 18 or 20 bulls to take down to that country."
He says, "Where did you see the boss? You been to the ranch?" I told him no, that the boss had been out to see me.
Lee says, "Who's with you down there?" I told him I had a sidekick for three days, but punching cows was too slow for him, and he left me.
"Who was it? Where did he come from?" I told him it was Jim Shears from the south side.
"You mean one of the Shears boys that bought the Noble horses and have been gathering and shipping them for the last two years?"
I says, "That was him. He had an outfit that would almost hurt your eyes and a good horse. He came while the cattle were trying to get back to the green feed on the island."
We told Lee what we had done about the bulls and would try and finish it up the next day. He says, "You fellows had better finish up this burrow business too. We can't haul hay and grain out here to feed horses to run burrows."
We started out early the next morning and wound up at the water hole with 16 bulls. Lee says, "Take them and go."
So Cox and I started out with them, and we hadn't gone far when we picked up three more, so that made us 19. We drove them till sundown and left them on good feed and headed back to camp. It was pretty late when we got in, but not too late for them to razz me for being all dressed up in new overalls, a shirt, sweater and muffler, and that I probably had a girl in town.
Lee says, "How much time you putting in town? It was the boss's idea to put you down there. He thought being kinda bashful-like, you wouldn't hang around town much. But you can never tell about these kids raised back in the sticks. They sometimes lose their heads the worst of any."
Anyway, we got up early, and Cox and I started out before daylight. We found the bulls all still together, but they had worked back a mile or two from where we had left them.
Cox left me. He wanted to ride north and see if there were many cattle in that part of the country. I drove the bulls to near sundown. I didn't know just where I was, so I left the bulls on pretty good feed and hadn't gone over three or four miles, till I hit the railroad that goes over to Murphy.
I gave Little Jug his head and started out on a long trot. When I got to camp, everything was dark. I saw that my other horses had been fed plenty of hay in the manger, so I crawled into bed.
When Jim had come out from the ranch, one of the horses he had brought was a colt that had just been broke the spring before. The colts were never used much until the next year. I didn't send him back with the boss, as he might not head very good and might get scared and tip his buckboard over.
He was a good-looking colt, and I wouldn't mind having him in my string. He was a light bay, so light in fact, that he had been called that dun colored colt. Anyway, I saddled him this morning to go back and get them bulls and finish this piece of business. He had the reputation of being a little hard to get on. But Jim hadn't had any trouble with him, and I didn't either. Anyway, after I had got out several miles, he seemed to get kinda restless. Then all of a sudden he thought it was time that we parted company, and we came pretty near to doing it. I had never had a horse buck with me out alone before. I knew I had to stay with him. I had spurs on with pretty long shanks which was all that saved me.
If he had throwed me there, I would have lost my saddle and would probably have been six or eight miles from camp. Worst of all, I was riding him with a tight hackamore and, if he could have eat at all, his jaws would have gotten so sore in a few days that he would have probably starved to death. These things all flashed through my mind while I was hanging and rattling, but he finally gave it up and started to run. When we got to the top of a little ridge, I seen what was the matter. There was a bunch of horses on the other side, and as soon as we appeared, they took off.
I didn't try to hold my horse. I thinks, "Now old boy, we'll take a ride that will settle you down." I don't know just how far we stayed with them horses, but it must have been three or four miles. He hated to give it up, but I finally got him steered away and commenced to look for my bulls.
I knew I was east of them and probably south. Anyway, after spending half the day, I finally ran onto their tracks and followed them till I found them all still together.
I soon begun to run into cattle so began dropping some of them. I wanted to get several of them west of the ranch where I was camped and had quite a little trouble handling them on this young horse. So I finally gave it up for the day and come back the next day on another horse and got them straightened out.
Everything went along pretty good for the next several days except for the weather. It had been raining some, and one morning when I got up, there was about six inches of snow on the ground and still snowing. I was afraid the cattle would try to go back to the ranch, so I took off towards town and the lanes.
Along towards noon the wind came up and it turned into a regular blizzard. It was a bad storm. I don't believe I ever saw any worse on Camas prairie. You couldn't see ten feet ahead of you.
I had swung off towards the north and hit the main road from Nampa to the Walters Ferry. I was riding along on a fast trot when I caught up with a woman and her teenage daughter with a team and buckboard.
She stopped and wanted to know if she was on the right road to the ferry. She had got her directions mixed up and thought she was going in the wrong direction. I told her she was all right.
She says, "We live there at the ferry. In fact my husband runs the ferry, but we haven't been there too long. Where are you going?" I told her to the Waggle ranch.
She says, "You go ahead and I'll follow, but don't let me turn off on the road to the Waggle place."
When we got to where the road to the ranch turned off, I told her to stop for just a few minutes, and I rode down the road to make sure we was right. I didn't have to ride very far, till I was sure this was the road to the ranch. I rode back and told her she was on the right road, but if she wanted me to, I would ride ahead of her to the ferry. But she was sure she would make it now. She thanked me very kindly and drove on.
The storm wound up with rain and took the snow mostly off, so I took a trip up the river to see how many cattle were in that country. There was another ferry a few miles above Walters and a place they called the Cove where they corralled wild horses. Cattle will lay around such places and sometimes the wind will blow a gate shut and lock them in.
I found no cattle there, but this place was sure a natural for corralling horses, with the river on one side and the rim rock on the other. The rim ends a mile or so after it leaves the river. Looking over them corrals you could see there had been hundreds of horses worked in there. The corral fence was three or more feet lower than the middle of the corral.
I went on up the river and found a few cattle but let them stay there, as there was some feed, and they were pretty well sheltered behind the rocks.
The next day I went back to town again. I thought I had better get my clothes at the laundry. When I went in, there was a very nice-looking girl behind the counter. I gave her my ticket. She went to the door and called to another lady. But when she come and looked at my ticket, she went and called someone else, and they got the right one this time.
When she came in she says, "Yes, this boy has some clothes here, and they are all paid for." She told this other woman where they were and to put them in the flour sack and bring them out. When the woman left to get the clothes, the other says "Now don't you wish you had stayed for the dance. Don't you think you would have been lucky to get as pretty a girl as this for a partner?"
I says, "Yes, I sure would have. But what would she have thought about me, a clodhopper, over there among all you city folks?"
The girl says, "Was you trying to get him to take me to the dance? What are you trying to do, give me away Aunty?" With that she left the room.
Everything drifted along pretty smooth. I came into camp along about the middle of one evening in February and there was Cox. He had a fire going in the little sheet iron camp stove and was laying on the bed asleep. I says, "What's the matter? You been on a drunk or something or are you lost?" Then he told me his story.
Their horses had got away at the upper camp. So he had went across the river and borrowed the horse from the old fellow they had sold the burrows to. Then he had come down on the south side of the river to the upper ferry (that was the ferry on the road to Murphy) to borrow a horse from me, as he figured his horses would probably head back to the ranch. He wanted me to get on this borrowed horse and follow his trail back up to the Big Foot Bar.
I says, "How about George's horses?"
He says, "They're gone too, probably to Ake's place on Canyon creek. George is going to walk up to the Hines and Chatten ranch about ten or 12 miles (the old Dorsey ranch)." We figure it would take Cox about three days to get back to his camp.
"So," he says, "the third day you get on the packer's horse and come on up. The boat is on his side of the river, so you can put your riggin' in and come across, and I'll be there. Then you can get on your horse and come back. What horse are you going to let me have? How about the dun colt? How did you happen to have him out here?"
I told him how it happened. "But," I says, "you ain't going to get your riggin' on him. You can take Twister, you'll be safer on him."
"Yes," he says and grinned, "I have to be careful." He had been riding the toughest horse in the cavy all winter.
"Well, that's settled," he says. "How about something to eat around here? What you living on anyway?"
I hadn't told him that I had been boarding at the Durocks, so I says, "Let's go over to the house. Maybe we can get Mrs. Durock to give us a hand out." He came along reluctantly.
When we went in, I introduced him to the Durocks and says, "Do you suppose you can fill us both up this evening and in the morning?"
She says, "I have your plates both on the table. I saw him ride in an hour or so ago, unsaddle his horse, and turn him in the corral with the others. So I knew you had company." I told her how it was – that he was one of the steady hands from the upper camp and had lost his horses.
So on the third day, I saddled up the old packer's horse and started for the Big Foot Bar. I crossed on the upper ferry that was eight or ten miles up the river from the Walters Ferry on the road to Murphy, which was quite a mining camp at that time and is now the county seat of Owyhee county. It was the owners of this mining camp that put in the Swan Falls dam, which I think was the first dam on the Snake river.
Anyway, it started to get foggy and the farther I went, the thicker it got. Along toward evening, as I was coming down a hill, all of a sudden I rode out of the fog and there below me was an awful pretty sight – a valley with a creek running down the middle of a green pasture with cattle grazing all over.
I went down by the house and buildings and stopped at the house but nobody was home. I never did find out who the place belonged to. Anyway, I figured I wasn't too far from where I was headed. I followed this valley on down and the water ran into Castle creek which empties into the Snake right across from where our camp was.
I got to the river about sundown. The packer wasn't there, so I put the horse in a shed that looked as if it was his home and give him some hay. I carried my riggin' down to the boat and got in and rowed across. This was first and last time I ever rowed a boat across the Snake river.
Lee, the foreman, was there at camp, and George had found his horses and got back – but no Cox. He showed up the next evening with another fellow.
Mr. Catlin had told Cox that we were to start gathering and get everything on the ranch that we could by the first of March. He was sending out some more hay, grain, and grub. We were to keep the driver and the team and wagon until we got ready to move down to Swan Falls. Lee kept me there for what he said would be a day or two, but I didn't get away for a week.
I rode my old Twister horse ever other day. George let me ride one of his on the other days. We had to ride the country back north about ten or 12 miles and the river bottom that is under the rim, as far down as the Red Trails and the Peach Orchard. Anyway, we finally got moved down to Swan Falls.
Jim and Dave McGowan had also showed up. I don't know whether Dave was working for Ake or Catlin. We had a pretty good crew and a cook. The fellow that brought the team with grub, hay, and grain did the cooking.
The next morning Lee says, "I'll take Bill with me, and we will ride the river bottom as far as we can get down." The only place cattle could have got down was the road that was blasted out of the rim rock for a wagon road down to the river.
Lee and I hadn't gone over a half mile before a little black burrow, a jenny, jumped out of the brush and started for the rim. Lee grabbed his rope and took after her. Of course, I did the same. The jenny took off towards the rim and then started to curve towards the east. So I took a short cut and caught her. Lee had threw once but missed. When he came up I says, "What you want to do with her?"
He says, "Let's take her up and give her to the boys there at the plant. They got a barn and hay there." So we did. The last time I was there, they still had her. They had lots of fun with her. She followed them wherever they went.
Within a week, we had the stuff from the upper camp ready to go to the ranch. Lee told me to go back down to my camp and they would be there in two or three days, or as soon as the wagon could get some grub and grain out there.
So the next morning, I took off for the lower camp. I was glad to get back. The Durocks said they had been uneasy – thought maybe I had fell in the river. I took over my old rounds up to town and the lanes for two or three days, when here come the whole bunch, wagon and all. They had left the camp at Swan Falls, as we would have to make a second ride over the whole country.
Anyway, after four or five days we had a lot of cattle and worked them north, and the camp was moved to where the town of Melba is now. They may have had a post office there then, I don't remember. We had the cattle pretty well rounded up and night herded with two men shifts.
I was on the last shift and went to bed at four o'clock. I had caught a cold and didn't feel too good.
After breakfast the boss, Mr. Catlin, says, "What's the matter with you Bill? You look like hell." I told him I felt about the same as I look.
He says, "You take the horses and start for the ranch. We will make out with one horse apiece till we get to the ranch."
I hadn't much more than got started with the horses until it started to rain and it just poured down all day. I had a slicker and chaps, but when you're out in a hard rain all day you get pretty damp, no matter what you have on.
The bunkhouse was pretty well filled up. Lew Clark was there and had his bed on one of the best bunks, so I had a place to sleep. The next morning I didn't get up for breakfast. I felt pretty tough. After awhile the boss came in the bunkhouse with some medicine and a spoon. He took my pulse and gave me a dose of this medicine and set it up on a shelf. He told me to take a dose ever two hours and to stay there in bed, which I did until the next morning. I felt pretty good and went to breakfast, but didn't go to help feed.
The next day the boys got in with the cattle that we had at Melba. They all had to be worked (steers separated from the cows, etc.) out in the fields.
I don't know how many acres Catlin had, but there were several fields of probably 160 acres each. There had been 200 or 300 cows with late calves that had never went to the desert, so they had pretty well cleaned up the pastures.
The hay haulers scattered hay in two of the empty fields. So, as we got the steers worked from the cows, we would put them in these fields. This went on for about two days. When everthing was straightened up there on the ranch, there had to be the second ride over the whole country. That fell to Dave McGowan, Cox, and I.
There had been a camp, hay, and grain left at Swan Falls and at my camp at Davis orchard. So we took off early in the morning driving our six horses and made it to Swan Falls that evening. It rained nearly all night.
The next morning Dave says, "Bill, you better stay right here and see if you can't get rid of some of that cough. How do you feel anyway? You look like you had been called and couldn't come. Anyway, you can look after the horses here. There is plenty of hay here, and we will stay at the Dorsey ranch and be back in two or three days."
It was four days before they got back. I had rode the country under the rim and found nothing. The horses they were riding looked like gutted snowbirds, as the saying goes, but they had 25 or 30 head of cattle.
The next morning there were three or four inches of snow on the ground, so we took off to ride the country north as far as there had been any cattle through the winter. Along about noon it started to snow again and then the wind came up and turned into a regular blizzard. We had split up so as to cover as much country as possible.
I didn't know just what to do. You couldn't find any cows with the weather like that unless you just happened to ride right to them. So I figured the best thing was to follow my tracks back to camp. When I turned back, my old horse started to step right out, but it was just about dark before I got in. Dave and Cox were both there. They had begun to get uneasy about me.
The next morning it had cleared up. We hadn't seen anything of the cattle that they had brought down from above, so we decided they probably had come down the road before it started to snow and were down the river. So, sure enough, that is where we found them.
Dave sent Cox and I down the river to look for the cattle, and he put a pack on one of the horses with our bedding and some of the grub. He would meet us on top of the rim.
We found the cattle not too far down and was working them up the grade, when Dave caught up with us. After we had got on top and had drove them two or three miles, they decided for me to take the cattle and horses, and they would take off to the north and see if they could find anything. Dave says, "Don't stay with them too late, drop them and take the horses and hit out for Durocks."
I told them I would try and get them as far as the railroad. I did, but if it hadn't been for the horses I don't believe I'd ever got them cattle across the tracks. Evidently the train had been going over to Murphy that morning and had left a scent that these cows were afraid of. But after the horses crossed, they took across on the run and there I left them and took the horses and went on to camp. I hadn't been here long till the other boys got in.
Cox says, "How did you get them cattle across that railroad?"
I says, "Why I didn't have any trouble."
They had found a bunch of 12 or 15 head and had tried for a mile or two to get them across, till they finally hit my tracks and there they finally crossed.
When I had got to Durock's, he seen me come in and seemed real glad to see me back. After we had talked a little he says, "I'll go tell my wife you are back so she can put your name in the pot."
I says, "There's three of us, so you had better let us cook here at the camp. Let me look in the tent and see just what we have got."
There was plenty of grub and a pile of sagebrush which I had dragged up in the fore part of the winter for wood.
I told Durock the boss had sent this grub out here so we had better eat it. So I built a fire in the stove and found the potatoes and some onions rolled up in the bed to keep them from freezing. I sliced off a few slices of bacon and put them in the stove to fry. I went to peeling spuds and then put on a pot of rice with raisins in it. When the bacon was done, I sliced the potatoes and some onions right into the frying pan with it. Then I mixed up a batch of baking powder biscuits. When we had eaten, I put on a kettle of beans and also a kettle of dried peaches and apricots. So we were all set to pick up the last of the cattle for that spring.
We found quite a few, about 150 or 175 head, and when we got them all together, we headed them back to the ranch. When we got to the ranch, the bunk house was about full. Feeding was the main attraction. Some fellows were working for their board.
The next morning, after we had worked out our little bunch, Mr. Catlin says, "Now we will take those cows down in the far field down to the Middleton place and, Billy, I want you to stay down there and help feed."
I says, "My bed is out at Durocks. Is there any place I can sleep?"
He says, "I sent a team out there this morning to get that camp and, as soon as he gets back, I'll bring it down. In the meantime there is bedding there."
So we started out with about 800 head of cows, or thereabouts, and got there just about dark. The next morning Cox and I started out to feed with the fellow that was there on the place. He was a big Missourian and the most miserable fellow to work with I had ever been around. He had killed a man in Missouri and had served some time in the pen, but had been paroled out. He had to report to the sheriff or constable wherever he was ever three months.
He seemed to think I was there to run errands for him, but his wife was a very nice woman. They had one child, just a baby.
One evening Cox found out there was some kind of entertainment going on in Middleton. He had been over on the other side of the river riding lanes and had found a few head and had turned them in with the ones we were feeding.
Anyway, we all made up our minds to go to town. When we were ready to start, this Missourian walked over to a cupboard and took out a six shooter and slipped it into his coat pocked.
When we got to town and had gotten out of the wagon, Cox says to this fellow, "You had better let me have that gun. If they should catch you with it, they'd send you back and throw the keys away."
We fed the cows for just about a month off of the biggest haystack I ever saw. It was stacked right close to some corrals, so we had to load all from one side. Anyway we made it and got praised for our cows looking so good.
About the first of April, Lee came down from the home ranch at Eagle Island. He had John Hailey with him. Dave McGowan had gone back over to the Ake outfit, so John was going to work breaking colts, or riding the rough string.
Anyway, they had come down to get part of the cattle. Calves had been coming by the dozen, so we took all the cows with calves that were old enough to travel.
We had quite a time with calves crawling through fences and so forth, but we finally made it. Crossing the river was the worst. There was no bridge at the west end of the island. The calves would have to swim, and we had to watch out or some of them would float on down the river.
I don't remember helping move the last bunch up to the island, but I do remember some of the calves coming back. Whether they had swam the river, or we had lost them on the way, I don't know.
Anyway, one day after our feeding and chores were done I was saddling up my horse to go tell the boss about these calves coming back, when this Missourian says, "What you intend to do?" I told him I was going to the ranch to tell them about these calves.
He says, "I want you to go over to Caldwell with me. I got some furniture and stuff there at the depot, and I want you to hold the team while I load it." I told him he surely could manage that. I told him to tie the team to a hitching post somewhere and get his stuff out on the platform, then drive around and load it up.
He says, "You're going with me."
I says, "I'm not. I'm going to the ranch and will be back here this evening." It come very near to being a fight, but I got on my horse and rode off.
Another reason I wanted to get to the ranch was because there was a horse there that I wanted to get my saddle on. The foreman had traded two horses out of my string to Stanfield, of the south side, for two of his horses. One of these was this little white horse that Stanfield's man couldn't ride, and he hadn't been rode as it was late in the fall when he was traded.
When I got to the ranch, I took the cavy to the corrals as I went because they were in the field next to the corral. Then I went on up to the house and told Mr. Catlin about the calves.
He says, "I'm glad you came and told me about them. I'll send a team and wagon down tomorrow, but don't rush off I want you to go with me over to the south river pasture and get some cows that's over there. I'll be out in just a few minutes."
I went back to the corral and caught the white horse and was saddling him up, when he came leading his horse.
He says, "My, my, Billy. Ain't you asking for trouble. That horse has throwed several of these boys that is feeding here this winter."
I told him I had been wanting to get my riggin' on him since I had first seen him, but the fall of the year wasn't a very good time to try out a half-spoilt horse.
He says, "You're right."
I petted him around a little and got holt of his left ear and twisted it as tight as I could (Cox had put me on to that) and got on. He never moved. He had been partly broke by Dan Hice who had worked for Stanfield and had quit over an arrangement with this same horse. Anyway, we went and got the cows and I could tell right then that he was going to make a cow horse.
Mr. Catlin says, "You get along quite well with that horse. You keep him in your string."
I says, "Lee may take him away from me when we get out to camp."
He says, "I'll speak to him about it."
So the next day a wagon came down to the Middleton place, and we caught the calves and loaded them in. A day or two after that we moved the rest of the cattle up to the island.
The next job was to work out the first bunch, about 1,000 head, and to turn out as it was the first part of April. We turned them loose between Blacks creek and Indian creek. I don't remember just who was in that drive besides John Hailey and myself. Cox had quit and Dave McGowan had taken over the Ake outfit as Jim had quit. Jim, and a fellow by the name of Walt Hubble, had bought out Fred and Tom Wilson of the Front Street Livery and Feed Barn there in Boise.
The next drive Lew Clark throwed some of his in, and we had him and Tom Wilson. Tom said Fred was making a deal with a fellow by the name of Fowler to buy the two stripe cattle. If he got them they would be right along with us this summer.
When we got the third and last drive out it was getting along pretty well in April and Fred, sure enough, had bought the two stripe. Bill Palmer had been running the two stripe cattle as part of his summer herd, but he was coming out with a herd anyway – about as many as usual.
Bill Joplin, Jop as we called him, was with us on this last drive as a steady hand. So that made Lee, Lew Clark, Fred and Tom Wilson, John Hailey, Jop, and myself. We also had a wagon loaded with supplies to do us until we got to the prairie, which would be about the first part of June. Bill Barber, the foreman's brother, came along as cook.
We had our first camp on Indian creek above the ranches in what is know as the Mayfield. About the first thing in order was to gather horses. Catlin had 100 head or more running in that part of the country [see horse range map].
The idea was to brand yearling colts and to get a dozen head or so of three or four-year-olds to break. They had to keep the cavy up to full strength, which was about 30 or 35 head, as each man had about six head.
As the horses got older, or got stove up or lame, they were turned out with the wild bunches. Sometimes, after they had run out for a year or two, they had limbered up enough till they was put back in use.
The foreman turned the horse running job over to Lew Clark, John Hailey, and myself. While we were running the horses, the other fellows were working the cattle up to the hills off the desert.
There were some good corrals close to a where we were camped that everybody used. I don't know who had built them. When we was getting ready, I asked Lew which of my horses I had better ride. He says, "You have never run horses?"
I says, "Not these kind of horses and not in this country."
Lew says, "We will have to take it kind of easy for a few days to harden up our horses. We will take in this country close around. We'll leave the hill country till the last. Take old Button. He's a good old horse runner."
So we started out to the south. We went about four or five miles and had spotted a couple of small bucks that would take off whenever they saw us.
Lew says, "They won't go far. We will pick them up as we come back."
We finally spotted quite a bunch straight ahead of us. They hadn't seen us. Lew says, "Bill, you take off right down this draw. Stay out of sight, come up on the far side of them, and start them this way. John and I will watch the sides and pick any more that we can see and run them into the bunch. After you start them, stay right with them."
I says, "I'll try and stay in their dust."
He says, "Riding old Button you'll be right in there helping make that dust."
And that's the way it was after I started them horses. I don't believe I could have held that horse with anything. He sure loved it. As we came in, the other fellows throwed in two or three more bunches. We wound up at the corrals with 40 or 50 head. There were a few of Catlin's diamond brands in the bunch.
We branded a few colts that were still following diamond mares, and John picked out a few three-year-olds that he thought would be worth breaking. He caught and tied them up, and we turned the rest out. He would leave them tied up till they quit pulling back and then would commence to break them to lead. Then he'd turn them out with the cavy during the day and leave them in the corral at night. Sometimes, if there was one that kept trying to get away, they would neck him to one of the older horses.
Somebody would have to herd the cavy during the day for a while. This usually was the cook, as we only had two meals a day, morning and evening.
This went on for several days, till they thought we had the colts all branded, and they had enough young horses for John to break – about 12 head.
Running a bunch up in what they called the Charcoal country, I had lamed my white horse, which I just hated. This was pretty steep country. The horses were hard to handle as they hadn't been corralled for two or three years. There were several slick ears (unbranded) horses in the bunch and I guess running down hill, the white horse strained his shoulder.
So the next thing was to keep the cattle moving towards the prairie. We made the last big ride out in the desert and then moved the camp up to Case creek. This is a little creek right at the foot of Danskin mountain.
When we were there, Lee sent Jop on up to the summer camp to fix the fence around the pasture which was about a section. He took his string of horses and the colts as John wouldn't start in to break them until we got to the prairie.
Lee says to me, "Bill, you had better let Jop take that white horse as he is lame. As we work up that way he's liable to leave the cavy and head for the Malad." So I let Jop take him.
It was now about the first of May. We would put in about two weeks at this camp. Then we would move up to Dixie where we would camp on the creek that runs into the Boise river about a mile north of the Station, a store and saloon at that time. We would be there for a week or ten days getting all the cattle past Little Camas. Then we would move on to the summer camp the first part of June.
The next job would be the calf roundup when we'd brand and mark calves. This would take a week or ten days. Then Lew, the cook, the Wilson boys, and also the foremen, would go back to the valley leaving Hailey, Jop, and I at the camp until beef gathering when they would all be back.
This is about the way each year went that I worked for Catlin.
Three or four years after I had quit working for the diamond outfit, I was walking down the sidewalk in Soldier when there, in front of the old Pioneer Store, tied to the hitching rack, was my Little Brown Jug horse I had ridden so many miles in the three years he had been in my string.
I stepped off the sidewalk and pet his neck and talked to him. I says, "Do you remember me Jug?" He rolled the cricket in the cheap bit he had on.
A fellow came out of the store with a bundle of stuff and started tying it on behind his saddle. I says, "What will you take for this horse?"
He says, "Oh no, I don't want to sell him. I just traded for him a few days ago. I think he can run and I want to race him next summer."
I went on down the street and, you know, I damn near cried.
Before I end this scribble, I am going to finish with a story about a horse, the only one of his kind I have ever known.
When Boise was a young town, there was a fellow by the name of John Lemp who started a brewery. As the town grew, he became quite wealthy for them days. He invested his money in land and cattle and horses.
In those days, the only work in keeping horses on the range was to keep the colts branded and altered. They were never fed.
Lemp's range was in the Squaw creek area that was above Emmett plateau. About the turn of the century, and a little after, the horses in that country got what they called the mange. It caused them to loose their hair. The government finally got after them and made them dip all the horses and get them off that range. That was quite a job for Lemp, as he had about 3,000 head.
Jess Hailey, son of John Hailey, and the superintendent of the Wells Fargo Stage Company in Idaho, had horses in the country north of Shoshone and south too, but sold them about this time – trailed them east to Nebraska and Kansas.
So, the government and Hailey let Lemp bring his horses over there, which they did in 1904, I think it was. They scattered all over the country, especially into the Big and Little Wood river settlements and a lot of them were sold as strays.
Along about the middle of June 1907 or 1908, when I was working for the diamond outfit, Bill Joplin and I came into camp and saw our rango corral full of horses – good horses. As we got to looking for brands, we seen they were all J or JL So we knew it would be Russ Bryan, Lemp's foreman, and his buckaroos.
We hadn't much more than got the horses figured out until here came Russ (whom Jop and I both knew quite well) and George Graham, Frank Pinkham, and young John Lemp, whom we knew by reputation as top hands.
They were on their way to try and gather what horses they could of the 3,000 they had turned loose in the Wood river country. They had about 50 head of saddle horses and all good ones.
After greetings, Russ says, "You fellows got any place we can turn our cavy tonight?"
I says, "Of course, we have a place – about a section of good bunch grass with a good fence around it. But you fellows ain't going to just stay one night. You better stay a week."
They stayed with us a couple of days. Before they left Russ says, "We will be back in about a month."
They didn't get back for over two months. They had run horses all over southern Idaho and down into Utah and Nevada, but didn't have much over 100 head.
After they had rested up for two or three days, we got the wild bunch in the big corral about a quarter mile from the cabin. There was a little brown horse that was very uneasy. He kept running around and stirring the bunch up. Jop says to young Lemp, "What will you take for that horse?"
Lemp says, "Thirty-five dollars."
Jop says, "You've sold him." So we let him into another corral by himself.
Russ says, "Let's go to camp and get dinner, and we'll be on our way."
As we were riding up to the camp, Russ and I were a little behind the others when he says to me, "You can have a lot of fun out of Jop when he starts to break that horse. I started to break him 17 years ago last spring, and he can turn handsprings faster than a cat."
I says, "Does he really turn clear on over?"
He says, "He sure does."
I says, "He's liable to kill Jop."
He says, "Hell no. You couldn't kill a Jop."
We helped them get started, then Jop and I came back and caught the brown horse. We got a hackamore on him and let him up. Jop jerked him around on his horse, and pretty soon he acted like he was going to lead.
We took him up to the rango corral and Jop says, "I'm going to see if I can ride him." I don't remember whether I told Jop about him turning handsprings or not. Anyway, we got Jop's saddle on him, and he mounted.
He didn't do anything much there in the corral, so Jop says, "Open the gate." So I did.
He liked to run over me when he seen that gate open. He ran about 200 or 300 yards to the top of a ridge. I was right behind him when he went down the other side and started to buck. But he didn't buck too hard and Jop was riding him with ease.
I was hoping when he hit the bottom that he would start to run. So I turned myself to run right up alongside of him. That's just when he took the notion to turn over, and he sure did. As Russ said, he turned handsprings, but landed on his back. He didn't hurt Jop any, and I caught him before he got started to leave us.
That's the way it went for several days. Jop wouldn't give up. He was determined to break this horse. When he would start to buck, I'd commence to shake out a loop and try and catch him before he got started to run.
In the meantime, we were due to make a ride over to Little Camas and see how things were around that part of the country. So we decided we would go to Corral the next day and then to Little Camas.
Of course Jop wanted to ride his brown horse to Corral. I got Jop to let me lead the horse with him on him down to the road, then I would try to herd him from then on. I turned him loose just east of the Cow creek reservoir and started him down the road. Everything went all right till we got just west of where Lige Harrison now lives when I seen him take after Jop on top of the ridge ahead of me.
I got to the ridge just in time to see him do his handspring. As they were both getting up, the horse beat Jop a little, and I saw him kick at Jop wicked with one hind foot. I run on down and says, "Are you all right?"
Jop says, "Yes. Catch him."
I had a little more trouble catching him this time as he got the start on me. But I finally got him, and Jop let me lead him till we got past Traders. Then we turned him loose again, and we were all over the flat, but we finally got to Corral along in the afternoon.
It's funny, but that horse never tried to buck after he got away from the hills. But he sure tried to get away from me – and Jop had just as well be pulling on a stump as on his reins.
Corral wasn't very busy that day, so we went to Cap Homer and Joe Jones saloon. This was the same Joe Jones that Ben Higgs later killed in Soldier.
Cap Homer says, "How you boys feel about a little poker game?" So we got started to play poker. After awhile Joe Jones thought he had just as well get in the game too, so we played until about midnight.
Jop was the winner. He won 15 or 20 dollars, and before we left he bought a quart of whiskey. I thought it was kinda funny, for Jop was no hand to drink.
When we got mounted and ready to start home I says to Jop, "Now I'm going to lead you to camp. If I have to herd you back the way we come down here I'm liable to lose you out there on the prairie and maybe couldn't find you for a week."
So we started out and rode on a lope most all of the way, except Jop would want to stop and take a drink ever once in awhile.
When we made it back to camp I says, "You hungry Jop? We had better eat something."
"No," he says, "I just want to go to bed." I felt about the same way. Jop set down on the bed and started to pull his clothes off. When he got to one of his socks, he couldn't make it.
He says, "Hey Bill, will you help me get this darn sock off?"
When I tried to get holt of his sock it was hard on the bottom. I had to take it from the top and just turn it wrong-side out, off his leg and foot. I took it to the light and seen it was crusted with blood.
I says to Jop, "Where did that horse hit when he kicked you in that last pile up?" He says, "In the back of my head."
I tried to get a look at it, but he says, "No. I just want another drink and to go to sleep."
The next morning, after I got breakfast and got Jop up to eat, I says, "Now, let's see about the back of your head." He had a gash, just about like a half moon, cut clear to the bone – a good four inches long and half an inch wide.
I had some water boiling in the tea kettle on the stove and some rags in a pan that was also boiling. I set them off to let them cool a little. We had a pair of scissors we used to cut each other's hair once in awhile, so I started to trim the hair off around this gash.
The hair below the gash was matted with blood, so I had to wash it before I could get it cut. I asked Jop if it was sore. "No," he says, "wash it out." So I did. We had nothing in camp in the line of medicine but some turpentine.
After I had washed the gash up and got all the hair out of it that I could, I says, "You had better go to Soldier, and get Dr. Higgs to sew that gash up."
"Naw," he says, "it'll heal up. It's getting about time we had a wash day around here, so I'll take a bath and wash, and maybe you will take that ride to Little Camas we been talking about."
So I got the horses in and caught one of my best traveling horses and took off. I was gone a couple of days.
When I got back the clothes was still hanging on the line and no Jop. So I went and got the horses and caught a rango horse for morning. I seen the brown horse and one of Jop's other horses was gone. I had just got a fire started and was getting supper when Jop came. I says, "Where's the brown horse?"
He says, "Some fellow come here this afternoon and wanted to know if we had anything that would make a good driving horse. He wanted something to go along with one he had to make him a driving team for winter. I showed him the brown horse. He thought he would do, so I got my money back." The fellow turned out to be John Harrison, a brother to Lige.
Two or three years after this all happened, I was down to a celebration in Soldier. There was something going on down south of town, probably some races, or maybe it was the time some fellow had an airplane and was taking up people for a ride.
I saw that Shorty Hansell, who ran the saloon in Soldier, was very busy going back and forth with his little brown team and buggy. When he came back from one trip and unloaded his passengers, he stopped close to where I was standing.
I thinks, "That horse sure looks familiar." He had him on the offside, so I walked over so I could see his left shoulder and, sure enough, there was a J.
I have handled and helped handle a good many horses, but this is the only one I ever saw that would turn somersaults, or handsprings as Russ Bryan called them.
This horse must have been good till he was near 30 years old – a tough horse, and a tough boy that tried to tame him.