Cowboy Days of Long Ago

Looking back through the years, it's hard to believe the changes that have taken place in the past 75 years in ranching and the handling of cattle. In the fall of 1879 my father, D. B. Budd, and his partner Hugh McKay, were driving a herd of cattle from Nevada when they were forced to winter in the Green River Valley. That was about 10 miles west of the present town of Big Piney on South Piney Creek, close to the Dave Rands and Corder places. The feed was good and they liked the country so they decided to stay and settle here.

Their original homes were built on what is now the 67 ranch. The only other ranches here at that time were the place of Ed Swan, the O (Circle ranch of Otto Leifer and the H. L. Budd ranch owned by a man named Dick Fagan who sold horses.

At that time the cattle were run on the open range and no one thought of putting up hay except a few loads which they cut along the sloughs for the wrangle horses and the milk cows. There wasn't a fence anywhere-just a few corrals near the house. That was fine until the severe winter of 1889-90, when most of the cattle starved to death and everyone had to start over. Cowmen began to plan ahead for winter. They began fencing their land and gradually improving it. Grubbing sage brush by hand was no easy job, but they did it; sowed grass seed, and began to build ditches to irrigate the meadows.

As more land was cultivated and fenced in, grazing of livestock became more of a problem. This caused the cattlemen to change their methods of handling their cattle. For this purpose they established the Big Piney Roundup Association. For several years about all the ranches on the west side of the Green River from La Barge Creek north to the head of Green River, and the Rim of Fall River Basin, belonged to the "Piney Wagon." Rules and by-laws were drawn up. It was decided to have four Roundups every year, Spring Roundup, one in July, the Beef Roundup, and one in the Fall. Each ranch owner was to take turns being Roundup Foreman for one year. Every outfit was to furnish a rider for every 250 head of cattle, furnish his riders with saddle horses and also a work team for the mess wagon and bed wagon, share in the expense of the chuckwagon and salary for the cook.
During this time there were about 25 to 30 cowboys riding on each Roundup. Some of the early cowboys were: Joe Afford, Charlie Real, Al Davison, W. J. McGinnis, Sr., Frank Lewis, Jake Query, Bill McGinnis, Jr., Johnnie and Al McNish,. Howard McWilliams, Rody Thornton, and Stan Murdock, all from the La Barge country. From the Piney area and up-country were Joe Black, Charles Budd, A. W. Smith, N. W. Griggs, Ed and E. Z. Swan, Otto Leifer, Al Osterhout, "Doggie" Edwards, Fred Sehebell, "Ballie" Johnson, Herman Southard, John Curtis, Alex Price, John Kutch, Hugh McKay, Abner Luman, George Ross, George Renshaw, Frank Woodruff, Tobe Huston, James Mickelson, Sr., Jim Sykes, Joe Anderson, Fred Dubois, "Rollie" Wilcox, Archie Roberts, F. D. Ball, Gus Rogers, Buster McIllvain, Frank Larsen and myself. I started riding horses soon after I was weaned, and by the time I was ten years old I was a real cowboy and one of the gang, at least I thought so.

Packing to go on the roundup in those days didn't take much time. We took an extra change of clothes, a few extra socks and rolled them up in the bedroll. A cowboy had to have a pair of boots, a J. B. Stetson hat, and a pair of chaps; most of them carried a slicker rolled up back of the saddle. The bedroll consisted of wool blankets, and a heavy home-made wool quilt which was wrapped in a piece of canvas or "bed tarp."

The mess wagon was driven by the cook. The first cook was Cyrus Fish who kept the job for several years and was followed by "Roxie" McClintock. Roxie was especially well liked and always had a cup of coffee and some left-over bit to hand to the cowboys when they came into camp. Besides that he was a darn good cook! The mess wagon carried all the cooking equipment and foodstuffs. The end of the mess wagon folded down and formed a table for the cook to work on; when this was down it disclosed a sort of cupboard where the knives, forks, spoons, tin plates, and cups were kept. We didn't have much of a variety of meals in those days. The foodstuffs were principally dry salt pork, beans, lots of Arbuckle coffee (which had to be ground), potatoes, flour, dried apples, prunes, apricots, raisins, and beef. The cook made sour dough bread and baking powder biscuits. I remember for a treat we used to sprinkle sugar in the drippings from the steak and use that for both butter and jam. Roxie's specialty was "Spotted Pup" - a rice and raisin steamed pudding which he made in a flour sack suspended from a stick which was laid across a big kettle of boiling water. The bed wagon, with the branding irons hanging underneath, carried the bed rolls, and usually one or two tents. The night wrangler usually drove the bed wagon.

Each cowboy had from eight to twelve horses; so you see there was a pretty good-sized cavvy. The day wrangler drove the horses when he moved camp, and kept a general look-out for them during the day. He'd bring them in before daylight and drive them into a rope corral. Each rider would catch his mount and the wrangler would drive the other horse off to good grazing until noon, when he'd bring them in again. After the noon meal each rider caught a fresh horse, and the cavvy was herded until night. When the riders were in, the horses were all brought back. A horse was caught for the night wrangler and it was his job to herd them until morning.

I can remember when Al Davison was foreman. He was a stickler for getting us up about three in the morning. After a while some of us kids got tired of that. In the cavvy were always a few horses which would try to stampede when they were caught with a rope. One cold morning when they got us up extra early, we had done a little planning ahead. We caught one of those wild horses and then we began to yell like hell. Just as we'd hoped, the horse stampeded and off went the whole cavvy. Of course the few who had caught their horses, as well as the wrangler, had to ride off to bring them all back. This little trick kept us out of the saddle a few hours that day, but I might add we never purposely did it again!

When the day wrangler wasn't busy, he would gather wood, which was often quite a chore, and help the cook. This wasn't a bad job and it wasn't too hard to hire a good day wrangler. When James P. Jensen came to the country he became a horse wrangler on the Roundup. To find a night wrangler was a bit harder. This was a lonely job, and sometimes during storms it was really rough.

At times some of us younger ones must have been quite a nuisance in camp. Tired as we might be, the spirit of youth sometimes kept us from admitting our tiredness after the others were wise enough to call it a day. When that happened we thought it great fun to try to keep the others awake, or play some kind of foolish pranks until they'd finally put us in our places for a while. Many a "chapping" we took for some of our foolishness. Once I remember when we'd really overstepped our bounds, they waited until we'd gone to sleep, then they dumped us out of our beds and ran us out of camp in our underwear. The older ones took turns sitting up watching so we couldn't get back into camp. That was a long, cold night and we were sure anxious for day to come. When it did, and it was light enough to see them, they took our clothes down to the creek. Piece by piece we watched our clothes hit the icy water. Believe me we had a wet ride that morning, and by night we were pretty quiet kids.

As foreman, Joe Black was always tops with us kids. He was a stickler for fairness. Some of the other foremen would always make the kids hold the day herd or the different bunches at brandings, get all the wood, carry water and help the cook. Joe Black made everyone, whether he was owner of an outfit or a kid, take his turn with every job. We really tried hard to do our best for him.

In March quite a few of the ranchers would turn their "dry stuff," the steers and cows without calves (probably a thousand to two thousand head) out on the desert east of the Green River. The snow went off earlier on the desert and there was good spring grazing. The Spring Roundup would then start in late April or the first of May, depending upon the weather.

It sometimes seemed that no matter what kind of weather we'd been having, once the Roundup began it would start to storm. The fall storms were the most treacherous, but those in the spring could be rough. I remember one spring we got wet the first night and for that whole Roundup we wore wet clothes and slept in wet beds. Times like that didn't make for good humor and sometimes you wondered why you wanted to be a cowboy. One thing about it, if it was rough on us cowboys, it was perhaps even worse on the cook. Wet food, damp foodstuff, working in wet clothes, preparing food for hungry, irritable cowboys must have been quite a chore.

For the Spring Roundup we crossed the Green River just north of the present town of La Barge. Most years it was before the high water began, so we could drive the mess wagon and bed wagon across; but there were a few times they had to swim them across the river. We worked the country east of the Green River from La Barge Creek to Black Buttes, gathering all the cattle between the river and the "Sandies." We pushed all these cattle across the river at the mouth of Beaver and the Black Buttes. They were scattered around in small bunches at the head of the various creeks to graze for the summer.

Usually by the end of the Spring Roundup the streams were really high. In those days there were so few ditches to take out water, and it seems we must have had more run-off. To cross those streams we generally had to swim the cattle and our horses. In the spring of 1904, East Fork was really treacherous. Frank Woodruf was foreman that year. They were having real trouble trying to get those cattle into the water. They just wouldn't step into that roaring stream. Frank and several others were trying to get the lead bunch started. Usually if a cowboy would go ahead, the cattle would follow. Time and again they tried, but with no luck. Finally Frank plunged his horse into the river in a desperate effort to get them going. Quickly the current caught his horse and carried him downstream and both were drowned. Several of the fellows tried to help. Bill McGinnis was one who tried. He too got caught in the current and it was nothing short of a miracle that he was able to get out.

Another time crossing New Fork the mess wagon was nearly lost. They had four horses on the wagon. Somehow the lead team got tangled up and were about to pull the other team and wagon under. Some of the cowboys managed to get in close and cut the lead team loose. The lead team was drowned but the other team headed right and finally pulled the wagon to shore. A man named Whitehead was cook so he was driving the wagon. He was mighty glad to get that outfit on dry land. That sure was one big mess! Everything was soaked and swimming with water! The potatoes weren't hurt, but the flour just formed a wall around each sack, and the sugar became one hard lump. Jimmie Jensen says he can still remember the dried fruit which was packed in wooden boxes. It all began to swell. The prunes and apples just popped those boxes wide open and kept right on swelling.

As soon as we were west of the River and had the cattle scattered, we headed home. We now had a few clays to get clean, stretch our legs, and probably dig a few post holes. Most of us felt this digging of post holes, although necessary, was quite a demotion for a cowboy and I doubt if many of us broke any records.

Mrs. Julia B. Nichols had a store just west and north of the present town of Big Piney. She was a real friend to all people and certainly was a "mother" to all the cowboys who had no families or homes here. Between the different Roundups, those cowboys went straight to the Nichols' store to bathe in the old tin tub, get their clothes washed and to have a real home cooked meal. In the store Mrs. Nichols always kept bolts of red and gray flannel from which she made underwear for some of the cowboys. She fastened strings on the ankles so they could be tied down and not creep up the legs while the cowboys were riding. From the pieces that were left, Mrs. Nichols  made heavy pieced quilts and sold them to the cowboys for $12.00 apiece. She also made butter and salted it down in large pails to send on the Roundup.

The Fourth of July was always a big occasion. People planned all year for this great get-together. Usually it was a big picnic, often lasting a day or two. Sometimes it was held down on the River above the Three Islands, or up in Snyder Basin. In later years it was always in the trees at the Henry Budd Ranch. Those women must have cooked for days before the picnic. What feasts they turned out! Everyone ate quantities, but you could always spot a cowboy. After the diet he'd been on, he just couldn't seem to get enough of that good home cooking.

They had all kinds of foot races for the men, women and kids. At one of these picnics down on the River they had a ladies' race. Mrs. Amos Smith and Mrs. Mills (Ralph Mills mother) were both in it, although I can't remember the others. About half through the race, Mrs. Mills ran out from under her bustle. It didn't slow her clown a bit; in fact she went on and won the race. We had horse races, fishing contests and all kinds of excitement besides having a chance for some good visiting. One time up in Snyder Basin I thought 1 was quite a "bronc buster" and wanted to make a hit with some of the girls. I saddled up close to camp, spurred that old horse and let out a big yell. I was promptly thrown a couple of rods down the hill and landed in a big bunch of willows. I never showed up in camp again until the next morning and needless to say I wasn't the hero I'd hoped to be. If the picnic lasted more than one day there would be dancing at night which would begin about sundown and last until sunup. All in all those were great days!

One time, I remember, when the cowboys came in between Roundups, all the home folks were excited about a horse race that was to take place. Two miners had moved into the country to pan gold out of the River. They built a little shack under the bill just north of town. With them they had an old, raw-boned bay horse which they claimed could outrun anything in the country. Ez Swan had the two fastest local horses. One was "Nigger Babe," the faster was "Blue Pint." As soon as the cowboys were in, it didn't take long to set up a race and spread the news. They knocked off all the tall brush along the edge of the hill so they could use that for their track. It was a good race but "Nigger Babe" was the winner. The miners, however, were not a bit discouraged. They insisted on running again the next day, but this time they wanted to run against "Blue Pint'." Everyone came from all around. The betting was high since "Blue Pint'" was a real racer. The race began! That miner whispered something in the old  bay horse's ear, applied the quirt and they were off. It was quite a race before a startled mob of spectators. That old raw-boned bay literally sprouted wings and made Blue Pint" eat his dust the full length of the track! Many a cowboy went home that night without his lariat, his spurs, chaps, and in a few instances, without his saddle! Those miners really "cashed

Right after the Fourth, the July Roundup would start out. This one was mostly cows anti calves and was principally to brand the calves and distribute them with their mothers on the heads of the various creeks. Again we began clown on LaBarge Creek, this time on the west of the Green River and worked north. This usually took about six weeks.

To handle the branding, the Association soon built a series of corrals. Three or four were built at the different camps which were located as follows: the first was between Fish Creek and Middle Piney next to the timber; the second was in the Deer hill country; third, the Bench Corral at the bead of Meadow Canyon; fourth, on South Cottonwood, where the Walter Ball ranch is; fifth, the Gulch Corral, between North Cottonwood and South Horse Creek; sixth, north of Horse Creek just above and north of the Hartley ranch; and seventh was on South Beaver.

The cattle were rounded up and bunched near these corrals. The foreman would appoint riders to cut out the cows and calves, a certain brand for each corral. As soon as the cattle were corraled, the owner and his crew would start branding while the rest of the riders held the remaining herd and continued to work out more brands. As you can imagine these were hard, noisy, dirty days. As soon as the branding was completed, the cattle were scattered about on different parts of that range. The cowboys then moved on to round up the next area and continued branding at the next corral until they had finished on South Beaver.

In early spring here in the Piney country, the ranchers would turn all their bulls out together and hire cowboys to take care of them until the July Roundup went out. For several years, my brothers, Henry and Dan, and Les Mills had this job in Snyder Basin or North Piney Basin. They would take pack horses with a tent, bed rolls, food, and their cooking equipment. They took turns herding the bulls and doing the cooking. Henry's favorite meal was scrambled eggs. The cowboys would rob a sage hen's nest (they were really thick in those clays) then unroll his slicker off the back of his saddle, carefully place the eggs in the slicker and roll it back up. When he got back to camp he'd unroll the slicker, hoping the eggs weren't already scrambled and there was supper ready for the cooking. When the Roundup was ready to go out the foreman would send a couple of riders with pack outfits to help these herders scatter the bulls on the different creeks and then join the wagon at Beaver. I was stuck with this job for a few years along with Renel Penniger, James P. Jensen and a few others. We sure had some real bull fights and had a lot of fun betting on which one would win. Fred "Happy" Gootch was another who helped with the bulls. 1 never saw anyone go quite so crazy over a bull fight. He wouldn't watch from the distance but would ride right up beside them. Once up on Merna flats he rode up too close to a  red hot bull fight. Suddenly one old bull had enough and he wheeled to run and knocked over "Happy" and his horse. Gootch was lucky and came out with nothing more than a dislocated shoulder, but we had to kill the horse.

Soon after the July Roundup was finished, it was time to start the beef gathering. This began at the Beavers and worked south. At the different camps they would work out the beef, then move the rest of the cattle back into the mountains. Here began the serious business of night herding. There were no pastures in which to hold the beef. Each rider would take a  two or three-hour shift as night herder to keep them from straying back with the other cattle. At sunup we'd move south, part of us driving the beef herd and part of the riders gathering more cattle to be added to the herd.

When we reached the Pineys, the cattle were generally bunched where Marbleton now is, or on the bench just north of the present Mickelson Ranch. Here each rancher would work out his own cattle and take them home.

Now that the beef were gathered, it was time to start the drive to the railroad. Usually two or three outfits would throw in together for this. Again there would be a wagon to haul the grub and beds. At first we drove up close to the mountains and came out at the head of Cravens Creek, north of Round Mountain, then on to Opal. For a few years we loaded at the station of Waterfall, between Opal and Kemmerer. Some ranchers drove to Randolph. Opal later became the main loading center. The drive usually took from six to eight days. Oftentimes, as now, when we arrived there were no cars waiting to be loaded. Sometimes we had to herd both day and night, for several days, before the cars arrived. This was often rough, for the cattle seemed nervous there, and it didn't take much to stampede them. One year I remember Charlie Noble was holding a big bunch when a train went through and blew its whistle. Those cows just left the country! There was no holding them. Later they gathered most of them around Granger and loaded there.

Around 1900, the cattlemen realized they were losing more than the usual number of cattle. They were sure they were being gathered, then trailed out through the Star Valley. They hired four riders, whom they called "Range Riders" to ride over the range during the summer to watch the cattle. H. L. Budd, Jake Query, "Rolly" Wilcox and "Heck" Reel were the riders. They rode in pairs and had their own pack outfits.

The Fall Roundup began soon after the beef drive was over. This was to bring in all the cows and calves. After the first snowstorm the foreman sent about six riders out to see that no cattle were left at the heads of the various creeks.

Fall weather was often rough. One time a blizzard hit while we were holding herd at the head of Horse Creek. The cowboys fought those cattle and the storm all night. When morning came, they found the herd had drifted with the storm and were about ten miles from camp. Another time Amos Smith was helping night-herd when a blizzard hit. It came time for the relief riders to show up, and as you can imagine, we were ready for help. No one came, so Amos started after them. He rode all the rest of the night, but never found the camp or the relief riders until the next morning.

This general pattern of roundup lasted until about 1898. By that time there were getting to be too many cattle to handle in one Roundup. The larger outfits always wanted to get the larger herds worked out first, the smaller ones felt they were at a disadvantage in always being last. It was finally decided to have two separate Roundups. This was about the time of the Spanish American War, so the two wagons were known as the Wilders (the larger owners), and the Cubans (the smaller outfits). The two traveled about the same territory, but were a few days apart. Once they both camped at the Green River at the same time. "Red" Rich, one of the Cubans, shot a cottontail rabbit for his supper. Frank Gatchel, one of the Wilders, decided their gang would enjoy it more. He made off with it and "Red" was right behind him. That started a mob riot - friendly, but frantic! They chased each other, beat each other with willows, and really let off steam. All in fun, it was quite a fight! This led the two camps to betting which camp could outrun the other. It was decided Gatchel and Rich would do the running. The cowboys never had much money with them, but Jimmy Jensen says the Cubans were by far the richer after that race.

The Green River Valley developed quite a reputation for its quality beef. Each cowboy took pride in that reputation. His life was a hard one for he had to be in the saddle all day, every day, from sun up until sun down, regardless of the weather. Often he had to take his turn with the night herd. Still there was a feeling of independence and adventure about being a cowboy. For those who enjoyed working out in the open, riding horses and working with cattle, there just wasn't anything equal to being a cowboy on those early Roundups.

                                                                                                                        HELEN TANNER
                                                                                                                        As told to me by my father, John C. Budd
                                                                                                                        "Tales of the Seeds-Ke-Dee" pages 26-42