My Adventures in the West
by Joseph Wegley 1867 - 1946
The west was a great country at that time, and was made great by greater men who had the western spirit. I will try to name some of the greatest of these characters in the best way that my memory will permit, however, this being about forty-five years ago, some incidents as well as some characters are apt to be vague.
The most outstanding outfit as I remember was the Douglas and Mead of Glendive, Montana. Mead was the resident manager, and Douglas was a wealthy man of the East, but Mead was a westerner right. He ran the Douglas and Mead General Store, and they carried anything needed for that section. They also owned the Merchants Bank, the only bank there at that time.
A boy could go to Glendive at that time, get a job as a cowboy, and go to Douglas and Mead’s to buy an outfit consisting of a saddle, bridle, spurs, rope, quirt, and bed. The outfit complete would run up to around $100. but there was no security asked, it was not even o.k.’d by anyone. Such men made it possible for a country to grow. All other business was of a similar character.Among the outstanding ranchmen were Henry Lewis, my first boss and manager of the J brand; A. C. Smith, foreman of the known as the Hatchet outfit; Charley Dole, manager of the S. D. brand; Jim Claupton, foreman; Ed Moran, foreman of the N. Y. Outfit; Modisty Carter, of the O brand; old man Day who is still living at Sidney, Montana, owner of the D. T.; Uclit Acin, and a foreman shill in Glendive; George McCone, a horse ranchman who had a ranch on Morgon creek, who was state senator lately; Dominic Cavanah, county assessor who had a ranch on Thirteen Mile creek, who later became sheriff and was murdered in Glendive while in office; Nick Buttleman or Buttleman Bros., owners of the old brand known as the wildest horses on the range, and lots of them – when Nick would get a little too much to drink, he would say, “I have horses on a thousand hills.”
On our part of the range was Hank Cusker, the foreman of the big N-N cow outfit, now deceased. He was a wild, reckless character and the best all-around rider and roper I have ever see. When one had a horse he couldn’t ride, Hank would take him for a circle. When he came back, he knew he could be ridden.
The Montana Stock Growers Association used to put on a show at their annual meeting in Miles City every spring, and it was a real show. Their roping and riding contests were good, and contestants needed all the qualifications of a real cowboy.
They had a bunch of wild horses in one corral not even halter broke, and a bunch of wild steers in another corral. The contestants would go into the horse corral, catch saddle, and mount his horse alone. The attendants would turn out a steer and the cowboy at the same time. The cowboy’s job was to rope this wild steer from his wild horse and throw and tie him down. It was a man sized job. The boy that did it in the shortest time got the prize, and this man, Hank, usually got the prize.
This Stock Growers Association was organized for mutual benefits. It was a state wide organization, and if any of its members had any stock stolen, they would put stock detectives on the trail and they would follow the thieves to the ends of the range. Their detectives were ex-cowboys well qualified to handle the job.
I, at one time, went to Minnesota and bought thirty-eight head of steers and two cows. I let them out on shares to a man named Harry Busby. He had a nice family, a wife and two children. I thought he was a real fellow. He had come from South Dakota about a year before. He was to take the cattle thirty miles south of Terry, Montana where he had started a small ranch. He was to keep them around the place and feed them hay in the winter if need be. He was to keep the steers until they were four years old, and then ship them to market, and I was to take out the original cost. We were to divide the gains.