My Adventures in the West
by Joseph Wegley 1867 - 1946
I had an attorney draw up an iron clad contract to that effect which we both signed.
The next fall, after the season’s work was over, I went over to his place to visit, and also to see the cattle. That evening the steers came home, with sixteen motherless calves following them, and my steers were not all there. Well, I saw the point. I realized I didn’t have the man I thought I had, but I was helpless as my cattle were not all there, and besides, I wasn’t in a position to start anything. I came to the conclusion to wait and take my medicine and say I like it. My brand was recorded, so if any of them went to the terminals the money would come to me as the Stock Growers Association had inspectors there to inspect the brands and send the money to whom it belonged.
Well, when the steers were four years old, he did ship thirteen head, and I got within $3.00 of what the bunch had cost me. I had heard of this man butchering and selling meat to bridge crews on the Northern Pacific Railroad, and, of course, I knew he was selling my beef, but what could I do. I was punching cattle and was very busy. This affair happened in later years, but I tell it now in order to show the connection with the Stock Growers Association.
The next fall, I was in Langdon, North Dakota. I went there with western horses, trying to sell and dispose of them.
One day, I got a letter from this man Busby saying he would give me $400 for my brand, which meant all the cattle I owned. He asked for a bill of sale for 300 head, more or less. It sounded queer to me, so I went up to a banker friend of mine and told him the circumstances. He told me to take no chances as long as he had in more or less.
I was curious about the “more or less” as I hadn’t figured I would ever get another dollar out of these cattle. I wrote him a letter saying I would self for $500. He answered telling me to send the bill of sale to the Stock Growers National Bank at Miles City, which I did. In about three weeks, I received a draft for $500.
I had a letter from a friend in Montana telling me Busby had been arrested for cattle stealing and advising me to come and look after my interests.
The Stock Growers Association rounded up his range and found 300 head of cattle with my brand on. They wrote me and asked for particulars. I wrote them, but I wasn’t even called for a witness. He was convicted and sentenced to four years. Had I had a shady reputation, I would have had to fight too, as the Association didn’t care for expenses if they thought anyone was guilty.
While I am on this subject, I will cite another incident that happened at this time.
While on this Busby ranch, a big, long, lanky young fellow rode up to the place and put his horse in. As per custom on the range, he came in and stayed all night. He sat in the bunk house all evening, his six shooter lying around the room carelessly.
In the morning, he saddled up and went north toward my home ranch. At that time, I visited a day or so and then went back to the ranch I was wintering at, and there was this same kid. The boss said a detective had been there looking for this harmless looking fellow whom they had trailed for a long time. He had killed a woman in New Orleans. He had gone through marshes on the Mississippi river that no man had ever gone through before, as it was infested with alligators. He swam the river, and they thought he was dead.