My Adventures in the West
by Joseph Wegley 1867 - 1946
When the time came to start the beef round-up, we rigged up our mess wagon, rolled up our beds, and started, horses and boys all fresh and raring to go. There were just three outfits on this round-up.
The first day out, we accumulated a small herd which, of course, had to be night herded. I was assigned last guard which meant the last two hours of night herding, and so it was up to me to wake up the cook at a certain time.
We had a new cook. He called me to one side and said, “Say kid, when you go to wake me up in the morning, my bed will be right there.” Then he showed me where. He told me he didn’t sleep in the tent, and that I should not ride up to his bed on a run, just ride up on a walk and tell him what I wanted. I, of course, knew this was not idle talk, and fully calculated to abide with his demands. Well, I don’t think I ever got closer than possibly fifty feet of his bed before he was setting up in bed with a six shooter in his hand and asking me what I wanted. I never found out just what was the matter with this man as we were not in the habit of asking a man anything about his private affairs. We had plenty to do to attend to our own. This man was really a fine fellow as far as his dealings with us were concerned and attended strictly to his own business. He was also a splendid cook.
On the beef round-up, there was very little laborious work as there were no calves to brand except those that were missed on the calf round-up. It was just a case of ride circle work. We usually got through with the routine work early in the afternoon. Then we would wash our clothes in the creek, have foot races, horse races both fast and slow. In the slow race, the slow horse won. The boys would let them change horses and the race was real as each rider tried to make the horse he was riding, which wasn’t his own horse, run his best so his own horse would come in last. That was more fun than any fast race.
At dark, of course, the night guard started.
Beef cattle were very wild and had to be handled with care so no reckless stuff was allowed near the beef herd. The boys had to ride up to the herd very quietly to avoid exciting the cattle.
This round-up lasted about four weeks. When we got through, we were about forty miles from the shipping point, Fallon. When we started moving the herd which had been just grazed along and not driven so as to hold their flesh. They were handled just as quietly as possible. Really, this job was monotonous.
Things went well until we got above Glendive on the Yellowstone Valley. We camped at Clear Creek for the night. It was drizzling rain and the night was as dark as a stack of black cats. I was on first guard and things were very quiet. There seemed to be too much electricity in the air. Every steer had a spark of light on the point of each horn, and my saddle horse had a spark on each ear. If I ran my hand down his neck, it would leave a streak of light.
We were singing to the cattle as usual, when all at once a mountain lion let a yell out of him. It was enough to raise one’s hair. If you have ever heard a woman scream in the worst possible manner, that is about what it sounded like.
Well, the cattle went off like wild, and started for the hills which weren’t far away. They were going plenty fast. To run in front of them meant suicide in case your horse should fall.
I rode alongside the leaders and shook my slicker and hollered. They got into the foot hills, but I succeeded in swinging the leaders. The boy on guard with me stayed back a little so as to keep the whole bunch swinging. We succeeded in getting the herd back on level land, but I had to run my horse just as fast as he could run no matter what the lay of the ground was.