My Adventures in the West
by Joseph Wegley 1867 - 1946
Well, in the spring I was well. I had made no arrangements for work. This summer I felt as though I could work on any old ranch. I got on my horse and rode out across the range. I came to my friend, Nick Buttleman’s ranch and he asked me if I wanted to go to Dakota again. I said I would. He said, “You are on.” That was the spring of 1893.
We went to work gathering horses as usual. Nothing happened out of the ordinary. There were lots of good men there. They all knew their stuff. I was saving my money and occasionally buying and selling a horse for myself. Things went fine.
Now this man, McPeak, and his partner, as referred to before, were still working there. Their story went as follows:
Nick sent them up on the upper range representing him. They said he told them that any slicks – that is any unbranded stuff – they brought back they would go fifty-fifty on. They brought some seventeen or eighteen head. Nick sent them out on a circle with the rest of us. He branded those slicks with his own brand. He said there was never such a deal, which I always questioned myself.
At any rate, they quit and started stealing horses. I don’t know where they disposed of them, but it was said that they stole horses, and there were horses being missed. They finally got to stealing and butchering cattle and disposing of the meat. In fact, they became fugitives from justice.
The stock association put their detective, Billy Smith, on their trail, and no one questioned that Billy usually got his man. He had a cork leg and used to travel in a buckboard.
Well, one day Billy located the boys at a deserted ranch. They were getting dinner. Billy walked in and raised the cooking pot lid and said, “Where did you get that meat, and where did the blood come from on the wagon box?” I do not know their answers.
Anyway, Billy came up to the horse ranch to stay all night figuring on going back the next morning and taking the boys back with him. The boys got curious, and not knowing where Billy had gone, they thought they had better move temporarily. They came to the ranch that night. Smith was sleeping in the ranch house. Jim and Al came and were crawling in bed with some boys when one of the boys told him that Smith was in the other room. They got up and moved. The next morning, someone told Smith that Jim and Al had been there last night. That was once Smith didn’t get his man.
Time passed, and somehow Smith heard that the boys were going to Fallon. He went there and went to a saloon that they patronized, and waited. Sure enough, in rode Jim and another boy, but not Al. Smith, however, thought it was Al. Well, Smith stepped out with two guns and said, “Jim, I want you.” Jim said, “All right, I would just as soon go with you as any blankety blank, etc.” Smith took his eyes off of Jim and said to the other fellow, “I want you also.” When he looked at Jim again, Jim had slipped off his horse and had a big six gun on Smith and said, “Drop those guns and stick ‘em up. If you move a finger, I’ll kill you.” Smith took him at his word and did as he was told. Jim kept his gun on Smith and led his horse to a railroad tie house. He got behind it and rode straight away out of shooting distance. He waved his hand and said, “So long, Smith.” Smith said to the other boy, “Give me your Winchester.” The boy said, “Oh, no, I want some protection as some other blankety blank might try to hold me up.”
Well, nothing was heard from the boys for two or three years, then Smith located them again north of Wibeaux which was then called Mingesville. Those two boys, along with some other of questionable reputation, had established headquarters. Smith got some inside information. He took a posse of twelve men consisting of officers and ranchmen and went out. There was a woman at the ranch, but all the men were out. It was her usual custom, when there was suspicion of danger, to go and put a flag on a hill. This was a notice for the men to stay away. Smith, being wise to this, saw that there was no signal put out this day.
- 25 -