My Adventures in the West
by Joseph Wegley 1867 - 1946
Through this man’s general knowledge of cowboy work, and my ability to ask questions along with my long hours of practice in riding and roping, I learned a whole lot about the business, before the round-up started. I practiced roping on jack rabbits and coyotes. I had met several cowboys who used to come around occasionally to visit my boss. I had hunted some during the time game was plentiful. There were deer, antelope, and many small animals in abundance. We used wild meat almost entirely for fresh meat.
Well, finally round-up time came and I realized the dream of my life. For the benefit of anyone who read this, I will give a brief idea of what a round-up means. In the first place, this is what they call an open range. It belongs to the United States, no individuals, but they have gentlemen’s agreements as to the range they claim. For instance, the country is drained by creeks which are all named. John Doe has a ranch on Porcupine Creek. He also claims Cedar and Cottonwood creeks; those creeks are his for his range. Another man has similar ranges. Well, the cattle run loose and get all over the whole range to some extent.
The general round-up, which is held every spring, means each ranch sends out a wagon, his bunch of punchers, along with their saddle horses. The wagon means a mess or grub wagon which carries the boys’ beds, a cooking outfit, grub, etc. The cook usually drives the wagon from one camp to another. Those outfits, as they are called, all go together in the spring and start at one end of the range. One man is appointed round-up foreman and he is boss of all the work on this general round-up. He directs the riders from one camp to another, that is, he sends them to certain parts to bring in all the cattle they find. They all come in to camp.
The horse wranglers look after and move the saddle horses. When the cattle are assembled, the cowboys usually eat dinner, change horses, and cut out the cattle that belong to the man on the particular range they are on, and leave them on what they call his home range. Then they night-herd the general herd. Next day they move and perform as before until the whole range is worked.
Then each ranch has its beef round-up in the fall and ship their beef. If a neighbor’s cattle is found on the beef round-up, they cut out his beef and ship it. The brand inspector at the terminal sends the money to the proper person. Brands are recorded the same as deeds to farms.
Well, this man Lewis who I worked for didn’t have a big enough outfit to send out a wagon, so he sent me out representing his brand. That meant that I was to look after his interests. Well, he gave me eight head of saddle horses and a bed, which we tied to one of the horses. He told me where to find the outfit, which was twenty miles distant, and gave me the general direction, thus starting me out on one of the happiest moments of my life. I would not have changed places with the president; in fact, I don’t know if his overcoat would have made me a vest.
I found the outfit at dusk in the evening and drove my string of horses near the wagon. A man came and helped me put them in a rope corral by the wagon for this purpose.
A rope corral is two ropes, one stretched in such a way as to be wider in the middle than the outer end where the horses are put in. One end is stretched from the front wheel, and one from the hind wheel about three feet from the ground. The horses are trained so as not to break out of this corral which is used for the boys to catch their mounts. I asked this man who the boss was. He answered, “You are talking to him now.” I said, “Mr. Lewis, my boss, sent me here to help, but I never saw a round-up and know nothing about this kind of work; but if you will tell me what to do and how to do it, I will do the best I can, as I want to learn.” He said, “Say kid, I like to hear a kid talk like that; you’ll learn.”