My Adventures in the West
by Joseph Wegley 1867 - 1946
I unsaddled my horse, took the bed off the bed horse, and turned them loose. The boys were eating supper and the boss told me I had better eat. I washed my face and hands and asked the cook where he kept his towels. He told me to help myself to the slickers, and the boss showed me the towels.
The boys laughed a little as I proceeded to eat. The cook had sugar in one baking powder can and salt in another. I got salt in my coffee which didn’t taste good, but I drank it. The boys don’t know the mistake yet.
The boys, of course, were strange to me and, of course, knew I was a tenderfoot, so they were rather cool to me. I spread my bed in the tent along with the rest and went to bed, my first time to sleep on the prairie in a tent. I dreamed of things to come.
The next morning I got up when the cook pounded on a Dutch oven lid, which would wake anything alive. We ate our breakfast, caught our mounts for the forenoon and started.
Was I happy! Imagine me finally a real cowboy; among nobody but cowboys. Of course, the boys always caught their toughest horses the first morning out. I will never forget the excitement that morning. I wondered if I had the stuff in me to someday do likewise. After the scene that would make most rodeos look tame, we got off.
I said to one of the boys that I thought he had a real rough ride, “I don’t see how you can stay in the saddle when they buck that way.” He said, “It’s easy. Just get up there and keep your seat.” I said, “Keeping your seat is the puzzle to me.”
My string of horses were all gentle. Things went smoothly with me until the horse wrangler lost my string of horses one night. It looked to me as if I would have to go on foot, but the boss said, “I’ll stake you kid, until your get your horses.” He caught me a nice gentle horse in the morning and at noon he said, “Say kid, do you think you can ride a horse that bucks a little?” I said, “Jim, I never rode a horse that bucked much, but I am afoot and will try anything you say.”
He caught a little white horse and told me to take him. I was saddling him when a boy on one side of me said to another, “Say Jim, isn’t that the horse that killed a nigger coming up the trail?” Jim said, “Yes, he seems gentle, but when you get on him, he unwinds and it takes some man to stay there.” Well, I caught the joke, and said, “Say Jim, he will have a chance to kill a kid in a minute.”
One good Mexican, Pedro Gonzolis, seemed to think I was scared and came up and jumped into the saddle; the horse looked gentle and he was gentle. The boys thought they were going to have a joke on me.
Well, we soon found my old string of horses, and things went along fine. So far I hadn’t been very useful, but I was learning. Of course, being young and ambitious, I wanted to be useful as soon as possible.
The outfit I was with had bought the remnants of some Texas cows from an outfit that a hard winter had almost eliminated, and branded them as they were found. I watched the boys do their stuff until I thought I was ready to graduate. The same Mexican that saved me from the joke roped a cow and threw her. I, of course, a cowboy, jumped off my horse, held her down until branded, took the rope off her, and got up and stood there. Well, when she got to her feet and saw me standing there, she dropped her head and started for me. I ran for my horse, but the cow was so close I didn’t have time to mount, so we played merry-go-round for some time. She wasn’t fooling, she meant business. I sometimes thought I could feel the warm breath from her nostrils on the parts farther behind. For the benefit of those who read this, I will say that one can dodge a bull on the prairie for the reason that when a bull charges he closes his eyes, but not a cow. Not her!