My Adventures in the West
by Joseph Wegley 1867 - 1946
It was at a meeting one night that the stockmen were talking of organizing and chasing those wild horses off the range. I raised an objection saying that this range didn’t really belong to any certain person and besides, it would be almost a matter of impossibility to chase them off the range. Anyway, it was forgotten.
Well, this horse outfit wintered in some old buildings near the place where I worked. I got acquainted with them, and the boss wanted to hire me in the spring. I, of course, was just the age to want some rough stuff, so I hired to him. His name was Nick Buttleman, a German and a real stockman. Those horses had been in the mountains for years, inbreeding and becoming very wild.
At any rate, I went to work in the outfit. There were five riders and only five saddle horses which meant that we had to start breaking horses at once.
We went out the first day, and after some hard riding we corralled a bunch. The boss said, “Now boys, pick out saddle horses.” Then the fun started. Sometime the horses would fall, but more times we would fall, I think. I have been in all shapes possible for a man to get into at such work. But, I got what I had always wanted – thrills.
What made it nice on the range those days was that we are all young and had no older heads to act as governors, so one could go just as far as he liked.
The bunch of horses referred to were branded known at that time the country over. They at one time claimed to have 40,000 head.
Well, after we were pretty well through with the horse round-up, the boss sent me twenty miles from our round-up camp to build corrals for a home ranch. We had a shack to start with, without a window or door but holes out for them, and a dirt floor. I batched and worked on corrals. It was twenty miles away to the nearest neighbor. I used a blanket for a door and nothing over the window hole.
One night I awoke to hear a hoot owl on the shack, and a band of grey wolves howling around the shack. Having heard of men being eaten out of their boots, I was scared, but I soon realized that it was up to me. I got up and took my gun off the wall and stepped outside the blanket door. I saw one wolf and shot at him. I could see wolves going in all directions, and the hoot owl didn’t bother me any more that night, neither did the wolves.
When the corrals were finished and the horses brought to the home ranch, the boss sent me to another camp with two thousand mares. I had one man to help me herd and look after them during breeding season. We batched and herded those horses until August 20th, then we turned them loose.
In the meantime, the boss had gone to Dakota with some horses to sell, and left his brother in charge at the home ranch. I went to the ranch, but I could not agree with the brother, so I quit and went back to the cattle outfit I first went out with. By then I had an idea that I was capable of taking care of myself.
Things went smoothly except for a few rough spots. At that time, Texas cattle were coming into the Montana country by trail herds, which were usually about three thousand head, and there were many herds coming in. This started a breed mixture of Texas and Montana cattle. Texas cattle at that time were the long horn type, buckskins and all colors of the rainbow. They were wild and treacherous. I have seen Texas steers with horns seven feet from tip to tip.
The Texas cowboy was in many ways different than our Montana cowboy. Some of them were of low character and could not be trusted, however, many of them were fine fellows. Up until that time, one could feel safe about leaving any of his belongings, anywhere on the ranch, excepting a bottle of whiskey. Our boys never seemed to consider it much of a crime to steal whiskey, but after this influx of Texas boys, things weren’t quite as safe.