My Adventures in the West
by Joseph Wegley 1867 - 1946
The Texas outfits didn’t feed as well as our northern outfits did. We had a real cook named Mell wake, and say, the meals he put up were immense. Well, those Texas boys got the idea of dropping into our camp about meal time. Mell, being very resourceful, conceived an idea which worked fine.
One evening, several of those boys were hanging around our camp. Mell opened the mess box to start supper. He then let a yell out of him that almost made chills run up my back. He said, “Who in H--- spilled strychnine in this mess box.” No one said a word, but one by one those visitors slowly drifted back to their own wagon. Mell said it worked fine.
I have a horse hair watch neck guard which Mell made and gave to me. He was apparently as happy as any man; but the next winter he and a cowboy named Joe Horn were wintering in a shack south of Culbertson, Montana, on the south side of the Yellowstone river, and one day Joe, who had been out some place, found on returning that Mell had hung himself to the ridge log which was so low he had to hold his feet up to complete the job. I can still substantiate this claim by living witnesses, even though it happened forty years ago.
On this same round-up, I first saw what was called Crow Rock. It was a place on the Redwater Divide where the Sioux Indians had surrounded the Crow Indians. The Crows built themselves a rock fort, hence the name Crow Rock was derived. The Crows got inside the fort and the Siouxs established a camp and starved the Crows out. Then they slaughtered the Crows. At the time I was there, one could have filled a double wagon box with those Crow Indian skulls. Their bodies were left to the wolves. In some manner, those skulls disappeared, shortly afterwards.
There was another battle field above the home ranch I worked on – a creek named Bad Route. In this place, the Indians attacked a bunch of soldiers, who finally won the battle, but there were scores of both Indian and white men’s skulls. That battle is how this creek got its name – Bad Route.
On this same trip, one morning we were out on a circle when we saw a Cinnamon bear and two cubs. We caught and killed the cubs, but not a man dared to put his twine on the old one, as we all knew that no saddle horse could hold her. Besides, it is awfully hard to get a horse close enough to a bear to rope her.
We shot her many times but couldn’t get in a good shot. She finally got into the hills. One boy said, “I’ll go and get her out, “ and he did. When she discovered him, she did the chasing herself. As a bear can outrun a horse up a hill, when he got to the top, she was dangerously close to this horse. We bothered her and saved the man from possible death. She got into the hills again, and no one volunteered to get her this time.
Rattle snakes were common on this range. I killed a big one, and took off his rattles, and put them in my bed. Sometimes the snakes would even get under our beds, but not often.
One night after we were all in bed, I got the idea that I would like to have a little fun. I did for a while, but the outcome was awful. I quietly slipped those rattles out of my bed so as to not make any noise. Then I gave them a jerk. Well, all the boys up on their elbows and listened. I, of course, was asleep. Finally they all lay down again, and I waited for a while and then did the same thing over again. Well, the boys stampeded so I, of course, did the same to hide my connection with the crime.
They all took their beds out of the tent and took them apart to find the snake. I, of course, had to follow suit, but as careful as I was, those rattles fell on the ground. Well, things happened fast and furious. I was seized and bent over a wagon pole. One of the boys took a heavy pair of leather straps and say, when they got through, I was cured permanently. Of course, the boys took it for a joke, but it was kind of a serious joke to me.