My Adventures in the West
by Joseph Wegley 1867 - 1946
We finally got to the shipping point. They had stockyards with twenty-six loading pens and a very long chute in front for corralling cattle, We got the cattle in the chute, but the leaders got suspicious and tried to break back, which started the herd milling and whirling just like a top. We formed a line of riders on the opposite side of the yard and slowly crowded them in, but occasionally one would go through our line.
After the main herd was corralled, we would move them into a yard further back to leave the front yard open. Then things happened. Riders had to go out after the cattle that broke away and they usually were quite a distance away from the yards. The steers wanted to fight. The boys would let a steer chase him as long as he was going toward the stockyard, but when they would go no further, one or two would rope him, drag him into the yard, throw him, turn him loose, and get out. This required real skill. While there is hardly anything in the old cowboy like that I do not understand, yet I never became as efficient in this sort of thing as some I have seen. I was just an average cowboy.
When the cattle were shipped, the boys had a spree. The outfit was taken back to the ranch, and we boys were paid off.
Fallon, by this time, had grown from a section house until now it had three saloons, two houses I don’t care to name, and a section house. No officers ever bothered there. Each man was his own officer. It worked fine as long as one attended strictly to his own business, otherwise someone would volunteer to do it for him. No man’s rights were infringed on.
After the outfit was safely on the home ranch, the boys got their “little roll”. Most of the boys went to town to spend their money before someone would rob them, and Oh Boy, the way they spent it! There were very few of us that saved any money. This time I stayed at the ranch.
It would not be long until the boys would come back broke. Later if they wanted to go to town or to buy some clothes or something, I would loan them $30.00 or $40.00 and we never thought of notes, but those loans were as good as the Bank of North Dakota. The first money they received would be used to pay you back.
We sat around the ranch eating, smoking, or making raw hide ropes and quirts, telling the biggest lies we could think of, for pastime.
Occasionally we would bunch up, about six or eight of us, and go line riding. Some called it grub riding. We would go to some other ranch and visit for a few days with other similar boys. Sometimes the foreman would go out in the morning and come back in and say, “Looks like a good day to travel”. Of course, he meant it as a joke, so we never took it seriously.
The cattle outfits expected to winter their men without charge so as to have them handy in the spring. The range by this time was overstocked and the feed was running short. The winter was exceptionally hard. The cattle died by the thousands. The Texas boys drifted south and lots of our good men got disgusted and left the range.
About the time of the Christmas holidays, I went to Glendive, Montana to finish the winter. I stayed at the old Harpster Hotel where lots of other cowboys stayed. It was a railroad town, and things happened plenty.
I roomed with a cowboy that came from Wyoming. At that time there was what they called a cattle war on in Wyoming. The big cow outfits there cut down their herds which let a lot of boys out of work. They started ranching for themselves. They filed claims, got a few cattle, and then started stealing the “big boys” cattle, calves, or anything unbranded or brands that could be worked over to go as their brand.