My Adventures in the West
by Joseph Wegley 1867 - 1946
They made arrangements with the Northern Pacific Railroad and loaded three cars of saddle horses and men near Beach, North Dakota and unloaded at Fallon, Montana and crossed the Yellowstone. They divided themselves into groups and covered the range. This was called the Vigilantes Committee. Of course, some of them knew just who the undesirables were, but they were not aware about what was coming. They were scattered and not prepared for trouble. This was in the early eighties. He said the result of the drive was the eighty-three men were hung between Fallon and Bismarck.
Whatever the result was, it had a remarkable effect on this range, as when I came out there three or four years afterwards, everybody was a gentleman. If it was not from his natural disposition, it was from the fact that he realized he had to be good, as this law had gained momentum and continued to some extent as long as the open range existed which was until about 1910.
Lewis showed me where a bunch of those criminals had a log house about ten miles west of Glendive near the main trail up the Yellowstone. In front of this house was a long rack of explosives arranged to touch off from the house. The theory was if a committee came they would tie their horses to this rack, then they would blow them up. But when the committee came, it was unexpected so they weren’t in their headquarters, and were, no doubt found on the range someplace and dealt with in such a manner that this place was never occupied thereafter.
Lewis seemed to know all the details so well that it was a question in my mind if he wasn’t too familiar with the happenings.
He told me of an incident that happened in Glasgow, Montana some time later. A prisoner in jail killed the bailiff while he was taking him his dinner. The county officers caught the criminal and threw him out of the upstairs window with a rope tied to his neck. That was quick justice, it was what you can call home-made justice.
We thought nothing of leaving the ranch vacated and deserted during round-up, which sometimes lasted six weeks, with all our extra clothes, saddles, ropes, quirts, chaps, and everything else right in the house. The doors were unlocked and there was plenty of grub, so if one came along, he could stay as long as he saw fit. You could help yourself to the grub but you had to leave other things alone and nothing was bothered – I only know of one instance:
I was at this cow ranch alone for a while and along came a boy looking for a job. I told him the outfit would be back in a few days and that I thought he might get on. I told him to stick around until they returned. He did. One day, I was out in the barn and I saw he had changed the stirrup of one of the boy’s saddle onto his own saddle. I stepped to the door, and he was in the yard. I called him and he came down to the barn. I said, “Did you change those stirrups?” He said, “Yes, were they yours?” I said, “Were they yours?” He said “No.” “Well”, said I, “everything around here belongs to someone. You change those stirrups back and leave things alone.” He did.
This boy had a six gun, a great long one, so we called him six shooter Jack.
He got a job, and one day when we got out on the round-up, his gun was laying on his bed. I took it and put one end of the barrel on the wagon wheel and took a hammer and pounded the end of the barrel together. He saw it and asked, “Who in H--- did that.” No one answered, but I said, “Cut if off, Jack, it is long enough yet.”
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