The autobiography of ANN BASSETT WILLIS
From Colorado Magazine, Vol. 29, No. 2 (April 1952): 81-98.
Ann Bassett (May 12, 1878 – May 8, 1956), also known as Queen Ann Bassett, was a prominent female rancher of the Old West, and with her sister Josie Bassett, was an associate of outlaws, particularly Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. Her reputation as “Queen of the Rustlers” was well-earned, though it occurred during her “war” with cattle barons trying to destroy the independent ranchers and was given to her by her enemies. This is her autobiography; note that it doesn’t mention Butch Cassidy or the Wild Bunch…which is interesting in and of itself.
Women who dared the frontier at its worst were few. True, there were many pioneer mothers whose deeds of heroism were the best kind, that went unsung. Of those who met the West on its terms, dealt back as good as they received, asked no sanctuary because they were women, so bringing bright glory to their age and sex, the number may easily be counted. They were a brave few. history and romance have immortalized but a small number of these. And among them, none exceeds in daring, intelligence, glamour and honor—Queen Ann.
Child of the West, born to a family that grappled with the West in its roughest, toughest days and tamed it, was Ann Bassett. like an antelope she was born running, and like an antelope takes water, she took to education, knowledge and experience—while moving.
There was nothing static in Ann Bassett’s career. Born in a dirt-covered log cabin, where the nearest neighbors were miles dist and schoolhouses were unknown, she nevertheless came to shine the most erudite company, to wear the manner and grace of the time, yet never losing touch nor sympathy with the land and the people of her native hills.
In more ways than one she earned the title by which she was own from prairie to ocean and from the land of the Rio Grande to Athabasca. Wherever men rode and cattle ranged, the name of Queen Ann Bassett was acclaimed with admiration and respect.
The Frontier has vanished. Gone are the immense herds, the mile-long cavvies, the great round-ups. Long since, the badmen have been gathered together into their last hide-out. “Queen Ann” is no longer a name with which to conjure on the range. But she lives on. Many who are her neighbors do not know that the comely, dignified, yet loveable lady “next door,” could unfold tales that would overshadow the wildest thriller ever shown at the neighborhood theatre. After much persuasion, she has put on paper some of the happen-rigs of that day long gone, when as child and woman she rode the range
Some writers have conveyed the impression that white women were in the Park at an earlier date, at Fort Davy Crockett (CampMisery), the old fort on Dummy Bottom. But Joseph Herrara, Jim Baker and others definitely reported “No white women in the Hole until Snapping Annie Parsons came.”
From a country to the northward and far on towards the sunset, flows the mighty Green River. In northwestern Colorado and northeastern Utah lies Brown’s Park, along both sides of the river, and comprising an area approximately sixty miles long and from five to twenty miles in width. This is Colorado’s western extremity of the vast cattle and sheep range which extends eastward one hundred and fifty miles, to the slopes of the Continental Divide. To the east and north of the Park is ColdSpring Mountain, where sarvis berries grow in moist, shady nooks beneath the tall quaking aspens, and pine trees dot the mountain meadows with emerald islands. Westward is the forbidding wall of Diamond Mountain, with Wild MIountain. alongside. DouglasMountain on the south is bounded by the great canyon on the Green River, the entrance to which reminds one of Southey’s poem, “How the water comes down at Lodore.” Major John Wesley Powell, the intrepid adventurer who first navigated the Green and Colorado Rivers from source to outlet, gave this canyon the name Lodore.
During the summer of 1869, two wealthy English noblemen, Sir Griffeth W. Edwards and his brother John G., with Judge Asbury B. Conway, of Boston, drove the first domestic cattle into Brown’s Park. As a cowboy with this herd, came the unforgettable character, Buffalo Jack Rife. These men established headquarters with the Herrara brothers at Pablo and JoeSprings, at the foot of the AwaikutsMountain, locally known by the name of Cold SpringsMountain. Twenty miles to the south a summer place was built at DouglasSprings, from which Buffalo Jack gave the name Douglas to the range of mountains from the Snake and YampaRivers to the Green.
In that same year the Edwards cattle were followed by those of Frank (“Granny”) Hoy.. He located on the abundant natural meadows along the Green River. Hoy’s nephews, Valentine, Harry and Ade Hoy, later bought the business started thus by their Uncle Frank. The Griff Edwards and Frank Hoy herds were the beginning of the cattle in Brown’s Park. Judge Conway engaged in the raising of fine horses, using imported stock. The result was an extensive and lucrative business.
While the Bassetts were in Rock Springs, Wyoming, which was the typical railroad distributing point for north, south, east, and west, they met other adventurous families on their way to what they regarded as the promised land. From this group composed of New England farmers, people from the eastern part of the United States, Herbert Bassett heard rumors of a lovely valley, a mysterious spot beyond the mountains. Winters there were mild, it was said, and wild game fleeing before the storms found refuge there. It was a place where cottonwoods grew to immense size, shading parks that spread like lawns from the river to the sandy hills at the base of the mountains. And this temptingEden was known as “Brown’s Hole.”
Later when my mother glimpsed the richly green, natural meadows, and the groves of stately, wide-branched cottonwoods, she was reminded of a beautiful park in the eastern land where she was born. At once she re-christened the lovely valley, “Brown’s Park.”
We are told and we read extensively of the sufferings and struggles of the pioneers who first occupied the various parts of our West. Sometimes I wonder if some of this is not the product of sentimentalists and sobsters, who encourage their imaginations to embroider all pioneering experiences with the dark colorings applicable to some. Certainly this band of first settlers enjoyed their journeying into Brown’s Park. There was green grass and thickly blooming wild flowers. They traveled on full stomachs, for there were buffalo, deer, antelope, and elk always to be had for the cost of a shot. Other good things filled their supply store. They were not poverty stricken nor were they obliged to push handcarts. They rode all the way in their Peter Shutler wagons.
True, there wasn’t much of a wagon road across the sunbaked flats of Wyoming. But there was always a camp with water and grass for the stock that pulled the equipment. And these people, my parents and their friends, were men and women who understood how to work. They knew what the business end of a pick and shovel were for and were cheerfully prompt and able in using them. When they crossed Tabor Mountain they felt no uneasiness. Probably they lingered to enjoy the scenery, as you and I have done or would do, in similar circumstances today. Passing down the southern slopes and entering the pine belt, the aromatic scents of pine and sage were no less pleasing and invigorating than they are today.
From personal reminiscences of this trip I learned that these pioneers paused at the foot of TaborMountain, resting several days at the George Richards Ranch. This later became the Stage Station on the mail lines from Rock Springs to Uinta Basin, Utah.
When they arrived at RedCreekCanyon, they discovered that the bachelor population of Brown’s Park had worked the primitive canyon roads in the same manner they had improved those the party had traveled thus far. The train reached its destination without casualty, wagons right side up and everyone in excellent shape.
These families possessed similar inclinations and desires, a kindly group of friends financially able to take care of themselves. They were well equipped to endure hardship, establish adequate homes and carve their history upon the new country. While the men scattered about the valley to search for homestead sites, the stock rested, and the women tidied camp and made preparations of their own for the development of pleasant and comfortable dwelling places.
Here men and congenial wives started from scratch to build homes for a permanency, in the young and beautiful land. Now you may visit them by permitting your imagination to rove back into the past with these people who paved the way, sufficient unto themselves and enveloped with the lure of that isolated country.
Dr. and Mrs. Parsons put up a cozy cabin on the banks of Green River at Parson’s Ford. Jimmie and Mary Jane Goodson selected ranches on Willow Creek. John Jarvie and pretty Nell built a trading post and established the first Brown’s Park Post Office. Tom Davenport and gentle Alice, who mothered the entire community, started cattle ranches on Willow Creek.
Ed Rife and Genevieve built up the Crittenden Horse Company, bred the best of stock and were citizens any country would claim with pride. Whitcombe W. James and Jennie—our school teacher, who had a high regard for consistency—made their home close to Green River. Frank and Elizabeth Goodman, considerate, estimable folks, engaged in sheep ranching. C. B. Sears and his wife Molly, were examples of good citizenship, who also were in the sheep business.
James Warren had been educated for the priesthood, but found cattle ranching more to his inclination. His devoted wife, Katherine, cared for the sick with skill and kindness. Charles Allen and Lizzie located their ranch on the Green River meadows, where her sweet voice and cheerful disposition were an inspiration to her neighbors. Charley Crouse specialized in thoroughbred horses, and never will I forget those splendid animals with their arched, glossy necks and dark, fiery eyes. Mary Crouse was surely the “salt of the earth,” a gracious and beautiful woman.
Herbert Bassett and Mary Elizabeth Bassett, my father and mother, had ranches and cattle. She kept the treaty with the Indians with undeviating faithfulness and became a vigorous advocate of national suffrage for women.
Where hospitality was a tradition, miles apart and few in number, these frontier wives and mothers kept their bearings and steered their home ships with heroic pluck.
The old Bassett Ranch, built in 1878, was truly a “Home on the Range.” The long, low, rambling log house stood near a spring of crystal clear soft water, at the foot of a rugged mountain and overlooking the natural meadows that sloped southward. From our windows were visible the rampart walls and the dramatically picturesque entrance to LodoreCanyon.
The cutting and trimming of sufficient pine or spruce logs for the construction of a ten room cabin was no small task, particularly as each tree felled for the purpose was chosen with care. Those pioneers put equally as much thought into home making as folks do at the present time. Possibly more, for there were no convenient construction firms eager to supply materials, while furnishings and decorations depended solely upon the taste and creative talents ‘if the individual. Also, necessity played a large part in the assembling of items to go inside the dwellings.
When our commodious, many-windowed cabin neared the finish, the question of its furnishings became a topic for much discussion, and conclusions were arrived at after serious deliberation. A most important feature was the large cook stove—built to last, but not to lift. Accompanying this were innumerable iron pots and brass kettles. There were a few choice pieces of china (for which we had no use) and which traveled to us carefully wrapped in feather beds, for which we did have great use. Then there were several spool beds, their wood hand-polished to satin smoothness. All of these were shipped to Rock Springs from the grandfather’s Virginia plantation, and laboriously hauled by wagon to the ranch.
After a protracted and highly hazardous wagon trip to haul the organ into Brown’s Park, father was not keen to tackle any further jaunt which Might repeat the several near-mishaps, with a few real ones. He became resolutely set against the hauling of any more bulky “boughten” house furnishings.
Birch grew in profusion along all the streams. Rawhide was plentiful. He solved our problems by making small tables and chairs of all sizes, using birch for the frames and rawhide strips for seats and backs. There were high chairs and easy ones, of the various types devised by his ingenuity. Cushions were of buckskin stuffed with milkweed floss, not only supplying comfort, but of suitable appearance for a log cabin.
The curtain problem was mother’s to solve, which she did with most satisfactory results. She traded Indian Mary ten pounds of sugar for a bale of fringed buckskins, smoked to a soft tan. Father fashioned rods of birch and sawed rings from the leg bones of deer carcasses. When hung, these draperies were the cause for much complimentary comment.
Wood was not only plentiful but handy. We had a fireplace in every room. These were built of native rock and so cleverly constructed that the smoke went out the chimneys, which is quite unusual!
Our ranch became the accepted stopping place for travelers entering Brown’s Park. All were welcomed, and of course no charge made for the hospitality. Father and mother were always eager for news from the outside world, or to discuss various topics of interest with either those from a distance or their neighbors. One of the rooms was a library with well-stocked shelves of books. Some of these volumes had been brought from my parent’s eastern home, others were given us by Judge Conway. There were Shakespeare’s Complete Works, an impressive book bound in padded sheepskin, Shelley, Keats, Longfellow and other poem collections, with many works of general literature, travel or biography. Bassett’s Ranch .was a spot where people congregated, to read and relax. No matter if we must keep on with our work, it was a type we liked• and its doing was the more pleasant with congenial visitors sharing our home.
All the farm, work was done by hand during the first years of the settlement. A few plows had been hauled into the Park from the Union Pacific Railroad. These were used by their individual owners, then “loaned around,” as were other pieces of the meager equipment. Father and Tom Davenport bought hand scythes and cradles to harvest grain, which was threshed by driving horses over bundles that had been laid down in clean corrals. The chaff was winnowed by a homemade fanning mill.
The putting up of hay was a part-time job. Horses, cattle or sheep, as the case might be, required, constant care. Our system of living depended upon its individual productive industry for well being. Staple groceries and clothing were brought over rough roads by wagon from Rock Springs, both spring and fall. Ten days at least were required for one of these trips, to make which several neighbors joined. This supplied company as we said when the, going was hard.
Men and children wore buckskin clothing, which was made by the white women, who acquired great skill in shaping the garments, which were handsomely stitched in fancy patterns, by their Singer Sewing Machines.
Those first settlers in Brown’s Park looked forward to comfortable living and the enjoyment of some social life. All cabins contained from eight to ten rooms. When buffalo and bearskin rugs were removed, the “puncheon” floors were smooth for dancing. During winter months, each of the ranches in turn would give a dance, invitations to these events being borne by a horseman who rode from, door to door of the scattered homes. “Everybody come!” he would urge warmly.
Cupboards were bursting, long tables groaned with the quantities of good food provided by host and hostess. Music was supplied by the ranch giving the party. The only mode of travel was by buckboard and team, or horseback. Many of the guests came from outside the Park, often arriving a day or two early to “rest up” for the festivities. The gaiety might last for several days and nights, or until the merrymakers felt duty bound to return to their own work and homes.
These parties were not “tough jamborees.” They were gatherings of people of natural refinement and fine standards. They made merry with -innocent fun. Often the dances became masquerades, each person representing a character of history or fiction.
Mr. Davenport, pretty Nell Jarvie, and cheerful Lizzie Allen were gifted with really beautiful voices. They sang for us all the well-loved old songs. Among these I recall as prime favorites, “Last Rose of Summer,” “Believe Me if All Those Endearing Young Charms,” “Kathleen Mavourneen,” and “Annie Laurie.” Mr. Jarvie played the old-fashioned organ well—there were several of those instruments in the park. He had over a hundred memorized pieces of music in his repertoire. Among the bachelors were several fiddlers, while nearly everyone played the harmonica. George Law was an accordion expert. He furnished music for many a lively quadrille, calling the sing-song changes in a deep, resonant voice as he played. One of the rhyming jingles ran :
Alleman left and a do-se-do,
Birdie in a cage and round you go;
Promenade right when you get straight,
Take your own lady, and don’t be late!
While they were dancing between figures, he would sing :
Shuffle your feet and don’t be slow,
Chicken in a bread pan, a-pickin’ up dough.
The older men who happened to be chess addicts never failed to fill a few hours with that pastime. Beds were provided for the children, who were placed together like cordwood, heads out, feet in. They were husky youngsters, who settled down contentedly and slept without waking. –
At midnight was spread a tempting lunch, with plenty of hot coffee. If some of the younger men took a nip too much, they were made to wash dishes and cut wood as penalty for their lapse. Jim MacNight was the chief offender. Once he was chucked into the cellar (by order of my mother) then made to grub sagebrush as further discipline. All knew the rules, so the penalties were accepted with good nature.
When several of the Brown’s Park children came of school age, a meeting was called, and an agreement made to collect from all settlers enough for a sum total that would pay a teacher for a few months each year. Mrs. Jennie Jaynes was chosen for this post, and a dug-out schoolhouse built by donated labor; at Sear’s Draw on the Henry boy Ranch. There, in 1879, Jenny taught the Park’s first school, her pupils numbering seven—Josie Bassett, my sister, Joe Davenport, Willis Rouff, Joseph Jaynes and the three little Reed children, Jimmie, Ella and Charles. The Reeds were of half Indian blood.
The first log schoolhouse was built by Charles Allen, C. B. Sears, Griff Edwards and my father, at Matt Spring, which was owned by my father. Matt Walsh had a camp there. New England pioneers regarded schools and education of prime importance. NO isolation dimmed that ardor. Mrs. Adela Barnard, who became one of RouttCounty’s most efficient educators, taught for several years in Brown’s Park.
Resourceful and rich in expedients, these people carried on after the death of Dr. Parsons, looking after their own medical and surgical needs. When a bronc ridden by Harry Shannon ran into a fence, gashing the leg of the young cowboy to the bone, mother was acting surgeon. With the aid of Mrs. Crouse, she put five stitches into the flesh. Table salt was used for an antiseptic, and Indian herbs to stop the flowing of blood. Careful nursing worked a speedy cure, and within a few years Harry joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show to become & famous bronc rider. The show toured the United States, then crossed the ocean to London. It was Harry Shannon who did the first western-style bronc riding stunts before the King and Queen of England. In later years he frequently visited the Park, and always declared that he owed his’ life to the skill and quick action of my mother and Mrs. Crouse.
When sickness or death came, all hands shared in the emergency. Neither weather conditions nor the urge of personal business prevented the giving of help and sympathy to any stricken neighbor.
The Brown’s Park cemetery was presented to the district by Mrs. Valentina Hoy. The first burials there were of Juan Catrino, who died from pneumonia at the Griff Edwards Ranch, Fred Hook, from tuberculosis at the James Warren Ranch, and Jack Rollas, who was murdered at the Bassett Ranch by men who said they had come from Texas.
For burial rough boxes were neatly lined by the women with whatever material they had at hand. Often this came from wedding dresses, that of my mother’s being used for the lining of Louis Carro’s coffin.
Funerals were conducted by Mrs. Charles Allen, with Mr. Sears offering the prayer and Tom Davenport leading the singing. Among songs used for this purpose, “Home on the Range” was their. favorite.
The killing of Jack Rollas had a considerable effect on the neighborhood. He was a pleasant-mannered young fellow from Texas who came to the Bassett Ranch in 1882. A good hand with horses, he was hired to break broncs on the ranch. It was in the late fall of that year that three strange men arrived about noon, and were asked to eat dinner with the family. While Mrs. James, who cooked for us at the time, was preparing the meal, one of the strangers asked her if Jack worked there. Mrs. Jaynes replied, “Yes, that is Jack saddling a horse at the corral.” The three men walked–from the kitchen and went on down to the corral. One of them pulled a gun and shot Rollas as he was reaching for a bridle. He ran behind a barn, where he fell, mortally wounded.
Father was helping Harry Hindle and Perry Carmichal whipsaw lumber, several hundred yards from where the shooting occurred. They raced for the house where they grabbed sawed-off shotguns. We children were outside. At the sound of the gunshot, Mrs. Jaynes rushed out to gather us into the shelter of the dwelling. Mother and Harry Hindle held the three strangers at bay while father and Perry carried the wounded Rollas into the bunkhouse.
Mother was noted for intrepidity in any time of danger or alarm. Armed with a Winchester she was an able partner with Harry in disarming the strange gunmen. She marched them straight over to Rollas for an explanation. The one who had done the shooting said his name was Hambleton and that Rollas had shot and killed his brother in Abilene, Kansas. Hambleton had trailed Jack Rollas for two years, to kill hint That was the way in. which such a score was settled in Texas, he said. And all three men declared they were from that state.
Rollas confirmed Hambleton’s statement in part,” explaining that a man of that name had married his sister. He abused the sister and Rollas had killed him for it. But he said that he did not know any of the three men who had trailed him to out-ranch.
Mother spiritedly informed Hambleton that’ it was not the custom of the northwest to shoot an unarmed man in the back. By the determined threat of her leveled Winchester, she lined the trio up against the bunkhouse wall, and directed the wounded Rollas to kill his assassin, or all three men, if he wanted to.
Rollas was too weak to hold a gun, and he died a few hours later. While mother and Mrs. Jaynes were administering to the dying cowboy, father and Perry were guarding the prisoners. Harry Hindle went to notify the settlers of the park, and to get Charles Allen, Justice of the Peace, to the scene of the crime. Night came and father began to think with deepening apprehension. A lynching could be in the making. He advised the captives to go to the barn and feed their horses, and he warned them to ride directly to the county seat, over a hundred miles away, and surrender themselves to the law. When neighbors arrived at the Bassett ranch, the murderer and his companions had escaped. Naturally, they failed to do as father had instructed, and were never heard of again in that part of the country. Neighbors may have suspected father of having deliberately brought about the escape of the three men, for they all knew how he tried to prevent tragedy and human violence. The method subscribed to by father in the matter of advice ‘to the shooters would have been in direct conflict with the opinion of mother and Mrs. Jaynes. Therefore, he did not commit himself and tell the true story for some time afterwards. However his action may be criticised, additional bloodshed was averted and the Bassett ranch had three good Winchesters taken from the Texans, to be added to the gun rack.
Learning to ride in early childhood was a necessity. For training in balance, bucking contests were improvised. Our hay corral was the arena. From this training experiment we developed what proved to-be quite a game.
Clean hay from the stacks was spread over the ground, from which all rocks or other unevenness had been removed. In the evening when the day’s work was finished, the fun began. Hay was piled high from a chute, from which each bucking cowboy on all-fours topped by a fearless little rider came bounding. out. This human steed reared, sunfished and performed all the antics of a wild and vicious bronc being ridden for the first time. The courageous little rider would hang on for dear life by gripping his knees, pressing moccasined feet tight to the flanks, and with one hand only, holding to a handkerchief tied back of the bronc’s “front legs.” The show was conducted in a regular manner, horses and riders were announced and there were purses for the best riders. In a country of few amusements, these contests attracted a considerable number of patrons, many coming quite a few miles to share the fun. Ringside seats were benches placed near the corral fence, admission was charged, and the judges’ stand was the top rail of the fence. There were no pick-up men, riders stayed on until they exhausted their horses or fell off,- leather pulling was barred, so were spurs. Roping was one of the attractions, each contestant had one throw as the human horses bucked out of the chute. For this act one or both feet must be caught at the first throw ; many of the youngsters became quite expert. George Bassett, when only five years old, was champion roper.
I was getting pretty good at riding my mounts to a finish and the judges selected for me, in one contest, a big strong cowboy from Prescott, Arizona. A famous “bucker” who knew all the tricks of a bronco! A sheep man in the audience slipped me a small pair of English spurs. I cautiously put them on and stood in the hay as instructed to do, by the self-appointed sponsor. When the wild ride started I used the spurs with full force. My horse immediately did what no bronc is supposed to do, under similar circumstances. He proceeded to take me over his knee and administer a good old fashioned spanking, encouraged and encored by the hilarious cheers and jeers of the audience as he poured it on. This act disqualified me from the contest for some time, or until the bronc’s flanks healed, and I was able to ride without a pillow to sit on.
“No life for a lady,” has been said. As a cowhand and making no claim of being either ladyish or romantic, I suggest that it is not the range on which she moves, but her brand, that identifies the heifer. A mere “hair” brand will shed. It’s only the deep-in. stay-on kind that really measures up. A mark deeper than the skin, one that can be read clearly in crowded pens or on open ranges, is the only one of value. Should this at times become a bit blotched, under pressure the mark will still be readable. After rubbing shoulders against some of life’s cultured “shellac” the brand symbol has a more definite significance.
I had the privilege of living in a bronco West, and began life as a cow hand at the mature age of six. In a roomy out doors where cow critters spread themselves over the grass valleys and sage brush hills of southern Wyoming and northwestern Colorado as far as the eyes could see. I attended the great round-ups held on open terrain, when the vast expanse of milling, bellowing cattle were worked, cut out and branded. They were handled without confusion by men trained to work, to make instant decisions, and who had the individualism to act in any emergency.
The cattle business joined me in interest with the Texas cowboys of the early eighties. Men with clean minds, and able bodies disciplined by physical exercise to do any job well. Putting in time and a half, and over time, was an essential feature of their training. For them, there was no such limitation as an eight hour day.
Cowboys held womenkind in high esteem. Conversational passes and barbed jokes aimed at the opposite sex, were decidedly out of range dictum. Good horses and the best equipment were a cowboy’s pride. They stuck to their chosen profession, they would not flank hay or grub sage brush. The charm of their picturesque lives has gone on in song and story, exciting and appealing to the human emotion as no other profession has ever done. I am deeply grateful to those who captured the spell and have kept alive the profound meaning of a cowboy’s life on the range.
This country, itself undergoing the processes of birth, developed a new generation radically different from their New England ancestors, and presenting a problem that kept the parents in a state of mental agitation. We were completely western by birth and environment, actively disliking anything that resembled a pattern.
I turned a deaf ear to mother’s long-winded lectures upon the conduct of, and correct clothing for, “little ladies,” and early adopted buckskin breeches for my personal use. Capering about on a skittish bronc, plastered to a lopsided contraption called a side-saddle, while swathed in yard-long riding togs was not my idea of frolic. I cared not a whit for social customs, and could not understand a world designed especially for privileged little boys to romp in, to enjoy sports and play, sternly denied to “little ladies,” With spirit and determination I wore my befringed, buckskin breeches. My point was difficult to prove in a puritanical sphere where girl’s legs were strictly hush-hush, and anything resembling trousers for women or girls taboo.
Imagine my mother’s disturbance of mind ! Her own outfit consisted of a beautifully fitted “habit” of rich, dark blue material, long skirted and draped with grace. For trimming there was a number of gleaming brass buttons. She was a blonde, five feet, six-and-a-half inches tall. Mounted on her thoroughbred saddle horse, “Calky,” she was a picture to remember.
There can be no question that pants were more suitable riding gear, but the grown-up ‘s agony over such “disgraceful” apparel was pathetic.. However—the buckskins won out. The result was an unbridle-wised revolter from custom, riding straddle-back in a no-woman’s sphere, amidst dust or mud, and steers. I was not a romantic, inspirational number but a perfect “burr in a saddle. blanket” to cowpunchers. But I brushed off ridicule. My ambitions were centered upon ability to flank a calf or stick a wild cow’s head through a loop as neatly as any of them.
How those “cow romeos” would preen their dusty feathers, and look at their shadows as they tried to act like wolves in a sheep pasture, when a lady-like girl showed up. A real girl, all done nice and proper, hanging by doubtful tenure to a side saddle, quite unmindful of the horse’s discomfort from the back-eating kidney sores and galled withers caused by that one-sided thing she clung to, and called a saddle. The cow custodians did not have me fooled in their efforts at make believe, to impress the city school marms with their courage and gallantry. I knew how harmless and afraid. of women they really were. Men among men, were doves where women were concerned—and just cow waddies to me. As a rule there was some boot-trembling in my stirrups, during those setting up exercises, for smart kinds were not supposed to grin out of turn. Just one knowing look could bring on reprisals, and I would be demoted to a spell of lowly horse wrangling. A decided set-back for a top ,cow hand. I had an unyielding brother vigorously riding herd on me. His psychology was, if you are going to be a full fledged cow puncher you must play the game square, take it on the button aid never shy at rope burn or pistol smoke.
Through trial and error I became a specialist at evading mother’s staff of authority. With the speed of a Wapiti, I would race to the bunkhouse, that place of many attractions, where addle-galled cow punchers congregated to sing range ballads and squeak out doleful tunes on the fiddle. Somewhere in a secluded corner an absorbing round of poker was sure to be in session. One irresistible magnet of the bunk house was the very black magic of forbidden reading. At least that mental stimulation did exist, until a snoopy housekeeper yanked our valuable Police Gazettes out of hiding. To our surprise and dismay, she used them to paper the walls. The decorative effect was a bit startling, and reading made very difficult, for she pasted those old classics upside .down. From her crafty viewpoint the atrocious paper-hanging achievement served a double purpose. It freshened up the walls and gave the hands more time at the corral to clean our mangers and feed the horses.
The Gazettes never would have held especial temptation had my mother not denounced them in unmistakably definite terms as ‘ ‘awful.”
Mother was a woman of truly distinctive personality, with many. remarkable qualities. From childhood she had been required to do nothing more fatiguing than to summon a negro slave to perform even slight tasks for her. But she neither faltered nor gazed longingly back to those early experiences, when her life’s connections were broken by the Civil War. She looked ahead, seeing adventure and alluring excitement as my father ‘s helpmeet and companion in the new West.
Grandfather Miller had kept a stable of thoroughbreds. Mother commenced riding as a child and she knew horses. Under her direct supervision and management well-bred horses of several standard strains were raised on our ranch. Perfectly matched driving teams were shipped yearly to Cape May, New Jersey, where they were sold at top prices. The breeding and sale of such teams was a lucrative industry at the Bassett Ranch.
Mother was a natural executive as well as an excellent horsewoman. In addition to considerable personal charm and a captivating friendliness, she had dignity and indomitable will power, and never deviated from what she considered the proper course to pursue. She loved company, and surrounded herself with interesting people. When she died, at the age of thirty-five, in the bright bloom of her young maturity, she left with all who knew her an unforgettable impression of womanly fineness, and of irreplaceable loss.
One of the most interesting and best-loved personalities of those old Brown’s Park days was “Buffalo” Jack, Rife. It was he who, during the 1870s, created one of the first game preserves in our West, on the north slope of DouglasMountain in Brown’s Park. He was prompted both by the desire to experiment and his intense interest in the .preservation of wild life, particularly in that of the few buffalo which had escaped the fur company’s robe hunters.
Buffalo Jack selected an area adjacent to a spring as a natural habitat of wild game. After consulting with the Indians, an agreement was made and ratified by the tribe’s chief, that there would be no hunting or shooting within the limits designated and agreed upon. Furthermore, this agreement was never broken. The reason for this strict keeping of faith was undoubtedly because Buffalo was neither “missionarying” nor attempting to interfere in any manner with their tribal customs, either being a major cause for many of the “scalp treatments” of those days.
Since he was not engaged in the engrossing pursuit of material riches, Jack had liesure to give attention to the simple business of living. He experimented with the gentling of wild animals by patient kindness, demonstrating the responsiveness of wild creatures to good will. Soon his pets, “Sampson and Delilah,” great shaggy buffaloes, would come at his call, unafraid to lick salt near the cabin door.
In 1879 Buffalo Jack took father to the beautiful retreat of ZenobiaPeak. So impressed was my father that he later built a three-room cabin there. The logs for this were dragged from the timber by horse. Door and window facings were hewed by hand. This cabin still stands intact, high on a point above scenic ZenobiaBasin, an untouched spot, serenely dreaming in an enchanting loveliness of peaks and space.
In the year 1939 this basin, discovered by Buffalo Jack Rife, was befittingly incorporated within the boundaries of a national park. It is to be regretted that many of its pine and fir trees have been swept by devastating fire.
“Uncle Buff” was a big man, jovial by nature and radiating vitality and strength. He lived his life according to his own desire and died a rich man, not with the wealth of worldly possessions, but in more important human values. He was always cordially welcomed on his visits to Brown’s Park, where he would come to stay for some time on various ranches. I remember that he never failed to bring gifts to us children, packages he would call us aside to present unostentatiously. There would always be candy as well as various trinkets of interest to the individual recipients. On the last visit he paid .the Bassett Ranch, when we were no ‘longer children, he brought a box of candy. That was in 1909.
Recalling those childhood days, my memory lingers with nostalgic affection around PabloSprings. There a scraggy cedar tree grew in a Crevice of a high rock about a hundred feet up from the ease of Cold SpringsMountain. Where the mountain cut off abruptly, as if it had been brought to a sudden stop, a number of house-size boulders had tumbled into the meadow below.
Judge Conway noticed tiny moccasin tracks chipped into the surface of these slanting boulders and pointing in the direction of a cedar. He traced the babyish footprints, and discovered that a small scaffold had been built securely in the top branches of the tree. This was made of willow switches bound firmly with sinew. The top was sort of a blanket made from cedar bark carefully picked to threads that were woven with strands of plaited rabbit fur. Wrapped closely within these folds was the skeleton body of a small baby, supposedly an Indian papoose. It was known that the tribe of Utes then living in that part of the country buried their dead in trees.
When my brother Sam and I were old enough to climb over the rocks, Judge Conway took us to see this burial cradle, and explained the probable circumstances of its being there. We were tremendously impressed and regarded the spot as a sacred place. We loved to keep its secret, of which we spoke only to each other, and with great caution never to be overheard. We would not have dreamed of touching even the covering of that baby skeleton. But knowing it was there added a mysterious interest to our hours of play in that part of the ranch.
My father owned the PabloSprings and permitted white travelers to camp there. Some wickedly unscrupulous vandal must have discovered our little treasure and carried it away. When we learned of its disappearance, we mourned the loss as only children could. Our happy hours there were shadowed, and we found but one consolation, those little footprints chipped so deeply into the stone that not even time removed them.
During my grown-up years, I have often visited “our rocks,” and each time I feel a recurrence of that wave of sentiment experienced more than half a century, in the past. And again I am saddened as I look up at the twisted ancient cedar.
Beef on the hoof ! Vast, northward moving herds from Texas took over all the range in Wyoming and were on the march to Colorado. On they came relentlessly, that moving sea of hides and horns, devouring and spreading like a gigantic flood.
A few homesteaders could offer no effective resistance to such powerful intruders—or could they? A faint hope stirred—and grew. Flanked on the south by LodoreCanyon and on the west by the Mormon colonists who were united believers in freedom for the common man and his rights to build a home, till the soil, and raise a family in peace, they formed a substantial bulwark for a people struggling to do likewise. While the Mormons were not expected to take part in a quarrel, the fact of their being there eliminated anxiety from that direction, and left only the north and east open for invasion.
When the herds reached Jack Gun’s “G” ranch and occupied all of Beaver Basin, he realized it was useless to hold on with his smaller outfit. He sold to the Middlesex Cattle Company, came into Brown’s Park and explained the situation. He could not survive and compete with such herds. Griff Edwards, acting upon Gun’s advice, trailed out and sold his cattle, but kept his ranches. By agreement with the Brown’s Park settlers he invested in sheep and placed his flocks to the north and east, literally fencing the range tributary to the park with sheep. This living fence held back the bulk of the invading cattle. The result of the occupancy by sheep was seen the following spring, when the range Middlesex had attempted to take over was found to be red with dead cattle carcasses. The overflow of cattle had been stopped in an expensive way for the owners. Then a representative of the Middlesex Company came into the park and tried to buy out the ranchers. They were unceasing in. their efforts, but failed to gain a footing. The people continued to hold their range, for they had built their homes there. The experience of Jack Gun served only to unite them more firmly in determination to stand pat.
Tim Kinney owned the only other cattle herd of consequence that had to be relinquished. His range was more distant, to the north, and. in Wyoming. He could Move cattle into the Park to be fed in winter, but he never came for summer range. The Middlesex ran such gigantic herds that Kinney was compelled to abandon cattle business for sheep, and for many years the Kinney sheep herds were the largest in Wyoming.
During the period of 1877 to 1888, the Middlesex employed an army of cowboys. Their .cattle were gathered into herds and moved from the summer ranges to the lower lands to winter, and in the spring back to the high mountains for the summer. This movement of cattle resulted in confusion at calving time. Often a cow was driven away and became separated from the new born calf she had left hidden in a quiet spot, to sleep at a safe distance from the herd. When the cattle were moved to a distant location many of the calves were left behind to starve, unless the cow could escape from the herd, elude the riders and return. A mother cow never forgets where she puts her calf and will return from a long distance to find it. If for many reasons the cow is unable to return and the little calf manages to dodge the coyotes and eke out a living, it becomes a “dogie,” a name given to orphan calves.
In the spring of 1883 I found a dogie that was left by the mother when the drive passed our ranch. This calf had wandered into our pasture and located itself near a clump of protective willows where it could nip the soft green grass.
But it required milk, it could not live entirely on grass, and was about at the folding-up stage when I found it. The wild little brute was full of fight, but I managed to get it to the house, over a distance of a mile, which took most of the day and a lot of relays.
After I fed the calf milk—a forced feeding—I went to Mother and told her about my find. When she saw the starved, tiny creature that had been branded and ear-marked at that tender age, she immediately made it clear to me that I could feed and care for the calf, but as soon as it could eat grass and grew strong enough to rustle its living without milk, I must “turn it on the range, for I knew very well that it belonged to Mr. Fisher.” He was general manager for the Middlesex at that time. The calf of the long horned Texas breed, covered with burrs and emaciated from starvation, was not a very promising looking critter.
With constant attention and kindness it learned to drink milk, and started to grow into something resembling a calf. The fact of ownership being definitely announced from the start caused much grief and secret planning on my part. I decided that I never would give the precious creature up—such a thing was unthinkable, for the little waif was as fond of me as I was of it.
I did not take my troubles to anyone, but decided to lay my case before Mr. Fisher, whose office was in Rock Springs, a hundred miles away. So when Father went to this town for supplies, I begged to go with him. He consented and raised the question of who should care for the calf during my absence. I had arranged all that. Knowing how my brother and sister had referred to the wonderful calf as a “lousy, ugly little runt, unfit for coyote bait,” I would not give them the chance to let it starve nor ever over feed it. Father and mother were amazed at my wanting to go on this trip. I had refused to leave “Dixie Burr” for any reason longer than a few hours at a time during the six weeks since finding her.
I kept my reasons a deep secret, only confiding in Slippery Jim, one of the ranch hands, who had shown great understanding and had spoken encouragingly of my treasure, declaring in a most flattering manner: “This will be a big herd of cattle some day, good uns too, the kind that have sense and can find their own feed, not like them old Durhams. I don’t like ’em no-how” (referring to the kind of cattle Father and Mother were raising).
So, by arrangement and with promises of extra chewing tobacco, and some candy for good measure, Slippery became caretaker of Dixie Burr during my ten days’ trip to and from town by wagon. While in Rock Springs I, asked Father to take me to Mr Fisher’s office, which he did without question, somewhat to my surprise. Father may have suspected my errand, but was plainly quite taken back when I boldly offered to swap one of his purebred, yearling steers for the common little scalawag. He could only be polite in presence of Mr. Fisher, so he gave his approval. Then Mr. Fisher said he would not accept such an unequal trade, but would gladly give the calf to me. He added that the calf would have died anyway, since it had no mother, and also declared that he was indebted to Father for many accommodations.
With great exaltation I returned home to exercise ownership of valuable live stock. My happiness was complete, actually owning, even in miniature a Texas cow, which, according to Slippery’s opinion meant something of indescribable value.
My childish love and affection became centered on that mite of tangled hair and bone, which soon possessed a private corral and shed, built by the combined efforts of Slippery and me. This was a work of art, and proudly exhibited to all corners. I disregarded Mother’s amused and mildly disapproving attitude. It was I who slept in the little bedroom adjoining the calf’s shelter, and it did not show from the front of the house—that is, not much. Almost at once I had become sole occupant of what my sister termed “a combination calfshed and bedroom.” She promptly moved to other quarters, for some reason beyond by comprehension. When Dixie Burr was a yearling and showing unmistakable signs of being a true “scalawag,” she was turned out in the pasture with other cattle. During the year Mr. Fisher had resigned as general manager of the Middlesex Cattle Company, and another man held the position.
The new manager had been informed by Mr. Fisher of the ownership of that certain yearling bearing the company’s brand. But there were many cowpunchers in an outfit of the size owned by this company, who could not possibly have this information. It was customary to ride through pastures among cattle, inspecting brands for any stock belonging in the show-up, which, as often happened, might have slipped through a fence into the enclosure. I was on the job when the round-up neared our ranch, for my Dixie Burr still bore the Two Bar brand. Such brand being the only means of identification, some uninformed puncher could easily make the mistake of driving my pet away. When I supposed all was well, as the herd had been started on, I went home.
The Bassett ranches contained hundreds of acres stretched along the foot hills out of sight of the home buildings. It was my habit to drive Dixie Burr to the house each night. When I rode to the pasture for that purpose, she was not there. Upon careful examination of tracks at the gate, I knew she had been driven away. It was too late to follow the herd, so I went back to the house. I found Slippery and told him what had happened. He seemed as hurt as I was. We pow-wowed for a time, then he said, “git out and find that herd and stay on the job ’til you ride it from end to end. Yore dogie is there, so wash the tear tracks of e’n yore face, git to bed, and be ariden at the crack o’ day.”
I did just that, finding the herd already on its way, and a rider bringing up the drag, lashing my Dixie Burr with a rawhide rope. I went berserk, “hog wild,” and flew at him in outraged fury. Before he noticed my wild intent, I began whipping him over the head with my quirt. Evidently he was not feeling too good himself. My slashing him over the head and face turned him plum sour, and he took on the work of properly educating and chastising me. I must have acted somewhat like a bear trap, jumpy and vicious. As I look upon the incident now, I can scarcely blame him, for what he did. He refused to let me take the calf, which in a sense was right, because it bore only the brand of the Middlesex Company. I knew the calf was mine, and fought with the intensity born of that knowledge. I was outraged, and each minute more terror stricken lest this man, who seemed to me the meanest of brutes, would be able to hold my calf, that I might be losing Dixie Burr forever. He must have finally gone too far in the enforcing of his authority. Eventually the onlookers became restive.
Among the cowhands gathered around to watch the fracas, was Joe Martin, a Texas puncher, repping for himself and his neighbors, to gather cattle strayed from the Bear River range. At the start he was merely a disinterested spectator, concerned only in seeing what would happen as a result of this misunderstanding between Roark, the foreman of the Middlesex outfit, the man I had quirted, and myself. Finally Joe Martin spoke. “Why not just let the kid take the calf and settle the ownership later. It’s evident the calf and, the girl know each other.” That remark touched off the fireworks. The foreman went for his gun, saying, “You sonof-a __________, who asked for your advice ?” Joe was a live hand and he beat the foreman to the draw. Roark was just a would-be gunman anyway, so Joe took his gun. Joe did not seem a bit excited. He laid his weapon aside with Roark’s gun; and got ready for the fight. These men were about equal in size and age. The fight began fast, with furious blows. For a while I was uncertain which way the victory would go, but Joe came on faster than ever, and soon the foreman was down and out for the final count.
I jumped off my pony and started to kick him. Joe grabbed me by the arm, and said : “Shame on you, Ann, that’s cowardly. Don’t you know you should never jump on a man when he is down?” Those, words brought me up standing, and I have never forgotten them. “Never jump on a man when he is’ down. “I took my dogie calf, drove it home and kept the whole affair to myself. When mother asked me where I had been, I simply said that I had been up in the pasture getting Dixie Burr. I had already curried my horse and cleaned away the sweat stains just as I had been taught to do by Slippery and his “book of knowledge.” When I got Slippery off alone, I told him the facts. He muttered, more to himself than to me, “I’ll do something about that brand.” This gave me an idea. It could not be erased like the letters and numbers we placed on our slates, but there was nothing to prevent me from adding a few more marks to those already on the calf. After considering the matter for some time, the idea took a definite form and I favored it.
When I had made up my mind, I thought it best to keep the decision to myself, and did not tell Slippery, for, child though I was, I understood what changing of brands meant. I knew what the consequences might be, for such acts were strictly outside range ethics in Brown’s Park, yet I had to protect Dixie Burr.
A few days after I had reached the decision that something drastic must be done about the brand, I took her into an out of the way place, up a draw, and tied her tight. While I hated to hurt her, I felt it was much better than to have her driven away and abused, as I had already witnessed. I built a fire and put a branding ring in it. When the ring was white hot I made the Two Bars into a pig-pen brand by adding two more lines at right angles to the bars.
Then I left Dixie Burr where she would be undisturbed while the new burns healed into scars and two more bars. The nearby spring which was seldom visited would provide water for her, the grass grew thick and tall, and the air was refreshingly cool. My conscience must have wakened, for as I was riding away I commenced to feel the inclination .to tell somebody. This feeling deepened to an urge that caused me, a few hours later, to confide what I had done to my brother, Sam. He at once became a fellow conspirator. He was eleven, I eight years old, two youngsters who were white for fear of what mother would say and do if she discovered what I had done.
We finally decided it would be best to remove the calf to our summer, place in Zenobia Basin, about a dozen miles from the home ranch. Father was doing some building and mother readily gave permission for us to “visit father.” A very early start was required to get Dixie Burr from her hiding place unseen by anybody on the ranch. We were out by streak o’ day. But the calf was decidedly stubborn and hard to drive. We had only reached the “Hogback” by sundown, and were still several miles from our goal. We tied Dixie Burr securely to a tree and built a fire at some little distance, to frighten off mountain lions. Then we left her or the night and rode on to father’s camp. He suspected nothing ut of the ordinary. And when we caught our horses the next morning there was nothing unusual in that act, so we got away without questioning. We moved Dixie Burr safely into Zenobia basin, and established her as far from the cabin and father as possible. Father never did pay much attention to the cattle. We were safe for the present.
Roark of the Middlesex was a stranger to the people of 3rown’s Park, and he undoubtedly wanted to make a good showing with his company. He developed a grudge against the granger :lass in our• section after he took the beating from Joe Martin in ;he presence of the cow punchers at the roundup. This had added nothing to his prestige. He had a score to settle and his resentment grew. His secret malice was directed toward all grangers but my Gamily in particular. It should be remembered, none of them had heard even a whisper about the Martin-Roark fight.
Roark had a habit of riding over the settler’s ranges when owners were engaged elsewhere. He never showed up to talk matters over, just coyoted through the brush. After Father left the Basin, Roark began to snoop around. He found Dixie Burr. The job I had done was a sloppy imitation of brand blotting. (Me heap savy now). When he found the calf with the brand so obviously changed, he lit out on horse back, making hot tracks to Hahn’s Peak, the county seat of Routt County, considerably over a hundred miles from Zenobia Basin. He swore out warrants of arrest for everyone in Brown’s Park but Father, who was one of the County Commissioners and was attending a board meeting at the county seat. Roark made no other exceptions in his wholesale arrests. He included men and women alike.
Sam Walker, of Hayden, was sheriff at the time. He came to the Park with his bundle of warrants, and was treated as any guest would have been. But the serving of warrants was received with amazement. A roving Englishman, who roamed the world seeking enjoyment in strange or isolated spots, happened to be in the Park at the time. He had build himself a cabin and shared the life without being a real part of the community. He was astounded when presented with his warrant, and hadn’t the least idea what it meant. That most innocent and law-abiding lady, Mrs. Sears, viewed hers with a mingling of astonishment and consternation.
However, all the recipients of those, warrants reacted as any good citizens naturally would, and appeared in court when the case was called for hearing. This was immediately dismissed for lack of evidence. Its instigator may have foreseen this conclusion, but a deeper purpose, no doubt, lay behind his move, a hope to discourage the occupants of the Park remaining there.
As a result of my child efforts to protect a cherished pet from brutality, Brown’s Park was branded as a home for rustlers, and the lying rumor was widely circulated that “no good can come from Brown’s Park.”
The Middlesex were not successful in their hope-for grab. They sold out to Ed Rife. He at once stocked the range with sheep, and small cow outfits adjoining lived in peace. This state of serenity continued for many years, or until the Haley Two-Bar commenced to harass them from the East.
“Scalawag” though she was, Dixie Burr continued to firmly hold her position in my regard, and I kept her until she died of old age, still bearing her scars and two bars.
When haying time drew near, the summer of 1884, father sent a wagon to Rock Springs for hands. With the crew of haymakers that came to the ranch was Elza Lay, a well bred appearing young fellow with a winning smile and perfect manners. He was a capable workman, strong and active, with a gentle good-nature that won the hearts of old and young alike. Elza remained on the ranch for a year and he was the only young easterner who was never bitten by the “cowboy bug.”
Young men by the score came to the western ranches. At one time father had for adjustment a Clark and a Converse, sons of the well known railroad magnates, boys that had gotten out from under parental control by having too much money to spend. They were all good boys, but none were as generally liked as Elza Lay. When the year was up he went back to Rock Springs. Not long afterward rumor circulated, that he had joined forces with Butch Cassidy, and that they were carrying on a series of bank and train robberies.
Elza and Butch returned to Brown’s Park at times, but we did not pry into affairs concerning their private lives, for we were not the instigators of the short cut to riches Elza was taking, and we did not channel the course he had set.
Friendly relations between the Brown’s Parkers and the bank robbers caused a great deal of comment. The question has frequently been asked “How could a people permit themselves to harbor committers of crime without becoming involved in the deals.” The answer is simple. We were in a constant struggle to protect our own interests on the range where our living was at stake. Bank robbers were not a menace to personal interests, and Ive had no reason to carry the ball for the banks and trains. We had a fair sized job to do in itself. Law officers were elected and paid by the taxpayers to assume jurisdiction over legal matters of the country.
We had accepted Elza Lay as our friend. And friendship among those youthful pioneers was no light bond. Because he had with youthful foolhardiness stepped into the limelight of crime, seemed insufficient reason to desert him. That breaking of the raw could not contaminate us, unless we permitted it to do so. And we believed that possibly, given time, true friendship might become a substitute for the excitement of robbery. This was not a futile gesture. In the end, its purpose was accomplished.
The older men and women among our neighbors, wiser in experience, were not so confident of the ultimate reformation of Elza Lay. They quite justifiably feared the structure of illegal acts he was building around himself would forever cut him off from reliable contracts, or a settled life. But youth ignored the protesting of the venerables, and “fanned” on for Elza whenever he appeared.
A crowd of young people arrived from Utah to put up hay on the Hoy meadows simultaneously with one of Elza’s secret visits. We at once planned a dance with him as special guest, at the Harry Hoy ranch. There Elza was introduced to a beautiful brunette, a girl of irreproachable background. She was the belle of the evening, and rightly so. They were spontaneously drawn to each other, and were a pair mighty good to look at. The most was made of those few hours in each other’s presence. Although Elza was playing with death, that uncertainty of that condition was no preventive of love. And confident youth ignored the debatable phases of the situation.
We were filled with enthusiasm and rushed home with eagerness to share the news with father. He experienced no such feeling of elation. Instead he looked at us with an expression of sadness shadowing his face. We were shocked when he turned away without speaking, to walk slowly to his room, closing the door softly behind him. We knew for what father had closed himself into that seclusion, but we were too pitifully young and thoughtless to understand why he thought prayer was called for in a situation we found so happily exciting.
Elza, whom we liked so much, had seemingly found a girl to , share his loneliness. She appeared to be equally drawn to him. But father’s attitude altered our plans. Instead of sheltering him at our house, we put him up at the schoolhouse, over the hill and out of sight of the home buildings.
I rode down to the Hoy Ranch on pretense of bringing her to my home, took Mabel on over to the schoolhouse for a second meeting with Elza. •He confided to her the details of his way of life. However, she might secretly deplore these, there was no question of the strength of her newly inspired feeling for him.And she did not debate her willingness to share his needless hardships. There was a moon to influence the situation, I remember, and seemingly Love had power “to conquer all things.” However, his love for pretty, brunette Mabel was not sufficient power to change Elza’s desire for the ways which mean a hunted life—not until a long time afterward.
With. hope and confidence Mabel sealed her mind against anxiety and all kindred forebodings. Cheerfully she planned a future with Elza Lay. Burdened by the conflict of opposing opinions, all the influences of her early experiences and training, she thought out her future course for herself.
Elza returned to his hideout at the Big Springs in Bear RiverCanyon, or “Yampa,” as the Indians called it, when the haying ended and Mabel was obliged to go home. She stole away and swam her horse across the Green River at the Gorge to see him again, and form final plans. Then Mabel searched until she found a minister courageous enough to swim that swirling stream on horseback, with her. On a lonely mountainside, Mabel and Elza were solemnly married by that daring and dripping clergyman. Immediately after the ceremony was performed, I got on my horse and rode for home. If anyone there should discover where I had been, there would be a considerable rumpus.
The two young people went on their way, journeying toward their ultimate destiny, as some said, “Braving hell and high water.”
Early one morning about two years later, Sam and I were at the corral in Zenobia Basin, slapping a bronc around. We heard a whistle we both instantly recognized, coining from some spot among the deep, rocky caverns not far distant. Sam leaped to attention and sent me scampering to the house with an urgent request for corral poles. I was to ask the men working for us to go out and cut these needed poles at a place several miles from the cabin. When the wood choppers were safely out of the way, we gave the signal and Elza joined us.
He was still following the double path that kept him constantly at hair-trigger attention. At that moment the Law was hot on his trail, spurring him to great and greater speed to evade them. While we ate lunch he explained some unfinished business he wanted us to take care of for him. He had twenty thousand dollars in currency hidden away. This was in a cleverly concealed place near Powder Springs, about 40 miles from. Brown’s Park.
He had made a perfect map of the location, which he gave to us with’ minute directions to be followed, should it become necessary for us to lift his cache. We were then instructed what to do with the money if he should meet with serious accident, be locked up, or killed. However, if we heard from him within a year, and he was at large, that would release us from the man-sized job of finding and forwarding the money to his mother, whose address he had given us.
We traded horses with Elza and he rode away from Zenobia basin on a fresh mount. Eight months went by before Sam received a letter from him. That letter was mailed in Nevada, and Tillie it did not mention money matters, we knew he must be out nd on his own, able to look after his affairs. This relieved us of a great responsibility, and we did not go to Powder Springs.
Dishonest financiers had robbed Elza Lay’s widowed mother of an inheritance. His lust for vengeance started Elza on his career of crime. This neither remedied the evil. nor worked any change in conditions, outside of altering his own life into one of shame and misery. He lost incalculable time, from his best years end brought untold sorrow and anxiety to his family before he made a fresh beginning. When that change was accomplished, he field a good position in Southern California and proved himself o be the possessor of sterling qualities. He educated his children, who became successful and respected citizens.
Butch Cassidy’s name was associated with Elza Lay’s, and Cassidy also is concerned with these old Brown’s Park memories, though the story I can relate of him differs, particularly in its ending, from that of Elza.
During the year 1886, Charley Crouse of the Park, and Ken Hatch of Vernal, Utah, matched a race between Hatch’s black nare and a sorrel gelding belonging to Crouse. This race was run m an old Indian track on one of the Valentine Hoy ranches. Racing fans may assemble in greater numbers at Churchill Downs, out never could they have gathered at spur of keener interest and excitement than did those who then assembled in Brown’s Park. Betting ran high and the atmosphere was taut.
When the thoroughbred gelding appeared on the track, he was ridden by a slender, brown-haired young fellow of about nineteen years. Small for his age he was a quiet, unobtrusive chap. Hearing rumors of this projected horse race, he had come to Crouse’s ranch a few days previously. Crouse had sized him up with favor and hired him as jockey. And’ he rode the Brown’s Park horse to a glorious victory. We were tremendously proud of that racer, he not only could run, but he was a handsome animal. His rider was hailed with enthusiastic acclaim. He modestly told us his name was Ed Cassidy. Later he became widely known as “Butch” Cassidy, outlaw.
A dancing party was given at the Charles Allen Ranch to celebrate the winning of the race. The youthful jockey stabled the horse, joined us at supper, then went quietly to bed, without sharing in the jubilant merrymaking that went on until dawn streaked the sky.
He continued to work for Charley Crouse for a year, then went away. • He was always well mannered. I never saw Butch Cassidy drunk nor wearing a gun—in sight. I have no• personal knowledge of any of his deeds of outlawry, but I do know that he never lived in the Park after he was “wanted” by the law. Occasionally he came that way, stopping for a meal, or over night, at different ranches. But he took no part in the social life, nor ever attended a party after that which followed the race. Within a few years tales came back to us of his train and bank robberies.
Cassidy had not harmed nor otherwise bothered the people of our neighborhood. If the law officers wanted him, it was their place to take him, not ours. But if the Law wished to come into our country and make such an arrest, not one hand would have been raised to protect an outlaw.
Everyone knew there was a large reward offered for the capture of Butch, dead or alive. I AM PROUD TO SAY NOT ONE OF US WANTED THAT KIND OF MONEY! We had no commendation nor excuse for his “profession,” but we knew that his life was an unfortunate one, a hard, unhappy existence.
That is what I personally know of the notorious Butch Cassidy —whose exploits are a favorite topic of all the old liars, young liars and damn liars in the northwest, southwest, and as far away as South America, some of whom claimed either to have killed him or to have seen him die.. If anyone knows how Butch Cassidy met death, be sure they have never told.
He never robbed anybody in the Park, he appeared there only when of necessity, passing from Utah to Wyoming. He was often seen in Baggs and other Wyoming towns, and in Vernal, Utah, according to fairly well authenticated reports. Why was he not taken into custody by the law, in any of these places? And why were those towns not censured for sheltering him ?
If an outlaw is at some time in a certain community, is that sound reason for widespread condemnation of all the inhabitants of that section’
Brown’s Park, because of its location geographically, was a natural stopping place for regular travelers of the country and for strangers. We had no padlocks on our doors and the latch string hung outside. To place money value on a meal was never done. If anyone arrived at mealtime, he was naturally supposed to eat, just as any One of us would do, if we came to a ranch at such an hour. It was not expected that travelers should furnish their genealogy and past history when they appeared at the Park. People of all types came and went in the ordinary transaction of their business. On the whole, we kept our noses out of the affairs of other people as well as most frontier communities did.
I knew several of the so-called “Badmen.” Some of them were bad. That is, they were criminals, wanted to be tough and were tough. They were not welcome in our neighborhood, yet they were treated with courtesy and fed, as we would any other human being who came there. Men like Cassidy and Elza Lay were decidedly not of this type.
It is my firm belief, which I know is shared by many others, that the utmost bad taste and ingratitude—to state it mildly—were shown by certain men who came later to Brown’s Park. These men were sheltered in our homes, treated in friendly manner, were fed and cared for, and went away as they came, unquestioned. They sailed under false colors, disguised their purpose, and misrepresented their motives in coming there, later writing and publishing what purported to be an authentic and general history of the Park. This supposedly true description of people and events was compiled without regard for truth, correct dates or historical accuracy on any point. Certainly more respect is due men of the type of Butch Cassidy and Elza Lay, who were frankly what they were and carried on no underhand schemes, than those bearers of false tales. These self-elected chroniclers of events, with self-authorized judgment, acquitted a hired assassin who was legally convicted and hanged for the proven murder of an innocent boy. And those writers place a character of that type on a pedestal and shout “Glory, glory,” while they class hospitable, law-abiding citizens as criminals, people whose food they have eaten.
Butch Cassidy and Elza Lay were known to have often made headquarters in Vernal, Utah, the home of Super-Man Sheriff Pope. Elza married one of the girls of Pope’s “home town.” It is a well known fact that Pope never arrested either of these men, whom he knew personally. According to history which has been satisfactorily authenticated, Cassidy and Lay were notorious bank and train robbers, successful at obtaining large sums of money by that method. Is their success the answer to this failure to effect their capture? Is that the reason it was said that Butch had “just stepped out of, the door,” when Sheriff Pope was supposed to have attempted such an arrest? Nearly every locality in the west that I have seen or visited has characters about whom have been woven a tale that has been told and retold, added to with each telling until the character and his or her exploits exceed those of fiction thrillers in luridness. These characters, if by some strange freak of unknown Powers, were brought face to face with their fiction counterparts, would not know themselves. If the shades of Jesse James, Bill Hickok, Billy the Kid, or Butch Cassidy should emerge from the shadows, be able to see what I have seen, hear what I have heard, and read what I have read, I am sure their comments would be interesting—possibly unprintable !
Among the early excitements in Brown’s Park was the occasion of a certain Election Day. At that time, 1884, to be exact, “the insane, slaves, and women” were not permitted to vote in the State of Colorado. For that reason a number of the women of Brown’s Park, whose husbands were Colorado voters, retained ownership of property in nearby Wyoming, holding their right of franchise there. My mother owned property in Rock Springs, which included her in the number of Wyoming voters. This group of women left Brown’s Park in a three-seated buckboard in plenty of time to arrive for the Election, leaving their children in the care of the fathers.
Conforming to law, the election judges appointed their clerks, and Colorado voting began at seven o’clock, A. M. The day dragged toward noon. All Republicans had respectfully cast their votes and retired to the shade of the big cottonwood beside the schoolhouse, to discuss the weather.
The North Carolina “Tar Heels” rode up, all six together, to vote Democratic: That was a sensation. Not pleasant. Six Democratic votes in that traditionally Republican precinct was scandal unholy. The Judges of the all-Republican Election Board went into immediate conference and artfully appointed another clerk, a Democrat, to sit around and look reliable while any ballots which did not meet the dignity of the precinct could be properly taken care of. Long Horn Thompson was selected. Being a Texan, Thompson didn’t regard elections with any respect, and had little- consideration for the law he mostly contrived to avoid. He was the ideal legal fill-in.
When J. S. Hoy, one of the judges, counted the votes he found a total of fourteen, six of these Democratic. That situation demanded action. Hoy had the abilities of a “fixer.” He promptly cast votes for—several Civil War veterans who had been dead five years, or longer. When another judge timorously objected, citing legal regulations, he was won over by Hoy’s plea.
“Bassett,” Hoy said solemnly, “would you desert your comrades by denying them the right to vote? Men you fought with, side by side, to preserve the Union ‘” Bassett wouldn’t.
At three o’clock in the morning after the election, Long Horn Thompson packed the ballot box on his grey mule and started for Hahn’s Peak, one hundred and twenty miles ahead—to make official delivery of the precious cargo.
A day or so later Allen Hurd came over the Boon Trail from Snake River and reported news of poignant interest. He had seen a greyish-white mule with a pack roped on, straying along the ridge in east Boon Draw, thirty miles to eastward of Brown’s Park.
That information brought the voters to high tension. No doubt Long Horn had met with foul play, perhaps murder. And his mule was wandering around with a precious pack of Republican ballots on his back—a real tragedy. The most important consideration was the recovery of the ballot box and getting it to the County Seat, and contents counted, for that was a presidential election. Solving the fate of Long Horn could wait.
As soon as they could slap saddles on their horses, the voters in a body—with the exception of the Gettysburgers—took up the chase. Fathers hadn’t a backward glance for the offspring left in their care. The children were abandoned to the supervision of Miss Ada Higgins, the newly arrived teacher from St. Paul. Frightened at being left alone, with such responsibility, and in a county infested with Indians and goodness-knew what outlaws, Miss Higgins appealed to young Bertie Kirby, a guest on the Edwards Ranch.
Sir Bertie was gallant and instant with assurance that he would protect her from wild Indians and outlaws, or any other wild things —with the exception of the children. At us he gazed with doubt.
True, Sir Bertie had killed, without turning a hair, stampeded elephants in South Africa. Also he had spent some time in the wilds of India. But the children of Brown’s Park had him buffaloed : the teacher was well guarded, but the youngsters were mostly on their own.
Came the moment when the buckboard returning from Rock Springs came ’round the bend. All three seats were crowded with mothers attired in town finery, long veils streaming to the breeze, while the spirited team pranced to their home barn. The women bounced to the ground, each demanding : “Where is your father “
The wide-eyed bunch of youngsters stared back, speechless, until Sam Bassett stopped jumping his pony over a hurdle made from kitchen chairs (a trick he had learned from Sir Bertie) and replied: “Gone to hunt the ballot box.”
The truth was instantaneously clear to the women. What could they expect of men, helpless in any emergency never previously encountered, and which had to do with anything outside their previous experience. Compressing their lips, these dauntless women, who had successfully exercised their rights of citizenship, addressed themselves to a reorganization of their demoralized households. Let their husbands go cavorting over the country hunting the ballot box they hadn’t had any better sense than to lose, their wives would attend to business and keep home and ranch affairs in line unaided.
The same wives who had sense enough to vote where ballot boxes weren’t sent around the country mule-back.
Meantime the straying animal had been rounded up, precious pack unharmed. It developed that Long Horn had spied a band of wild horses. These attracted him greatly. Forgetful of the obligation of his official duties, he tied the mule to a cedar tree, and took out after the horses. When said mule became hungry, he broke loose and went on a grass hunt.
That Brown’s Park ballot box reached Hahn’s Peak only five days behind schedule. It was in time to decide the tied vote for CountySuperintendent of Schools. A young widow had received all the votes cast in the Park—notably, a total of twenty!
One sluggish summer afternoon when I was thirteen, brother Sam and I were riding slowly along a cow trail on the Green River slope, in ZenobiaBasin. A dazzling glow lay over the country, hurting your eyes if you gazed too long at one spot. We blinked sleepily, speaking as little as possible, while our horses loafed drowsily along. Suddenly they threw up their heads and looked around uneasily. They had caught the scent of something unpleasant.
My eyes instantly popped wide open. And there, in the open flat at the foot of the hovering mountain, two half-grown bear cubs were tumbling about in clumsy play. They were the “silver tips” of the grizzly family, and it was pure joy to watch their awkward antics. They cuffed each other, rolling over like furry balls, they were up and peeping about under the edges of rocks for palatable crickets, and they were completely unaware of the two amused watchers, for the light wind came from the opposite direction.
Ever since I saw my first bear cub I had wanted one for a pet. Before Sam broke from his lethargy enough to shout, I was headed in a dead run toward the unsuspecting cubs. In much less time than it takes to relate I had roped one of the cubs. The instant the loop fell around the chubby little body, a loud crashing advanced down the mountain side.
We heard an angry growl, and lurching down the steep grade came the mother bear, threatening murder. I dug my spurs into the frantic horse’s sides and fumbled crazily for the rope that was in a firm “tie down.”
Sam ran around helplessly, trying to give me his pocket knife to’ cut the rope that snared the cub, for he had no gun. The other two cowboys with whom we were circling came at a gallop. They shouted with all the power of their voices, and shot again and again to frighten the angry bear. But that crazed mother was not to be turned by fright. My poor horse was going mad. He plunged and reared, until I was finally thrown clear. The bear ignored me as I scrambled hurriedly to a scrubby pinon and to a safe perch. I turned toward the scene below in time to see the mountainous form raise her huge paw. and strike. My gallant rope horse slumped to the ground, dead before the cowboys could get within shooting range of the bear. Even when they did reach her, it was no easy matter to kill the thick-skinned creature with a colts-45 while the horses bucked in a frantic determination away from that inferno dominated by the infuriated grizzly.
When the bear rolled over dead, Mack, one of the cowboys, rode up to the shivering cub and leaned over to cut the rope by which it was still held to the dead horse. That small bear had enough of man, and ran, rolling over and over in his haste to get into the tall timber.
Silently the boys removed my saddle from the dead horse’s body. Every move was made deliberately, and with the same deliberation Mack walked over and pulled me, stiff and scared, down from my cramped position.
He stared at me sternly. “Come out of there, you little hellion. I am going to give you the Hain’ your father has been puttin’ off years too long.” He jerked me around toward my horse. “See that poor dead horse over yonder ? Well, that’s what I’m lickin’ you for.”
I remember that well! Old Mack was long on strength and short on patience. I got the damnedest shaking a kid ever got, to say nothing of a few well placed smacks from a big pair of gauntlets. Then Mac bounced me to the back of his rough gaited horse and trotted all the way to camp.
That three mile ride was a silent one. I perched miserably behind the man who had so thoroughly punished me, subdued for one day at least.
As we rode up to the summer camp where two ranch hands were building a new corral, they looked at the saddle, then at me : “What’s up ?” they asked. The cowboys never did condescend to answer questions asked by lowly ranch hands, and Sam merely said : “Ask Ann.”
I slid to the ground and the cowboys hung my battered saddle on a peg, the still silent group rode away, Sam with them.
When the last horse had swished its tail around a clump of trees at the bend, I ran toward the two men digging post holes and blurted out the miserable story, ending with the entreaty : “Please go bury my horse, and the bear, too. And maybe you might just take along a hunk of fresh meat for the cubs.”
The men worked hard and long and really did a bang-up job of burying my horse, but they dug a hole only half large enough for the enormous bear,
That night when the tired cowpunchers had made their wet way back to the summer ranch, through a downpour of rain, Mack, the one who had taken the initiative from the first, said : “Ann, we’ll fix your saddle, but you’re goin’ back to the home ranch. If we ever see you carryin’ a rope again, you’ll get another lickin’. You can tell your father or not, just as you like. We’d rather not talk about it any more.”
While that unusually long speech was going on I watched, fascinated, as the water dripped in a string of brilliants from the slouch of his big hat. I had nothing to say. Sam went with me on the fourteen mile hike to the home ranch. I timidly broke the silence. “You tell the folks, Sam. I’ll keep quiet this time.”
“What do you want me to tell them?” he said.
“Oh, I donno. Maybe we better not tell about the horse getting killed.”
“You got plenty of saddle horses, Milo won’t be missed for a long time,” he commented. We rode the rest of the way home with Sam rehearsing what lie was going to say, and I deep in gloom, mightily sorry for what had happened.
I felt even worse when my father exclaimed: “Thank God Ann was saved!,” after he heard what Sam had to tell. I thought I could name a certain cowboy who would rather see that good young saddle horse alive.
After mother passed away, Aunty Thompson kept house for us. She and “Long-horn” her husband, moved over from their ranch, and we took their cattle on Bassett range, She was a woman of excellent character and unusual capabilities. A registered nurse, she had originally come west with her mother to nurse her half-brother. He had received arrow wounds while scouting for Thorn-berg’s troops. When he recovered, she stayed on as an army nurse. She married Long-horn Thompson; and they came into Brown’s Park after the arrival of my family.
With all her common sense and abilities, Aunty Thompson could exert no restraint on my turbulent nature. About a year after mother’s passing away, I commenced to be a serious problem to my father. An Eastern college man, although wise in many ways, he was too tender and kindhearted to control a girl of my temperament. Even the faintest suggestion of a big stick wielded at the proper time, hurt his gentle soul. Nevertheless, it would have been a helpful initiation to an inflammable thunderbolt, dictatorially charging over all obstructions. I was a child possessing the energy of young wild things in the open, developing as a nature-child, and occupied chiefly with outdoors work and play on a cattle ranch in a primitive west. I was about as responsive to father’s idea of ‘”rule by love alone” as a fragment .of granite on a winter morning. Father realized that he must attempt to tame or control this girl-child of his who was, by instinct, a cross between a Texas cowpuncher and a Ute Indian.
The time had come for me to be put in school, and under some shadow of discipline. It was fortunate that we had such an understanding friend, Tim Kinney, and at Mr. Kinney ‘s suggestion, Father decided to send me to a Catholic convent in Salt Lake City, Utah. I took to the idea like a duck to water. It would be another new and thrilling adventure. A journey on the railroad would be included and I would have my first glimpse of a city. I could scarcely wait for the time to come when I should start. The hundred mile trip by buckboard and team from the ranch, to the railroad was old and tame stuff, but now I was to be whirled away on a new pilgrimage of investigation which carried a special glamour.
Father and Aunty Thompson gave me wise counsel. They told me exactly what to do on the train. She gave me special and detailed instructions regarding the behaviour of a “lady” while traveling. I remember how primly I sat in my seat with my lips pressed firmly together, looking neither to the right nor left, as viewing with wonder and interest the scenes of the outdoors that appeared to flow past the car windows.
In due time I arrived in Salt Lake City, where I was met at the station by the Sisters regularly assigned to that duty. We bundled into a carriage, and were driven to the convent by Pat, the gardener. I stared with amazement at the crowded city streets, the towering buildings, and the horse cars pulling their human freight up and down through the traffic. The pavements and the store windows displayed a variety of articles exceeding anything I had ever imagined. And finally, I saw the brick building set against smooth lawns, shapely trees, and with front and sides almost completely covered with Boston ivy. When our coach came to a halt, I was quietly ushered into a spacious waiting room to be approved by the Sister Superior, a dignified woman from whom radiated the authority and responsibility given into her hands for the guidance and sheltering of just such little girls as I.
I was tabulated and turned out among four hundred girls of every age and size, from tots to twenties. I had not realized there could be so many girls in just one world, and all of them apparently doing something that fitted into a part of this great pageant that seemed to be put on for my special entertainment. I felt something like Alice in Wonderland, finding myself surrounded by so many mysteries, where every possible wish was gratified without the trouble of thinking for one’s self.
Every action was prearranged, even the play was planned. The orderly and clean grounds had a tennis court and a croquet plot, with rackets and mallets neatly, laid out, and a young, soft-voiced sister to instruct and supervise. Our clothing was beautifully pressed and placed ready to wear. I was more than a little proud of myself, done up in a new uniform, without a trace of fertilizer to detract from its spotlessness. And what thrilling sensations I experienced listening for those innumerable bells to ring!
For me that school was the ever-changing dress rehearsal of an amusing drama, becoming more exciting with every change. Be it Benediction, Mass, or class, it was all absorbing entertainment, thoroughly enjoyed and eagerly looked forward to. I went floating around in a maze of fun, regularly pranced off to a quiet dining hall, where we were served with mountains of wholesome food, to be eaten leisurely while listening to strains of soft music. That music was like the stirring of birdwings in the air about us. True, there were some lines to be gone over, and classroom exercises, all of which I took in my stride,, and swallowed as a routine part of this never-ending show.
At the slightest symptoms of illness or fatigue we were gently whisked away to another part of this endless building, to the infirmary. There you were tucked into a snowy bed and carefully watched over by one of those faithful “Sisters,” who administered to every need. It was wonderful to loll there and be served with a tray at meal time. I had never heard of such care. The contrast to my ranch life was overwhelming.
When at home, if one got droopy, they were dosed with sagebrush tea and castor oil, then turned loose to fend for themselves. With disdain and contempt for any suggestion of ill health, I would trot out to the corral, rope a bronco, pull him this way and that to wear him down a bit before trying to put on the blindfold and anchor the saddle. Then to go to it and top him off, sometimes getting well “topped off” myself. In that case I scrambled up, brushed off some (not too much) dust from my person, and set off, to round up the drifting horse and saddle. Catching him, I’d start all over again, until that particular bronc was “broke” to be ridden without spills. In my experience of living on a ranch one had to think fast to dodge flying feet and flaying horns, and to avoid getting kicked in the belly by a wild calf at branding time. A fella sure had to have the right caliber of insides to ignore cuts and bruises, or now and then a fractured bone. That was my real life, to be lived in earnest. My convent experiences were a delightful interlude, during which I went sailing around on clouds of beauty and ease.
Not until twenty years later did I realize that I was being disciplined and educated for the finer things of life by those masterful sisters, who are adroit in the shaping and building of a child’s character and future. Had I been managed in any other way, and for a moment realized this was control in ‘its strictest sense, I would have snorted like a wild mustang and bolted for the home range. This introduction to training was so skillful it never occurred to me that I was being schooled, and I was eager to return each year to absorb more of the luxuries. With a deep sense of obligation I wanted to please those kind sisters, and did everything expected of me. I swaggered home triumphant, for I had won a medal for good conduct. The cowboys shook their heads, and declared “you must of mavericked it.” Through the years of my lumpy career, wherever I see a Catholic sister of any order I experience a wave of genuine gratitude for those holy women and the goodness of their earnest lives. They tried patiently to heave some brand of improvement on a child, who, by the most elastic kind of imagination, could not be called “sweet little girl.”
On an earlier page I referred to Slippery Jim. He fills a definite and important niche in all memories of those old days on the Bassett Ranch. He came to live with us when I was a baby, and stuck.
Being a left-over Guerrilla of the Civil War, he probably was well fitted to cope with the twin job of making a hand around the ranch and simultaneously attempting to reconstruct my indecorous conduct.
Slippery was tall, well over six feet, his long body topped by a sandy-haired head that prominently displayed a hooked nose. A thin mustache straggled across the upper lip of a firm mouth that rarely smiled. He had a notably clean appearance, but there was nothing of humor or geniality in his expression. He had a deep sense of responsibility, and stood for back talk from nobody. Bu it even when he was speaking with force, I did not fear him, for I understood he did not mean half of what he was saying.
Nothing slipped by Slippery. He would fix me with a cold eye. Then he would slice a generous quid of “Horse Shoe” plug, lick the razor sharp blade of his hunting knife, and calmly give forth regarding some supposedly secret escapade of my own. He would pour out words with force and effective irony.
Finally a perfect kick-off came, with a big scoop for Slippery. I suddenly became bored with the annoying white tribe, their failure to understand my needs, and their narrowing restrictions. I decided to go Indian, for keeps. It was a most unfortunate circumstance that this urge came over me at the same time Father was expecting boyhood friends from Herkimer County, New York„ to visit him.
The entire household was in a great flurry at prospect of entertaining such distinguished guests. They neglected to inform me of the date of expected arrival. Not knowing of this would not have’ greatly altered my plans, though the announcement might have caused me to postpone the drastic change for a few days, and have prevented that terribly unpleasant sensation I later felt at the pit of my stomach. Also, Father would have been Spared the unhappy embarrassment openly betrayed when I rambled. nonchalantly into our living room all done up in war paint and eagle feathers. Completely Indian from long braids to beaded moccasins, I was unexpectedly facing Father’s friends, the immaculate Doctor Nicholas Senn and Major General Otis of Los Angeles Times fame. Father gave me one despairing glance, and his face was suddenly a mask done in red.
Judge Conway collected his wits, and exhibited sufficient self-control to say : “This is Miss Ann. She will conduct our horse-back trips to places we will want to visit while you are here.” From the distressed expressions of utter dismay creeping over the notables’ faces, they were ready to take flight, if any more of such primitives were liable to appear.
Right then I wanted to clutch anything that moved swiftly, for in popped my sister, Josephine, all perked up in starched gingham and ruffles, to announce dinner.
Judge Conway gave me a shove and off we went to endure that unending meal, with no possible escape. I felt mighty small sitting there beside the towering Major, and trying -to look as I hoped an Indian Chief would look if he were ever caught red-handed in the act of lifting a white’s `,`top piece.” At the moment, my crime seemed as great.
The morning’s sequence left me fairly smoking to commit a dire deed, for it was very evident to me that the subtle old Judge had a hole card up his sleeve and that he was determined to cure me of that Indian dream for all time. He smugly suggested an after dinner rest and then a horseback ride to ‘see LodoreCanyon at sunset, all the time keeping watchful eyes on me.
To complete the picture, the Judge was very careful to see that “Lo-the-poor-Indian” rode bare back with the grotesque long feather headdress dangling over the horse at every movement. The bare-back stunt did not cool me off any, and I got a hunch.
Doctor Senn became deeply engrossed in his observation of the general landscape as we rode slowly over the hills. The Major was busy complimenting himself on his splendid horsemanship and his perfect understanding of horses. I had time to think, while the tenderfeet ogled that perfect sunset. Twilight settled over the ridges, and soon we must be on Our homeward ride.
Major Otis was laboriously climbing on his mount just when my toe got out of control and really made things interesting. That unruly toe stuck itself right into old Gussie’s flank with a nasty jab. The gentle Gussie came unbuttoned, and went down across the meadow, bucking and kicking. The Major was left flattened out on the sand like a flap jack.
My worthy act for the day was accomplished, and. I loped off to gather Gussie. The old horse was not fooled by my honeyed talk, and he eyed me with suspicion when I reached for the bridle reins.
Doctor Senn fumbled over the Major and pronounced him free from any physical injuries, so we started on the homeward journey with the Major in wonderment over the true meaning of Gussie’s homicidal tendency. My brother Sam met us at the corral, and got the story of the accident. He gave me a critical look and whispered, “Get out of the way and forget to show up while we have company.”
Experience warned me of the inevitable punishment ahead. Slippery would be lurking somewhere in the shadows, and grab me at the -very first opportunity to flay me with one of his scathing lectures. I hid out until daylight, then he nabbed me when I sneaked into the ‘kitchen for a hand-out.
I was caught, and followed him to his work, wishing he would forget about yesterday’s pranks. Not a chance.
Slippery picked up speed in the old familiar way and began. “When I was a boy back in old I(aintucky, I hated stinking Injins. Pshaw, it aint human, an you aint going to be no Injin Chief no-how. That was alright for you to make play with when you was a little ‘cuss, but what I cain’t see is, why in tarnation you ever did want to be a lousy Injin. I helped with your rasin’, of course it’s nothin’ to be proud of. When you got in from school tother day you was lookin’ plumb lady-like, now you look like somethin’ chased out of the brush. You shore are a disappointment to me. I’m to blame some, I reckon, for the way you are. When you was nothin’ but a yearlin’ I kept your Ma from lickin’ you, and you was needin’ it too. I aint forgot the time you got that bunch of kids down sick with the grip by havin’ them take their shoes off an stand in the mud and water for hours at a time makin’ them believe they had heel flies. You had them pore kids sniffin’ and snuffin’ and as red as beets, an you all dirtied up and as husky as a young mule!”
He paused to exhale a deep, sighing breath, then went on. ” Heel-flies, nawthin’ ” he exclaimed, his voice oozing disgust. “It was only one of your streaks of-meanness, scarin’ them with that stuff. An’ I lied to your pore Ma, tellin’ her how you was reely sick too, so she wouldn’t give you a lickin’. I did get some good outa that, though, for you didn’t dast kick an’ bite when I had to hold your nose and pour castor ile down you, an’ then scrub your dirty paws.
“Why in thunder do we try to get you eddicated for, anyhow? he demanded of me belligerently. Look at you now, out here in that disgustin’ garb, helpin’ to keep a wire fence straight in the’ buildin’. Aint no job for a girl, and a wire fence is a plumb no-good thing anyhow, plumb pizen to critters—and humans too. Here you are, comin fifteen, an’ wearin’ over-hauls. If there is anything I hate to see, it’s a gal in them things. Why, that kind of an outfit is just for sheepherders an’ squaw-men.” By that time he was glaring at me.
When I remained silent, trying to seem indifferent to his outpouring of angry disapproval, he went on with a final outburst of enraged criticism. “I was so ashamed of you yesterday in that turrible riggin’. And I know you was in a mood to do somethin’ awful mean. I says to Miz Thompson, that youngun can’t behave herself one minnit! Just look at Beth Brown and Wilda Mac, all dressed up and, smellin’ as sweet as posies. Them is the gals that is goin’ to get the pick of the fellers, an’ you’ll be one of them old maids, goin’ round as sour as a pickle. I was set on you gettin’ one of th’ good men around here, an’ marry. But ‘taint no use, all you can see is cattle an’ hosses!” When the last sentence had exploded, Slippery lifted a gaunt hand to brush drops of perspiration from his forehead. “Fetch me my tobacker,” he commanded, his voice pitched on a lower note, “it’s in my coat pocket, hangin’ on that limb there. I’m a-going to set again this cedar and do some whittlin’. My old bones is tired.”
I could see my self-appointed “guardian angel” and censor was weakening. Perking up, I said, “Slippery, you should say ‘please’ when you ask for something.”
He said : “See here, Ann Bassett, don’t give me any of your back talk, I won’t have no smart elecks in our family. Now get on your horse an’ go to the Pablo place and stay there while your Pa’s big friends are here. An’ say,, while your ‘re about it, don’t forget to wire the bull pasture gate, and drive the cows away from the bog holes, an’ run in the saddle horses. A body can’t depend on the boys no more, with all them pretty gals around the ranch. Come to think of it, I always did get you to do such things.” He eyed me with a faint hint of leniency.
I was trying to gain sympathy and said : “Slippery, there is no food at the Pablo, and you know it.” Slippery did not allow himself to be impressed.. He said : “Go on up there, you can catch some frogs outa the pond and fry their legs. I’ll tell Sam and Wilda to take you some biscuits. Them two is sure going to be a match. Sam is tall an’ good lookin’, and so is Wilda with her yellow-bird hair, and them pretty slim laigs. She walks like a deer, an’ sings, too. Yes-sir-ee, that girl sings like a meadowlark. An they’re sure in love. Now, when I was a boy back in Kaintucky—” He paused, shrugged his shoulders, and concluded briskly, “Shucks, I was just a boy in Kaintucky, that’s all.”
This was the usual conclusion to one of Slippery’s outbursts, and indicated that, for the time, his disciplinary mood was ended.
To give him a jolt, I chirped up, “Is that what you call being in love ? I noticed Sam and Wilda acting droopy, and I had thought about reminding father to give them a pill of assafostida gum to perk them up a bit.” I assumed a disgusted expression. Then I added, with a disdainful toss of my head, “This thing you call `love’ is too complicated for me to want to tackle. And where do you get the idea that I want a husband ? Being side-hobbled to any man doesn’t seem a bit exciting to me Of course,” I granted generously, “men are sometimes fun, and they are handy to have around, but I like them better grazing in herds. I don’t intend to cut one out to put my brand on. I have a purpose in life, and it hasn’t got anything to do with falling in love and getting married. And now, just where did you get the idea that I don’t intend to go on and be an Indian? I’m on my way this minute, to PabloSprings to carry out your orders. G’bye.”
Slippery fairly bounced up. “I, tell you, that’s a helluva idea you got ! I give you up.”
But he didn’t. The harmless old pirate kept right on with the same energy thundering his advice and criticism at me. But he wouldn’t have changed me one jot, and secretly he knew that. He prided himself on being an expert on “child raisin’.” And he actually beamed with exultation when he would boast, “I cut that young-un’s teeth on porcupine quills, and she aint never been sick a day in her life.”
Slippery only became discouraged and gave up his long-winded lectures at the age of ninety-six.
Several times I returned to the Sister’s School in Salt Lake City. Then came a more drastic change in my life—I was sent to the select “Miss Potter’s School for Girls” in the exclusive suburbs of Boston.
I departed from home with confidence, anticipating a further enjoyable experience. I found myself in a place so strange it might as well have been located in a foreign land. Not, only strange, but at times unbearably disagreeable. Endless months dragged past in a restricted social atmosphere of quaint gentility and—baked beans. My imagination could never have pictured such a situation. I was stifled. My inner turbulence lacked even the relief of proper exercise.
I had been sitting straddle of horses and guiding them unaided since the age of three. I couldn’t remember when I had not sat my saddle with ease and security. With nothing but a hackamore to keep the horse straight, I was riding races on a quarter-mile track before I was six. A wild barbarian who knew nothing about “cor- rest style” must be taught horsemanship by a competent instructor. The school employed a riding “Mawstah” to teach the girls correct positions in the saddle and how to post. One morning about a dozen of us were lined up for inspection before taking off for a decorous canter over chosen bridle paths. Everything appeared ship-shape. But there was rebellion in my soul, revolt that demanded action.
The “Mawstah” walked back a few yards for some words with one of the stable boys. That was my Heaven-given chance to air “ronickie” dun out a little. I was perched like a monkey on a stick, atop of a locoed old sabine gelding with one glass eye. I threw my right leg up over the side saddle and raked his flanks. Then uttering a wild yell that must have scared him half to death, I put him through several range stunts while the girls screamed with glee.
The outraged “Mawstah” came on the run, giving off a stream of sarcasm meant for me, He grabbed for my bridle reins at the same time ordering me sharply to “Dismount.”
He got nowhere reaching for my bridle. I was completely ”r’iled up” by that time. I swung the horse about, with a prancing and rearing he had probably never before even attempted. Leaning from my saddle, I exclaimed vehemently, “Go to hell, you repulsive, little, monkeyfaced skunk !”
His eyes almost popping from his head with shock, he turned and ran for the school office to report the scandalous event.
Our riding lesson was promptly cancelled for that day.
And I was brought before the stony-faced faculty, on the carpet, with all the girls of my riding class also there to testify to my use of profane language.
Not one of them could remember a word that I had said ! Indeed, they had not heard anything out of the ordinary.
Even so, it looked as if I were to be expelled from that perfumed institution of learning. I had obeyed all written and oral rules with meticulous care. Nothing had even been hinted against making a horse kick the gravel as he jumped out and sat down a few times, and not a thing wrong about that where I came from, but in Boston it apparently was regarded as an unforgiveable crime, something completely unheard of.
My uncle came from Cleveland to talk matters over with the authorities, also to confer with sympathetic understanding with me. I was duly reinstated—and continued to take my riding lessons to the end of the term.
I did not return to Boston, however. The same uncle arranged for me to continue my schooling in his home city, the following year. My schooldays went on for several more years, interspersed with long summer vacations in Brown’s Park.
In the 1870s Indians had not yet been put on reservations, a “Subjugated People.” They were still free to roam over meadows which had been their home for centuries. Utes, with a few of the Sioux Tribe, were living in Brown’s Park when the white settlers came. Their rights were unquestioned by the colonists, who “tendered unto Indians the thinks that belonged to Indians,” thus avoiding racial disagreement. When whites were being massacred sixty miles to the Eastward (a tragedy brought about largely by their bigotry and hypocritical fanaticism) the Brown’s Parkers felt no uneasiness. Chief Maracisco had assured them they would not be molested, and they were not. They did not practice intolerance, nor belittle the cleverness and knowledge of a people who had survived for generations while wresting their living from the natural resources of that country.
From our Indian friends we learned many helpful lessons. They taught us the use of medicinal herbs, the art of lying on game trails to select the fat, desirable meat. And, most important, how to make “jerkey.” Another valuable lesson was in the use of marrow in tanning skins, to make them soft and unshrinkable. We learned how to insure comfort when sleeping on the ground, by making a slight depression in the earth and covering this with leaves and bits of bark.
One, of the Ute,s said of mother : “Bassett’s’squaw all-time talk, maybe so Magpie.” I am glad to remember that “Magpie” whom they regarded as their “Great White Squaw and heap good friend,” never let them down. Never did she fail to respect their dignity and human rights.
How wonderful if one could wipe out the false recording of “clatter-boned, goose-quill wranglers,” disguised as honest historians, who have too often taken over a subject wholly unfamiliar to them, setting in motion waves of misrepresentation regarding the American Indian.
How many of these tales depict the trials and tribulations endured by the Utes when subjected to the dominion of the Government Agent, Meeker? His plowing up of the race track which the Indians had made? This man, supposed to be representing a free government, where personal liberty is placed high, was determined to force these hunters of deer and tanners of buckskin to raise “tame” hay for their ponies, when the hills were covered with a rich growth of bluestem. The Indians well knew that was better feed for horses than any tame hay ever produced. Meeker’s coercion appeared senseless.
In later years when agents were sent out from Washington to take charge of the wild game and police the Indians, they seemed like foreigners. Their ways were strange, not only to the Indians, but to the whites who were living in neighborly fashion with the red people. The restrictions that were imposed appeared totally uncalled for. Wild game was plentiful. We took only what we needed and used that without wastefulness. To the eastward, on the more accessible ranges, it is true that game was lavishly slaughtered by white-faced “market” hunters, to be sold in great quantities, without regard to the preservation of our game species. That was not true in the region of Brown’s Park.
When the game wardens came to take the Indians from their hunting grounds, as they did on Little Snake River, about forty miles distant, word was sent among the Utes to “get rid of the meat” if they had any.
This message was darned by white folks, the friends of the Indians. And when the game-smellers came, there was no meat to be found. The wardens were disappointed and angered at the failure of their mission. They scattered the equipment and supplies belonging to the Indians. They were arrogant and overbearing. Many times have I wondered, would the wardens have been so bold had the Indian men been in camp ?
But, of course, they were brave men, these whites, backed by the strong arm of the Law, shaking a threatening fist instead of extending a hand from the Great White Father in Washington. A Ute squaw subjected to the rough treatment attempted to defend her family and personal property. When she protested a brutal attack on a young boy, these brave Americans shot and killed her. After shooting the woman, they hung the boy by- his hands and emptied their guns into his body. Through such representatives was the Law sent to the Indians of Western Colorado.
The eloquent evidence of the manner through which this arm of the law operated, was not a true representation of our form of Government. It was the act of crackpots, moving in the shelter of misplaced power. Perhaps they had listened to the tales of other uninformed persons and were too stupid or too lazy to obtain factual information for themselves. They certainly had no comprehension of the words fairness and justice.
The Snake River slaughter of Indians was stopped by the timely arrival of Henry Templeton, a resident of that section, a man of understanding and decisive character. He courageously interfered with the perpetrators of law-protected villany, and later played an active role in securing the dismissal from the Service of these misfit agents.
Circumstances entirely disassociated from the game law enforcement put me on the scene during one of the resultant incidents. That summer Beth Brown’ was at the Bassett Ranch. She was a city girl who so loved ranch life that she spent her vacations cowgirling with our outfit. She became a good hand with stock, too. Father had sold Jim Norvel a bunch of cattle, and these were to be delivered at the Thompson Ranch on Little Snake River. When Sam Bassett set out with the herd, Beth and I accompanied him. Arrived at the Thompson’s, Sam went on to Big Gulch with the cattle, but Beth and I remained to look after the extra saddle horses until he returned. And that was the time the Government game wardens had chosen to start the row with the Utes over the killing of deer out of season.
After their raid, these extraordinary government executives came to the Thompson Ranch. And never again do I want to witness such yellow cowardice as those men exhibited in their attempt to make a hasty getaway, leaving the ranch families to face the irate Indians alone. I was exceedingly keen to have the culprits turned over to the fighting braves, who got on their trail. A more levelheaded majority ruled otherwise. And Mrs. Thompson took charge of the rescue of the game wardens. Aunty Thompson took her ever-ready shotgun, her two babies and her blind mother, and driving her swift team of mules, gave the cowering agents free-wheeling to safety in the little town of Maybell. They rode in the wagon box, concealed beneath a thick covering of hay.
They had argued unsuccessfully with Beth to induce her to go with them. She had insisted upon returning to the Bassett Ranch with me,- though the mere sight of an Indian would give poor Beth the shivers. I knew that after the wardens had retreated to the Thompson Ranch for shelter, it was no place for See-a-baka’s white papoose. Slapping on our saddles with all speed, we lit out for Brown’s Park, over the Boone Trail, thirty-three miles to go, through hills scattered thickly with Utes on the war path, sending up their alarming signal fires as they prepared for their scalp harvest. I hadn’t much fear in passing near these fires, for I was confident the sharp trained eyes of the Indians would recognize the pinto horse and its girl rider. I had many friends among these red-men, but I was less sure of the safety of my companion.
As we rode, I instructed Beth what to do if by chance we were run down and her capture was attempted. If we saw any approaching Indians, she was to bolt for the cedars and hide herself. She was to remain perfectly still until the afternoon of the next day, then slip through broken country to the Bassett Ranch, with out trying to find me. Such an attempt would certainly lead smack into trouble.
It was growing dark when we reached the top of the divide, too dark to see any distance. We suddenly heard horses’ hoofs running towards us down the slope of a hill. Beth instantly ducked into the timber, while I rode out to meet the clattering horses. They proved to be merely a bunch of range animals, running out to meet and look us over, then race off again, as such often did.
I rode back to the place where Beth had slid into hiding. I called and whistled and went round and round among the dark cedars receiving no reply. At last, I decided to tie up, and bed down until morning. My horse didn’t take to that, for he had smelled out the hiding place of his pard, Beth’s horse. I gave him his head and he found her. She had heard me calling, but had feared it was some trick of the Indians, so did not answer,–but crept deeper into her hiding place, until convinced that it was really I, trying to find her. Also, that I was alone, without Indian companions.
We proceeded on toward home and had gone about five miles when we heard a horse coming behind us. From the regular hoof beats, without a stop, I knew that horse was being ridden. I got off and put my ear to the ground to be sure of it. That time we hid together. The horseman passed us without pausing, and when he was near, we could hear the squeaking of new leather.
He was going our way, so we followed for about a quarter of a mile. The horse fell into a tired lope, that lagged more and more. I was sure the unseen rider was not an Indian, for in those days they had no leather stock saddles. Turning aside into the shadow of a near cliff wall, we whistled to him.
When he replied to the signal and came close to us, we were considerably surprised to recognize Walt Nisbet, a grocery salesman from Denver, who had been in our country taking orders for a firm in that city. Walt and his companion had been traveling in a buggy on the Templeton Mesa, when they were overtaken by Aunty Thompson and her load of terrified government officials. When Nisbet learned of the dangerous trip Beth was making with me, he unhitched his team, saddled one of them and hied it to the Thompson Ranch as fast as he could go. He was without weapon, and the wardens refused to give him one of their guns. But that did not deter him.
He reached the ranch about dark, his horse spent from its ten-mile race. When he spied horses grazing near the corral he decided to secure a fresh mount. He selected one with saddle marks on its back, for somebody had told Walt that was an indication of a gentle animal. However, in that case, the marks were misleading. He got Bill Snort, an outlaw none of the cowboys could stay on. The horse had gotten his marks when he threw off a bronco buster and ran around on the range for a week, before the peeler caught him and could get the saddle off.
We kept him in the cavvy for a bed-horse because he was so easy to handle, if no one tried to ride him. Just when Nisbet hit the saddle the Utes opened fire on him and Bill Snort let loose. He was a tough bucker. But with bullets flying around him Nisbet had to stick. He was lucky to be off balance, when one shot passed through the cantle of the saddle and landed in the fork, and another ripped off a: part of his jacket while he was desperately clinging to some part of the gear. He took a terrific roughing, but he did not let fighting Indians nor a frantically bucking horse check him. He came in hot pursuit of Beth.
They had met several times that summer, and each was much impressed by the other. When they recognized each other, Walt sprang from the saddle and they went into a clinch, absolutely forgetting anything but themselves. While they stayed in an ecstatic daze, muttering what sounded to me like sticky nonsense, ‘I walked over to inspect poor Bill Snort. As I did so, his wobbling legs relaxed, and he toppled over dead. His strong heart had given out.
I removed the saddle sadly and hung it on a cedar. I had known Bill Snort a long time, and had considerable respect for his cunning. It was really an impressive spectacle to watch him unseat self-confident bronc busters who took every advantage of him with ropes, bits and spurs. He won over every trick and contraption they could contrive, leaving them on the ground to wonder how they got off.
I felt no great elation over Nisbet and his narrow escape, although he was a daring young fellow who had exhibited a lump of real nerve in braving all odds against him to find Beth. Of course, I did admire him for that courage, even if he had used the poorest of judgment by running into an almost certain gunfight, minus a. shooting iron.
Beth and I had eaten nothing since a five o’clock breakfast the morning before. Going at a fast jolt had got me edgy and I let out a frosty link of words to untangle the cooing pigeons. I advised them to hop on Beth’s horse and be moving, if we wanted to beat the Utes to he Bassett Ranch in time for breakfast. It was eight miles to chuck, and quite evident that Beth and Walter intended to go double in future, so they just as well start right away.
Father enthused over Nisbet’s bravery and his fortunate escape from Indian gunfire. Commonplace human affairs were exciting to father, when he approved. He was an incurable romantic, and did not care a whoop about the loss of Bill Snort, when there was a love-knot to be tied.
A couple of thick steaks and ten hours sleep transformed my flustered self to something like normal. Father wrote a report and sent our depositions to the Indian Department. Within a few weeks Beth and I were called to testify before the Indian Affairs Committee, at Washington, D. C., and again to repeat the same testimony before a committee representing the Indian Department in Denver.
Complete destruction of the Thompson ranch buildings and several casualties suffered by the settlers resulted from this unforgivable blundering of officials, who should have exercised judgment instead of giving free rein to their own self conceit and ignorance.
After the investigation was completed, which took several months, the Washington agents who committed the heinous crime against the Indians were dismissed from government service. The incident couldn’t so readily be dismissed from memory. It marked a still further widening of the gulf between redmen and white.
Hi Bernard, manager for the Haley Two Bar cattle outfit, with ranches near Craig, Colorado, bought the Ben Majors and Sainsbury Ranches on the lower Snake River, thirty miles from, Brown’s Park. Soon’ after the transfers of the ranches, several thousand head of Two Bar cattle were driven into Routt County and turned on summer range. The intent of Haley to occupy all of the summer and winter range of the county was clearly demonstrated. There were hundreds of miles of range outside of the Park, yet we with our small herds located in the west end of the natural drift, and with less snow and plenty of feed were again in danger of becoming overrun by the big herds of cattle owned by non-residents.
Bernard visited the Park in October of 1898 to submit a proposition to the cattle owners on the Colorado side of the line. A tall, fair-complexioned man, he could adopt a most convincing manner. He plausibly suggested that they, form a Cattle Association for “protection” against the large bands of sheep that could so easily invade the winter range, from Utah and Wyoming. The men of the neighborhood listened with growing favor, and accepted his plan, for it seemed reasonable; but the women (myself included) could too well remember file conflicts and trouble of other attempts to Fraternize with big cattle companies, and doubted such a plan could work to our advantage. The locating on Snake River and the herds of cattle on the way did not reassure us.
The women were supported in their belief by Harry Hoy. The men far outnumbered the women and the organization was adopted with every male cattle owner joining, with the exception of Hoy. The women and Hoy fought on and would not become members of the organization until a compromise was effected, when it was agreed that our neighbors engaged in the sheep business were to continue to graze their flocks in Colorado.
These neighbors, Willis Rouff, Charles Sparks and Frank Broodman, had small flocks, were home owners and would have been limed financially if forced to move their sheep out of the state t that time. Their outfits only, were allowed to graze sheep on the ranges of RouttCounty. Sheep were forbidden elsewhere in the county by the “law unto themselves, the cattle kings.”
Up to the time of Bernard’s buying the Snake River ranches or the Two Bar, no cattle belonging to that outfit had crossed the ride into Brown’s Park. They had not fully stocked the range, nil round winter feed near the ranches at Lay Creek. Hi Bernard, whose ability to judge cattle and ranges was perhaps unsurpassed, saw the benefit to be derived by complete control of the entire open range between the Utah line on the west, Wyoming on the north; and east to Hahn’s Peak; comprising an area of hundreds of square miles of cow range. Brown’s Park cattle owners had only a few thousand head of cattle but held by right of range custom of that period, one of ‘the finest winter ranges in the West. These cow men and women could contribute nothing to the large herds, and they would not yield and become absorbed, because they were prosperous and deeply rooted in a business they understood. They presented a different problem from the upper Routt County settlers where conditions were not so favorable, due to deep snow, long winters, and the necessity of growing and feeding hay.
The lower country with its mild winters offered an ideal set-up. cattle could winter on the open range at no expense save labor, provided of course the local occupants could be shoved off the ranches and range that happened to lie in the path of the spreading herds. The over-stocking of the range caused a heavy drift of cattle west of Snake River and brought up the question of range division.
Mat Rash was. President of the Brown’s Park Cattle Association. He was. an ex-Texas Ranger and a nephew of Davy Crockett. He had come to Wyoming from Acton, Hood County, Texas, as “trail boss” of a herd of cattle delivered to the Middlesex Company in 1882. He became range manager for the “G” outfit, which belonged to the Middlesex, and later went to the Circle K, in the same capacity. Rash continued there, employed by Tim Kinney, until his cattle business was changed to sheep. Mat was a number one cow man and was given financial backing by Kinney, to branch out into the cattle business for himself. He soon established a solid bank credit and frequently negotiated loans of large sums of money through the Rock Springs banks. He bought and sold cattle in three states, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. Rash had a wide circle of friends, who held great respect for his word, regarding his character above reproach.
Representing our Park Cattle Association,, he interviewed Hi Bernard in the matter of establishing a boundary line between Snake River and Brown’s Park. This resulted in an agreement between Bernard and Rash to the effect, that the hills known as the divide, a range of limestone about half way between Snake River and the Vermillion, extending north and south from the Escalant Hills to Douglas Mountain, was to be the western boundary for the Two Bar, and the eastern extension for the Brown’s Park cattle The arrangement was acceptable to all concerned.
There were no fences, so it was necessary to ride the Boon Trail and Douglas Mesa to check the drift of cattle and spread them over the range. The Brown’s Park cattle men “pitched” a temporary camp on the divide and carried on this line riding during the winter of 1898 and ’99.
Billy Sautell, a cow puncher, employed by the Two. Bar, was the line rider representing Haley and his manager Hi Bernard. By this method, the situation was under control.
When the spring round-up was conducted, few strays were found on either side of the divide. Such a logical solution to the problem appeared highly satisfactory—on the surface. The drift antrol had proved far too efficient to please the Two Bar, or to serve their purpose. But the agreement had been made and Bernard. could not back out creditably. The range division was exactly as he had approved. Yet the plan was completely cutting off any advance towards the range to the west, coveted by the Two Bar. Then Bernard comprehended that the agreement had raised a more formidable barrier than he had counted on. And advantages he had anticipated failed to materialize.
Up to that time nothing had seriously blocked the flood of Two Bar cattle. All obstacles had been successfully removed. Facing failure of the original plan, the old Johnson County, Wyoming, order for “Extermination” of the obstacle, was put into practice. There was hired secretly one who would strike, kill, and leave no sign. One who would not hesitate to shoot down friend or foe, man, or child for pay. In Tom Horn was found this killer, a murderer, lusting for blood money. And the case required prompt action. Soon a stranger rode into Brown’s Park, a man seeking a new home amid pleasant surroundings. Sometime later a mysterious bunch of cattle were seen in the Park, bearing an unfamiliar brand, the VD connected.
It was not unusual for strangers to come investigating the possibilities of a home. They were made welcome, given the desired information and their sincerity taken for granted, the settlers had u reason to be doubtful or suspicious of visitors and were not in the sanctified business of sorting the good from the bad. Counting on this susceptibility, “James Hicks” arrived in the Park representing himself as a ranchman. from New Mexico in search of a location for a small ranch. He was put up as a guest at the home of Mat Ash, where every courtesy was extended to assist him in the selection of a suitable investment. He was invited to attend the round-up. but it soon became evident that he was not a cow hand, so he was given the job of cooking.
The round-up was in full swing when I came home from school and joined in the work. I did not take kindly to the new cook. His bragging that he had been a great Indian fighter, his boastful, descriptive accounts of the human slaughter he had accomplished single-handed, were exceedingly obnoxious to me. I emphasized this point with vehemence in several heated arguments.
Mat Rash attempted to iron out the discord and remarked, “most all the big Indian battles were fought around the campfire as men smoked and talked.” Hicks was not so complacent. He seemed to recognize the “Indian sign” as unfavorable to his interests, and with a flimsy excuse to Mat Rash; he removed his carcass from the round-up. And that was the one and only time I saw Tom Horn, alias James Hicks.
But an eye-witness is still living, who happened to be ‘at the Two Bar ranch at the time “Mr. Hicks” quit the round-up. This witness declares that a man rode in at early evening and was served a late supper. He held some confidential talk with the ranch authorities. A string of horses were caught and he rode away, with no comments being offered on either his coming or going. A short time afterwards those witnesses saw the same man, recognized him as the late and rather mysterious visitor to the Two Bar, and then learned that he was Tom Horn.
When he left the Dutch ovens to grow cold, “Mr. Hicks” said that he was going on a short journey, “to look the country over.” His movements were not regarded as important by people busied with their routine ranch work. He could travel over the neighborhood without hindrance or question.
In June, 1899, twenty-one head of young cattle branded VD connected strayed from the north and lodged among a band of Tom Davenport’s sheep in WillowCreekCanyon. Joe Davenport looked the cattle over and saw from the brand that they did not belong locally, the VD was new to this particular range. He let the cattle pass through the sheep herd and they drifted down the canyon. Before leaving camp for the Davenport ranch, Joe instructed the Mexican herder to get the names of any one inquiring about cattle, and to tell them to see Joe.Davenport about such stock. When he returned to the sheep camp he was told by the herder that Charley Ward had been there to ask about cattle, and said that a bunch of his had strayed from. ClayBasin.
Ward was a person of doubtful reputation who had owned nothing but a saddle and pack horse during the few years he had been in or around Brown’s Park. He was not a cow puncher and his interest in cattle, or his suddenly becoming a cow man was a decidedly unusual condition. Joe would investigate. He would contact Sam Bassett and Mat Rash in the matter of Ward’s owning cattle. Joe came to the Bassett ranch for that purpose. The men he wished to consult with were on the mountain. Learning this, Joe told me of Ward’s visit and statement that he owned cattle which had strayed. The “lost” cattle struck a bright spark of interest. “Those strays did not get into this country by themselves,” I declared, positively, “Ward stole them, and probably from some place in Utah, since they are headed that way, probably trying to get back to their home range. Yip-pee ! I’ve got a wonderful idea!” I exclaimed. “The poor cattle are homesick, let’s give ’em a leg over the river. The girls (I referred to my city guests) aren’t being properly trained in roping. We will demonstrate on those VD cattle.”
Joe Davenport wasn’t enthusiastic about my impulsive plan. Nor did he view the situation from my. angle. But my determination over-ruled his reluctance to take such action.
“Don’t stand there, looking at me,” I told him, “drag it to the pasture and run in a fresh string, so Aunty Thompson and father won’t get their heads together and decide `Ann’s up to something again,’ I’ll round up the girls.”
I did. And away we galloped, to stretch our hard-twist ropes what I believed to be a worthy cause. We found the cattle about ter-1r miles west of the Davenport Ranch, near Green River. The river was bank full and over-flowing. There the girls tried their hand at roping big, game in the open.
We spent the night at the Davenport ranch, and hurried back t, the cattle for more entertainment. It was great sport to watch them swim Green River at the old Parsons ford, and see them land in good shape on the west bank near the deserted Parsons ranch, and over the Utah line.
After that swimming stunt, the cattle disappeared from Brown’s Park, not one of them ever straying back. Nor was Ward seen afterward. He departed, where and how was never made known. ‘Since he was obviously in league with Horn and Horn’s backers, it is proposed Ward was “expunged” as a result of that association.
The girls and I went gaily off to the city to school that fall forgetting about the stray stock incident. As cow technicians we blundered, for the cattle had not come from Utah. In mid winter John Davenport wrote me and said, “The VD cattle are in the picture, again. Mat Rash has been notified that cattle of such description and brand were stolen on upper Snake River near Baggs, Wyoming, and they were traced to Vermillion Canyon.” In the letter Joe asked if he should tell Mat Rash what we knew about the VD cattle. My answer was, “NO, and do not so much as imply to Sam Bassett or Mat Rash, that we ever heard of that stuff. If you do it will be `chaps’ for us.”
It was evident we were in bad for failing to give the information when Joe discovered the cattle. I had intervened and now months had passed since the VD cattle were crossed over the river and gone in the opposite direction from where they belonged. My “wonderful idea” was giving off echoes! The situation was grave indeed. Our next move was to confide in Buffalo Jack—we could trust him to keep a secret—we made a clean confession of our guilt, and asked his advice (it was our fixed habit not to seek his counsel until mired to the neck by some of our many imbecilities). Buffalo Jack admonished us for such petty mischief, but saw no foundation for great anxiety. He, reasoned that it would not help matters to say anything at that time, for the cattle were branded, they could not be lost. They would show up sometime, and would then be reported. But who could have visioned the cloud of dust those innocent cow brutes were destined to kick up ?
The owner of the VD cattle was not a member of the “inner circle” and was not told of the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of his cattle, therefore, he was chiefly concerned about their whereabouts. He had written to well-known cattle men in various parts of the country, explaining his loss, asking them to be on the lookout for his stock. Mat Rash received one of such letters, and he was making every effort to get some trace of the cattle. He did not think of lais guest, Mr. Hicks, as a suspect, nor of his being involved in the missing cattle. Mat Rash had no suspicion I had fallen into a trap by crossing the VD cattle over the river.
To promote his criminal purpose Tom Horn, assisted by spawn Ward, had stolen the VD cattle at Baggs, Wyoming, and smuggled them over the winter range to ClayBasin. He reported to the Snake River association that he had detected the theft, and incriminated several Brown’s Park cattlemen, among them Jim Mac Knight and Mat Rash. It had been Horn’s intention to sell the stolen cattle to a butcher in Rock Springs.
While Horn was in Rock Springs to negotiate the sale, Ward had carelessly permitted the cattle to get away. When Horn re turned from his trip, he assumed a manner of indifference and made no close inquiry. On learning that. Mat Rash was investigating the whereabouts of the VD cattle, he was undisturbed. No suspicion had been cast at Horn.
Rash failed in his efforts to locate the cattle, and there the matter rested, to add up later. The fact was revealed several years afterward, that Horn suspected Ward of having outwitted him in the disposal of the cattle. This partly upset his double-barreled “scheme, which was to sell the cattle at a profit to himself, and fasten the crime upon the Brown’s Parkers. He would then murder for an additional sum of money, the men he had accused of the theft. The scheme worked out, in part. Within a short time Mat Rash was found dead in his summer cabin, from gun shots fired at close range. He had been shot in the back by Tom Horn, the stranger he had befriended:
A few weeks later Isam Dart, a negro, was shot and killed. Fired on from ambush, when he was walking from Mac Knight’s mountain cabin in the very early morning, Horn undoubtedly mistook him for Mac Knight.
Another mistake of Horn’s similar to the shooting of Isam Dart, was his killing of Willie Nichols in place of the boy’s father, for whom he was lying in wait. Horn was concealed in the brush dear a gate, Winchester cocked, ready to shoot at Willie’s father. The boy came to the gate and Horn fired, killing him instantly. He sneaked off, unseen. There were no eye-witnesses to this crime.
The Nichols family lived in. Wyoming, and were not so far From the law officers as we, in Brown’s Park. The murdered boy’s father immediately contacted the law, and Joe La Fores, a deputy United States Marshal, was eventually assigned to the case. He very cleverly trapped Horn into a confession of his guilt, and arrested him for murder. Bail was refused, and Horn was forced to languish in jail, awaiting for his release by the men who employed him. But such help was not forthcoming, these men were well-satisfied to permit “justice to take its course.” They intended to bump Horn off when he had done his work for them. The “Power Policy” behind Horn’s diabolical deeds, were baseborn creatures, existing by greed and intolerance. His arrest was a hazard to their safety, andfrom among their kind, a committee of decoys were appointed,
and a “song service” arranged for the purpose of keeping Horn’s morale up, and his mouth shut, while he, was in prison.
–Horn was not allowed to talk with anyone but his “friends.” several of the songsters were constantly in attendance, reassuring him by promises of a perfectly arranged last minute escape from the gallows. They escorted him to his final necking, and with great satisfaction saw him kick out his miserable life. They were saved from a like fate. Many of Horn’s gilded friends have crossed the bar, and ” ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished” that Satan has joined the “hit-and-git” buddies together, with a firm daily welter
Horn’s arrest was primarily brought about by vital information voluntarily given by two girls in the red light district, one in Cheyenne, and one in Rawlins. The girls reported Horn’s boasting of murders he had committed. His talk of miserable intrigues contemplated and the means and methods he had planned for the extermination of his intended victims, who had been marked for death.
One of the girls, known only as Mert, took a letter from Horn’s pocket and delivered it to the law. Soon after his arrest, this girl was found in a “hack” with her tongue split. This was one of the methods employed by Horn’s confederates to give out warning against any recurrent offenses that would incriminate their jackal, with the possible danger of establishing some connection between Horn and themselves. Great credit is due those girls, classed as social outcasts, who were inspired by a sense of honor to offer testimony that jeopardized their lives. At such risk to themselves, they were instrumental in bringing to justice a most vicious criminal.
The incomprehensible murder of men in Brown’s Park caused bewilderment and confusion, everybody was trying to solve the mystery, and getting nowhere. We did not know that James Hicks was Tom Horn, not until his arrest for the killing of Willie Nichols. I characterized Hicks as one capable of such a foul deed, from his revelation of Indian killings. My arguments were not much use, for there was no foundation to justify the crime. I kept on talking, however, and almost talked myself into becoming another one of his victims. Horn did not like my talk. It nagged him until he slipped back into the park, to take a pot shot at me.
Three months after the murder of Mat Rash and Isam Dart a man came creeping up to the house on the Bassett ranch. He took advantage of a dark night when a strong wind was blowing and rain was splattering against the building with noisy force. He hugged the wall and stepped over the yard fence where he could walk on the grass and avoid the sound of his boot heels on the stone walk. A small shaft of light guided him to the front door of the living room—the door where the latch-string no longer hung outside in that old traditional sign of welcome, expressing friendliness and good will since the first white man came to the West In Brown’s Park things had changed with the turn of a tragic few months. This night the latch-string was pulled inside, leaving a whang hole an inch in circumference where the lamp light from’ within streaked through.
I sat at a table in the living room playing solitaire. Four young boys, Carl Blair, Gail Downing, and my brothers George and Eb Bassett, were lunching in the adjoining kitchen. Suddenly the night was shattered by blasts of gunfire. Two bullets came splintering through the door, imbedding themselves in the opposite wall less than six inches from where I had been seated. There could be not the slightest doubt for whom these bullets were intended. I dropped to the floor and rolled under the table. The boys doused the lamp and jumped to a side window, to shoot out into the night in the direction the gunfire had come.
We remained in the darkened house and speculated on why our shepherd dog had not given the alarm of a night prowler’s approach; he did not bark all during the night, which was most unusual. That faithful old watch dog never barked again, he had been strangled to death by the spiteful marauder.
Fearful of being clipped by shots from ambush we stayed in the house under cover until eleven o’clock the next day, when two ranchmen, Pete Lowe and Harry Hindle, drove up to the corral in a wagon. We called to them to watch out for gun snipers. They crouched down in the wagon box, and drove on to the house. When we told them of the night’s happenings they, helped us in making a search of the surrounding hills. We found a man’s boot tracks in the mud and leading to a hill overlooking the house. A horse had been tied there for several hours, the horse ridden away on the jump traveling in an easterly direction, all intervening wire fences having been cut for him to pass through.
Eb Bassett and Carl Blair rode to Zenobia Basin where they were joined by Will Morgan and my brother Sam. The four of them followed the horse tracks of the would-be killer over the sand hills to the L7 ranch fifty miles from Brown’s Park. There they found a very tired horse near the corral and indications that a fresh horse had been ridden away, toward Baggs, Wyoming. In the little village of Baggs they lost all trace of the horse and rider. The boys could get no information there and they were twenty hours behind the fleeing horseman, so they returned to the Bassett ranch. We held a council and J. S. Hoy advised me to go at once to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and explain to Governor Chatterton Meager circumstantial evidence we had to connect James Hicks, Tom Horn, with the murders in our section of the country. And .especially with the bullets that had been fired, to land so perilously close to my head.
Interviewing Governors was not in my line, but this was no time for super-sensitiveness. I .was entirely unconscious of any breach of formalities, when I stalked into the Governor’s private office, disregarding protesting secretaries and clerk’s. But I lost control of my nerve very suddenly when the Governor looked at me, expressing annoyance over the violent agitation I had caused outer office.
I could only look at him in confusion. Dismissing the secretaries, he asked me to sit down and explain why I had made this breathless intrusion. I dropped into a chair but it was hard to find my voice. However, Governor Chatterton proved to be a sympathetic individual and he, listened to my story with deepening interest. Only a few hours had elapsed since he had been told similar stories by some Wyoming ranchmen. He assured me at the end of our interview that he would take immediate steps to find the relentless killer roaming our country.
He faithfully kept that word. Governor Chatterton took his official obligations seriously and within a few hours had Deputy United States Marshal Joe La Fores on the job.
Thirty-five years after the Tom Horn murder trial, Charles Kelly wrote a book, Outlaw Trail. Mr. Kelly did not attend that trial, but he places his personal stamp of approval upon Horn’s activities and pits his judgment against that of selected and sworn jurymen. The jurymen Kelly superficially passes off as “nesters” were twelve men of the city of Cheyenne, charged with the duty of sitting through a lengthy court proceedings and hearing all of the evidence presented for both sides of the case. They heard the examination of testimony as given by the witnesses and the judge’s final instructions to the jury.
After all these years, Kelly questions the integrity of the men who had the stamina to weigh all the evidence in the balance and mete ‘out just punishment to the self-acknowledged murderer, Tom Horn.
Mr. Kelly reopens the case of the people of the state of Wyoming versus Tom Horn, and tries the case all over again. With himself acting as judge and jury, he acquits Horn, and thereby lends encouragement to the criminal-minded.
The Horn killings were for the sole purpose of intimidating the settlers, and to force them to abandon the range. Range invasion’ was stubbornly resisted by the Brown’s Parkers and consequently; we were attacked from every angle. Rumors were circulated to the effect that not only were we cattle thieves ourselves, but we harbored outlaws and criminals from other states ; that in general the park was a refuge for no-accounts to carry on their cussedness. It was the old game of giving a dog a bad name and then go gunning for him, a method strictly in line with the mean practices followed by some of the big cattle organizations. Not all cattle owners o1 the large scale were of that stripe. Many of them were human, tA live-and-let-live fellows. By their true quality and principle the prospered and made money, while the Two Bar and its various managers went down and out. This Two Bar outfit has been charged with and is probably guilty of every crime from murder to sheep killings. They contributed practically nothing to the support of the counties their enormous outfit took over. It was impossible for county officials to make even a guess at the number of cattle and horses assessable. Tally records of branding were not available. Such control of a county has never done anything substantial toward the building of schools, or roads, or otherwise improving a section. Money invested in a business of great magnitude, under such conditions is not calculated for the betterment of any country. It is purely an investment, the proceeds of which are not spent locally, but greedily hoarded in some distant city. Reams of paper have been written upon, telling hectic tales of rustlers gaining wealth at the expense of the numerous herds of cattle roaming over the West.
Maybe they did. My experience proves a different point. I lived there in that wide, lonely, primitive cattle range country. I lived under frontier conditions. I rode those old round-ups for months at a time, for many, many years. And I became the wife of Bernard (one of the West’s most noted managers of two of he biggest outfits in Wyoming and Colorado), a man who had ‘ , d 1 tied on in that capacity for thirty years, in complete control of the range activities. From my own experiences and observation, then ‘ruin him, I learned that the grasping cattle barons of those early were the biggest cattle thieves of all time.
It was hoped that these methods would “clean out” and finally dispose of the “small” outfits, owned by the men and women who had dared intrude on the open public domain, where every American citizen was given a hundred and sixty acres of their own selection to live upon.
All over our western frontier people had to fight for their rights to hold on, and most of us gave a good account of ourselves, with very little comfort to the enemy. The Tom Horn methods were new to us, but stepped up the tempo, and changed minute men to “split seconders,” for not a single one of us wanted to be caught off balance with the consequences of a bullet in the back.
Shadow boxing with bullets is not exactly a glittering adventure anywhere. Not even with our weapons of that day. Our old smoke wagons only let go of one piece of lead at a time, in fact most misunderstandings were settled in that offhand manner. It was the accepted practice, however, for each participant to be given equal start on the trigger squeeze.
Combat duty did not predominate over the scene. There were tanquil prosperous years to enjoy. It was a privilege to live on a new, free land, where real democracy existed in a wholesome atmosphere, where people were accepted on their individual merits, and background or great wealth had small importance. The person and the underlying of their composition was all that counted. Equal opportunity for development on all sides in an uncluttered America, before collectivism got a stranglehold on the nation. Americanism is an “ism issue” to be remembered with gratitude and pleasure.
All of the publicized ad-libbing about how “Hi Bernard drove the rustlers out of Brown’s Park” is pure twaddle. When Bernard had served a specific purpose, the king-pins of power deserted him, and some of the early settlers of the park gave him a home. In retrospection, Hi was a thoughtful husband, a friend to children, and a gentleman under any circumstances.
It is beyond natural faculties to understand why the human mind is so often beguiled by its own dementia. How it becomes caught in the dragnet of emotion, and views a situation through the marked spectacles of Vested Interests. Those interests who keep their own powder for further sneak hostilities. In this case Hi Bernard was no exception. Like many otherwise intelligent men. he swallowed the bait and the hook was inescapable. Too late, he understood the nature of his enchainment and stoically faced the results of his blind reckoning.
Lest we forget, The greatest of them all is Charity.
Elbert Bassett maintained a free home at the old Bassett Ranch, a spot where the birds and the beasts, homeless, travel-wearied mankind, all found a refuge, food and shelter, given in kindness and without reservation.
I am glad that my brother “Eb” took Hi Bernard there, when the sands of his life were running low.
The Two Bar outfit, under range management of Bill Patten considering themselves rolling juggernauts, refused to pay the negligible grazing fee requested by the United States forest department. They could not bribe the forester, nor deceive him by false counts of cattle, so they attempted to slay the regulations of control set up by the government order, thereby forcing the forester, to count all cattle grazing on the National Reserve. This act oT justice, in counting the cattle was resented by Ora Haley, who flatly refused assistance to the forest department. Progress of the necessary round-up, was retarded by every imaginable means. The; foreman on the range scattered cattle over wide areas adjacent to the forest, knowing they would drift into the reserve from many places. There were no fences to protect this National Reserve. and the rounding up, holding and counting of so many thousand of cattle on an open range, is an undertaking of colossal proportion:,
The three largest outfits using the, range were the Sevens, owned by the Pierce Rief Company; the Two Circle Bar, owned by the Carey Brothers ; and the Two Bar, owned by Ora Haley. Each presented a different problem to the Forest Service. The Pierce Rief Company (the Sevens) co-operated in every way. The Carey Brothers (the Two Circle Bar) offered passive resistance, and Ora Haley (the Two Bar) presented a front of determined resistance, a front of total opposition.
The Two Bar outfit even resorted to the extreme measure of stampeding a herd rounded up and ready to count. The rounding p had been accomplished by much grilling labor, and a great expense, by the Forest Department. Haley met his first defeat when he tangled with the Forest Service.
The Two Bar foreman, Bill Patten, had persistently kept up a moving row in a long range effort to over-run the beef cow country In parts of three states, to keep it free and open for the Two Bars, and nobody else. When twenty-five thousand cattle were being held on the bed ground the last night before they were to be counted and turned on the Forest Reserve, he left the roundup camp giving a flim-flam excuse. He slunk back at midnight with a few rocks in a tin can to toss at an alert old cow and snap her into action. And he carefully timed his movements when the night guard wa trotting around in the other direction.
What did Patten care for a few mangled and dead cowboys, or for cattle killed and crippled by the run of a herd of that size in a head-on rampage, as they rushed over rocks and heavy, down timber. Some of the Two Bars would escape and get into the reserve uncounted. It would teach the stubborn Forest Supervisor, Harry Ratliff, a lesson, providing he survived the death race of the stampeded cattle.
Ratliff and his rangers were camped with the cowboys near the bedded herd of cattle that night. A stampede might be an easy way to put the kibosh on the Forest Service and discourage the troublesome forester, Ratliff, who had refused to be dominated, and who insisted upon serving the Forest Department instead of becoming tool for the Two Bar outfit.
Fortunately the great herd of cattle ran away from the camp and no one was killed. The cowboys gathered on high ground in grey morning to roll Bull Durham cigarettes and decide what was to be done about attempting a new start, to round up the cattle. They found that Ratliff and his rangers were right there with them. The “tender feet” Government employees were boys that could take it rough, and they had the intelligence to map out a course to handle the situation. Harry Ratliff called into counsel the Seven and Two Circle Bar men and had cowboys stationed along the forest boundary to keep any cattle from crossing the line. Other riders made a sweeping circle and bunched the cattle near the line to be counted across by the Forest Rangers.
The Two Bar riders continued to pass up cattle that should have been driven to the bunch ground. That was stopped when a Seven or a Two Circle Bar cowboy rode circle with each Two Bar man. Very few of those cattle entered the Forest Reserve without being tallied by the rangers. The effective manner in which the work was carried out was a big surprise to the Two Bar foreman, Patten. He could see how he was being outmaneuvered and he changed his tactics.
Patten went to Ratliff and threatened disastrous counterblasts if he insisted upon interfering in the Two Bar’s range affairs. At that point of the argument Patten found that he had made a serious mistake. Ratliff did not become frightened and run away, he called Patten’s hand. He sternly dished out a program that left Patten speechless, white with fury.
Patten had taken too many things for granted. If he had informed himself about the background of Ratliff and his assistants he would have learned that they were frontier bred and born, that they had been handling cattle on the range when he was hoeing cotton on a farm in North Carolina.
Shortly after the stampeded herd of cattle were tallied onto the Forest Reserve and drifted to various parts of the range within the reserve, supervisor Ratliff found fresh tracks of cattle where another herd had been more recently driven over the boundary line, without having been counted by him or his rangers. Shod horse tracks crisscrossing behind the cattle tracks, proved conclusively that the herd had been driven by men on horseback to the line. The riders had then turned back to retreat whence they had come. Ratliff and his men soon found the cattle on the reserve, most of them Two Bars. They were scattered over the range and some of them taken about fifty miles to another part of the same National grazing grounds.
Patten hung around out of sight and spotted the movement of the cattle by the rangers. He hurried away to circulate reports among other cattlemen and in general over the country far and wide, that Ratliff was stealing cattle and smuggling them off to markets. The cattle- were on the reserve, under the supervision of the forester, and Ratliff was acting within his rights, protecting the forest by spreading them over different parts of the range.
Before Ratliff entered the forest service he had bought a fir_:. breeding stallion from a,ranchman in the vicinity of Craig, Colorado. When he joined the forest service he wanted to sell the horse. He contacted the original owner who had an interest in the animal and got his verbal consent to the transfer of the contract. Shortly thereafter Ratliff was arrested for selling mortgaged property, and placed under a stiff bond by a local Justice of the Peace, to await his hearing in the district court.
Bill Patten played his cards with the ranchman, a Two Bar employee, and influenced him to prefer the charge against Ratliff to annoy and harass him.
Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot sent an investigator to the scene. What the investigation disclosed of problems facing their representatives on the, Routt National Forest was a revelation to Mr. Pinchot.
The horse case against Ratliff came to trial and the Forest Department, sent an attorney to defend him. The plaintiff became inarticulate and could not remember anything he had formerly said. The transaction regarding the sale of the horse was declared legal and the case was dismissed. Harry Ratliff left the court room and went at once to Baggs, Wyoming, in answer to a telephone all from one of his rangers.
Baggs is located on the Colorado-Wyoming state line and is near the National Forest Boundary where surveying was in progress.
At that time there were several large steer outfits owned by Denver commission firms, using the range around Baggs. The largest of them was the reversed Figure Fours brand, of several thousand head and managed by Wiff Wilson. Charley Ayers also in a good-sized herd of company steers on the same range. All of the stockmen in the district were vitally interested in the success or failure of the Routt National Forest \Reserve.
If the Forest Department gained control there would be supersede grazing on the summer range, and sheep permits issued. The cattlemen had kept sheep off the range by force. Large piles of bleaching bones of sheep in different places were mute evidence of the ruthless method in practice to hold the range, exclusively for themselves. At different times a daring sheepman had crossed into forbidden land, to his sorrow. Hundreds of sheep were run over cliffs, run down and shot, or clubbed to death, by men working thr, cattle interests they represented. Upon several occasions the p herders were murdered.
Forest control meant regulation in the number of livestock permitted to graze within the boundaries. Any bona-fide citizen owning livestock in the vicinity of the forest would be entitled to a grazing permit and the small owners of livestock would get an allotment equally as valid as the large owners. This equable division of range would cut a big chunk from the cake of the overlords, and last but not least, there would be a small fee of a few cents per head charged for the grazing privilege.
When Ratliff arrived in Baggs he was met by his chief assistant, Chas. Morell, who informed him that Bob Meldrum, a notorious gunman, had come to Baggs and was appointed Town Marshal. Meldrum’s background as a killer could- be traced to different mining camps in the West. He was known as a professional strike breaker and while he was serving in that capacity he had stacked up several killings to his discredit.
Survey work was going ahead rapidly with Ratliff in charge. He was sighting through his telescope when a gunshot exploded from ambush and his transit fell to the ground. One leg of the tripod had been shot away. He armed himself and his helpers and continued surveying. Toward evening Ratliff and Morell took their pack horses to Baggs for camp supplies. They were leading their horses into the livery barn when town marshal Meldrum approached and demanded their guns. They refused to give them up to him. Meldrum made a move for his shoulder holster, but before he could draw he was looking into the muzzle of a Colts forty-five held by Ratliff. This unexpected move completely nonplussed the marshal, his killer instinct vanished for the moment. Meldrum stared dazedly as Ratliff removed the gun from its holster, shoved it under the waistband of his own pants, and walked away. That was Meldrum’- last open attempt to intimidate the foresters, his next move was against the stockmen who were not in sympathy with him nor with the aggressive element that appointed him.
Bob Temple, an old time cowman who lived in the outskirts of Baggs, had been outspoken against Meldrum’s appointment a, marshal. One of Meldrum’s friends shot Temple at a time when there was not a witness present but Meldrum, and that bare-faced murder was checked off as self-defense.
Another high-handed outrage was the killing of George Wooley’s sheep, at night, by a crowd of masked men. Wooley owned considerable ranch property south of Craig, Colorado, and his sheep were grazed entirely on private ground. Chick Bowen, a well known cowboy, was working for Wooley at the time the sheep were killed and it was rumored that he recognized some of the ruthless mob.
Chick was not the sucker type nor a blow-off kind, He could not be bought off by the Meldrum gang, consequently he was listed as being dangerous to their interests. He moved to Baggs and went to cowpunching for the Salsbury boys, two young men favorable to range control by the Forest Service.
Chick was a jolly, friendly boy with a sense of humor. Riding into town one day, he met a friend, and as they were standing on the sidewalk he laughed at some joke that passed between them. Meldrum rushed up to Chick and charged him with creating a disturbance. The words were scarcely out of his mouth when he shot three bullets squarely into Chick’s body, killing him almost un the instant.
Meldrum served a short sentence in the Wyoming Penitentiary for the murder of Chick Bowen and received a pardon. He then located in Wallcot, Wyoming, and started a small saddle and harness shop. Soon after Meldrum set up shop a Miss Brown came to Wallcot. She was a fine looking young lady just out to see the West and enjoy horseback riding. Western saddles intrigued her and she made frequent visits to Meldrum’s place of business. The townspeople were not surprised to see her and Meldrum ride away together, one afternoon, toward Saratoga Springs. Several hours later, Miss Brown returned alone. She paid her hotel bill and went away that evening. A note left in her room stated simply that she was Miss Bowen, a sister of Chick Bowen.
Meldrum was found out in the hills with his head bashed up by the butt end of a shot-loaded quirt. The local authorities made no fort to locate his assailant nor to apprehend “Miss Brown.” Bulldozing and murder failed to overthrow the United States Forest Service and the Two Bar outfit concentrated on areas outside the forest boundaries.
The success of those pioneering in the establishment of the National Forests and the winning of supervision regardless of the any heart-breaking trials of the foresters and rangers put to the test, lent needed encouragement to small stock owners and ranch. The common people being overrun and struggling to live under adverse conditions, welcomed forest control with its legal protection. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Gifford Pinchot, our first of Forester and the father of our National Forest system, for Preservation of our scattered western forests of life-giving pines.
The mountains surrounding Brown’s Park were forest areas and the residents adjacent were eager to have them incorporated into a National Reserve.
I attended the University of Arizona at Tucson especially to take a course in forestry and with the definite intention of becoming a ranger on that isolated section. I qualified a hundred percent. When my application was submitted for approval, Secretary of Agriculture Wilson became adamant, and I was. rejected. Not for lack of qualification or ability to do the work efficiently, .but because the law read “a male applicant.”
For the slapdash reason that I happened to be a female, I was forced to withdraw my application. I am still protesting the law.
Finis was written on the story of the flagrant old Two Bar outfit that had survived a half century. Now it is only a memory.
In a country where thousands of cattle once dotted the range over endless miles, the present inhabitants have grown wool on their teeth from being forced to eat mutton.
My reactions to the trek of dry farmers with their wire fences and plows, stampeding to Brown’s Park and DouglasMountain, were bitterish. I could see no background among dirt farmers to make up an essence of romance. But they were there for good or evil, seeking and possessing every available spot. Their rights could not be, denied. But I could get away and out of vision of the bloodless destruction of, my precious native haunts. I would avoid being smothered by fences, and the digging up, where every sage brush, gulch and rock had a meaning of its own, and each blade of grass or scrubby cedar was a symphony. I could make effective my escape. If I had to be hedged in by people I would go away to the crowded cities, to mingle with the human herd and study them from the sidelines, for I had no desire to become a part of their affairs. All I asked of life was to be perpetually let alone, to go my way undisturbed. To Brown’s Park and its hills and valleys (the only thing I had ever selfishly loved) I bade goodbye.
Many years went by before I returned to my “sacred cow,’ Brown’s Park. I was lured by curiosity, as people will go back in mental morbidness to view the ravishing and despoliation by human I hands. I was surprised to find so many pretty little homes tucked away in the hills. Just puncturing the landscape here and there. yielding fine dividends to their owners, a friendly folk who makeup our traditional rural life in America.
Brown’s Park brought back a poignant yearning to dash away. and drive an avalanche of Two Bar cattle back across the divide. Then I would awaken from my dream to discover that I had been peeping into a past that cannot return. Live Two Bar cattle are conspicuously absent. The winds have buried all the dead ones.
Those round-up days are over. And so are most of the old knee-sprung, saddle-marked cowboys are “over”—over there.
“Out yonder in the corrall is the horse you used to ride.
The heart of him’s gone with you, pard, across the great divide.”
Right now I have an unfinished job to do here, keeping Pegasu, shod for the brave and valiant boys way out there on circle, T to settle a little argument they did not start. But they have the gut and gumption to finish it. Many descendants of the Brown’s Park pioneers are units in those mighty military, navy, and air force and they can be depended upon to give out as the occasion demands