Volume 103, Number 18 - January 4, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
by Helena Linn
Buzz lived with the Mickelson family and made three trips to Opal when they sold their cattle. In 1944 he skipped school a couple of days to help take the cattle through PL Lane west of Big Piney to the Holden Place. Before the next night, they crossed the highway to the Yose Ranch at Midway where there was feed and water for the cattle and the men could have supper, spend the night, and eat a hearty breakfast early the next morning. They took the cattle back across the highway, turned south onto Poverty Flats, went over the LaBarge Creek road, and crossed the highway again to the next stopover at the Spur Ranch. From the Spur the next day, they followed the road to Name’s Hill, turned west through the draw, over Holden Hill, crossed Muddy Creek and stopped at the Aaron McGinnis Ranch. The next stop was Craven Creek where they penned the cows then rode on to Opal to stay at the hotel and eat at the café there. The cowboys on that trip were Harold Ricord, Marshall Gurney, Everett Curtis, and Buzz. Harold Ricord brought the horses back to the home ranch. The next year the route was the same and Buzz went on the first cattle drive to take the steers. This time Buzz brought the horses back and when he got to a gate, he would ride a different horse to the next fence. Buzz made another trip that year to take dry cows and what heifers they wanted to sell. It was late in the fall and a storm made it necessary to stay at the McGinnis Ranch for four days before they could go on. After this last drive, they had a truck to haul the horses back to the ranch. George Grinestaff also lived at the Mickelson’s . George, Buzz, and Gordon Mickelson were all in college about the same time so each quarter of college, one of them would stay home to help with the ranch work. Buzz stayed home the fall of 1945 so he went on those two drives to Opal.
They probably didn’t call it “going to the road” when Bob Thompson went on the cattle drive from Bull Creek, Montana to Benteen, Montana where there were corrals and a loading chute to load cattle onto railroad cars. Bob was eleven years old when he went along with his uncle and cousins to send cattle to market. They crossed the Cheyenne Indian Reservation on the way. They had a chuck wagon and a bed roll wagon for the six riders and they had to night herd the cattle. One day an old Indian came to camp and offered to take care of the herd that night in exchange for some meat. Bob’s uncle told his cowboys that they didn’t have to herd that night because the Indian and his family would do it. Bob was relieved the next morning to see that all the cattle were there and the Indians had done a good job. About the fourth or fifth night, it rained so hard that Bob and the others took shelter under a bridge – until they heard a roar and managed to get out of the otherwise dry creek bed before the water hit from a flash flood. Bob got to ride back home in the chuck wagon and his older cousins took the horses back. Bob came to Big Piney after his marriage to Bette Mickelson and in 1951, he “went to the road” with the first of two herds that were taken to Opal that year. It took five days for the trip. It was 10 or 15 below every morning and Bob says that even though it was cold on the drive the hotel in Opal was really cold. Bill Carr was the brand inspector at the time and he kept a cooster at Opal during shipping time. Sometimes the guys ate with Bill in his cooster. The cattle were weighed and the buyer would cut out ones he thought ought to go for less money. Bob said the worst experience he remembers was on about the 5th day of a drive. They had started about three in the morning, and hadn’t had anything to eat after breakfast until about four that afternoon when Jim Mickelson brought them lunch – a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a pint of whiskey for each cowboy! When they got in to the McGinnis Ranch that evening, a new bride and her husband were in charge of feeding the cowboys. She apologized for not being a very good cook but Bob says they ate everything she set before them and did the same for breakfast. He also remembers that Walter Yose kept them all up pretty late telling them stories and even though they liked his stories, they were thinking of the early morning and long ride ahead of them the next day. Bob went to Omaha with the cattle and whoever went rode in the caboose but the railroad gave them a pass to come back on the train. The only job in Omaha was to feed and water the cattle if buyers bought there – the check was minus the cost of hay, consignment fees, and railroad costs. Sometimes, cattle were contracted at the ranch for delivery the last of October or first of November. The rancher was paid a down payment and received the rest when the cattle were shipped.
Max Orgill rode for the Polsons who lived at Fontenelle – a place under water of Fontenelle Reservoir now. Max would help bring the cattle off the forest in the Upper Green area where the Polsons had their cattle in the summer. The cattle came down with the Drift and then across Green River to go down the west side of the river to Polsons. He said they would go through Fear’s and the Reardon Place on the way. Max recalled the last trip in the 1940s. He, Bernell Pope, and Ben Jackman drove the cattle in November. It was cold and muddy and it was hard to move the cattle. They camped and the men took turns watching the herd at night. Invariably, some cattle would try to get away and someone would have to bring them back. Max says it was two days of hard riding to get them to Opal. Someone would truck a horse to them so they had a fresh horse the next day. Max had favorite horses, Blue Ridge and Balie. He had a good dog too but the dog didn’t go on that trip, he would have been too much help.
Lance went to the road with Johnny Wardell from the Wardell Ranch on the east side of Green River so they crossed the river at the Reardon Place and spent the first night south of LaBarge where Clarence and Mary Vickrey live now. He remembers that the next night was at a sheep ranch further down the road and the last stop was at Craven Creek. Lance’s grandfather, John Wardell, had hauled hay to Craven Creek and the hay was scattered by the time the cowboys got there. Lance remembers that one morning was real cold and windy for the first half of the day. He was glad that the horses could be hauled back to the ranch in the hay truck that had a stock rack on it. He also remembers that they only had breakfast and supper – no lunch.
Bill Budd and Rodney Bennett
Bill went to the road with his grandfather’s cattle. Henry Budd, Becks, Osterhouts, and John Budd were all neighbors and sometimes two or more of them would take their cattle in one herd like other ranchers in the area. Bill says it was cold and they walked a lot as they drove a herd of yearlings down the road. He remembers missing school those days and spending a couple of nights at Opal. They followed much the same route as the Mickelsons and other ranchers from west and north of Big Piney. Rodney Bennett was only twelve or thirteen when he went with the Fear cattle drive to Opal. He missed some school and got in on a great experience for a kid that didn’t live on a ranch.
Some Didn’t Go to the Road
Dan Budd descended from Daniel B. Budd who came to Sublette County in 1878. Although he didn’t go to the road by horseback, Dan received a 50 year pin from the Omaha Stockyards for shipping his cattle to Omaha. He shipped the last year that the stockyards in Omaha were in operation. Dan’s dad, Dan H. Budd had shipped to Omaha even longer than 50 years. Dan took yearlings and cows to Omaha, sold part of them, and fed the rest at a place about twenty miles from Omaha. He did that for over forty years and retained ownership of half the cattle each time. One time Dan H. Budd was offered 8¢ a lb. for his cattle in Opal but opted to go on to Omaha with them. Sadly, in Omaha he only received 3¢ a lb. for them. Dan said that in the earliest days of shipping, the cows went to Los Angeles and the steers went east. At first, from Big Piney country, they went to Carter or Green River to the railroad. One time, they took the cattle to Hudson, near Lander, to the railroad there. The Budds also trailed cattle all the way to Cheyenne once to the D.A. Russell Base to sell them. Right after World War I, they made a three day trip to Victor, Idaho where they received $17 a head for two-year old steers. They didn’t have to weigh them, they were sold by the head. Dan didn’t go to the road but he has made a lot of cattle drives to summer pasture and back home again. Bob and Jack Lozier grew up on the ranch above Cora and they just heard about going to the road. Jack remembers that they had a milk cow’s calf – a steer that the boys broke to ride. When that steer was two or three years old, he had to go to the road and the boys sure hated that. Bob remembers that Earl, Rob, and Roy Lozier would take the cattle to the railroad together. He also had heard about the experience that Roy had one time. Roy had to ride back from Opal and he made the trip in one day and way into the night. It would have been over 100 miles and he only had one horse. It was 1918 during the flu epidemic and he wasn’t feeling well so he wanted to get home in case he was coming down with the dreaded flu. Fortunately, he made the trip home and didn’t get the flu. Jack and Bob said that ranchers in the upper Green River area drove their cattle to Opal and followed the Green River like other ranchers further down the trail. Jack said that after they used trucks to haul the cattle, he remembers that they drove their cattle from Willow Creek down to John Bloom’s nearer Pinedale to be loaded on the truck. They spent one night at Mike Steele’s Place on the way to Bloom’s. Like many other ranchers, the men from the upper country would often travel together on the cattle drives to the railroad.
Next week, I’ll tell you about more cowboys who went to the road and about the rancher who stopped at a roadhouse and in the corral there was a horse that had been stolen from him.
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