Memories of Old Montana
MEMORIES OF OLD MONTANA
(Masachele Opa Barusha)
THE HIGHLAND PRESS
Highland at Hawthorne
HOLLYWOOD 28, CALIFORNIA
By Con Price
All Rights Reserved
After Deluxe edition of 125 copies, numbered and signed by the author.
To all the old-time cowboys and cowmen whose hearts were as big as the range they rode.
I. Earliest Memories (1869 to 1878)
II. Black Hills of South Dakota (1878 to 1885)
III. I Start to Punch Cows
IV. With the RL Outfit
V. With the TL Outfit in the Bear Paws
VI. Line Riding With the Mounted Police
VII. In the Judith Basin Country of Montana
VIII. With the DHS Outfit
IX. Jim Spurgeon
X. Tom Daly
XI. Kid Curry
XII. Fred Reid
XIV. Open Range Days
XV. The Johnson County War
XVII. My Marriage
XVIII. The Lazy KY
XIX. Memories of Charlie Russell
XX. Cowboy Philosophy
Some years ago, through my interest in the life andwork of Charles M. Russell, I met Con Price. No onecould go far into the subject of Montana’s Cowboy Artistwithout cutting Con Price’s trail.
These two men were more than cowpuncher friendsand associates in a ranch partnership. Charlie regardedCon as one of the greatest bronco riders of his time, andCon considers Charlie the finest kind of friend a mancould have had.
It was a long time before Con would talk much abouthis close friendship with Charlie Russell—a friendshipthat started on the range before either was married, andlasted until Charlie crossed the Big Divide in 1926. Aftersome urging Con has, over a period of years, writtensomething of his early days in Old Montana, with afew, too few, references to his friend Russell.
My own knowledge of Russell has been immeasurablyenriched through knowing Con Price, but more importantis our own friendship, which I treasure even more.
The Lazy KY
EARLIEST MEMORIES (1869 to 1878)
I was born in the year 1869 in Manchester, Iowa. Myfather served in the Civil War and during that servicecontracted consumption and was discharged from thearmy and came home a very sick man, without any provisionsbeing made to take care of him—only through theefforts of my mother, who didn’t have a dollar, only whatshe made working for wages which was very small atthat time.
There was four children—the oldest eight, theyoungest two. So with my father’s sickness and us hungrykids to feed, she must have had hard going. I think myfather was home about a year when he died. How sheprovided for the burial, I do not know, as there was nocharitable organizations or county help those days.
I remember after the funeral my mother called in aCatholic priest to consult him about what to do with uskids. They finally decided that the priest would findhomes for us by having some wealthy families adoptus, which he did.
I was placed with a family by name of Calligan, neara town named Manson, Iowa. As I remember the contract,those people were to give me an education andwhen I was twenty-one years old, they were to give mea horse and saddle and $500.00.
But after a few years my mother married again andshe and her husband decided they wanted us childrenback. All the parties that had the other children gavethem up, but the people I was with contested my mother’srights, and they had a law suit about who would havepossession of me. My mother won out, which broke myheart, as I was very much attached to my adoptedparents. And another thing, as I see the picture now, mystepfather didn’t have intelligence enough to raise a pig,let alone a child, and I didn’t like him.
So there was a mutual dislike between him and meright from the time they got me home. The first thinghe put me doing was herding cattle out on the prairie.And almost every night I got a whipping or a scoldingand I was always thinking about my adopted home. Ithink I was about nine years old at that time and hegave me a pretty good horse to ride to herd those cattle.So one day I conceived the idea of stealing this horseand run away and go back to my other home, which wasabout 100 miles. Of course, when I came up missing theydidn’t know what happened and they went to all theneighbors looking for me before they got the idea thatI had run away, which gave me quite a start.
It took me about three days to make the trip. I stayedover night with ranchers and I remember they askedme, what I thought at that time, some queer questions—whereI came from and where I was going, and soforth. But I mixed up a story that I was going on avisit, which I guess seemed strange to them—a boyabout nine years old going that far with a good horse butno saddle. I was riding bareback. Anyway I made thetrip. But about three miles from my adopted home, Iturned the horse loose and walked—and as there wasno fences to stop him, in the course of a few days hedrifted back home.
My adopted father and mother were tickled to deathto see me. They were an old couple and had become veryfond of me. So they cached me around in different placesfor several days until they decided my stepfather wasnot going to bother about me—and I thought I wassettled down in my old home again. And they used tosend me after the milk cows in the evening when I camehome from school.
They gave me a little mare to ride. She must havebeen a race horse, for she could sure run. I rode herwithout a saddle and I was still on the look-out forsomeone to come after me.
Now my stepfather had a mare that was very fast,but he sometimes worked her in harness. Well, one eveningI went after the cows—I think about two miles—andhad just started towards home, when I saw a teamand wagon coming pretty fast towards me right acrossthe country and not on a road. I soon recognized mystepfather and my mother in the wagon. They werebetween me and my home, and I had a rather narrowplace to go by them—(a fence on one side and a creekon the other ... I think about fifty yards space) and itlooked like I was in a tough spot, as I had to go rightpast them. I had to go about a quarter of a mile to beopposite them. When I started towards them, my stepfathersensed what I was going to do. He jumped out ofthe wagon and started to unharness his fast horse. He waspretty quick and about the time I got to where he was,he had mounted and hollered at me to stop—but I wasin high and I fairly flew past him. I looked back at himonce and he was whipping that old horse and getting allthe speed he could. But he might as well be standing stillas far as his chances were of catching me. I had to gothrough some timber before I got to the house, so hecouldn’t see which way I went.
I give the alarm and the old lady told me to run intothe corn field and hide. My stepfather came to the houseand made all kinds of threats but he didn’t find me. Myfolks went back home and everything seemed all rightagain for about two weeks. I thought they were going tolet me stay where I was.
But one morning I was taking the cattle out to grazeand had got off of my horse and was trying to drive a cowout of the brush. When I looked around there were twomen close to me in a buggy. I didn’t wait a second butstarted to run. One of them jumped out of the buggy.I thought he was the largest man I ever saw—musthave weighed 250 pounds. He hollered at me to stop,which only scared me worse and away I went and thatbig fellow after me.
The country around there was very brushy andrough. I tore into that brush like a rabbit and run untilI fell down and I just laid still, hoping he wouldn’t findme. I heard him go by me. I think he missed me aboutthree feet and went on by. He must have been gone aboutan hour—I heard him coming back and he walkedright up to where I was lying. He said, “I am the sheriff.Get up. I want you.” Boy, was I scared! He put onehandcuff on my wrist and led me back to the buggy. Mystepfather had sent him after me.
I have never had any handcuffs on since but I suresuffered agony that day. They had to drive about 15 milesto the railroad to get a train to take me back home andI begged the sheriff to take the handcuffs off, as thethoughts of them scared me to death. The sheriff was akindly man and I know he felt sorry for me and wasgoing to take them off—but I heard the driver tell him,“That kid is going to give you the slip if you turn himloose and we never will catch him again, and he sure canrun like hell.” It was a livery stable team and driver thatthe sheriff had hired to go after me, and I guess theydidn’t want to waste anymore time chasing me. But thesheriff did take the cuffs off when we got to town andtook me to dinner and treated me fine, but told me if Itried to run away he would put me in jail. That cookedme ... I stayed close to him all day so he wouldn’t thinkI was trying to get away.
When I landed back home I had quite a score tosettle with my folks for running away. They kept meunder pretty close guard for awhile but finally put meback to herding cattle—but they did not give me ahorse to ride anymore. I had to walk, as my stepfatherknew there was less chance of me running away if Ihad to walk.
My mother tried to make peace between the old manand myself but never made much headway, as we bothhated each other. He was a comical-looking littleIrishman—I was quite a mimic and was always making funof him behind his back to the other kids. One day hecaught me at it and it sure made him mad and he gaveme a good beating, which didn’t help my feelings towardshim. So I used to job him every chance I got and I guessI made life about as miserable for him as he did for me.
BLACK HILLS OF SOUTH DAKOTA (1878 to 1885)
In 1879 my folks came across the plains from FortPierre to the Black Hills and the first town we came to,of any size, was Scooptown and from there to Deadwoodwas mostly mountains and several toll gates. It cost adollar to go through those places—that meant thepeople that kept those gates kept the road repaired so itwould be passable—but those roads were sure tough.I remember when we drove our team up the street ofDeadwood the mud was about two feet deep and wecould hardly get through, as Deadwood was one streetabout a mile long in a deep canyon. It was laid out inthree sections: first Elizabeth Town, Chinatown and thenDeadwood proper. We camped in