This great story is one that was written in 1958 and is the life story of Faye's Grandfather Will Strode. Thank you Ed & Faye for sharing this with us. I hope you as visitors to this site, enjoy this as much as I have putting it together for this page. Please, after you read this story, email them Ed & Faye and thank them for sharing this wonderful part of their family history with us. Let them know if your ancestor was mentioned. I know they will appreciate the thanks!
Grab your drink and pull up a chair for a great story of Kit Carson County's own:
Dedicated to Will Strode
History of Will Strode
I was born October 1875, in Mason County, Texas, on
McLesley's Ranch near Mason, Texas. My dad was the boss there. I think my
father had a brother living in Missouri not far away from Kansas City. My
parents were married at Prescott, Arizona, in 1868. My mother was married
twice. I had two half sisters. The oldest married a man named Miller; she
passed away at south Canadian, Oklahoma. The youngest married Frank Shew;
she passed away at La Junta, Colorado. My parents left Texas in 1882 or 1883
and went to Missouri. While there I saw them brand Texas cattle. A man by
the name of Brown owned them I think the brand was JB.
In 1886, when I was eleven in October, we moved to Colorado in November. We stayed that winter at Kingston. Not much of a town, a hotel, two small stores and a saloon. I think it was about ten miles west of St. Francis, Kansas. The -T outfit had a ranch south of Kingston. A homesteader took a claim near the ranch. The foreman took his men and went out to run the "nexter" ranch. They shot at his cabin and the homesteader came out with a Winchester Rifle and shot the foreman. I never did know what they did with him. Years later Johnny Woodward told me he had a brother that rode for the -T outfit. One of the men took sick and his brother started to take him to Kit Carson in a wagon. The man died near Big Springs, north of Kit Carson. At the time, Johnny told me this he was working for the W outfit near Kiowa, Colorado. He had a tough string of horses to ride.
I had three sisters, Francis married T.E. Doyle, in the 1890s but I don't remember the date. She passed away in Denver about 10 years ago. Sister Ellen was married twice. First man's name was Howerton. They had one daughter, named Hester Parker and she lives in Salt Lake City. Ellen died in Salt Lake City about 20 years ago. Stella married Albert fisher and she passed away at brush, Colorado, about five years ago.
In the spring of '87, we came to Flagler, Colorado. Father took up a one hundred sixty-acre claim three miles east of town. This was before the Rock Island Railroad was built. We lived a half mile south of Crystal springs. The Cattle company owned the springs and held a herd of saddle horses there. The owners were Charles Pugsley and his brother will. Both of these men came to our place quite often.
The first school I went to was in a dugout in Elbert County, Colorado. Mrs. Florence Rummings was the teacher. The next was in a sod schoolhouse; Miss Ina Miller was the teacher (Wayne and Bine Miller's sister). Then Julia doughty was the teacher. The rest of my teachers' names were Mrs. Alice Killey, B.F. O'Dell, C.W. Smith, and Harvey Gooding. I think Gooding was the best teacher I went to, he was a real writer -- a real ink slinger.
The first Fourth of July I ever attended was in Seibert, Colorado. A few horse races and firecrackers. A speech by some egghead. A good dinner and dance that night. I was about twelve.
That winter of '87 when I was twelve my folks lived just one half mile south of Crystal springs as I said. The outfit had a one room cabin there. A fellow named Robinson camped there while he built a sod house. About a mile east of Flagler south of the railroad. He had a dog he called Bowser. A family named Stark lived near where Claude Verhoeff lives now. One of their boys stayed there that winter to hold down their claim according to the law. His name was Carl, and he came to our house and asked me if I wanted to go hunting with him. I went and we went to the cabin. This dog of Robinson's was there. He came for me to bite me and Carl shot him. Mr. Robinson went looking for his dog and found him there. He took him home and buried him. Mr. Robinson started a post office and called it Bowser. He never did find out who shot the dog.
About sunup one day during that winter I saw a bunch of cattle bunched by a pack of wolves east of the river near the round top hill. I do not think they killed any. I never heard but one gray wolf howl -- that was over southwest of Hugo on Rush Creek.
In Hugo one time Dutch John and Bill Wagoner got a little too much snake poison to drink and got into a fight. They went out on the street to settle it. Both of them emptied their six guns at each other. Everyone had come out of the saloon to see them shoot it out. Neither man got a scratch. I know of two other gun fights at Hugo. Charley Taylor, a cowhand, and a trail hand got in a fight. Taylor killed the other man. Ab Alandor killed a fellow named Littlefield over a fight that started in Limon, Colorado.
In 1888, at Arickaree City north of Flagler, my wife's Uncle Gilbert tiger ran a livery barn. Three fellows came to his barn and wanted to buy a peck of oats. He got the oats for them and they handed him a $50 bill to pay for it. He said he took the $50 bill and went to the grain bin and pulled his money sack out. He gave them their change in silver money.
When I was about thirteen and before there was a post office here, I used to go the Hugo about thirty miles away to get the mail. There was three or four families I did this for and they each gave me .25 to pay hotel and livery bill. Their names were doughty, Lion, and Stock. The stableman let me sleep in the barn office which had a good bed in it. His name was Jim Built.
The best or one of the best pocket knives I ever had a KP cowpuncher gave me. His name was Henry Ricks. The last time I saw him was on the Arickaree River near Ft. Lyons. He was cooking for a cow outfit. I heard that he went to Wyoming.
One time when the KP outfit was gathering horses they picked up a black mustang stud with some more horses. Put them in a corral at Crystal Springs. Ike Deadman, the foreman, roped the stud and broke one of his legs. Simon Rummings, (husband to my first teacher) told me they had a thousand saddle horses. My oldest sister went to school in Hugo. She stayed at Will Pugsley's wife going to school the winter of 87 and 88. He was one of the KP owners. This black stud limped around the best he could. A man named Herring could put his hand on him and he finally broke him to lead. He took the horse to Bird City, Kansas and broke him to ride. Gave him to a lady school teacher and she rode him to school.
Simon Rummings told me he was gathering horses for the outfit in 1887 and he found three horses near Arickaree. They were pretty wild -- he ran them past the on the Republican and got a fresh horse there and turned them almost to the UPRR, then crossed the river again near where Arriba is now and finally got them in the corral at Crystal Springs. They were broke horses that had got away.
When I was about fourteen, I bought a two-year-old heifer from Mr. O'Dell. I paid a good price for I think $22. I worked for him to pay for her at $15 a month. I did all kinds of work -- plowed with a walking plow, milked cows, etc. I was sure tired of the job before I got the heifer paid for. This was the first cow I ever owned and she was a real good one, when she was grown.
In the spring of 1891 I went to work for the Elbert County Livestock Company, also called the MET outfit as a horse wrangler, at the age of fifteen. They started the roundup about May first that spring. The roundup started at Trail City on the Arkansas River near the Kansas line and went almost west to Pueblo, Colorado. Worked all the creeks emptying into the Arkansas from the north. They were; Big Sandy, Horse Creek, Doby, Squirrel Creek and Chico Basin. This took about three or four months. I worked for the Elbert County Live Stock Company in the 1891, 92, 93, 94, 95, and 96 roundups. The brands were MET , JW+ , -JW+ . I worked under two different foremen, C.J. Farr and tome Moore. I think I am the only man living that worked for the outfit. Tug Brown might be for he wrangled horses the last year I was there.
While I worked with the roundup there was six big outfits north of the Arkansas River. The SS, Dutch John was foreman. The 77 , Bint Moore was foreman, he was half-Indian. The (( , they called it the two quarter circle, Bob Gillispie was foreman. The =24 , Walter Wright foreman, and (diamond tail), John Cummings was foreman. These were besides the MET I already mentioned. These outfits had eighteen to twenty-five men with their wagons. Each outfit had two wagons, one for beds and branding irons and picket ropes, etc. The other was the chuckwagon. Also, Ab Inyart had a wagon out. He ran his own outfit and carried about six men.
These outfits all made the spring round up together. Each roundup district had a range captain who told each boss where to make the circle with his men and where to bunch the cattle. I have seen eight to ten thousand head of cattle at one days roundup.
There were many trail herds going north each year. Two thousand five hundred head of steers in a herd. The XIT drove about ten herds in a year. Reynolds Brothers drove two or three herds and they branded . The Quartercircle HC drove some herds north and thedrove two or three herds every year. Paul and Charles Handy were tow of their trail bosses. The Texas-Montana trail crossed the Republican River just west of the KP Ranch.
That first summer with the roundup I first saw the battle ground where Chivington murdered the Cheyenne Indians on the Big Sandy Creek. I was horse wrangler and Walter Scheere was helping me drive the horse herd that day, we had about one hundred seventy-five head. He told me all about the fight. Chivington had his men kill women and kids. He said Chivington should have been hung for the crime.
Once we were camped southwest of Chivington at some big lakes. We camped there during an electric storm, rain and hail too. I believe it was the worst electric storm I ever saw, and I was only fifteen years old. I was wrangling horses for the roundup then. I was trying to bunch them so I could hold them during the storm. Five heads were off to one side and started to get them. Lightening struck them and killed one before I got there. I was about forty feet from them. During that storm, lightening killed 203 head of cattle in the day herd.
One time I left the MET Ranch just east of River Bend to join the roundup on Big Horse Creek. The wagon was camped north of the Stephenson and Dyer Ranch. It got along about dark and I was riding along about half asleep. I heard a noise -- my horse heard it too. It scared the hell out of me. There was no one in ten miles of me, and the horse was scared too. I've often wondered what made that noise.
We were camped near the Stephenson and Dyer Ranch one time, I saddled up a big bay horse one morning and he threw me. At noon the boss, Tom Moore, asked how tall I was. I said five feet ten inches. He said then that hoss threw you eighteen feet high, because you turned over three times coming down!
Coming down Big Sandy on roundup one time we camped about where the fair grounds at Hugo are now. A big flood came down on us and we pulled the chuck wagon out with saddle horses. We were on the west side of the creek and the day herd was on the east side. John Holm and Andy Miller were on first guard and they stayed with the cattle all night. I was about eighteen then.
We were shipping two cars of steers to Denver and loading at river bend once and nobody fastened the bull board across the door of the boxcar. One old steer got one horn in the door and lifted it up. He fell out and broke one of his horns off. There was a Negro section hand there and two old Irish men. When the steer hit the ground Monahan and McMann started to run. The steer was right after them. The hand car house was the only shelter nearby since Monahan was in the lead he got inside and shut the door. McMann ran around the car house yelling, "Open the door, John". Two dogs came after the steer and ran him off. When Monahan came our McMann said, "Why in hell did not you open the Door?" Said Monahan, "Did ye think I wanted that steer in there with me?"
We were on roundup another time camped at Boone east of Pueblo. We had a cloud burst on Chico Creek and washed out the railroads. The Santa Fe and Missouri Pacific both had trains stopped there. The next morning we rode into town and there was two passenger trains held up. These people on the trains wanted to see some one ride a bucking horse. A fellow we called Tommy High Pockets said he would show them now it was done. About the fourth jump the horse lost him. One of the passengers had a camera and took his picture. He said, "Fine! I got you just as you left your saddle."
Late one fall we were camped west of river Bend, where the Sandy runs southwest. We had a beef herd and it came a blizzard. Six man guard at all times, in the night. We had plenty of wood and kept a big fire and had plenty of hot coffee all night.
I never knew of but one man getting killed on roundup. He was killed on Doby Creek north of Arlington. He was riding a young horse. His horse started fighting the bridle and running sidewise. He stumbled over a sage bush and fell on the cowboy.
A fellow by the name of Ed Huston was along and got off he horse to get a drink. The horse got away from him, a half-broke bronc. When they did find him the hair under the saddle blanket all came off with the saddle blanket. He was not found for about a month.
On roundup near Colorado Springs the boss of the Diamond Tail outfit came up to me and asked me if my name was Strode. I said yes. "Where were you Born?" He asked. I said "Texas." He asked where and I told him near Mason. "What was your father's name?" I told him Steven and he said, "Kid, I trotted you on my knee many a time!" this man's name was John Cummings. He asked me if I knew who shot the first bullet in the range war in Texas, thought my Dad would have told me. He said since he hadn't he wouldn't tell me either.
In 1895, about the first of April, a blizzard came up very sudden. Lots of cattle perished in the storm which lasted fifty or sixty hours. The country was full of dead cows. I saw big steers that had traveled 60 of 70 miles. These steers came from south of Brush, Colorado. I saw them about twelve miles north of Kit Carson, Colorado.
While I was working for the Elbert County Live Stock Company they shipped in two thousand head of big Arizona steers. There was twelve head of steers branded . The foreman, C.J. Farr, of our outfit bought them. I was nineteen then. The Baldwin Brothers of Big Sandy Creek north of Lamar bought a herd of those AG steers. Our boss had a bill of sale for the twelve head and he kept picking up AG steers. I don't know how many he gathered for himself. I said to him one day, "You must have about all the AG steers coming to you?" He said, "Just about."
Another time he had picked up two mavericks. They had a big lot of cattle in a big pasture south of the Rock Island railroad about seven or eight miles square. The boss left me to ride the fence. I saw the two mavericks and when I saw Jim Middlemist I told him we better brand them. He said he thought so too. When the roundup crew came in the first thing the boss saw was the two slicks and they were branded. He said, "These kids never miss anything."
When I was nineteen we were at Hugo with a herd of Arizona steers, about eighteen thousand head. We were camped near where the fair grounds are now. We grazed these steers north up the creek and held them there until the grass was all gone. It was wet drizzly weather and the boss said to move across the Union Pacific south. There was three of us on day herd, George Bohn, (called Boon), Jim Middlemist and myself. Got to the RR and the steers wouldn't cross. George told me to ride across in front of them and when I did one old steer came right behind me. Then they all came fast as they could. Jim had to help me hold them up but we did not stop them. We had a nice stampede. They ran into the hills south of Sand creek. We circled them to a trot then to a walk, but it took all afternoon before they settled down. I'd always wanted to see a stampede and I sure saw one.
One time at river Bend we were branding a bunch of black cows and calves. The school house was south of the stockpens about one fourth mile. Just as we were ready to turn them out three girls started to go to the school. The boss told them to wait because we were ready to turn the cows loose. The girls said they were not afraid of a few cows. The first thing one old cow saw was those girls. It was the fastest foot race I ever saw. One girl stepped in a hole and fell down. She just laid there kicking and yelling. We kept the cow away from her.
One time on a beef roundup we were camped near the point of rocks on Rush Creek. It was a bad night -- the cattle stampeded. All got away as it was too dark to see anything.
A trail herd of XIT steers were camped about where Tom McCallum's ranch is. John Verhoeff was working for Leeper and Lavington and he wanted to look through the herd for their cattle. The boss said OK. John went in the herd kicking his horse and about caused a stampede. The trail boss told him to get out of the herd. Said, "If you don't know how to work cattle, stay out of the herd!"
In the fall of 1895, we put a train load of steers in the stock pens at Roselis on the Rock Island RR. They corralled nice and all okay. Just at noon the train was all read. We were eating dinner with all our saddle horses turned loose but one. A passenger train came along and the engineer tooted his whistle, the freight engineer answered with a loud blast. The cattle tore the pens all to pieces. They all went to the hills. We all got on our horses and got all the cattle back but it took all afternoon and was almost midnight when we got them loaded. Myself and another fellow cut cattle into car loads. One steer never got into the loading chute. He was on the fight next morning, and when one of the fellows threw a cracker box into the pen the steer fought it until there was nothing left but pieces. At that time we cut the cattle into car load lots on horseback.
On the roundup that year our boss, Tom Moore, took sick when we were working up Horse Creek. When we got to Forder's sheep ranch he told me I would have to take him to Hugo to the doctor. We unloaded the bed wagon and put his bed in for him to lay on. He told one of the other men to keep on with the roundup. We started for Hugo. It was awful hot. He got out of his mind and talked and was getting worse all the time. We got to Field's ranch about eleven o'clock. Pulled in there and nobody was there but the cook. We got Tom in the ranch house. The cook gave me something to eat and said he had a top buggy I could borrow. I went and got his horse, hooked him to the buggy and he told me to let the horse take it easy for three or four miles then drive faster. I got to Hugo about four in the afternoon.
We met a sheepherder when the roundup was going down Brush Creek. He had one his ears almost torn off. He was bloody all over and said he saw a little wild cat in a big hole. He jumped in to catch it and the mother cat jumped in on top of him and went to work on hem. He was almost scalped and sure a mess.
Jim Arnold and I ran down a gray wolf dog near Loletra, Colorado on the Missouri Pacific Railroad east of Sugar City. There were two old wolves and their litter of pups. The other fellows caught about all of them after that. The next day I roped a black wolf -- it was about half grown. There were five wolves in the pack. One brindle like a dog and three pure grays.
One fall during roundup it got awful cold. Tim bates and I took the day herd and neither one of us had enough clothes to bolster a crutch. We found a bunch of dead and dry soap weeds and we started a fire in them to get warm. The grass was dry and it caught a fire. When we got it out we were plenty warm. Came near having a real fire, right there on the forks of brush Creek. I have seen this country black from fire three times from here to the Union Pacific Railroad. The trains set them. Finally, a man named Leeper plowed a fore guard ten to fifteen miles long and after that fires were held down. The fire came clear to the river east of Flagler.
One time on roundup the outfit camped on Pond Creek north of Ordway, Colorado. It had rained two or three days straight. There was an old sheepcamp off a mile or so from camp and C.J.Farr told Jim Arnold and us to take the bed wagon and go get some wood for the cook. While we were getting the wood, Jim said, "If you had a wife and wanted to see her what would you do?" I told him, "go see her, I guess." The next day it cleared off and Arnold and Farr took the day herd. Farr went to dinner then Arnold. He saddled up and left, we never saw him again for two weeks. He went to see his wife. She lived in Sterling, Colorado about two hundred miles away. Arnold was a Rep for the Cross Quartercircle outfit. They had a ranch near Brush.
One time at Deertrain some fellow had a bunch of horses in the corral. The gate posts were high and there was a cross bar over the gate. There was a Negro rider they called Snowball there. He offered to bet his pocketbook and all that was in it that he could drop from that crossbars on one of those wild horses and ride him. One of the fellows took him up so he got up on the gate and when they let the horses out he dropped onto one. Snowball rode the mustang all right. He collected his bet, which was the other man's pocketbook. When they looked in Snowball's pocketbook he had only a few nickels and dimes in it. Snowball rode for the Mill Iron or the Three rings.
The roundup was camped at the Crows roost Ranch on Squirrel Creek. This was the Diamond Tail Home Ranch, and was located about forty miles east of the highway that now runs between Colorado Springs and Pueblo. They had an outlaw horse they called Grasshopper and they offered to pay $50 to anyone that would ride him. There were two fellows there called Big Yellowgut, and Little Yellowgut, also a girl named Yellowgut, I never did know what their first names were. Big Yellowgut was a real bronc rider. He said he would ride grasshopper for $50. There were about one hundred fifty or two hundred cowpunchers there and all were pretty drunk. One horse had been hurt and killed during the day. Fred Eubanks was the General Manager of the Diamond Tail outfit. He gave orders to get Grasshopper and he sure was hard to corral. Took about twenty men and then they put him in with some other horses to get him in. Yellowgut put a rope on him and with some help from other punchers there they drug him out. Put a bridle on and a blindfold, then saddled him. Yellowgut climbed on and someone pulled the blind off. The horse went to bucking but he rode him until the horse quit bucking. Yellowgut rode Grasshopper up to Mr. Eubanks and asked for his money. Se slipped over to one side of the saddle while he was talking and Grasshopper bogged his head again and threw Yellowgut off. They caught the horse and Yellowgut rode him but Mr. Eubanks would not give him the money. Eubanks got a lot of things said to him. I was only about sixteen then, but I thing that horse was the worst pitching horse I ever saw I ever saw. He did everything but throw himself down. Grasshopper was never taken out on roundup.
One time a bunch of fellows were going to a dance at Arriba, Frank Fagan, Albert Fisher, John Verhoeff, and myself. All had a girl to take. Fagan got his girl and I got mine. We had a light wagon. Fisher's girl backed out and so did Verhoeff's. We had two broncs hitched to the wagon and it took two of us on the ground to hold them besides the driver. The girls were afraid to ride with us. We took the two girls anyway and had a good time. We came home in a snow storm.
A fellow we called doc Alderman and I were in Hugo one time. We had lost all our money and had our horses at the livery barn and couldn't get them out. We went down to the stockyards one day and there was a bunch of wild horses in the pens. Doc said "Now we'll get our horses out and leave this town." He walked up to the people owning the mustangs and said, "I'll ride anything in there bareback for $5." Dock went in the barn and took a bottle out of his pocket. He rubbed it on his gloves. Then he forefooted a mare and let her up and then told me to forefoot her again and then hold her down while he sat on her head. I could see him rubbing his hands all over her head and then he got his quirt and got a straddle of her. He told me to take off the rope that was on her front foot and he conked her with the quirt. She got up and just trotted around the pen. Never did tell me what he did to her. We used the $5 for our breakfast as were pretty hungry and to get our horses out of the stable.
Doc broke a bunch of horses for Pearson. He doped them too. They were real mean ones too. I had always broke Pearson's horses but Doc did that time. It was worth about $5 a head. When the horses got over the drug they couldn't be ridden.
He was crosseyed. We were riding past George Epperson's one time on the Republican River. I chawed off a chunk of tobacco and handed it to Doc. I asked him whether he'd spit where he looked or the other way.
Doc was down in Kansas one time and broke. He told a fellow he's break a horse for him and guarantee when he wad done a kid could ride the hoss. Doc broke the horse, probably used the drug again and picked up a kid on the street and let him ride down the road. He left town with his money in his pocket.
I was holding a bunch of cattle for C.J. Farr, about three hundred head. It was a very dry year and I was scraping out water holes in the sand to water them. I saw a man coming toward me as fast as his horse could run so I sat down on the scraper to see what he wanted. He came up and told me in no uncertain terms to move the cattle or he would have the sheriff move them. He kept riding around the team and me so mad he could hardly talk. I got tired listening to his talk and told him I did think he could eat me. Away he went. I told Farr when I got back to the ranch what had happened and he told me to go down the next day and find out what was wrong. I did and Mr. Rose was very nice. He said one of Farr's yearlings was sucking one of his cows. I took the yearling to the ranch.
One time on roundup we were on Big Horse Creek north of where sugar City is now. We were putting the cows on bedground. A two-year-old steer got in the quicksand. We did not pull him out, thought he would get out. In the morning four or five men went to get him. They dug the sand away so they could put a rope on his legs. They started to pull with saddle horses and they broke two of his legs and had to shoot him.
In the fall of the 1896 I was holding a herd of one thousand head of cattle for Leeper and Lavington. I was camped on Deadman's Creek for about two months.
When I was 21 years old, and working for Leeper and Lavington we were dehorning a big bunch of old cows. We had four or five hundred old southern cows, and one got through the chute. I was riding a half broke br4onc and I put my rope on the cow. She jerked the horse down. By this time she was on the fight, so I got on the horse and he knew enough to get away from her. The cow broke my rope and got away. I turned her back and two other fellows came to help me. We got her back to the corral. There was one big steer we couldn't get in the chute. The corral was wet and muddy and Leeper told me to rope him. I started to get a well-broke horse. Leeper said, "Take the horse you roped the cow on." I said, "do it yourself, I don't want to get a leg broke." He told another fellow to rope the steer and he said, " I am like Strode. Do it yourself." The steer was not dehorned. We were at the Leeper Ranch and the next morning I told him I was quitting. I said I would go to town and get my pay. Leeper said he would go with me and we went to Lavington's store. They told me they were going to ship quite a lot of cattle in and then hold part of them at Flagler. I asked what the pay would be and they said $12.50 a month!! I said, "Not Me!" I broke horses to ride all winter. You could get all the horses to ride you wanted at $5 a head.
Leeper and Lavington had sorebacked horses except for the one that would pitch. I rode him when I went to work for them. The saddle blankets stuck to the other's backs, there were so bad.
Leeper was a railroad construction man. He came here to fill up the Republican River Bridge -- it was three hundred feet wide. His team hauled my Father's body to the cemetery.
On Deadman Creek one time I saw two old steers in a fight and one lit on his back in a crevasse. I loped to the ranch and got Fagan and we used a team to pull him out. He sure would have died if I hadn't happened along.
The first time I worked for Lavington he had a bin in the barn with grain in it. An old snoopy cow got in there and rooted out a couple of boards. She ate all the corn chop she could hold. I told Lavington she was dead. He said, "Skin her!" I didn't much like the idea so I told old man Fry she was dead and asked him to help me skin her. I asked the old man what he thought killed her while we were skinning her. He said, "Gall didn't empy!" He was Pennsylvania Dutch, and quite an old character.
I was holding about one hundred steers for Lavington one time and they were north of Vona, Colorado. I saw smoke going up where they were. I got Huntley and we took a plow up there. The fire was really going! We plowed and fought fire to St. Francis, twenty-five miles away. A lot of men fought it. I didn't get to St. Francis, but we met a crew from there. People from all over the area helped. Figured a man set that lived north of Vona four miles.
We have always had a lot of loco weed in this country. Cows will eat loco and calves four or five months old will get loco from their milk. We had a buckskin mare one time and I put her in a pasture. She was loco and she wouldn't eat or drink. She walked the fence until she died. They never get over it. They hunt it after they get a taste like people crave a drug. A man named Laphan and Jim Alford ran some steers around the Big and Little Springs. The whole bunch got loco and Jeff Scott bought them for $14 a head. He fattened them, the few that didn't die. A cow or horse that has eaten very much loco weed will search for it and eat nothing else. If a horse has eaten too much, it will be possible to break it. But you never dare try to lead one -- they will pull back and fall over. When they've had too much and are about done, they stagger.
One time a bunch of us fellows went to town. There was Pete, Lanch, and John Verhoeff, and I. When we crossed the railroad track two or three of us turned east and the Verhoeff's went south. Pete was riding a horse that would run away so I strapped him with my quirt a little. Away the hoss went. He ran into a wire fence. Caught Pete's foot in front of the stirrup and pretty near cut his foot off. Sometime after that we were all in town (Flagler) again and Lanch Verhoeff thought he would have some fun with me. Thought my horse would run away like Pete's did. But my hoss just bogged his head down and sent to bucking. Lanch said, "___I thought he could stampede!"
Mike Quinn was section boss at Flagler and he had about ten kids. I was working for Lavington. We had about three hundred head of calves up southwest of town. I had to go right past the section house every day. The Quinn kids had a little dog that would run out and nip my horse's heels every time I passed. Lavington had a horse at the ranch north of Vona that never missed a chance to kick a dog. I went down there one day and got him. One of the girls, Bessie came out to the gate to tell me something. The little dog came also and the horse kicked him about thirty feet. I never did find out what Bessie was going to tell me. She said plenty about the horse kickin' the dog and it was not very pleasant -- pretty rough!
In 1898 I was holding about nine hundred cattle for Lavington on the Republican River north of Vona. The weather that summer was hot and dry. We had two windmills but no wind so the big tanks all went dry. I went up to Mr. Walton's and tried to let me hold the cattle on his open water for two hours a day. I offered him five dollars an hour but he said no so I went to Flagler. I told Lavington we were out of water. I said I'd offered Walton five dollars an hour for watering the cattle. He said, "by Gee that was too much." We took the cattle to Flagler, he had a place southeast of town with plenty of water on it. I held them there two or three weeks.
One time Lafe Brafford and Albert Fisher were driving a bunch of cattle to Lavington's Ranch from Flagler. They came to an old fellow's house. The gate was open so Fisher rode up to get in the gate and keep the cows out of the old man's yard. He asked Albert how many cows they were driving and Fisher said about one hundred fifty head. When Lafe came along behind the cows he asked him too, how many cattle they had. Lafe told him five hundred. The old fellow said, "Oh yes, that Fisher boy is not very truthful!" Fisher had told the truth -- they had about one hundred fifty head.
Lafe Bradford and I were at Lavington's one winter -- 1898 and 1899. We didn't have much riding to do one day. It was snowing and we were in the ranch house doing nothing. We saw a coyote coming down the hill toward the house. The coyote came to where we had thrown our scraps from the table. Brafford got the rifle and I opened the door so he could shoot. He emptied the gun and never came near the coyote. I told him I knew I could do better than that.
In the fall of 1898 I was working for the W-L (Lavington). A fellow they called Stringhalt Jim and I drove a big string of steers up to Flagler. When we put them in the stockyards there were a lot of men shipping cattle to make a train load. One old German man from up Thurman way was riding a big old work horse. He had feet as big as a dinner plate. One steer broke out of the bunch and the old German went to turn him back. The old hoss hit a wagon rut and fell down. Just as the horse was standing on his head the old German yelled "WHOA!" I went to laughing until another fellow said, "Stop laughing Strode and get that steer." So I did.
One time C.J. Farr and some other men branded a bunch of cattle in the KP corral. A steer jerked Farr's horse down on him. After they finished branding they all went down to Hugo. Farr wanted some money and felt in his pocket and no money did he find. Albert Fisher and Farr rode over where the corral was and found his money. It was all silver.
I think John Peterson and myself are the only old time cow peelers left in this part of the country.
In 1899, I worked for Brown and Cornwall. They had about hour hundred cattle and I got forty dollars a month. I stayed there about two years. There were several German families out there. They were always having birthday dinners and they always invited Strote as they called me. I always went and enjoyed the dinners. One of the old ladies asked me one day if I would be old enough to vote that fall. I told her I would. I was twenty-four years old then. While I was there it rained about forty days one 6time. From the first of April till the tenth of May. I had to go to Arriba every morning to catch the cattle, and bring them back to their range. This was in the spring of 1900.
Brown bought three or four stacks of millet near Thurman, north of Flagler. We hauled it to the ranch. Harls Brown, Charlie Reinmer and myself. This millet had been raised some years before and it had really been well stacked. They were hard and dry. It took two days to make the trip. We always overloaded, broke down one or two wagons. Hauling it we had to cross the Arickaree Creek about one hundred feet wide. It was all sand and we had to put four horses on one wagon.
While I was working for Brown and Cornwell, northwest of Flagler, Pete Verhoeff came out to see me. He said, "If you will come to the New Year's Eve dance I'll show you my girl." I told him, "If you have a girl I'll sure be there." He said I could dance with her. He introduced me to his girl. I told him, "That isn't your girl anymore she is mine." Now she is Mrs. Strode. Her name was Mamie Neff. She was at Burlington going to high school so I went to see her one Friday. When I got there another fellow was just getting her out to a rig. There was a bunch of them in a wagon going to a party about ten miles out of town. I stopped that real quick. I got a buggy and took her myself. Coming back to town one old pony fell down and broke the neck yoke strap. The buggy got on top of him and he kicked two or three spokes out of one wheel. Had to unhitch the other horse to get him out from under the buggy.
Another time I took Mamie to a dance at Seibert and we went on one road going and coming home we took another road. Someone had put two wires across the road since our last trip. I was driving a pretty good clip and never saw the fence. We went through it and never stopped -- nearly upset the buggy.
I went to see Mamie during that forty days of rain I mentioned. She was going to school and could not get home the Republican River was too high. I rode horseback with a slicker on. It sure was wet.
One time Albert fisher and I went down south hunting some cows. We stayed at the JOD Ranch. We never found the cows. Coming back we saw a jackrabbit under a soap weed. I had a 38 pistol. We took four shots at the rabbit and never hit. Albert threw the pistol at the rabbit and killed him.
The queerest man I ever worked for was Mike Hassig near Cope, Colorado. I was there three months. When I got to his ranch he asked me if I ever used profane language. I said sometimes. He had four kids and asked me not to swear when they could hear me. I said "Okay, I won't." When he was out around the cattle he swore just like a pirate. He had about seven hundred head of cattle. It was getting along about the last of March and we were at the ranch alone. The family was in Denver. The weather did not look good to me. Wind in the southeast. I said, "How about putting the cattle where they could not get away in a storm?" He laughed at me and said, "It takes a good storm to move them off the range!" In the night it began to rain. The wind was blowing hard. The next day we got up early and went to look for the cattle. We found about one hundred head. He told me to take them to the ranch and he would go get the rest of them. I never saw him for three or four days. He caught his cows up south of Brush, Colorado.
Mamie E. Neff and I were married February 12, 1902. It has been a long time, but I have no regrets and hope she doesn't.
This story is the property of Ed & Faye Roberts . It may not be copied or reproduced without their written permission.
Send your thanks to Ed & Faye for haring this great life story with us!
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