So we continue with more Experiences of Boss Neff in the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandle:
The Panhandle and Boss Neff—Part III
Learns To Quirt a Bronc Down the Rear Leg
The trail to Tascosa from Garcia’s Plaza led down the Tramperos and the Punta de Agua to the LE Ranch on Romero Creek, then to the Rita Blanca, Carrroton, Cheyenne, Rica, and Tascosa Creek.
Jule Howard and Him McMasters were proprietors of one store in Tascosa then, Cone and Duran the other. Jim East was sheriff and proprietor of a saloon. Jack Ryan, Dunn and Jenkins had salons, too. Old Man Russell presided over the Exchange Hotel, the only hostelry in town. Mickey McCormick and Bill Rounds were proprietors of the livery and feed yard.
Cap Jenkins had a saloon and dance hall at Hogtown, a suburb of Tascosa, Old man Rinehart had the drug store, Jesse Sheets the Star Café, Billie Trusket the dairy.
I’ll name a few of the professional gamblers: Louis Boseman, one-armed Jim Wilkerson, Lon Jenkins, Catfish Kid, Tom Emory, Mickey McCormick, Jim McIntire.
Dearth of Beds
During district court week cow punchers would bring their beds on an extra pack horse. Those times there was a death of beds in Tascosa, where they’d horse race and gamble at cards during their leisure hours.
From the fact that 30 to 40 per cent of the people were Mexicans, many of their games were of Mexican origin. “Gaya” was a very popular Mexican game. They simply buried a rooster in the ground up to his neck, when one at a time they’d ride by at full speed, reach down from their saddle and try to pull the rooster out of his buried position. It was a difficult task to get the rooster as he would be frightened by the horse and would dodge and try to evade the grasp of the rider. Finally one of the riders would be successful in extricating the rooster. When all the riders pursued and tried to wrest the prize from the victor.
Soon after I reached Tascosa, in April, 1883, a man by the name of Ed Norwood killed a bartender by name of Maley. Jim East arrested Norwood. I think Norwood soon after was indicted by the grand jury.
Norwood had made a statement to the sheriff that the bartender had several months before simply murdered his brother in cold blood, but in spite of the apparent truthfulness of the story he was held in jail for trial. Norwood apparently had a lot of friends. They perpetuated a sham battle in Hogtown, whereupon Jim East and his deputy, Pierce, rushed to Hogtown, while Norwood’s friends liberated him by bursting a hole through the jail wall. They furnished him a horse and saddle. He made good his escape.
Soon Finds Job
I soon found a job driving a freight team under Manny Leopard Lee and Reynolds foreman, and worked for him until the middle of May, when I hired out to Tom Moore, who was driving a herd of 2,500 three and four-year-old steers from Llano County, Tex., to Ogallala, Neb.
When the herd was between Tascosa and Blue Creek, on the Fort Bascomb and Fort Dodge trail, one of the vaqueros was struck by lightning while on night guard and killed. His loss was my gain. I took his place and commenced my apprenticeship as a cowboy.
There was some 65 head of saddle horses and four mules to pull the mess wagon. That gave each rider six horses in his mount. Each rider owned his saddle and bed. The wagon boss, eight riders, horse wrangler and the “cocinero,” or cook, constituted the outfit. All the men except myself were seasoned cowboys. I was a novice at the business. However, I was very eager to learn. This being the largest industry in the southwest, I was willing to take advice from the more experienced men.
Mr. Moore was with the outfit very little. Jack Leonard was “Sugundo” or straw boss. As jack roped the second horse out of the remuda for my string I walked up to him and slipped my rope under Jack’s and over the horse’s head. I noticed he did a lot of snorting. Jack told me that possibly he might pitch a little. His name was El Bayo.
Heart in Throat
Jack told one of the Mexicans to help me saddle up. After trying up a foot, the Mexican took my big red bandana and showed me how to blindfold the horse. By this time my heart was pretty well up in my throat and the situation looked anything but good to me. The Mexican told me how to cheek the horse when I mounted, then he told me to reach over the horse’s head and pull the blindfold.
Soon as I did this El Bayo lowered his head to the ground and proceeded to change ends at a vey rapid rate. About the third jump I was on the ground and El Bayo was with the remuda.
The man all seemed to enjoy the performance at my expense. I had pulled leather and tried to hold the horn but to no avail. Jack told me when I mounted again to grip the horse with my legs from the knees down, hold my shoulders back and my spurs close to him and try to balance myself with the horse’s movement. I found his advice good. It wasn’t many days until I could give them their head and quirt them down the hind leg.
In a few days we were over on the head of Palo Duro. The trail went down that creek for some 50 miles, then to Chiquita, Fulton Six-Mile and the Beaver River, where Beaver City now stands. Jim Lane had a store on the east side of the trail and south side of the river.
Wait For River
When we got to the river we found the water spread all over the bottom and were compelled to lay over there for a few days. After the river ran down we put the remuda across, then the heard followed immediately after, then the mess wagon. Several of the men tied ropes to the upper side of the wagon and held them to prevent its turning over. Jack got the only watch in the outfit full of water. After that we measured the time of day and night by the sun and stars, the big and little dippers, Job’s Coffin and other constellations that I have forgotten.
Twelve to twenty miles per day was considered a good’s day drive. We generally made the different watering places at noon, then moved the heard to a point half way to the next watering place. The herd was then rounded up so the closest part of the herd would be some 200 yards from the mess wagon. First guard held them until 10:30 P. M., second guard until 12:30 A. M., third guard until 2:30 A. M., last guard would hold them until relieved by the day men.
The trail led on across the Cimarron, then paralleled Crooked Creek, then across Mulberry and the Arkansas River below Dodge City, then on to Ogallala. Our herd had about 20 different brands but all had the fresh road brand Lazy P (P) on the loin. The horse wrangler (or remudero) looked after the remuda. He generally hobbled the horses before dark and rustled them into camp by daylight.
Our cocinero had a fiddle and to say that he was an expert at manipulating the catgut is but half telling it. Many evening after supper we were entertained with such tunes as Old Mother Blair, Cotton Eye Jo, Saddle Old Spike, I tell You, Mississippi Sawyer, and Turkey in the Straw.
Contrary to many cowmen’s opinions of handling a herd on a dark stormy night, our sugundo always told us on such occasions to come straight to camp and leave the heard alone. At the break of day every man would be in his saddle getting the herd together. I have known wagon bosses to have the herd scattered all over the country. By leaving the herd alone on a dark stormy night they will drift with the storm and not be scattered so bad.
Meets Old Employer
On my return from Ogallala in August, 1883, I met my old employer, Manny Leopard, at Jim Lane’s store in No Man’s Land. At the time he was in charge of three eight-mule teams for Lee and Reynolds and he had several extra mules and two or three saddle horses. He had lost some of the mules and had just recovered them. He said he’d give ma a steady job at $30 a month if I’d drive one of the teams, so I accepted and worked for him until spring of 1884.
Eight mules were hitched to three wagons and were driven with a jerk line. The driver rode the nigh wheel mule. A single line extended to the night lead mule; the off lead mule was controlled with a jockey stick. The four spans were connected with a chain. The wagons were connected with stub tongues and chains. In crossing any sandy creeks, rivers or through the sand hills north of Jim Lanes, we’d always drop our trail wagons, pull through with the lead wagon, then bring up the trail wagons one at a time.
During that summer and winter we made trips to Wichita Falls, Mobeetie, Ft. Elliott, Tascosa and Camp Supply. In going to Wichita Falls we crossed Red River at Doan’s store. Another store on that trail was Sweet’s store in Greer County. I think Mangum is located there now. I think the charge was a cent per mile per pound. In summer we fed the mules corn in a moral or nose bag, as some call them. In winter we carried baled hay which was fed in case of emergency.
In April, 1884, I went to work for the Franklin land and Cattle Co. They owned a big ranch, with headquarters some 50 miles west of Mobeetie, on the White Deer. The first two months I drew $40 a month. We had some 30 or 40 mules and there were about 10 to 12 men—making reservoirs in the dry lake beds, damming up dry arroyos. This was real work, but about June 1, I was transferred to riding under Perry LeFors. I first met Billy Dixon during that time.
The next installment...Part IV, "Wild Mustangs 'Walked' Into Slip Noose"!!!!