Frank Funkenbusch – his life after moving to Montana in 1905
When writing the foregoing biographical life of Father and Mother is was intended the story should end with their activities and demise. But now since some have read it and commented it has been suggested that an addition be appended depicting my own life and activities after coming to Montana in 1905. Reflecting on the avidity with which I would read such a story written by my Grandfather of his early life in Germany, crossing the Atlantic in a sailing vessel, and the impression made on his mind by the endless broad harvest fields that met his eyes in America, it seems that such an addition might not be too much out of place here, for some one might be reading this a few decades hence.
And since life and activities were so very different in Montana in 1905, when the population was 243,329 — a little more than one and one half persons per square mile — and the most of the was along the railroads and in mining towns, it is obvious that the great back areas were unsettled, it was not even surveyed. It was not till about 1909 that the Government began in a meaningful way to survey the wide expanses of Montana. Those back areas were the cattle country.
But first this paragraph about the shape of Montana. How did Montana get that great knob of country tying west of the Rocky Mountain Divide? When the congress and the President created the Territory of Montana it was provided that the north boundary should be the Canadian line extending west to the continental divide. The east boundary should be the present line between Montana and the Dakotas, and the south boundary should be the present south line extending west again to the Continental Divide, where it should terminate. The west end of Montana was to be the continental divide between Montana and Idaho. Accordingly a surveying crew was sent out to survey this west boundary of Montana connecting the west end of the south line with the west end of the north line along the continental divide. Well, they got a poor start, they did not know what ridge was the continental divide and they “guessed” the wrong one and surveyed down a divide 25 or 30 miles too far west at the starting point. This ridge also diverged from the main divide and they constantly got farther and farther away from the divide they supposed and thought they were surveying. After surveying 300 or so miles of this rough mountain-top terrain they came to the Clark Fork River, and to their chagrin found it flowing west into the Pacific instead of east into the Gulf and that their whole survey was down the wrong divide. They were now about 125 miles off too far west off the line That was not very bad, that was pretty close? They closed their survey now with proper monument local markings and sent their notes in to Washington with explanations. And the President and Congress must have reasoned something like, “O, well that is all right, that is near enough, nobody living out there, nobody cares, let it go that way.” And that is the way Montana got that great territory west of the Divide, the rich mines at Butte, the rich Deer Lodge and Bitterroot valleys and nearly all of Montana’s mineral wealth.
Now, how I happened to come to Montana
I finished a two-year High School course in Canton, Missouri and graduated in the class of 1903, I was 23. Rural schools in North-east Missouri in those days never exceeded six months and after I was about ten or twelve years old, brother Charley and I were retained at home to help Father with the fall wheat seeding and missed the first six weeks of school. One winter I attended only 28 days and some winters none at all. Then too, I was always a slow and poor reader, which I learned many years later was due to an incurable eye condition, and to this day I have gained but little speed in reading. But I liked mathematics which required but little reading and I tutored a class in geometry the last year I was in High School.
After High School I taught a six-month rural school near home the winter of 1903-04, and the home school, Hardin, the following winter, each paying $30.00 per month. That was standard for rural schools back there at that time. The summer between these two terms I attended the State Normal School at Warrensburg, Missouri. The Teacher Agencies at Warrensburg advertised on the bulletin board at the School very attractive calls for teachers out in Montana and the North-west at two and three times what I was getting back there. This gave me the Montana fever and after finishing my second term back there I headed for Montana, by way of Kansas City and Billings and landing in Deer Lodge April 5, 1905, about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. It was a beautiful bright warm day.
I had never been on a long train ride before and it was a thrill and interesting all the way. Nor were there any automobiles yet, and everything was speedy. In Nebraska, out the train window I saw my first sod house, one room. “Shack” I think they called those one-room bachelor habitats, at least that is what they were called out in Montana. The sods were cut 18 inches to two feet wide and plow depth and varying length, and then laid up like stone or brick just dry. After placement of rafters and a shingle roof the walls were carefully dressed to smooth perpendicular surface inside and out. The interior was then usually framed and lined with lumber or canvas. And this makes the warmest and most comfortable house I have ever been in. Dry sod is a wonderful insulation against temperature.
Nor had I ever seen mountains before, and they were wonderful and fascinating for I had never before been beyond the straight-line horizon of my own home Missouri prairies and crossing the Rocky Mountain divide was the greatest treat; there the rugged scenery was just outside the window. I had never formed much of a conception of what mountains were like except that they were just grass-covered hills like I knew back in Missouri only on a much larger scale. So when the train entered the rugged mountains, gorges, cnayons, and skimmed by high sphere precipices, nothing but rock everywhere to me it was like exploring a new planet. I lost no time seeing from the windows, side to side, and even back into the observation coach, to see what was behind though I had only a tourist ticket and was supposed to stay in the day coach. But no one said anything and I was seeing a lot.
I had a home on the train, but when it stopped at Deer Lodge, and I got off, and it then went on and left me, then the mountains took on a very different aspect. Now they were harsh and formidable barriers, occupying what should be rich corn and grain fields, worthless occupants they were. We always react in accordance to past experiences. I could not conceive them as being valuable grazing lands, I could not see grass for looking at the mountains, nor could I see the rich valuable metals they held within, I might have quoted Shakespeare “A yard full of empty boxes”.
I stayed at my cousin’s, Mrs. William (Hetzler) Zosels, 802 Fourth St. while in Deer Lodge but soon got a one-room rural school to teach about 11 miles north of Deer Lodge at $55.00 per month. The name of the school was Bradley. I boarded at the George W. Dana dairy ranch at $15.00 per calendar month. The ranch was on the south side of the Little Black Foot River where the river emerges from the mountains and takes a straight westward course of five or six miles to Garrison. The Danas had a girl and four boys in school. The distance to school was about one and one half miles and to get there it was necessary to cross the Little Blackfoot River and once when I incidentally called it ‘the creek’ they all laughed. And I said “Well, I was raised on the Mississippi and it looks like a creek to me”. The footbridge over the river was made of two large fir poles about 30 feet long laid about three feet apart, laid from a cribbing on the alluvial south bank to natural rock spur or point on the north side where a long hogback ridge comes to a point at the river. Inch boards about four feet long nailed crossways on the poles made the floor. A one-pole banister about three feet high, on either side served for safety. From the north end of this bridge out path, cut in the slope, for about 30 yards, led along the west side of this point or spur and then came to the main line of the Northern Pacific Rail Road where a deep cut, originally a tunnel, led the track through this narrow rocky point or spur. We passed through this out and turned left off the right-of-way, and north-westerly up a broad rounding draw about a fourth mile wide, and near a mile long to the school house. The draw was well grassed to the top, with some small shrubbery along the water course. There were no banks to the channel and the sides were grassed to the top. This draw, with others was grazed over by what appeared to be a few head of beef and dairy cattle. But the grass was so sparse that I really felt sorry for the cows, I did not see how they could gather enough of this scattered grass to keep alive. But to my surprise they quickly became fat. I ddi not know that the western grass was so much more nutritious than the grass I had known back home. And it stands up straight eight inches to a foot high and cures out with all the feed qualities of hay, and is good pasture the winter through.
At the head of this draw we went through a fence, crossed an east-west county road, and onto the school grounds. The school faced south onto the road.
The School house was of the usual rural architecture, frame, three windows on either side and painted white. There was an entry and cloak room before entering the main room. A small belfry over the ante, or cloak room, housed the school bell operated by a pull-rope. All in all it was very near country set-up better than any rural school I had ever seen in Missouri. Drinking water was had from a near-by spring.
But I did not yet like Montana. And often as we were going home in the evening the best Northern Pacific passenger train would be making its way through the little cut already mentioned on its way to the continental divide and down the other side of the mountains on its way to Helena and ultimately to St. Paul. And I would count the days to when I would board it an go back to Missouri, for I did not yet like Montana. However, I was never a bit homesick and I liked my school.
The about late August or early September the Dana family took a Saturday off and we all went over the mountain eastward to Dog Creek fishing. We had lunch along and we had a wonderful day and from that day to now I have loved Montana. I had to get acquainted with those “harsh formidable mountains” which I had considered such worthless occupants.
One Sunday as I was walking north from Deer Lodge along the road back to my school at Danas, a man in a farm wagon and two horses overtook me and asked me to get in and ride. It was a clear hot day and I very gladly accepted his invitation and got in. He asked my where I was going and I told him. And then came that invariable question of those days queried by the local people of every stranger of middle age or older: “Where are you from?”, meaning from what State, or where outside of Montana. For most people out here at that time of middle age or older had come in from other parts or as they usually expressed it “From the States”. The term “The States” or “Back in the States” was common language out here at that time. Not too long before it was Montana Territory. I told him NE Missouri. The he jestingly asked, “What do those people back there think of us people out here in Montana any way? Don’t they think we go about on all fours and big horns growing out of our heads?” In like spirit I told him “that is exactly what they think”. Then for about three or four miles we had a nice visit till coming to where my way angled sharply from the road and I got out and walked again. At Danas I learned he was a prominent sheep man, a Mr. Williams as I remember.
My school term ended early in November 1905. Rural Schools in western Montana operated in summer time in those days snows got too deep and distances were too great for pupils to travel in winter time. After close of school I spent a few days in Deer Lodge and went to Butte for as long trying to find a job —but fearing I might find one, for I wanted to ride the trains some more — In Butte I went down in one of Senator Clark’s mines, 1700 feet, and through his smelter, and then returned to Deer Lodge. After Thanksgiving with Danas, on December 5 I took the train for home, going by way of Butte; Ogden, Utah; Salt Lake City; to Denver; Burlington, Iowa; to Canton, Missouri.
It was a magnificent trip from Salt Lake through the Canyon to Denver. In Salt Lake I had several hours between trains and I went out to the Lake and over the City, seeing as much as I could including a guided trip through the Tabernacle. so I was very tired in the evening about 4 o’clock when I got on the Denver & Rio Grand train for Denver.
One thing that interested most out at the Lake was the recovering of salt from the Lake water. With 2-inch planking they had built large vats, about a hundred feet square and 20 feet hight. The planking was horizontal and the ground was the floor. They had pumped Lake Water into the vats and in some way evaporated the water till the vats were level full of crystal salt. On this particular morning they were taking down the walls of one vat and breaking up the salt for handling. The salt ws a bit off color probably from impurities in the water. I did not see further but it was probably barreled, as that was the method of handling salt in those days.
On the train in my coach there were about a half dozen Mormon Missionaries going out as missionaries to Kentucky. They were a nice half dozen, intelligent, informative, interested in their work, pleasant, good singers, and entertaining. It took a night, a day, and most of the second night to go from Salt Lake City to Denver.
I got but little rest or sleep that first night out of Salt Lake and when morning came we were entering the Canyon and truly it is a canyon in capital letters. It took us the whole day to pass through. It is shear precipice on both sides much of the way, naked granite, rough and pinnacle, no soil, and sculptured by time and weather. Long distances, not a sign of vegetation for there was not a spoon-full of soil for it to grow in. Much of the road bed was just a shelf cut in the granite face. It was here I got my greatest thrill riding a train. Close as I could press my face to the window on the left I could see no road bed, but ever so far below, like a ehite crooked ribbon raced the foaming river. And close as I could press on the other side, looking up, I could see no sky, the rock face was that close and high. And there were times when I could look out the window and see the engine, and look back and see the rear coaches trailing along behind. Occasionally we passed through a short tunnel, The train traveled very slow and this gave us lots of time to see.
Out train got in to Denver early the second morning, about two hours before daylight. After a little rest and some breakfast I wandered through one of the near-by City parks, carrying my packed suit case. Then I had dinner and spent the afternoon seeing things in the State Capitol building, especially the Museum then in the Capitol basement. There were a lot of things to see there and it was edifying. I got into the Museum by error or misunderstanding. I had been to the top of the building and wanted to go down and out. The operator asked me if I wanted to go to the _______?___________, And I did not understand him and said “Yes” and that is how I happened to land in the Basement and to see the Museum.
About four o’clock, tired almost to exhaustion, and after something to eat, I went to the depot and got on the Burlington-to-Chicago train, then standing on the siding and receiving passengers to change cars at Burlington for Canton, Missouri. I took a seat far in the rear of the coach and in about one minute I was asleep, and in my fatigue, I commence talking loud enough to wake myself up. I would open my eyes and all the passengers up front way would be turned quarter-way in their seats looking back at me and laughing. I answered their laugh with a smile, and went back to sleep and talked some more. If I was furnishing some free entertainment, and they enjoyed it, that suited me; they did not know me and I would never see them again.
My train got in to Burlington early the next afternoon and I saw what I could of Burlington, without too much walking before taking the evening train to Canton. I did not go all the way to Canton but had the conductor let me off at Santuzza — has a different name now — a flag station about five miles north of Canton, and only a little over a mile from home and I walked from there home. It was a nice warm clear December night and the ground was dry and good footing. It was now about ten o’clock and all had gone to bed except Mother, who was sitting up reading. I saw her as I passed by the window and rapped on the door. She asked “Who is there?” And I opened the door and walked in. She was so very glad to see me and opened the stair-way door and called them all down with “Frank in here”. I was given all the welcome and honor bestowed on the Prodigal Son. I remember Father’s face so well on that night, he looked tired, he was failing, and he lived but two more years. And this was the last winter I had at home when all were there.
In April the following spring I went back to Montana and taught the Bradley (Dana) school again which ended again in November as the year before. Passing this term over without comment, I wanted to change the teaching around a bit and teach through the winter instead of through the summer, for winter months were no good to me unless I could use them in the school room, whereas there were multiple uses I could make of summer time. So I wrote to every County Superintendent in the State and the only opening was a little rural school in the south part of Custer County. Now Powder River County, in the Powder River valley. It was located in Section 14, Township 6 South, and Range No. 50 Est, This was on the south side of the River and in round figures 100 miles south of Miles City as the road ran. And also about the same distance from rail road in any other direction. The school house was a little, low, roughly-laid-up log building—to call it a building is flattering—about 12 feet by 16 feet, outside, a ridge-log run lengthways through the middle with an additional one one either side. Poles about four inches in diameter and of varying lengths were laid from the ridge-log to the side-walls to start the roof. Coarse hay was spread over the poles and then covered with clay about eight inches deep. The hay was to prevent the clay from falling through inside. Dirt roof that is what they called them. The side-walls were not high enough to permit the windows upright, so two-sash windows, one on either side, placed horizontally, admitted light. The blackboard was an old smooth faced, homemade door of matched lumber, brought from somewhere, painted black and nailed against the wall. The picture verifies these statements. I somehow felt I was facing backward.
But there was lots of open land out there and I early filed an 160 acre homestead which included the land where the school house stood. I boarded at the John Broaddus ranch, one fourth mile from the school, at $12.00 per school month. The school paid only $50.00 per month with an additional five dollars the second year.
But all considered it was a very easy way for me to operate my homestead. I bought an ax and on Saturdays cut a set of house- logs from the cottonwood trees growing along the river on the place. With a team from John Broaddus I dragged out the logs and when the weather warmed a little in the spring I laid up the house on Saturdays, 14 X 16 ft. I hewed the logs and made neat smooth corners. Over the ridge logs I laid split cottonwood poles making a neat smooth job of its kind, over the split roofing I placed fine sage brush, the coarse hay, and then clay. This was called a “dirt roof”. This makes a warm roof in winter and does very well for a ‘one room’ out here where rainfall is limited. I pointed the walls up with mud. For a homesteader’s shack it did not look too bad and much better than most.
I also taught this school the following year, 1907-08, finished fencing the place and made final proof on the homestead.
In 1908, I was given principalship of schools in the little town of Ekalaka, the Custer County, now Garter County, at $85.00 per month. There were two assistant teachers. The following year an additional teacher was added, making four of us, and I received $90.00 per month. I was offered an increase in pay to stay the next year but I went back to my homestead to avail myself of the enlarged homestead rights enacted by Congress, and add more acres to my holdings. Also I had filed a Desert Right in the fall of 1909 and I wanted to fence and improve that. So I spent the next three years operating my land rights and teaching the local school again. A larger log school house had been built in the mean time but in other ways not much better.
In the fall of 1913 I went back to Ekalaka but by the middle school year a member of the School Board became interested in the Primary Room that he visited that room a couple of times a week overlooking all others. An atmosphere, unfavorable to the best operation of the school, developed and spread to the other rooms. My effort to correct this situation without naming it and bringing it to the surface were unsuccessful. The Primary teacher won the day and in the spring I was not rehired.
I now went back to the ranch as I shall call it from now on, and in the fall bought 72 head of calves from Oscar Broaddus at $30 per head and took care of them that winter, losing thirteen head by black-leg during the last part of the winter.
When spring came and plenty of green grass, I turned the calves on the range and went about my little farming and ranch work.
The about April 20, 1915 I received a letter from teh School Clerk over there reading as follows:
Ekalaka, Montana, April 16, 1915.
Mr. F.L. Funkenbusch, Graham, Montana. Friend Funkenbusch: The Trustees want to know if you are in position to accept the Principalship for the next term of school. Let me hear from you by May 8.
W. Freese, Clerk
P.S. And state what you want.
I answered the above letter promptly and about May 20 received the following reply:
“Ekalaka, Montana, May 17, 1915
Mr. F. L. Funkenbusch, Pinto, Montana.
Dear Sir: Your letter of May 7 reached me last Saturday. I called the Board together this morning. They accept your service as Principal of the School at $125.00 per month for the ensuing term.
W. Freese, Clerk”
I had explained that to come back I would want $125.00 per month. Their reply as above was in accordance with that figure. This was $25.00 more than I had been getting, but was in line with what class job was paying at that time. And at this point, to brush away any egotism that may seemingly appear in quoting the above letters, I feel it may not be out of place to quote a Christmas card I received last year from one of my 1908 and 1909 pupils in Ekalaka. Quote:”Ekalaka Montana, Dec. 9, 1962.
Dear Friends: It was such a pleasure to meet and visit with you again after so many years have flown by. As a teacher, Mr. Busch you were tops and a great inspiration to our school and our community. Trusting you are both well and wishing you and yours a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. To our dear old friends Mr. and Mrs. Busch
From Victoria and Charles Pickard”
I taught there 1915 and 1916 terms, Marrying in the mean time March 24, 1916 and after those terms devoted my full time to the ranch.Norma’s sister, Agnes L. Moore, went with us to the ranch on Powder River and taught the local school and at the same time exercised her remaining homestead rights on land adjoining our holdings. She had previously homesteaded 80 acres near Baker, Montana and was still eligible for 560 acres more.
Norma and I continued to use all of our additional land rights as they were increased by Congress, and when Norma came in possession of Agnes’s lands at her demise we had a total 1537 acres, lying mostly in Sections 23, 24, 25, 26 and 35 in Township 6 South and Range 50 East of the Montana Principal Meridian.
World War I started in 1914 but the United States did not become directly involved till 1917.
In 1918 the calves I had bought in 1914 were four years old, the proper age for marketing range beef in those days. We had had four good grass years and the steers were large and fat. Also the war prices prevailed and I did well on them even after losing so many the first winter, they weighed 1293 pounds average and sold for $15.40 per cwt.
Several ranchers of us threw our shipments together and drove them to Bell Fourche, South Dakota, about 120 miles, where we loaded them on Chicago Northwestern R.R. and shipped them to the market at Omaha, Nebraska. The 120 mile drive took about eleven days. This had been as easy or free drive from Powder River to loading point, open country and plenty of water, but was getting settled and fenced up now and we had a couple of little problems getting through.
Norma went on the passenger train and preceded me to Omaha, and we met at the Paxon Hotel. After selling the cattle we went to Canton, Missouri via, Burlington, Iowa to visit Mother and my brothers and sisters in and around Canton before starting back to Montana. Father had passed away eleven years before and was no longer there. This was the first Norma had met any of my relatives.
On return trip we came by St. Paul and Norma stopped off in Minot, N. Dakota for a short visit with her sister Angie, Mrs. P.A. LaFleur. This was just at the time of the heaviest attack of the Flu and it seemed that at nearly every train-stop a casket was either taken off or one put on. She stayed but one day with her sister hastening to get home before any flu attack. She brought along Maurice LaFleur her nephew, who stayed with us on the ranch for three years, going to school, and was valuable help with the stock and general ranch work.
“Lo The Poor Indian”
Yes there were Indians in Montana when I came out, so are there Indians here now. But “Lo the poor Indian whose untutored mind” was supposed to know all the intricacies and details of the White man’s law and to practice them more scrupulously and religiously than the White man did himself. On the advent of the White man the Indian understood how he could own his horse, his dog, bow and arrows, his stone ax, and his tepee; he could possess these things and go elsewhere with them. But to own land, something he could not possess himself of was something quite different.
The Indian of Southeastern North America, Mexico, and South America were quite agricultural in livelihood and well-enough understood tribal ownership of land. But the Indians living on the vast plains and prairies between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains were hunters and fishers and to them private ownership of land was something very abstract. The Indians in this vast area collectively owned the whole area and all the wild life and game thereon, deer, antelope, elk, beaver, buffalo. These animals were their main source of food. In 1870 forty million buffalo grazed the plains and prairies between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains; in 1880 they were nearly all gone, the last buffalo in eastern Montana was killed in 1883. The buffalo was the Indian’s main source of meat, now they were all gone, the civilized White man had shot them all down for their hides, most often taking only the tongue for food, and leaving the carcass to rot in the sun and the Indians starved to death by villages. I do not know just what the ‘White man’—as we love to call ourselves—would do now if strangers should come in and kill off all his cattle in that area and take only the hides. No where in the world has man ever run on the such a vast ocean of large herbivorous meat animals. And in those same days if the Indian was caught stealing a White man’s horse he was shot on the spot if possible. And the Indians had no recourse.
But this is what has come under my observations:
The Clark Fork (Missoula) River emerges from between rugged mountains to the east of Missoula and then flows northwesterly through a long flat valley toward Idaho. Missoula is located on the flat against the mountains and is out in two by the river, and is a north side and a south side town. The Bitter Root River flows in from the south and joins the Clark Fork just west of Missoula. The Bitter Root has a very rich fertile soil and due to warm southwesterly winds has a very late fall and a very early spring, the finest climate in Montana. Coldsmith would describe it, “Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid and parting summer’s lingering blooms delayed. Naturally this valley was well occupied by Indians when the White man first came over the hill, and he settled there, and some more settled there, and some more settled there, until finally the Indians with their flimsy portable tepees, has no room left. The White man had taken all this fine valley and something had to be done, and it was up to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Washington DC. Something had to be done, so the Bureau of Indian Affairs gave the Indians the Flathead country, a high infertile black prairie, deep snow and long winters one hundred miles to the north. And that is what the Indians wee given in exchange for their wonderful valley that flowed with milk and honey. But not all the Bitter Root Indians were settled on the Flathead; some were taken a hundred miles east from the Flathead, across the Rocky Mountains and settled on the open plains-like country east of Glacier National Park, and this was worse than the Flathead. I worked in this area November, December, and January, 1950-51 insulating Government buildings in the park. The Park is extremely mountainous and to get from one job in the Park to another the road often led down into the Indian country and then up some mountain canyon again into the park. U.S. Highway No. 2 crosses this Indian country and the first time we traveled over this stretch of No. 2 I noticed two fir poles about three inches in diameter and twelve feet long, limped off except for about a two-foot tassel in the topset in the ground four or five feet from the edge of the pavement. A hundred yards farther I noticed two more set opposite each other across the pavement, and so on, and so on. And I asked the driver “What are those things for?” And he said,” Why those are for the snow plow in the winter so he can tell where the road is when he is plowing out the road.” And the wind ALWAYS blows there; and it always blows HARD; and it always blows from the WEST; and the limbs of the trees are all on the east side of the tree; those coming out on the west side, under the constant westwind pressure, are bend eastward and grow around the tree in that direction. And this is what the Indians were given in exchange for the Bitter Root.
Conrad Kohrs, of Deer Lodge, was a big operator in the cattle business in the earliest days of that business in Montana. By the time I came to Montana, in 1905, free range in western Montana was already greatly reduced by settlement and he had reduced his operations accordingly and put his capital in a number of smaller enterprises. Among these smaller units was a meat market in Deer Lodge. In this he had a partner by the name of Bielenberg. Kohrs supplied the stock and Bielenberg operated the shop. Another small unit, and one which Kohrs operated himself, was a dairy ranch just north of Deer Lodge. It so happened one day in 1906 that a number of his dairy cows got through the fence and onto the Northern Pacific Right-of-way and some twelve or fifteen head were killed by the train. They lay there a day or two and were officially appraised and then buried. The Indians were there then and dug them up and used the meat. And the White man told about it and laughed. Another point closely related:- I was walking along the street in Deer Lodge one evening a little before sun-down and was approaching where an alley opened onto the street when an Indian crossed in front of me carrying a dead Plymouth hen which he had picked up in the alley.
And this is what the Indian got for his forty million head of buffalo.
But even under these adverse conditions the Indian has not done too bad. It seems almost impossible for him to adjust himself to actually cultivating the soil. He prefers to raise a little hay and stock, he likes horses. Some have done well and have good modern houses and drive good care but the great majority are less thrifty. The had lived, as stated, by fishing and hunting, and to be forced into the activities and habitat of the White man was like being forced into a different world, as onto Mars.
Ruth was garnering barley in the fields of Boaz four thousand years ago, and the Egyptians were raising wheat on the banks of the Nile five thousand years ago. How could the Indian span this great chasm in two or three decades.
Much could be written about the mistreatment of the Indian by the White man but they have no historian and time is fast running out. May some Homer come along some day and sing them in verse.
On the reservations now they have their own land, some horses and cattle, as already mentioned and poultry. They each get a small cash check from the Government a couple of times a year, and all received a dole of commodities monthly—flour, coffee, sugar, cheese, powdered milk and what have you. I envy them nothing, we took all they had and besides killed many of them off with guns.
Their greatest enemy is whiskey, and when they have the means they celebrate. They like to drive a car as fast as gasoline will drive it and then they miss the bridge or run into the ditch, and smash things up and some times themselves. Many live off the Reservation now, one family only a couple of blocks away and we have not better or finer neighbors. Most of those living off the Reservation are part white. While doing that work in the Park we often got into the little Indian town of Browning. Where were two restaurants there, one owned and operated by Indians and the other by Whites. I always patronized the former, the food was better prepared and greater in quantity.
How did all these cattle, belonging to everybody, mixing on the range, and straying as far as they pleased, always get back to their proper owners. This was done by the Round-up, presented here in some detail for it is gone, never to be seen again.
First, there were two heavy farm wagons with high sideboards, drawn by four horses each. One was called the Mess or Chuck (food) wagon. In the front of the Mess wagon was the water barrel, fastened down tight with a spicket so water could be drawn from the outside without climbing up into the wagon. In the back of the wagon was built an old fashioned kitchen cabinet, the single door was hinged at the bottom so when let down it made the cook’s work table with all small items conveniently in the shelves in front of him. Other coarser and larger things were carried in the wagon body. The other wagon was called the Bed Wagon, it carried the Cook’s stove, the bed rolls, a couple of axes and as many spades or shovels, the horse wrangler’s corral ropes, a small tent to cover the Cook’s cooking operations, and a large sleeping tent for use in cold or stormy weather, and many other necessaries.
The person possession of which the cowboy was most proud was his saddle which was invariably of the very best both in material and workmanship and material. Next was his bridle which often was silver mounted and expensive. They his boots which also were of first quality and workmanship, and often quite decorated. The toe of the boot was quite pointed in order that the wearer might the more easily find the stirrup. The heel was high to prevent going through and the foot becoming bound or fast in the stirrup. His bed was a first quality water-proof tarp about 7 feet by 15 feet. He laid the tarp flat on the ground and folded about three quilts length-wise and laid them, one at a time, on each other in the middle at one end of the tarp them a couple of wool blankets and another quilt and he had his bed. Rings spaced at even distances were sewed into one edge of the tarp, and small snaps, like spaced, were sewed into the other edge. He now folded in each edge of the tarp and engaged the snaps into the rings. He now brought the empty end of the tarpup, over the bed to the head and rolled it tightly toward the foot, buckled two straps tightly around it and there was his bed roll. Each cowboy knew his bed-roll form any other. He had no luggage, his extra clothes were rolled up in his bed. Each boy had a pair of leather chaparrals (shape) to wear in cold or wet weather to keep his legs dry and warm.
On getting dressed in the morning and rolling his bed he immediately put it in the bed wagon, and the Cook’s call “Come and get it or I’ll throw it out” he went to the wagon and cafeteria fashion had his breakfast.
The time and place of starting of the Round-up was always advertised in the newspaper, quoting in part from one such notice: –“The cattle men are all supposed to know that the roundup for this section of the Bad Land begins May 25 at the Beaver Creek crossing of the N.P.R.R. Every stock owner will send enough cowboys to look after his interests, _______________, foreman, John Goodall” The time taken by the roundup willl be six weeks to two months and the extent of territory is about one hundred by fifty miles. In this district there are about 40,000 cattle” The quote is from “Before Barbed Wire”. Note that this is five thousand square miles of territory an area exactly the size of the state of Connecticut. They year is not given of this notice but was probably about late 1880’s to middle 1890’s and many wagons working together were engaged. By 1905 there were but few big outfits any more and a unit of a thousand head of cattle was considered among the larger operators.
The roundups after 1905 were the same but on a much smaller scale, operators running 500 or fewer head. There were more operators and more cattle per square mile but the units were smaller. The place and date of the starting of the roundup was fixed as before and Reps came from distant parts of the territory, with his string of about six horses and with two ropes bound it on after the fashion of a double cinch saddle. If it was a two-day ride to the starting point he rode to some intermediate ranch, unsaddled, turned his horses loose in the pasture and went to the bunk house. When supper was announced he went in to supper, and often that was the first they knew who it was or where he was going. They only knew it was some Rep going to some roundup.
The area to be worked was usually some large water-shed by a creek or two a day. And the day starts about like this:–The Night Hawk who has herded the horses all night has the horses in the corral, the boys are all up, dressed and have their bed rolls in the bed wagon; and the Cook who has been up since three o’clock has breakfast ready and gives the “come and get it or I’ll throw it out”. The boys hasten in, take a tin plate, cup, etc. and in cafeteria fashion has his breakfast. Each boy stacks his used articles in place as he finishes and goes to the corral, catches and saddles his horse for the morning and is ready to go. The day hawk now takes over the horses and the night hawk gets some sleep.
It is breaking day now and the boss takes the riders out sending them down the different tributaries of the next creek to be rounded up that day and bring the cattle all together at a common center (roundup). The Cook turns his stove upside down to shake out all fire, thrown a couple of pails of water over it, and with the assistance of his helper sets it in the rear of the bed wagon. He is in a great hurry, he has to be at the next camp and have dinner ready by eleven o’clock for the roundup will be in. Four horses have been hooked to each wagon, the cook drives on and his helper the other and the way they go in a high trot wherever the roads will permit. Well they get there and have dinner on time.
The horse wrangler (day hawk) has the horses in the corral, a few of the boys stay with the herd while the others go in and eat dinner. Meals take but a short time, and they go immediately to the corral get a fresh horse and relieve the boys left on herd. After all boys get their after-noon horses the horses are released to graze again. It is about mid day now and the branding takes over. Wood for heating irons has been dragged in by saddle rope and the irons are in the fire and hot. Many irons are carried in the bed wagon for every Rep. must have his irons ready when his unbranded calves show up.
Two men are assigned to keeping the fire going and the irons hot. Two men handle the irons and apply the brand. Two men on horses do the roping and bring the calves out of the herd to the branding spot while a larger number of riders hold the herd together. Four men, working in twos, bring the calf to the ground and hold it while the brand is applied. To bring the calf to the ground is a trick and science of its own. If the calf is roped by both hind feet it is already down. But if it is roped by but one hind foot, say the right, the wrestler on that side gets firmly up against the calf, reaches over with his left hand and takes hold in the flank, and with his right hand grabs the calf’s left front leg close to the body, and now with his knee tight under its body he gives a sharp quick lift, a strong pull with the hands and the calf comes to the ground on its side. The calf is momentarily stunned and this gives the wrestler a little time, the one who threw the calf quickly puts his right knee on the calf’s neck and with his hands flexes the upper front leg sharply at the knee and rolls the calf slightly to its back so it cannot touch the other front leg to the ground. The calf is helpless now in front. The other wrestler got quickly sitting flat on the ground behind the calf and with his left foot in the calf’s lower hock pushed that leg far forward and with his hands pulled the upper (left) leg far back. The calf now has three legs in a helpless position and the fourth he cannot bring to the ground. The brand is now applied.
Methods of bringing the calf to the ground varies according to how it is roped; if roped by both front or both hind feet it is already on the ground but the manner and method of holding it there is always the same.
We have mentioned the corral that the horse wrangler carries along in the bed wagon and sets up in a few minutes. Let us see what this magic corral is and looks like. Well, it just looks like a pile of three quarter inch rope to me,and four stakes about four feet long sharpened at one end. The wrangler is setting it up now, let us see. He has driven the four stakes firmly into the ground in the form of a square about thirty feet along a side. He now makes an end of rope to stake 2 where he stretches it up, makes a couple of hitches to prevent the rope from slipping and goes to stake 3and does likewise, then to stake 4 stretches and makes the rope secure and lease the surplus rope on the ground. He now has the corral set up and the gate open. The horses are now driven into the corral, the surplus rope at stake 4 is now carried around to stake 1, stretched up and made fast, and the horses are in the corral and the gate closed.
I hear you day, “Don’t the horses jump over that rope, only three feet from the ground?” For two reasons they do not: – First the corral is surrounded by cowboys wanting to get their horse; Second, if a horse gets close to that rope a man on that side gives the rope a flip hitting the horse and he quickly gets out of its reach. They do not like the touch and sting of that rope. The corral is never made of any particular size but is set up according to the size of the remuda.
After the calves are all branded the boys ride gently away from the standing herd and each critter is free to go in any direction it pleases back to its favorite grazing and watering grounds.
It is now well past mid afternoon and the sun is still high but the Cook has supper ready. The boys have supper, sit around the smoke cigarettes (home rolled), spin yarns and go to bed, for they must be in their saddles and ready to go at day-light in the morning.
You say “Why all this early stuff?” Because cattle get out and graze early in the morning while it is cool and are easy to find. By ten o’clock they are full, in low places on water. And in brush for shade. Many would be out of sight and missed if rounded up the the warm of the day.
Let us visit the Cook again, he has been working since three o’clock this morning. Everything is in neat clean shape. It is sun-down and he has two quarters of beef on the table which he has had rolled up tightly in canvas all day. He has cut off meat needed for tomorrow and is hanging the rest out to night-air. He must have it rolled up in the tarps again before sun-up in the morning. If kept rolled in the tarps it would sour, if hit by the sun it will spoil.
The cook is most always a good-natured fellow, and if he is the boys like to give him a hand occasionally, and sometimes have a little clean fun at his expense. Then occasionally he might get one back on them, like this one: — The round-up was working the Otter Creek country in what is now western Powder River County, and the wagon was camped on Ten-Mile creek, a tributary emptying into Otter Creek from the east. The cook’s wagon camped on top of a high creek bank where the creek made a sharp elbow turn out again leaving a reservoir of clean clear water below. The cook had only to drop down a pail and rope up nice clear water for his cooking. The cook drove a couple of stakes in front of the elbow and stretched a rope across to prevent any one from stepping over the bank. Some of the boys pitched their face towels over this rope in the evening for use again in the morning. Then after supper, when all had gone to bed, he reset the stakes so the rope spanned the elbow and over the water. The next morning he so arranged his lantern and boxes so the rope and towels shone plainly in the lantern light but left the ground darkly shaded. When the boys crowded in to wash the next morning the first one getting washed stepped over to take his towel stepped over the bank and down into the water. And how the old cook did hollar and laugh.
The calf roundup run substantially through June and July by which time all but a few late calves were born and branded. There was always a day-herd carried along be longing mostly to the Reps. It was day-herded, and was guarded at night, a few added each day as they were picked up by the roundup, and a few cut out and dropped as they came to their home ranges. If the herd was small one man at a time rode guard round and round the cattle for two hours. He would then call second guard who rode for another two hours, when he would call third or last guard. This man built the cook’s fire before going on guard. It was recommended that the guard sing or hum a little as he rode around the cattle that he not come up on some critter suddenly causing it to jump up and rouse all the cattle and start the herd to milling. If there were two guards they rode around the herd in opposite directions that they might never one be riding closely behind the other.
In September the beef roundup started and the whole country was gone over again as before but with some difference in detail: — There was little or no branding and the day herd was al beef stuff for shipping to market. The day herd built up fast and on becoming too large and difficult to take along, was counted out and sent to Rail Road for loading and shipping to market as the roundup went on again. I saw the Spear Company count out 1020 four-year-old steers from the day herd in 1918 and send to shipping, and the roundup went on again. This was a lot of cattle for those days but was a smaller part of their total beef crop. the Spear was a big outfit for the day.
Smaller outfits were reducing the day herd daily as each John Doe came to his little ranch.
In the beef round up if a stray beef showed up and there was no Rep there to claim it it was usually put in a car with other brands and sent to market where the brand was read and the money sent to the proper owner. As a personal case of this kind: — In 1918 one of my own 4 year-old steers showed up in the roundup down in Wyoming, near a hundred miles from home, and of course there was no one there to claim it. But someone put it in with his shipment and sent it to Omaha where the brand was read and the money sent to me up in Montana.
The beef roundup is now over and the beef gone to market. The range population is very noticeably reduced and an autumn atmosphere of quiet and stillness fills the air as we ride over the range. The cowman is now thinking about the winter and how he will get his cattle through. He has put up a limited amount of hay for supplementary feed after mid winter when the pastures are becoming thin and eaten out. There will be no more roundup till next year and each rancher is more or less on his own in getting his cattle together and in his pastures. However he leaves them out long as possible and weather conditions permit, bringing in the most needlyone first. However neighbors ride together and bring each others stock in and are generally in to the home ranch at night.
But the cow bruit has a very strong tendency when winter sets in to return to where it wintered the year before and when the rancher rides to his outside gate in the middle and late fall he usually finds several head there waiting to be let in. But in the earlier days of the cattle business in Montana, before there were any fences, all stuff wintered outside shifting for themselves. It is surprising, when unrestrained by fences, they can always find places to graze free from blowing storm.
But in the early days, before fences, no attempt was made to bring stock in or give them special care. They had no pastures nor any feed except for their saddle horses; and where would they have put 25 or 30 thousand head of cattle. Of course they suffered winter losses but they had very little invested, outside of the stock, — just the ranch set-up. The grass was free and the land was unsurveyed and untaxable.
But in spite of all, the hard winters, particularly the winter of 1886-87, put many of the big outfits out of business.
For a real true and factual history of the early cattle business in America I cannot too strongly recommend that you read “The Trampling Herd” by Paul I Wellman. This wonderful story, if you would call it a story for it is history, and every character in it is a real flesh and blood person. It begins with the first seven head of European cattle landed on the North American Continent in 1521 — 99 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth — how the great herds developed and built up in Texas, and then the drives northward into Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and finallly into Montana to the Canadian line. And then Treats briefly of the great men and cattle companies that built up and operated in those states.
Why read fiction when fact is so much more interesting?
They if you want to learn about the early big outfits that operated in Eastern Montana read “Before Barbed Wite” by Brown and Felton. This book is exactly what the names implies: – The cattle business before there were any fences.
Please do not get the idea that the cowboy’s life of the early day was an easy life, it was everything except that. He was jolted a half day on the back of a horse making the roundup, then barely time enough to have his dinner and back to a fresh horse to the branding , and there is no more tiring work in the world than branding. Yes he went to bed earlybut he was generally called again in the middle of the night to stand two hours guard, to be called agian at 3 a.m. for breakfast, to start another day. His horse was always saddled and staked where he could be out of bed, dressed and in the saddle in five minutes if necessary in case of night thunderstorm or stampeed. He was always subject to call. At 45 or 50 he was pretty much stiffened up and was already a poor calf wrestler. He was an honest and patriotic worker for his outfit and usually stayed with his chosen employer from year to year. And for the benefit of those who now call themselves cowboys — but without disparagement — let me quote from “Before Barbed Wire”; “While the life of the cowboy has not passed as completely as has that of the hide hunter, bull whacker, Steamboat Captain, Indian Scout, and others, what remains is but a shadow of the life that it once was”.
One cowboy after years in other parts wrote:-” I was back in Montana three years ago, it was a sad sight for an old cowhand. The flats all plowed up, and all big outfits out of business. In our section of the country the big Companies counted their cattle by the thousands, now those that are left, and they are mighty few, count them by the hundreds. I found that most of the old cowpunchers had saddled a cloud and ridden into the grear beyond. The few that are left are retired, spend their time talking of the good old days and cussing the honyocker.: (Russian for farmer)
Mother came out and visited us on the ranch a couple of months in the fall of 1920. She had always thought Montana was a very cold country somewhere way up in the northwest where snow might be falling most any day of the year, and always being more considerate and thoughtful about her children then about herself she always worried a little about me way up here. But after seeing and getting acquainted with Montana first hand — the big country, the fine weather with its golden autumn leaves — her ideas of cold and snow completely disappeared and she thought Montana a wonderful country and half planned to come back again in two years. But she was getting old — she was 78 and her bodily strength was waning, and though she lived over four more years she never mentioned another trip to Montana.
Following the close of World War I in 1918 cattle prices remained good till about September 1919, when a sudden decline in the market set in which run through several years and by 1924 cattle were no longer considered very profitable. We sold the cattle that spring leased the ranch and I took a job on the U.S. Land survey, working out of Helena. Norma and children bisited her sister Mrs. F.A. LaFleur in New Rockford, North Dakota. Mr. LaFleur was foreman in the Great Northern round house there, and after that went on to Canton, Missouri till fall. We spent the winter in New Rockford, where I worked for the Great Northern R.R. unloading coal from the cars into the coal dock for engine use.
Dropping these activities for a time I wish to go back and bring up a little profitable side line I had followed along with my teaching and ranching since 1909. In that spring I bought a good Gurley surveying outfit; Transit, chain (tape) and pins, leveling rod etc., and followed a little surveying. I maintained no office but did private work on calls. The broad unsteeled plains country lying east of the Rocky Mountains in Montana and Wyoming were widely advertised and rapidly steeled up by newcomers mostly form Nebraska and surrounding states.
These newcomers wanted to know where their lines were and where to build their fences. This gave me considerable profitable employment, but not steady work, without interfering with my teaching and limited ranching.
Then in February in 1919, when the State Legislature created Powder River County from the southern part of Custer County I was named in the bill as County Surveyor. The County Commissioners named in the bill, met at Olive Montana —as provided in the bill — and selected Broadus as the temporary County Seat until a permanent location would be determined by the voters of the County at the first general election. Broadus at that time was just a sagebrush flat on the Powder River bottom lands. And I, working under the direction of the County Commissioners, surveyed out the original town of Broadus, and named most of its streets. The county work was good till about 1923 and then went the way of the cattle market. In the spring of 1924 we left he ranch and I took the survey job already mentioned.
In February 1925 we went back to Montana casting our lot with Missoula and bought a small unfinished house at 2030 S Seventh St. which was the SW corner of the block. At Missoula I worked in a green house which is by no means light work nor at all to my liking. In August 1927 I quit the green house and we went back to the ranch by way of Denver. This was a very bad move for in the next seven years we virtually lost the ranch, and as a result, did a few years later.
In the fall of 1934 we moved to Broadus where Frank Junior entered High School and the following fall Norma and he came back to our little home at 2030 S Seventh St. in Missoula and Junior started his sophomore year in H.S. I was in charge of the Government Pubic Works Projects in Powder River and remained in Broadus. This job required traveling over the county about once weekly and with my car mileage was a very nice paying job. In April 1939 I joined Norma and Junior in Missoula and in 1940 we bought the 5-acre tract where we now live operating it from 2030 S seventh. I ahd made a couple of visit Norma and Junior in Missoula during my work-stay in Broadus and Junior had been down to see me. The 5-acre tract we bought was unimproved. We hired the land plowed and with a work horse we had bought and a few farm tools I worked the plowing down and put out an acre of raspberries, and half an many strawberries. The rest of the land we planted to potatoes. The strawberries fruited the first year and I sold them from door to door and we did well on them. The potatoes also made a heavy yield and I marketed them like the berries, from door to door, getting a dollar per hundred pounds. I sold most of the potatoes north of the N.P.R.R. track and the berries on East Front. I also plowed and prepared local house gardens with the one horse and spring of 1940 at 75 cents an hour, making about $7 per day while the season lasted. This was not too bad at that time for work and money were both scarce.
In the fall of 1942 after the fruit was off and marketed I took a job in the woods with the Anaconda Copper Co., lumber department but had the misfortune to break my left leg below the knee in December and was laid up the rest of the winter but received accident compensation. But I liked and was interested in the log work and would much rather have worked for my money.
In February 1943 brother Charley’s wife, Florence, died and in the summer I asked him to come out in September and take a job in the woods with me. He came out as suggested and we went to the woods for the Anaconda Company early in October. He like the work, ogt promotions to higher pay and did well for himself and the Company till 1950 when he quit and went back to Missouri.
I quit the logs in 1947 and after fruit harvest in the fall took a job with a Missoula Insulating —people had commence insulating their houses both for comfort and for fuel economy. Here I carried my lunch and was home at nights, I could live cheaper now, the job paid more money, and I could save more money than I could when paying board in the logging camp. Also this work fitted in with my farm work better, insulate in the winter and raise berries in the summer.
By 1952 most all old houses were insulated and new houses were insulated with blanket by the carpenters while constructing. Of course attics were still “blown” but business became limited, competition sharper, and profits narrower. The big rush was over.
By this time, too, I began feeling my age creeping up and had to overtax myself a little to do a day’s work. So I commence drawing on my Social Security on slack months an going on the job only when it was inconvenient for them to get a man.
After dropping out of the insulating job I raised about ten tons of potatoes each year along with the berry business which had long been yielding substantial profits. We had greatly increased our berry acreage and did continue the door to door selling. We sold to local stores and shipped to retailers in other towns as we still do.
I like to raise and sell potatoes and am planning to raise three or four tons next summer, which I will advertise and sell them cash and carry, and I do not drive any more.
Well, this just about ends up the first 84 years of my life and if anyone finds anything interesting or useful in it someday I will be glad.
Frank L Busch
Route 1, Sprugin Road,