Sagebrush and Sourdough
Colaborador: toooldtohunt Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
The desert sky was like a velvet blanket at night; a velvet blanket with bright twinkling Christmas lights. Even the rolled up pair of jeans felt soft under my head. A day of riding herd made this twelve year old appreciate a chance to just lie down. This was my first trip through the desert with the cattle. I’d heard so much about it I was familiar with the names of all the places and felt as if I’d been there before.
We were camped at the old Charles Hunt place, on the Muddy River, just one day out, on a seven-day push. My lips were burned and swollen already. We’d been rounding up cattle for ten days before starting on the trail that would take us from Hanksville to Sheep Valley. The cattle would stay there from June until October, when the drive would be reversed.
Our horses were grazing close by and t****ll we’d put on “Old Sis” (LaVor’s gentlest horse) gave us a sense of security. If the horses moved out in the night, we’d be in trouble. We’d tied one bally-faced mare up to a tree in case we had to go after them.
We’d packed only the essentials, which included a bedroll, one pair of spare pants (not for reasons of cleanliness), just in case one met with an accident, water, oats for the horses, and a little grub.
T****droll consisted of a bed tarp, a piece of canvas wrapped over and under a couple of quilts. We’d use the packsaddle quilts for a mattress, making sure the wet sweaty side was down. Once I packed t****droll behind the water barrel and the water leaked all over it. I found out the hard way, it’s better to put t****droll in front of the water barrel. When we’d bed down for night, I always had to sleep in the middle, with Uncle Lonnie on one side and Grandpa Harve Taylor or Wade Grundy on the other. We were so tired we didn’t mind being crowded. In my case, the middle was just fine, especially when the coyotes howled. We were just grateful we didn’t have rain and have to pitch a tent. Sometimes we were lucky and made the whole trip without a tent.
Tired as I was, my mind was filled with the events of the last few days. When the wranglers gathered in Hanksville for rounding up the cattle it was a holiday for us, as we didn’t see a lot of people while living on the ranch. They’d all gather at the church for an old fashioned hoedown. Some of the upper county cowboys would bring a little wine or bourbon and they’d have a good time. Romulo Artego and Uncle Lonnie would put on a floorshow with their fancy step dancing. They paid the fiddler’s fee the next morning.
Romulo told the story of a morning after when he had skull cramps and stomach cramps too. He’d gotten down from his saddle several times to relieve himself, only to p*** a little gas. After a few times of this, what with having to unbuckle chaps and pants, he decided to just ride it out. That was a mistake. This time his needs were for real. “My *** she foola me,” he said. Well a cowboy has his problems.
The flannel sheets felt good and even the hard ground was conducive to sleep. It seemed we’d just get into bed when it was time to get up. Daylight came early in June, and our horses required much care. I ran to help saddle and pack the animals. Packing an animal was an art. First we’d pad their backs well with old quilts not used for that purpose. The riggin’ came next, with all the straps-the packsaddle itself went over the horns with more straps. The saddle was filled with grub, oats, and water and tied again. Bedroll came last. Then all was tucked in and canvassed over in case of rain or contact with brush and tamarack or greasewood sage. All the time the horse would be kicking and bucking and trying to lie down or brush the load off.
Taking care of the horses took every minute of our camp time. They had to be watered, shod, fed, unpacked, tethered, belled, and then next morning you started all over again. If they were to get away in the night, we would be without transportation and could not handle the cattle or go for help. The horses were our first priority. Horses are a lot like people. Some will cooperate and get the job done easily. Some have to be pushed, led or whipped to do it. A few will do it bucking and kicking all the while. The pack animals were the worst. They’d try to roll over on their packs, breaking all the eggs and just being plain miserable. If they’d see a tree, they’d try to brush the packs off. They were always trying to pull the leads out of your hands. Once I couldn’t hold one and he took off back to Hanksville. It took Uncle Lonnie half a day to catch it and bring it back. **** (Rees) cussed me, but Uncle Lonnie said to leave me alone for I couldn’t have helped it.
**** never had sons and we tried him some. He was a small man who wore Justin rough boots, Levi’s and standard cowboy gear. He’d complain at us for eating canned milk and sugar on our cereal. It seemed we were always thirsty and drinking the precious little water. I was always thirsty and my lower lip was about three times its normal size. After a few days it would split and I couldn’t eat much.
Most of the cowboys I knew smoked Bull Durham, but Uncle Lonnie smoked Prince Albert. I’ve seen movies where cowboys roll their own cigarettes, but hell, anybody could roll a cigarette with his butt flat on a pole fence and both hands free. These guys could roll their cigarettes while riding a horse in the wind with one hand. That was a skill I didn’t develop, as my lip never let me smoke. It couldn’t stand the heat. Thinking back, I guess a smoke took care of both hunger and thirst and may have been a part of their survival.
We’d camped at Salt Wash the second night out. Grandpa Harve, my mother’s father, had cooked a good supper, salt bacon, potatoes and eggs. The horses were all cared for and that bed looked mighty good. As I peeled my Levi’s off, I examined the sores on the inside of both knees. They were made from constant rubbing against the leather saddles. They were about 2 ½ to three inches across and bloody sore. I stood away from camp a little to relieve my poor bladder, when I remembered quite painfully why I should have left my pants on until that job was finished. No matter how carefully one performed that chore, a few drops always landed on the sore knees, a pain that can only be appreciated from experience.
About 1 O’clock in the night a wind came and filled everything with sand. It had no respect for bed tarps, tight kegs or grub boxes. We shook t****dding, checked the animals and went back to sleep. Sand didn’t hurt the sores on your knees nearly so much as other things.
The days were beginning to run together. “You git so sunburned and wore down you’d forgit what day it wuz.” Third night, Middle Desert, fourth night-Black *****, or Les’ Cabin or the drift fence and so on. The lead cows were far ahead and the newborn calves were weak and often had to be carried on the saddle with us. My dog, Old Hank, was sore footed and from about midmorning on he rode behind me too. Old Sis didn’t seem to mind the ungainly load. What a sight we made, dog-calf-boy, all in one saddle and still trying to wrangle cattle.
It seems strange now that most of our animal’s names were prefaced with “old.” There was Old Sis, Old Socks, Old Hank, Old Boots and that old dung cow. Maybe the animals were born old in that harsh environment, or maybe only those old in wisdom were good enough to “hurdle the culls,” (pick out). Those herd dogs were smart and could do the work of several cowboys, especially in the tamarisk. They didn’t require the care nor complain, as did the horses.
We always looked forward to camping at Salt Wash because it was a favorite watering hole for the bands of wild horses in the area. We could always leave the herd long enough to chase horses. What a thrill it was to rope one of the wild horses that roamed the desert! Your own horse had to be strong enough to catch up with them and you had to be skilled enough with a lariat to rope one. I was seventeen before I was able to rope one of my own. I had tied it to a tree for safekeeping one night and I had left the rope too long. The horse had enough room to thrash around and ran a tree limb into his belly. I had to shoot him the next morning. **** really cussed me for that negligence. I was feeling pretty bad on my own though. It took a group of skilled cowboys to chase and catch wild horses.
About the third day out, I was dreaming along thinking about Butch Cassidy and his gang running here and wishing I could meet his ghost, when Old Sis started to buck and snort and pitched me on my backside in the brush. I jumped up and started after her just about the time a rattlesnake lunged. He wasn’t too sharp at judging distance because he missed us both. It sure kept things from being dull. I asked for another drink of water and **** said, “Damn kinds drink all our water,” and we went on as usual.
We carried our eggs in the bundles of oats to keep them from breaking and boiling in the hot desert sun. One year Dad decided we’d break them into quart jars and they’d be handier to carry and we could take more with us. The first day out worked real well, those eggs just poured out into the pan as nice as you please. The second day the half bottle shook and got hot and we had a dandy homemade stink bomb. From then on we just put the eggs in the oats like before.
The first two nights out we’d had Ma’s homemade bread, but now Grandpa (Harve) was making sourdough “slugs.” He’d carefully roll down the top of the cloth flour sack and make a little hole in the flour. He’d take the sourdough jug, (a special container with a wire bale holding the lid secure), and pour some into the flour. He’d turn the edges in until it was just the proper consistency. By this time the skillet was dancing hot and my mouth so full of saliva I couldn’t say a word. He’d see how hungry I was and tease me saying, “Ah, you don’t want any of these biscuits do you? I’m using the same hand to mix them with that I wiped my behind with.” Then he’d pinch off just the right amount of dough, flatten it with the palm of his hand and slap it on both sides in the grease. When the pan was properly full, he’d carefully close the flour sack and leave enough of the dough, with a little water added to put back in the jug for tomorrows pancakes. Nothing ever tasted better, before or since, than Grandpa’s biscuits, or the sourdough slugs, smothered with Ma’s homemade jam. I liked to hear “Cut the bread, Harve,” but I liked to hear “P*** the slugs, Harve,” better.
A good sourdough start was sometimes years old. When someone let theirs get too old or ran out, they’d borrow a start from the neighbors. Many sourdough starts were handed down from one generation to another.
We were getting close to Thousand Lake Mountain now, the cooler air, the shady trees and the promise of fresh venison prodded us on. We knew we’d have fresh grub and horses at Round Lake. Ma and Dad would meet us there. They’d have tents pitched and food prepared. If I was lucky, ****’s shapely daughter would be there too. A guy could get mighty lonesome just watching the backside of cows and horses ears for a week. She’d smell better than Grandpa and Lonnie besides.
Just when we thought we’d never make it, we’d top the rise and there they’d be with fresh horses and food. I think I missed my many brothers and sisters more than the hot meals. I loved to tease and there just wasn’t time or inclination to play on a trail ride.
We weren’t through by any means. We still had to push the herd about thirty miles to Sheep Valley. We had different obstacles there. As we drove around Forsythe and up Danish Trail a lot of the going was single file and other range cattle had arrived. We had added our range bulls at Forsythe and they fought with the other bulls along the way. We had to keep our cattle segregated from the others and it required constant maneuvering of a man and his horse.
As we camped at Forsythe one night all the adults had gone to town and left me, my older brother Arlen, younger brother Dale and a cousin Boyd, camped down with the cattle. We’d camped on the creek with the herd in the canyon. It started to rain in the night and the lightning put on a show with more fireworks than the Fourth of July. We just knew we’d be flooded out or electrocuted! Anyone who has weathered a storm in a waterproof tent will know there is no such thing. Our bedding was wet and cold and we were scared to death. What a glorious sight the sun was after such a night.
When we finally reached Sheep Valley, we were kept even busier still. Fences had to be mended and the cows had to be branded and marked. We vaccinated for black leg and waddled them. We castrated, dehorned and branded.
This part of the job was both repulsive and exciting at the same time. It was fun to get to try your skills at roping the calves and bull dogging. The acrid smell of burning hair was hard to get used to, but soon became part of the job. We’d build a hot fire to heat the branding irons. It had to be tended constantly. As the calves were lassoed for this purpose the bull calves where castrated and wattled. The by-product of the castrating operation would provide supper for us. We called them Rocky Mountain Oysters, but I still prefer good old saltwater oysters.
The hot fire, the smell of the branding process and the bawling of the calves for their mothers made us appreciate the end of the day and the quiet of evening. The soft bawling of the cattle was different at night. It became almost a lullaby. We spent another three or four days there.
We’d get to Loa just in time for the Fourth of July and could rest up by hauling hay. Anyone who thinks a cowboy’s life is all glamour should try it. It isn’t just roping horses and eating sourdough.
In Loving Memory of Freeman Earl Brown
Colaborador: toooldtohunt Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
A Tribute given by his Niece
Arla Mae B. Jensen
Uncle Earl was born April 15, 1933 to Charles LaVor and May Taylor Brown. He was the third child in a family of seven. He was very close to his two brothers and four sisters, who were very special to him. He loved to buy gifts for his family and parents.
The year he was a senior he lived with Uncle Veral and Aunt Nita Taylor. They treated him like a son, and Earl loved their family.
He fell in love with Nadine, and they were married August 12, 1954. They’re marriage was sealed for all time and eternity in the Salt Lake L.D.S. Temple on June 17, 1986.
He was a “toucher” always a hug, a pat, and a kiss. It didn’t matter if he had just met you, he knew he was going to like you. He was never father, but daddy, or dad or “hey you” when he had tuned you out.
He could make you feel like you were his best friend, his favorite child or the most beautiful woman in the world.
He was never stingy with his love nor his money. If he was someone in need he gave them a way to fulfill that need.
His children and grandchildren were his pride and joy. He loved his grandkids and anyone else’s children, he always tried to get a hug, wiping their noses, and a candy bribe, if necessary.
He bought bed bugs (candy in little containers) for his grandkids and Michaels’ kids. Joe Chappell’s store in Nephi was the bed bug store.
He liked to travel, meeting new people, leaving Brown Brothers hats everywhere he went. He never met a stranger. He liked to be called Uncle Earl, whether he was related or not.
He dared to dream, always giving ideas about gadgets, making things easier. He always wanted to make the most of land and water. His mind was always active, the gears were always turning. He loved to own land, testing soil, making it produce more and better things. He liked panning for gold, having rocks assayed, looking for arrowheads and riding his four wheeler.
He liked to hunt, fish and associate with people. He was excellent at operating any kind of heavy equipment. As part owner of Brown Brothers Construction, he took much pride in all the work that was done. He was a negotiator, and worked with the engineers and the crew to keep peace and to get the job done.
He served as Wayne County Sheriff for 8 years. As Sheriff, he came in contact with all kinds of people, some he even brought home to sleep, because he didn’t have the heart to put them in jail. He was proud of being a police officer. He had respect for that position and the friends he found there.
He served 2 terms on the Loa Town Council, Past President of the Wayne Wonderland Lions Club, served as YMMIA President, and Counselor in the Loa Ward Sunday School. He was a member of the Volunteer Fire Department for 25 years and had served as Fire Chief.
He often felt Grandma Brown tugging on his sleeve and was influenced by the kind of person she was. He enjoyed life and put up a hard fight right to the end to live.
He loved Lynda and Chris as much as his own kids, always making his children his friends.
He dearly loved his wife Nadine, and together they had something special.
HE WAS SPECIAL AND WE LOVED HIM….
We will all miss Uncle Earl and always remember him because he made the world a better place to live…