Montana was a fun and interesting time for us, it was also the end of my career working for others as a ranch hand or ranch manager. Some of what happened to us there I will never be able to write, but we learned a lot about humanity and ourselves while we were there. A couple of things that happened would have been better settled with a gun but being in prison would not have served me well. There’s a good chance that even with a manslaughter charge instead of murder I would have been there long enough that my bride would have moved on.
We were turned out twice by 2 different outfits in the fall with no place to live and no feed for our cattle. After busting my ass all summer putting up hay, that was more than wrong. When all you have is someones word and when it comes time to turn you out the boss is no where to be found its hard to fight thin air. Blood I found out was thicker than the ink on my paycheck.
It wasn’t all bad though and like I said we did have some fun and made some lifelong friends. So if I haven’t chased you off, lets talk about ‘Montana’.
The other day I was thinking of something that happened to us the evening we left Montana. We were living at Kidd Montana on the north end of the airstrip in one of the Briggs ranch houses.
My dad and brother had drove up in a ten wheeler to load us up and haul us back to Idaho. We were done with Montana and I had turned a job down at the TS in Battle Mountain Nevada and quite possibly we were done with ranching all together at least for some one else.
By evening we were loaded up and Joy and some of the kids were in our Ford Fiesta and I had some of the kids in our pickup with me. I was also towing a single axle horse trailer with our Appaloosa gelding aboard. He’s the horse featured in the one photo that Joy is riding. We had picked him up from Doc Nichols in Mount Pleasant Utah and was all we owned in horses for several years.
Coming down I 15 on the south slope, a wheel came off of the trailer and went racing down the road past me. The road was snow covered so we weren’t going fast at the time and no harm was done.
The problem was the axle had broken and there was no way to put the wheel back on. Spencer Idaho was just down the road a few miles so I unloaded Smokey the Appaloosa gelding and swung up on him bareback and headed down the freeway at a slow lope, trotting at times because I was going to be leaving him there for the night and didn’t want him too hot and wet even though I had a wool blanket that I was going to cover him with.
Dad or Bruce my brother drug the trailer down the snow covered road and was waiting at Spencer for me when Smokey and I arrived.
We dropped the trailer, secured Smokey to it and after covering him with a blanket continued on our way to Rupert Idaho, roughly another 200 miles from where we were at.
The next day dad and I grabbed his snow mobile trailer and a couple of hand winches and headed back to Spencer. Dad asked as we went through Rupert if this was a ‘six pack of Pepsi day’. I figured it was since we weren’t an alcohol drinking family; which wouldn’t have been a bad idea at times.
We had some ideas on how we were going to get it all done but after loading the horse trailer on a snow mobile trailer we were trusting that Smokey would load into the trailer loaded on another trailer. It would rival anything in a modern day trail class.
About 2 miles short of the Spencer exit we came across a backhoe heading to the Spencer cemetery to dig a grave. We asked him if he had time, how much he would charge to load our trailer; the price which I can’t recall was very reasonable.
Smokey was fine and in good spirits to see us; we had brought him a few pounds of hay and he went to work on it as we got things loaded and secured for our trip back to Rupert. He never missed a beat and stepped onto the snow mobile trailer and into the horse trailer like it was just another day at work.
We made it back to Rupert without further incident and I went to work trying to figure out what I was going to do for a living.
Loping Smokey down that freeway in the dead of night New Years Eve 1982 is as fresh in my memory as if it happened last night.
That was the tail end of Montana for us; I’ll go back and fill in the blanks from the beginning but it’s not going to happen in one post.
There’s Elk hunting trips and run-ins with the Fish and Game; bronc rides and guiding professionally still to some.
Oh yeah, there are a few snake stories as well.