Note from the typesetter–the following story was handwritten by my dad, Bud Taylor, when he was beginning to feel the effects of his Parkinson’s Disease. I typed it so we could share it more easily. I left the language, spelling and grammar as I found them to keep it authentic. They’re from the hand of an old rancher with a 10th grade education, a sharp mind and an interesting life. I wish we could still sit down with Dad and Mom and listen to these stories firsthand, but these typed words will have to do. Ryan Taylor
Jamestown Horse Drive
I was in Montana the summer of 1934. Gordon (Gordon Taylor, a cousin to Bud’s father who ran some 500 horses and mules near Culbertson, Mont.) had sold a lot horses that year as grass was real short and the only grass was on the river sandbars. A man from north of Crookston, Minn., got a few loads. All I can say for sure was Gordon got two loads back in the spring 1935.
He came to Towner by car, a 1927 Buick Coup, and a homemade two wheel horse trailer with one saddle horse in it. He left the car and horse in Towner, got on train and went to Minnesota and came back with 2 loads of horses that the buyer had never paid for. Were pretty good horse geldings out of Percheron stud. Not just ponys, weighed 1200 to 1400 pounds.
It was March or February of 1935, not sure, there was lot of snow. I was in school and helped him take them to a pasture 13 ½ miles south of Towner. He had a horse, part thoroughbred, named Dillinger that was in the load from Minnesota. I rode Dillinger and he rode Frosty, the white horse he hauled up from Montana in the trailer. We stopped at Joe Voellers about 2/3 of the way down and he gave us dinner. The horses were tired and glad to stop and eat also.
We got to the Slate place and left the horses, all but Frosty. Axel Kongslie met us there as it was his pasture land. Gordon and him went to the river ranch that Axel lived on, I’d say 7 or 8 miles northwest and I took Frosty down there that night before dark and he took him up back to town. Gordon took Frosty back to Montana and came back June 1 or so with a roan horse called Roany. He bucked me off one time over by Three Buttes southeast of Culbertson. We were helping Dan Walters get in horses and were going down hill pretty fast and he put me down. Dan came by and I rode behind his saddle until we got to the pens.
Roany had broke the bridle lines. Gordon put a rope on and tied each side to the bit and rode him. He didn’t get bucked off and he gave his horse to me to ride rest of the time, a brown horse called Shorty.
Getting back to 1935, Don Taylor came on train from DevilsLake to help us as far as Minnewaukan. Don, no relation to us, was the son of old Frank Taylor an old black man and horse trader north of Towner. He had two sons, the other one was Raymond Lazier or Bud Lazier as he was called at times. Frank raised Don.
Don was sharp and witty. One time Earl Talmage’s cattle got on Frank’s land and Don took a 30-30 and shot several two-year-old steers from the upstairs window of the house and killed them. The law was after him. He took a freight train to Culbertson and stayed at Gordon’s awhile and went on to Wolf Point, Mont. and said he was part Indian or one of them. He came back some time later. Never went to the penitentiary as far as I can recall.
He married a German girl, went to Devils Lake, had a family, left her and enlisted in the army. I was told he got the bronze star and died in California. I would say he was born in 1913 or maybe 1916, not sure.
We started trailing those horses after I got out of school in June, the first day we got as far as Balta Stockyards, had to pump water by hand pump, didn’t feed anything once it was night. If we came to a good grass section line with fence on both sides, one of us would stay on each end and let them fill up on grass.
When you turned out they run awhile but later on would slow up some.
We slept in a small tent and cooked our own meals, mostly eggs and spuds fried on a small iron stove with a wood fire. Gordon was the cook, had his own style of fixing food. I never forgot a pail of eggs he got at a farm one day. We stopped that day and I asked how you going to keep them eggs from all breaking. He said that’s easy, he filled a 12 quart pail with water and put all the eggs in and boiled the whole bunch. We ate them, but towards the end they got pretty black under the shells.
And the spuds he would slice up, put in a little grease to start them and then fill the skillet half full of water, then put a cover on and cook until they were done. Never ate that way before or after. Put on salt and pepper and you could get them down if you were hungry. No fresh meat, a little bacon and ham, some canned goods was the size of it. We also had bread and coffee, don’t recall any butter, maybe syrup and peanut butter to put on bread.
Went to bed at dark and got up early. Gordon never drank any I knew of, didn’t smoke either, never played cards as I knew of, didn’t have much to do but go to bed. Your toilet was behind a tree if there was one handy. Carried water, and didn’t waste any either.
The next stop was Baker, N.D. I never will forget it as we camped near the yards and they had an electric light plant that ran all night and could hear it a long way off. It was either gas or coal oil not sure. I do know Towner’s first plant was run by two 25 horsepower kerosene engines or coal oil as it was called then. Anyway it’s hard to get to sleep when you’re used to no noise at all.
The next stop was Minnewaukan. He got a pasture rented and we stayed a week waiting for the next horse sale at Jamestown Auction.
We took Don back to DevilsLake and Gordon and I took the horses from there to Jamestown alone. We had to cross the JimRiver or a creek, don’t recall for sure. We had a little trouble in the crossing as there was trees and brush but we made it okay.
Speaking of the James River we camped by it just north of the bridge in Jamestown on west side below the hill. Elders Bros. Horse Auction was by the street up the hill from the bridge. Getting back to our camp, one day the sheriff came out to see what we were doing there. Gordon told and he left, now there are houses and dealers all along the river for a mile or so north.
Anyway if it was going good I would move the horses alone and he would go ahead with the car and Roany in the trailer if I got in trouble so he had a horse to ride.
The last day me and him put them in the yards on top of the hill no trouble. The next day after dinner they had a sale most of them sold for $40 to $50 each. Sold Dillinger also, don’t remember the price, maybe $35. It was late when we left there. We loaded up, put Roany in trailer, got into Towner about 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. Stopped at the stockyard, unloaded Roany, put the tent over the trailer and went to bed in the trailer. They had what you call a canvas tarpolin canvas about 6 ft. wide and 12 ft. long, it had snaps on one side and folded it so you had a cover under and over you. It kept the bed clean.
Well that’s the end of it. That’s the way it was in the 1930’s. Gordon was 56 years old, I was 14 years old. He was a real old time cowboy and I must have been a pretty good hand for a young boy.