A bunch of us were pulled out of Opal one
fall late in November. There were five of us in fact - my brother
Ralph, Irve Lozier, Nels Jorgensen, Jack Reynolds and myself. Each
of us had on from ten to sixteen head of horses and we were loaded heavy.
We had on freight mostly for Pinedale, Cora and the tie camp at Kendall.
The weather was bad, colder than sixty and the going was as bad as I ever
saw it. By the end of two days our horses looked like a bunch of
gutted humming birds, and we had only one thought. That was to get
to Billy Graham's place on Slate Creek where we hoped we could buy some
hay and lay over to let our tired horses rest. Billy Graham's ranch
sat right on the old freight road and he sort of ran a road ranch as well
as a sizable band of sheep, but he was one of the most unpredicable men
I ever knew. Sometimes he would make freight outfits and beef drives
plumb welcome and other times for no good reason at all he would run anyone
off that wanted to put up at his place. It was a funny way for a
man to do who ran a road ranch. Some said that it was the sheep market
that ruled his disposition. For instance if wool and wethers were
up, no one could get along with him. But if the market was bad, he
was as meek and obliging as could be. He always seemed to know what
the market was, too, even without a telephone or radio.
Well, it was the afternoon of Thanksgiving when we pulled up in front of Billy Graham's place and asked if we could put up and let our horses rest and have some hay. I guess that the sheep market must have hit an all time high for it didn't take him long to let us know that he would have none of us or our horses. He was a cockney Englishman and always dropped his h's. I'll never forget him. He was a round pot bellied little man with a red face and his face seemed to turn purple as he hollered, "Be hoff with ye naow. I'll be avin' nothin' of you fryeters and your bloody orses." We were mighty disappointed, but there was nothing for us to do but to "be hoff." So we pulled on past his place and on down the creek.
We had gone about a mile when we all stopped and held a pow wow about camping for the night. We could see a little way back up the road a big pile of baled hay inside of old Billy's field and that weather was getting colder. For a few minutes we didn't do anything but cuss Billy Graham and his onery disposition. Then all of a sudden Jack Reynolds stopped cussing and said, "Boys, I'll bet all that is the matter with him is that he is lonesome. Some of us should take him a bottle and visit with him for awhile."
Well, I never saw an idea run through a bunch of men's heads so fast without it first being outlined. Ralph had on a consignment of whiskey for the tie camp and it didn't take us long to tap a keg and fill two bottles, one for Jack to take up to Billy's as Jack was appointed to go calling, and the other bottle to fight off pneumonia in camp. We told Jack that we would take care of his horses so he could get under way quicker. He caught his saddle horse. Every frieghter always had a saddle horse along for a wrangle horse. These wrangle horses were interesting. They were always kept saddled during the day but were never led. They were just turned loose. They would stop and graze, run up and down along the team, or sometimes take off after a wild range bunch as though they were pulling out for good. But they would come back pretty soon as hard as they could run for that freight outfit was home, and also that was where they always got oats. At night they were blanketed and tied up to one of the wagons while everything else was turned loose. To return to my story, all Jack had to do was catch and bridle his horse and pull out with his bottle. Of course we all had a drink first.
It was after dark when we heard Jack coming back to camp. He was singing, "She's Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage." At least the noises he was making were his idea of singing. Jack never tried to sing unless he felt pretty good. We figured he must have had a good visit from the noise he was making. The rest of us had taken good care of all the horses and were ganged up on the cookng of supper. When Jack rode up to camp he let ot a yell and asked was supper ready. We hollered right back, "Sowbelly and beans, come and get it!" We heard him taking care of his horse out by his lead wagon where he always tied him and muttering something about the big bunch of grease wood right there and how much it smelled like timothy hay. They he came on over to the fire. He was leaning pretty well to the west but traveling fairly good at that.
That supper out there on the old freight road was one of the best we had in a long time and one that none of us probably ever forgot. I am the only one left of that bunch of freighters and I can still taste the goose and fried chicken as though it was only yesterday. I hope that those tired cold freight horses enjoyed their big helping of hay as much as we did our supper. None of us had begun to use coosters yet, so we just camped in the open and bedded down in our soogins on the softest place we could find. But with the whiskey and the goose and chicken furnished by Billy Graham, we felt pretty good. Irve had baked a big dutch oven of biscuits, too. I think he made the best biscuits I ever tasted.
Next morning we were ready to pull out earlier than usual, but we didn't get away before Billy Graham came foggin down the road on his fat-bellied old black mare. He was acting pretty excited and as soon as he got up to us he began yelling that he had lost some chickens and a goose that night. We all were as sympathetic as could be and Nelse suggested that some animal must have got them. Graham said, "No, hit couldn't ave been han hanimal because there were not feathers scattered about." Then he looked all around our camp and finally jumped off his horse and took a stick and stirred around in the ashes of our fire. Finally he came onto some of the bones which hadn't burned entirely away. He waved a bone at us and asked us what it was. Ralph told him it was a bone and he could have it if he wanted it. About that time we all decided to pull out and we left Billy Graham and his old mare standing there by our fire. His cussedness had cost him quite a lot of baled hay, one big fat young goose, and six of the best chickens I ever ate in my life.