We are with Bob & Wilda Springman who are living for the first time in Big Piney since he and Wilda were married in 1936. They don't have to fight roads to the ranch this winter. I'll turn it over to Bob to give us a little background on the Springman family. Your family lived on Middle Piney for many years. When did they come here and when were you born?
My dad took up what is known as the Budd Ranch on Middle Piney (now owned by Dan Budd) in 1898. He was married about this time. Harry & Sister Helena were born on this ranch. Both were born up there. Then he sold half of it to Ralph Mills and moved down to what we call the home place where Pete Thompson now lives.
You were born there?
I was born on that place in 1911. It was about 1904 when they moved down there. Harry was 4 and my sister 3. They bought the place where Wilda & I are now in 1924. He (Frank Springman) bought the place from Orlin Black in 1924. It was originally taken up by Ben Griggs then parts of it were bought from Johnny McClain, and the part we call the Mills place from Glenna Mills, Ralph Mills ex-wife. Then I took up a homestead which makes it about 1700-1800 acres.
Bob, let's step back up to the Mills place. Did your Dad sell any cattle brands or anything else to Ralph Mills when he sold him that piece of land?
No, not to my knowledge, but that was before my time. I doubt it very much.
Do you have the brand that went with what we call the Springman place?
Yes, it was called the Quarter Circle H. That is in your book, the 1912-13 brand book. I don't remember that. I remember the irons in the shop and asking Dad about them and all he said was that it was an old brand we don't use anymore.
Then to follow along the place you now live on, was it a place with cattle on it and a brand?
Yes, that was the ladder brand. It was on the hip and left thigh on horses. I used it mainly on my milk cows. You remember I had a herd of milk cows. The other brand called the Acorn was bought at the same time as the A T Bar from Dave Rands who sold the Rands place cattle to us. That happened before I can remember.
Did you have any other marks to use with the brands?
Yes. With the A T Bar we used crop right underbit left, and on the Acorn an over bit on the left. In later years I quit ear marking altogether and just used ear tags.
You indicated you used the Ladder brand exclusively on your dairy cows. Did you run a cow calf operation, or sell calves or yearlings?
Yes, cows and calves and sold steers usually but calves sometimes. Later years just calves, what ever looked to be the most profitable.
You indicated the old Sppringman house was one of the original two-storied stucco houses similar to the Budd and Beck Houses?
Yes. It had the brand stuccoed right into the house. Very interesting, most people don't realize the importance the old timers placed on a brand to have it a part of the house. This Acorn brand Harry used while he was here. I gave it to him, then later when he left I gave it to Bob (Bob Springman Jr.)
Bob is your son right?
Yes. He had a few cattle of his own as did most of the ranchers' sons. I branded him a few calves each year. Now he has a business of his own and has incorporated it into his business. He uses the Acorn name in his business. Now the Ladder brand I gave to Robbie, Bob's son and my grandson. He has never used it and probably never will but he will keep it in the family. I still have the A T Bar and will keep it til something happens to me.
I assume Wilda, as most ranch wives did on a branding day, spent the day in the kitchen preparing to feed the branding crew?
Yes, about all I can remember about brandings were the fantastic appetites that came from the corral after a day of branding.
Wilda has a story about a branding.
We had the young man working for us, a very dumb kid
from Florida. We also had a preacher here in town that was very interested
in brandings and would come out and help. We told the kid about the
preacher coming but then the preacher couldn't come. The kid said,
"You have to have a preacher when you brand?"
We said, "Oh, yes. It is very important." We had Jeff Bills working for us and he picked right up on this so he became the preacher. He had to bless all the cattle and made a big production of blessing all the calves before the branding started, then during the day whenever there was a dull moment he would start again. That was one of the only brandings I really remember.
With all of your brands did you have any problems with them?
They are all very simple brands. As far as blotching or where you put them? You had to be a little careful with the Acorn brand or you got a blotch out of it. The Ladder did have stamp irons for it but usually we just used a bar iron for it. A one iron brand seems to be better and the fewer curves the better.
In visiting with other people they indicated that most of their irons were made by the local blacksmith,Tony Subic. Did he make your irons?
Yes, he made a good many for use over the years. You
burn up irons, so he made many for us.
You indicated your ranches were all on Middle Piney Creek. Was it the main stream for your irrigation water?
Yes. We got a lot of our water out of Spring Creek, a tributary of Middle Piney. It was a good source of water. It was a stream half way inbetween Fish Creek and Middle Piney. I used to run a good stream year round. It came right down through the center of our ranch and all of our land was located on the south side of Middle Piney, so Spring Creek was our main source of water.
Bob has some old deeds and some old journals he is going to get for us to copy and we will get them later when he can get into the ranch.
Usually when you branded was it a family operation?
Pretty much a creek affair. People up and down the creek take turns and all go help at each other's place, next day or next week. So we tried to have at least 9 or 10 for a branding crew. Now you have so many kids I guess it's because they can get around easier and quicker. We used to arrange to have brandings on week days so we could concentrate on the work and not have to worry about the kids.
You indicated the Quarter Circle H as good a brand as it is that he quit using it or sold it?
It could have been that in 1915 when they started recording brands state wide that it was disallowed because something similar was recorded near here. I assume it was the first brand he ever used, in fact I know it was. It could have been like somebody elses. That's like with the Acorn brand. We had to start putting it on the ribs and the hip because of a conflict.