Early Sublette County Brands Project
Bud Steele Ranch
      Barbara McKinley interviewed Bud and Irene Steele
 
 
 Barbara: Okay, I guess I'll just let you start and give your name, and where you were born and the whole bit.

Bud: Bud Steele's my name and I was born in Rock Springs, but I've lived here all of my life.  I was born in 1932.
About '54 or was it '56 we moved into town.

Irene: Eighty.

Bud: Yes, I guess it was 1987 when we moved into town.

Barbara: There's a big difference.

Bud: The rest of the time I was on the ranch.

Barbara: And is your son on the ranch now?

Bud: Yeah, he's on the ranch.  We bought it from dad in 1961.

Barbara: And what was your dad's name?

Bud: He was Milford Steele.  And his dad was Ed P. Steele.  And to start out the brand was TY.

Irene: Jonita took a copy of that original TY registration.  And then it's all hooked together so that it can be done as one, in one operation.

Bud: And then when Dad took over, I don't remember when he bought the place, but his brand was recorded in 1927.  It was the Dot Diamond Dot.  And then when I took over I got the Diamond J recorded in 1948. 1 guess it was sixty when we bought the place.

Barbara: And then you used the Diamond J?

Bud: The Dot Diamond Dot, my boy's got it.  Mark uses it.

Barbara: Now, does that have to be done in three operations?

Bud: No, we just use the diamond and use the point of the diamond to make the dots.

Barbara: So it can all be done at once?

Bud: Yes.

Barbara: Who has the Diamond J now?

Bud: I still have it.  I don't know what to do with it.  I'll give it to the grandkids some day, I guess.

Barbara: Well, that's wonderful.

Irene: We're trying to decide where it is going to go, but until then we'll just hang on to it.

Bud: What was that other question?  It's always been cattle on the place.

Barbara: It was an original homestead, then?

Bud: Yes.  Part of it was east of Boulder and part of it was up Newfork.

Barbara: What by?  Murdocks?

Bud: Yeah.

Irene: Down the creek from them.

Barbara: But you lived down at Boulder?

Bud: No, we lived up here.

Barbara: Down by Murdocks?

Irene: Bud's Grandmother homesteaded--Emma Huff . . . She homesteaded the ground that we lived on up there.

Bud: And then my Granddad homesteaded the land down at Boulder.

Irene: And then when the kids got big enough, our kids, we have two girls and a boy.  Our one girl, Terry Steele, who is now Quinn, got the Step Block brand which was my Granddad's brand–Wesley Bloom's brand.

Irene: And then Allene, our other daughter, got a brand from an old guy that took a liking to her.  It was an LC brand.  Joe Ferguson had that.  That's about all the brands that were used on that place.

Barbara: Well, that's quite a few.

Irene: Yes, it is.  But I dug out a copy of the old Roundup, a 1906 copy that had a thing about my granddad's brand in there.  They were to advertise what the brands were so that if there were stray cows found, people would know who they went to.  I didn't get a copy of this made, but I could.  But here's the Step Block brand that our daughter has now.

Barbara: Oh, that's really interesting.  It looks like stairs.

Irene: Uh huh.  So that's kind of neat.  My dad was really tickled when she got that brand.  She just applied and got it.  Lots of times you can't get the brand you want, but that one came through.

Barbara: Well, it really would be nice to have a copy of that.

Irene: I can get a copy.  I never thought about that until this afternoon, and I already got those other copies made.  So I can take that over and get a copy.

Barbara: Oh, that's wonderful!  That is great!

Irene: That is a fun old newspaper to read.  They always are, that old stuff.

Bud: The brand I got, an old guy by the name of Billy Postel (sp) down at Boulder, or on Newfork below Boulder had it, but he never had it registered, and he still had a few cows when I got it--a milk cow or two or something, some horses.

Barbara: And you bought it from him?

Bud: No, I just wrote in and got it myself as it hadn't been registered.  It had never been recorded.

Barbara: So you ranched some forty.....

Bud: It was about twenty-one years we were out there, maybe twenty-two.  We went there in 1961 and left in 1986.

Barbara: And how many cattle did you run?

Bud: Oh, we run between four and five hundred most of the time.  We sold quite a lot of that ground down in Boulder but it's all intact up here yet.  It says here about when we brand.  Did you want to know all that, too?

Barbara:  Sure.

 Bud: Just in the spring and the fall, The neighbors all get together to brand.

 Barbara: Do you have a big dinner afterwards?

 Bud: Yeah, and drink a little beer.

Irene: We always branded down at Boulder because our cows were down there, then.  So it was our Boulder neighbors that helped.

Barbara: Now, you trailed them from one place to the other, then?

Bud: Yes, take them down in the spring and bring them back in the fall.  We wintered them up here.

Barbara: And you lived up here?

Bud: Yeah.

Barbara: That's quite a long ways.  Did you go along the highway, then?

Bud: Yeah.  It got to where it took two days to come up, but we would go down in one day.   It's twenty-two miles.

Barbara: It took longer with calves?

Bud: Yeah.  And then it was hot weather in the fall and we.....

Irene: Once in awhile in the spring when they took them down, they would have
to drop a cow or two on the way because they started calving.

Barbara: That would be a problem.  And I suppose the weather was always bad about the time you decided to move?

Irene: I don't believe anybody ever moves cows but what the weather doesn't get nasty.

Bud: We've got in some snow blizzards.  We were pretty lucky.  We were going with them going down to Boulder, with our backs to it.

Barbara: So that would help.  Do you have an ear mark at all?

Bud: Yeah.  It's a split in the right and an underbit in the left of mine.  I can't remember the TY ear mark or Terry's or Allene's, but I remember mine and Dad's.

Barbara: Your was a split in which ear?

Bud: In the right ear.  Dad's was a split in the right.  Mine was a split in the right and an underbit in the left.

Barbara: And then did you have a wattle?

Bud: No. It says here how we branded and everything.  We never did get very modern.  We just roped them and drug them in the fire and branded them,

Barbara: Did you use the propane or wood?

Bud: Just a wood fire.

Barbara: Do they still use the wood fire?

Bud: A lot of them do.  Some of them use propane now, but most of them, I'd say the biggest percentage of them use wood.

Irene: If they've got a lot of cows to brand and a lot of wrestlers, they need a wood fire because they can't keep 'enough irons hot on a propane.

Barbara: Now, did lots of neighbors come?

Irene: Yeah.

Bud: At one time I was going to thirteen different brandings.  And so then all those people came to ours.  We'd have quite a few.  We'd have five or six sets of wrestlers.

Barbara: You must have cooked for a huge number.

Irene: Yes.  I used to pack down about everything, but the kitchen sink.  But I remember one year I thought--I used to just buy paper plates and that was nice not having to do dishes.  But I had forty-eight paper plates and I ran out.  So, of course, this was women and kids, the men - it was the whole works.  So it got pretty big and pretty well out of hand.

Bud: They've calmed down pretty much now.

Barbara: Have they really!

Bud: It used to be just more or less a way to get together.

Barbara: Now, that brand that you have and you said you just wrote for it because he hadn't registered it.  But do you know how it came into the country?

Bud: No, as far as I know, he just made it up, that old guy.  He just ran cattle on the Eastfork Roundup Cattle Association and I know Dad was talking about he had the branding irons made in one piece.  And Dad said they couldn't hardly lift them, they were so big.  I cut them down a little smaller and they worked pretty good, but for a long time I used two different irons and finally made them just one.

Barbara: But with a lighter material?

Bud: Yeah.

Barbara: Well, when did your Grandfather first come to the country?

Bud: He came up here in eighty-eight or eighty-nine.  And he had a few cows and they had a bad winter and they all froze to death.  So he went back to Colorado and got some more and I think he moved in 1890 to stay.

Barbara: It was eighty-eight that had the really terrible winter, wasn't it?

Bud: Yeah.  I think it was.  I think he said he had only one roan steer and . . .

Irene: One roan steer and one horse and he didn't have anything to hook up to leave, so he stayed.

Barbara: That's what I was going to say.  You would think it would be so demoralizing, you'd think you would almost pack up and go.

Bud: The old house is still down there.  NOLS owns it now.

Barbara: Who?  Oh, that National Outdoor Leadership School.  I didn't understand what you said.

Bud: The house is till there, but they have built a lot of buildings around it.  It's in the National Historical Register.

Barbara: That's great.

Bud: I think Granddad and old man Alexander were one of the first ones to come  into the country, around here.  I think they were the first two white men to  move in.

Barbara: Up in the Pinedale area?

Bud: Yeah.  That's what Dad used to tell me.  Oh, there was trappers and stuff here before that, too.

Barbara: In and out.  But this would be permanent.  And then up here you irrigate from what?

Bud: Out of Newfork.  The one down there is out of the Eastfork.  And one meadow is out of Silver Creek.  We just had diversion dams in Eastfork where the ditches come out.  And we had a branding corral right there by one of them and above the dam was deep.  And we didn't have a fence up against the creek.  One time we was branding and pretty soon we would hear a splash, calves going over the dam, and it was high water.  Five of them went over there.  We just parked somebody down there with a rope and a saddle horse and caught them and drug them out and brought them back to the corral and branded them.

Barbara:  So you saved them all?

Bud: Yeah, didn't drown any of them.

Barbara: Maybe that's the only place here that had a branding where the calves were going over the dam.

Irene: Plopping into the water.

Bud: You'd think after that we'd be allowed to build a fence going along the creek.  We had branded there for years and nothing had ever happened before.

Barbara: Well, now, Jonita was mentioning something about a chuck wagon that had bear claw marks.  What happened there?

Bud: Oh, we had come in about two o'clock and cooked dinner and we was laying around waiting for it to cool off so we could ride some more.  And Dad was laying under the table of the chuck box on his bedroll and was about half sleep.  And pretty soon he heard a noise and he raised up and looked and thee was a  yearling bear up there stealing a pound of butter out of the grub box.  And Dad hit him in the face with his hat and scared him so bad, when he left, his foot slipped and he made three claw marks on the top of the table.  The old grub box is still out there.  The bear would come into camp at night and take our meat, tipping the Dutch ovens over.  He was a pet up there at the Boulder Lake Dude Ranch.  He'd been around there all the time and he wasn't scared of anybody, but he was a nuisance.

Barbara: Well, he would be.  And it probably would be kind of dangerous for him, too, because he was not afraid of people.

Bud: He wasn't mean or anything.  He was just a yearling, but he sure was a pest.  He scared the horses and we couldn't get them into the corral.  I don't know, I think my Granddad built that old grub box.  I don't know what year' it was but I know it had been around longer than I had been.

Barbara: You used it for a long time?  How many years?

Bud: Well, I don't know.  The first time I went on the roundup I was about ten and we was using it then.  We didn't have it in a wagon then.  We were using the truck.  But we have pictures of it.  Jonita got copies of the pictures.

Barbara: I know she was very interested in getting pictures of the wagon.

Bud: That was a pretty good picture.  It was all the bedrolls piled up and it looked like they had a four-horse load.   It was pretty full.

Irene: Bedrolls used to be something.  It was nothing like sleeping bags.  They were really big and heavy.

Bud: This is Terry.  She is the one with the Step Block Brand.

Irene: I was pretty tickled about it, especially going clear out of the family and then coming back in kind of by accident.

Barbara: Which of the brands do you think really work the best?

Bud: I believe the Dot--well, I don't know, my brand was good, too, but that Dot Diamond Dot really showed up.  Get it in the right place and it really just stuck out, so you could see it from all directions.

Barbara: I guess that's one thing I needed to add, too.  Where were they?

Bud: Dot Diamond Dot, left rib cattle and left side horses and TY was left hip on the cattle and left side on the horses.  The Diamond J was left rib cattle and left hip horses.  Step Block left rib cattle and left shoulder horses and the LC was right.  What is your earmark Terry?

Terry: Swallowfork in the left.

Irene: I found some, after you said you were coming, I went through some old papers and I found some kind of neat stuff.  This was in Bud's Dad's stuff.  And this was Ed.P. Steele, Bud's Granddad and he was in Fremont County Cattlegrowers Association and this was in 1904.

Barbara: So that would have been dues.  And that was a high amount in those days.

Irene: And here's another one when he was in the Eastfork Cattle Association, and it was fifty dollars and twenty-five cents (50.25) for the assessment.  And that was in 1904.  So I got copies because I thought they might be neat.  This was when F.P. Steele bought some horses from Peter Stevens and the brand was ZY.  I could>
 

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so I don't know if they use it any more or not, but he paid ninety-three dollars for the horses and it don't say how many.  But this was in 1903 at Newfork, Wyoming.

Barbara: Now, was that a line in the T or does that just show the opening?

Irene: No, it was just TY.

Barbara: That's funny.  You'd think it would say how many horses.  You wonder how many horses you would get for that much.

Bud: You couldn't buy the shoes for one for that now.

Irene: But the assessment in this Fremont County Cattle Association was three cents a head, 250 cows at three cents a head.  And then in this one, the Eastfork Association, was fifteen cents a head, $50.25. So it was a pretty expensive organization.  I didn't know if you could use it, but I thought it was pretty interesting.  I'd just get copies of it.

Barbara: Oh, that's wonderful.  I was wondering, too, do you know of any rustling problems with particular brands?

Bud: No. I don't remember anything.  I guess they did have trouble a long time ago.  We used to lose a few.  I'm sure people butchered them and hauled them out, but not very many.  That happens yet.  These cows are used to pickups so they will walk right up to one.  Somebody could kill a calf or something and throw it in and take off.  But we never had any problem.

Barbara: I was going to ask.  Now, you brand both in the spring and in the fall.  Did they always  and in the fall?

Bud- Well, earlier, a long time ago they just pretty much all summer when they were riding, they would be trailing them and would get a bunch together and brand.  Usually they branded when they came off the desert and went into the mountains.  Some of those pictures were when we were branding up at North Boulder Lake.

 Barbara: But now you do most of it in the spring?

Bud: Yeah, in the spring before we turn them out and then in the fall after we gather them.  It's all about the same, the way we do it except that now we have corrals.  We used to just bunch them and hold them and brand them.

 Barbara: And that's a lot harder.

Bud: I never did get in on any of them, we always had a branding corral.  I went down one year to help Rex Wardell for four or five days.  Of course they had a corral down at>
 

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over there to get our strays and bring them back.  But I never did brand out in the open.

Barbara: Now when you had them out on the desert did you have them with other people's cattle?

Bud: Yeah.  There was six or seven people all together, maybe more than that.  I don't know.  But before they fenced the highway they all ran in common.  It would take us about a week to get  them sorted out and separated so that we could bring them in.  And the heel flies, before they dipped, if you did not have them worked and done by nine o'clock in the morning, you just might as well wait until tomorrow because you couldn't handle them.  We just
went to Boulder Lake and the rest of them would come off the desert and most of them would go up to Wolf and Silver Lake with theirs.  Jonita's uncles and Richies all went that way.

Barbara: To Wolf and Silver Lake?

Bud: Yes.  Us and Don Sparks had permits up where we went.  We was the only two that went up there that come off the desert, anyway.

Barbara: That made it easier with just two.

Bud: Yeah.  Well, the Fayette place, Christmann's got it now, they run up there too, but they did not run on the desert with us.

Barbara: Who had the Fayette place at that time?

Bud: Well, Fred Ecklund was the one when I was a kid, and then they sold to Joe Tyson and Tyson sold to John Christmann of Christmann Oil Company.

Barbara: Okay.

Bud: The first one that I remember being up there was Fred Fisher.  I don't know where he come from.  That was a long time ago.  That was when they had a big sheep raid at Raid Lake.  He owned it then.

Barbara: I can remember reading bits and pieces or mentions of that.

Bud: Yeah.  There's still a few of those sheep bones laying around up there, but they are getting pretty well packed off.  There used to be quite a pile of them.

Barbara: Oh, there were?  And then what did people do, pack them off as souvenirs?

Bud: I suppose--and then the coyotes and stuff scatter them out.

Irene: I suppose some of them got washed down.

Bud: Yeah, with runoff and buried in the mud and.....

Barbara: Let's see if there is something we haven't covered here.  I guess I'll just ask you if you know any good stories relating to ranching that would be interesting to people.

Bud: No--oh, we've had a lot of.....

Irene: It's kind of hard to come up with them all of a sudden.

Bud: There's lots of funning up there cowboying and everything but I can't think of any one outstanding.

Irene: I keep thinking of one that my Dad told when you were talking about the rustling problems.  His dad and his half brother, who was John Bloom, were together and they had a spotted steer that they hadn't gathered so they got on their horses and split up to see if they could find it.  They split up to go different ways and pretty soon his dad came back and said, "Let's go home."  And John couldn't figure out why and he told Daddy later that Grandpa had found someone butchering that steer, down the lane.  But he didn't want to walk in on it.  He thought it was better to leave that steer go than to walk in on it and suffer the consequences, so they just lost a steer.

Barbara: Because he thought they might be armed or something?

Irene: Yeah, I'm sure they would not have wanted to be caught so he thought it was better just to lose it.

Barbara: Oh, my gosh!

Irene: So there was always a lot of that going around in any country where they have cattle.  And I think also about
him telling about Abner Luman that year when the winter was so bad when Bud's Grandfather lost all of his critters, Abner . . .

Barbara: Do you remember when that was?

Irene: About 1888 or 1889.  And Abner lost about all his critters, too.  And he had an old guy working for him, Indian Bill.  And the next spring Indian Bill took off and when he came back he had a herd gathered up for him. He
had gone around.  I'm sure he didn't buy any because he didn't have any money.  But he had gathered up another herd for Abner.  He was quite an old character, Indian Bill.  I can remember him when I was a little kid.  I can remember Indian Bill.

Barbara: Now he was?

Irene: He worked for Abner Luman.

Barbara: So he just worked for Abner Luman.  For some reason I didn't know  whether he was associated with . . .  I have him mixed up with someone else, I think.

Irene: He came in the country with him, I think.

Barbara: Now, you grew up on the place that is south of the highway going out
towards Daniel?

Irene: My granddad had the Mocroft place down south of Pinedale and then he
fell off a load of hay, bailed hay, and broke his neck.

Barbara: Oh, my gosh!

Irene: And so then the place was sold, after that.  But that is where he lived when he came to the country.  After that my dad just worked in different places.  He was three or four years old when his Dad was killed, so . . . but he spent a lot of years working for different ranchers around here.

Bud: His first wife drowned in the river up around Cody, The Platte River, wasn't it?

Irene: I don't remember.

Bud: She was crossing the river in a wagon and her and the baby drowned.

Irene: That was John Bloom's mother.

Barbara: Was that coming here?

Irene: No, they just lived up there at the time.  They were . . . Wes Bloom moved down here after it happened, several years after that had happened that he lost his first wife and baby.  Then he raised the other two kids until he got married again.  They were pretty well grown when he got married again.

 Barbara: And they were up around Cody?

Irene: Yeah.

Barbara: Would that have been like the Shoshoni then?

Bud: It seemed to me that it was the Platte River.  So they were down by Buffalo and in there.

Irene: I can't remember.  I'd have to get a clipping and find it.

Bud: It may not have been the Platte River but I know the wagon box floated off the wagon.

Barbara: And carried them away.

Irene: He saved two of the kids but couldn't get the wife and the baby.

Barbara: Can you think of anything we need to cover here that we haven't?  Where did you get your branding irons?  Do you make them?

Bud: We made most of them when I was doing it but there used to be an old blacksmith, Bolly Lovatt, that made a lot of them.  But all we ever had out there, I made, myself.  There was old Rube Bold, he was a blacksmith.

Irene: Did Charlie Wiedianders ever make any?

Bud: Yeah.  He'd make them, too.  There were several around town--Ken Saylors, Hoger Jensen, and later on this Wilford Edwards, pretty recently.  I'm getting old enough now that 1950 was recent to me.

Barbara: I know what you mean.  I was reading here, it says how has the procedure changed.  Except for making the corrals, has it changed much?

Bud: That's about all I know of. Of course, a lot of guys are using propane and some of them are using electric ones now, some of the newcomers.

Barbara: Oh, really.

Bud: You'd get tangled up in the cord with a bunch of cows running around there.  Kind of dangerous.

Barbara: It would be pretty tough.  This shows how out of it I am.  I didn't realize they had electric.

Bud: Those electric ones are nice, with a long branding chute, but they don't work that good if you get a bunch of cows in the corral.

Barbara: Well, and if something runs over the cord.

Irene: It would be handy if you had a few cows and were using a table or something.  It would be great.  You wouldn't have to build a fire, but not very practical if you got many critters.

Barbara: Does anybody like over at Boulder use a table?

Bud: Vern Mrak did there for awhile but he didn't brand, either.  It was just  some of them that had been branded and they wanted to do something to the brand, they would put them on the table.  They (electric) didn't go over very good in this country.  Very few of the ranchers had then, to start with and they just quit using them (the electric).

Barbara: It would be hard if you had a lot to do.

Bud: Yeah.  It's slow.  At one time down there we helped Hittle brand and we put 500 head of calves through that corral and we were done by nine thirty.

Barbara: What time did you have to start to do that?

Bud: It was about daylight--6:30.

Barbara: That's pretty fast.

Bud: There was two ropers and eight sets of wrestlers.  I know, I was roping and it kept us busy.

Barbara: It really would.  I just can't imagine doing that many, in such a short time.

Bud: We had a good ground crew.  The calf didn't lay on the ground over a half a minute, I don't think.  A minute at the most.

Barbara: Oh, my gosh!

Bud: But that's the fastest I ever seen calves go through.  You can brand 300  of them.  We have done that plenty of times by dinner, if you really get after it.

Barbara: You'd never do it if you were using the table?

Bud: No, not on the table.  You'd have to sort off all the cows from the calves.

Irene: Quite often they were branding and they would have to wait for dinner to get done because we would plan to eat dinner at twelve so they would have to stand around and wait awhile until dinner was ready.

Bud: That's when we drank our cold beer.

Barbara: They were hoping dinner would be late.  That's great!

Bud: There was Edward and Harry and Roy and Wayne Steele, they call him Bear.  You probably have heard of   him?

Barbara: And they were all your cousins?

Bud: Yeah.  I didn't have a brother.  I had two sisters, Margaret Stoll and Ellen Lozier.  Ellen lives in British Columbia, Canada and Margaret lives in Dallas, Texas.  I never did get enough money to get away from playing.

Barbara: And now you said Wilma Shriver was . . .

Bud: Erma Shriver.  She is a cousin.  She is Edward Steele's sister, There's
a lot of Steeles.-

Irene: Melva Post, she lives at Riverton now, used to live at Boulder.  Verna
Priebe was Mike Steele's sister.  They had the hot springs down here.

Bud: Yeah.  Grandpa built that in 1931 a year before I was born.

Barbara: People would always mention the hot springs.  And now, are Snows there now?

Bud: Yeah.  Hank Snow.  He was thinking about opening it and operating it, but the government made it so he had to have so much insurance and stuff he couldn't afford to keep it open.  So he just uses it for his own personal use.

Barbara: I know.  It gets really difficult with insurance and.....

Bud: and health inspections.  It would be dangerous.  You'd probably get sued every time you turned around. Somebody would slip and bump their head.

Barbara: Well, that could be.  And then I suppose you'd have to make sure there were no fungus or anything in the water.  And treating the water would be difficult.

Bud: And expensive, too.

Irene: Pete Steele is your second cousin.  Dale Jensen was a second cousin.  And Wayne Jensen, Justin Jensen.

Bud: Everybody is related in this country.  You have to be careful who you talk about.

Barbara: I believe you are right.

Irene: Rhonda Swain is a second cousin, Sharon Lozier.  Everybody really gets mixed up here.

Bud: Yeah.  This end of the country between the Jensen and the Steeles just about took over the whole country for a long time.

Barbara: I can see where you really do need to be very careful.

Irene: I learned not to talk about anybody until I found out if they were related or not.

Barbara: That's great!