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KO Rodeo Ground's Oral Zumwalt - by Lee Hames - Part 3 - 'Breaking Horses at the CBC - The Roundup Begins'

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Breaking Horses at the CBC – The Roundup Begins

Approaching the CBC headquarters at Sunday Creek, Hames observed other cowboys already working with unbroken horses in some of the large pens. Sid Vollin quickly led Zumwalt, Red, and Hames to what became their corral and here their job began.

“Sid sorted out 34 horses and chased them into a large corral and said, ‘These are the horses for Zoomie, Red and the kid. By using Streak and Breaky you will each have 12 head, divide them up any way you want and get them ready to go.’

“We planned a work program. Zoomie and Red would do all the shoeing while I would handle most of the riding.”

Hames found his niche when they assigned him to break and ride all of these horses. He was excited and ready for the task.

“Every day each horse was caught, ridden for half an hour, and then turned back into the pen. On the really snorty, bad horses, Zoomie or Red helped me get mounted, but most of the time I worked by myself. If I was looking for bronc riding practice, I’d really hit a bonanza. I got bucked off a few times but in a week’s time I had ridden all of the horses in our strings several times. Red and Zoomie had all of the horses shod and we were ready to go. By this time all of the other cowboys were ready too, so Sid pulled out on the roundup. At the last minute Sid decided to only take 10 horses per cowboy because of the shortage of grazing.”

Here Hames gave a description of the terrain they were expected to cover. It involved hundreds of square miles in the middle of Montana’s midsection. Historically, in this country, the only thing similar to it would have been buffalo hunting by various tribes of Native Americans.

“Early in the morning the wagons left the horse headquarters camp with Rainbow’s wagon and crew going northwest towards Seep Springs and the Big Porcupine, while Sid headed his outfit northeast towards Crow Rock and the Jordan country. The roundup plan was to gather all of the horses in the Big Dry Country all the way to the Missouri River. By riding in long sweeping arcs from both east and west, the horses would form a large circle as they headed north. All of the range horses would be gradually pushed to the center of the circle. When the two wagons would meet at Hell Creek on the Missouri, the circle would be closed. By this time, the cowboys would be riding as one crew and as they came south through the center of the circle, they would push the horses before them until they were corralled at the big corrals on Sunday Creek.

“I recall hearing Sid predict this would be the last company roundup and probably the last time anyone would ever again use a chuck wagon on a horse roundup. I rode to the top of a ridge where I could see both of the wagons on the move. Sid and Rainbow were both riding about 100 yards ahead of their crews and following behind them were about a dozen riders. Following these riders at a short distance were two wagons drawn by four-horse teams. The first wagon was the chuck wagon which carried all of the stoves and food, the second wagon was called the Hoodlum wagon which hauled all the branding irons, tents, bedrolls, and the cowboy’s extra clothing and gear. Sid planned to be out a month and there were only a few small towns in the area where we would be able to get more supplies. Off to one side, paralleling the wagons, the other cowboys were grazing the Remudas along.

“Sid had a son about the same age as me so we soon became friends and riding partners. Sid’s son was raised in the wild cowtown of Miles City and had some rather colorful stories to tell me about the local populace. I usually sat spellbound riding along on my horse hour after hour listening to tales of drinking, fighting and screwing.

“The wagon did not stop for a noon meal as each cowboy had a canteen of water, some beef jerky and dried fruit which was eaten as they rode along. Cowboys that smoked even rolled their cigarettes as they rode.

“Late that afternoon, we reached a small creek that had some grass nearby so we set up camp for the night. The men who had been driving the Remuda brought them into the wagon. Each cowboy caught one of his string to tie up for the night and turned the horse he had been riding loose to graze. Every cowboy would take a turn night-herding the Remuda.

“Several of the cowboys saddled their night horses and rode off up the creek bottom and soon returned dragging some dry brush and branches for the chuck wagon and the evening fire. The bull cook chopped them into wood and the cook started supper. As soon as supper was eaten, Sid assigned the night duties. Six men would be with the Remuda at all times. Every three hours they would be relieved by another six. The last turn of the night would bring the Remuda to the wagon at breakfast time.”

Here Hames describes their cook - the most important member of this crew besides their boss, Vollin. He was not a man to get on the wrong side of.

“The cook was up early and had breakfast ready before sunup just as the Remuda was brought in. The cook didn’t ring a bell to call the crew to eat, he had a voice and set of lungs that would make a bull buffalo’s roaring sound timid. The cook was a fat, cross-eyed German with a big walrus mustache and was known as Dutch Louie. No one seemed to know his real name or where he came from and no one was brave enough to ask the cranky old bastard about it. The cook ruled the chuck wagon much the same way a Captain runs a ship. Louie was considered to be the best of all old chuck wagon cooks and when he yelled, ‘Come and get it or I will turn it loose,’ you could hear him for half a mile and the cowboys came on the run.

“The cowboys helped the cook and bull cook catch and harness the wagon teams, hook them up, load the wagons and get ready to roll. After making sure the wagons were ready to move, the cowboys had Sid rope out their saddle horses for the day. The Remuda was in a rope corral near the wagons and each cowboy would hand Sid his lariat rope and tell him which horse he wanted. Sid took the cowboy’s rope and stepped into the corral, and with a back-hand, over the shoulder loop, caught the desired horse and led him out of the corral to the cowboy. On a big outfit, only the boss roped in the Remuda corral.”

At their camp the following day Sid made them all aware that he had been seeing horses that afternoon and that the roundup would now commence. He then emphasized an important theme that is often overlooked in any workplace – safety. It was especially important when the nearest help was many miles away. This was dangerous work in a dangerous country.

“The crew gathered around Sid as he took a stick and started drawing a crude map on the ground. ‘This is big country and we will always ride in pairs. I do not want anyone off by himself getting hurt, so keep track of your riding partner at all times. This top line is the Missouri River and the bottom line is the Yellowstone River. Over here is Sunday Creek and over here is the Musselshell River. Right now our wagon is about here, just north of Crow Rock, and Rainbow and his crew should be about here, at Seep Springs, near Big Porcupine Creek.’”

“Pointing at the center of the top line, Sid said, ‘About here is where Hell Creek and Timber Creek empty into the Missouri. I hear that the government is going to dam the Missouri near old Fort Peck. If they do, both Hell and Timber creeks will probably be under water. As our crew travels north we will keep pushing horses to the west and Rainbow and his crew will be coming up through the Big Dry pushing horses to the east. The two wagons should meet where Hell Creek empties into the Missouri. After the wagons join at Hell Creek, we will start a drive straight south towards Sunday Creek. I will stop in Jordan for supplies for both wagons. Jordan isn’t much of a town, its only claim to fame is that is supposed to be farther away from a railroad than any other town in the United States.’”

“The next morning, Sid shaped up the crew for the roundup. Two men would handle the Remuda. One moved the Remuda with the chuck wagon and was the daytime wrangler, and the other herded the horses at night and was the nighttime wrangler. The cook always drove the chuck wagon while the bull cook drove the hoodlum wagon. Zoomie and Red were paired together and I paired with Sid’s son, Jack. The other cowboys chose their riding partners.”

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 October 2014 21:20