My first trip to south Texas I saw a man get bucked off into a patch of prickly pear as big as a swimming pool and he went head first into the deep end. We were in a mad chase to get to head a small bunch of leaving cattle in thick brush. I pulled up to help the man buried in prickly pear, but one of the older hands waved me on and do not stop. I was ready to keep riding back to west Texas. I never saw rocks that scarred me as bad as that pear batch did.
Con Price wrote a book called “Memories of Old Montana” copyright 1945 and in this wonderful little book of his, he tells about his memories of Charlie Russell. I first met Charlie Russell in the fall of the year 1888. He was night-herding cattle on the Judith Basin and Moccasin Range roundup. Charlie was very modest and never claimed to be a great cowboy, but i noticed the bosses always gave him a very responsible job, as the cowmen of those days were very particular how the beef cattle were handled.
We usually started the fall roundup about the first of September and the gathering and driving to the rail-road sometimes took until the 15th of November. Now from the first day we worked the range, we cut out some steers fat enough for beef, and those cattle were under constant herd night and day, and the men were supposed to handle those cattle so they would gain in flesh while we were holding them……..And any cowboy caught running or roping those steers was fired at once……..and great care was taken to keep the cattle from stampeding. When we got all through we would have 2,000 or 2,500 head of cattle in the herd.
I remember a rather amusing story Charlie told me in years after we had quit working on the range. We were talking about people we liked and disliked. I said to Charlie, “I always thought you liked everybody.” He laughed and said, “No. There was a roundup cook I have never forgiven for what he done to me.” He said, “I was night herding cattle. One dark night the cattle were very nervous and kept trying to stampede. Just before daylight my horse stepped in a badger hole and fell——right in a nice patch of cactus and prickly pears!” Charlie said he didn’t miss any of those cactus. When he got up his body felt like a small cactus field. His partner caught his horse and stayed with the cattle, and Charlie headed to camp. The cactus was distributed in his body so he couldn’t sit on the saddle, so he walked and led his horse.
When he got to camp, the cook was starting breakfast. ( I knew this old cook and he was plenty brave.) None of the cowboys were up yet. Charlie went in the cook tent where there was a lantern and took off his clothes to doctor himself and pull out some of those cactus. This old cook never spoke to anyone if he could help it, and as nobody had any right to come in that cook tent unless the cook called them to eat. Charlie was taking a privilege contrary to custom. Anyway the cook evidently did not notice him until he had all his clothes off and was disgracing his cook tent by undressing in it. He walked over to where Charlie was, said, “What the hell you think this is ……a hospital?” He had a big butcher knife in his hand. He throwed Charlies’ clothes outside and told Charlie to get the hell out of there too.
Charlie told me whenever he met a new acquaintance and he said he was a roundup cook by profession, he looked on him with some doubt as to his being human.