HORSEBACK ON LOTS OF HILLS
By Steve Moreland, May 6, 2017
Having been born on November 8th of 1951, and now being somewhat in the twilight years of my life, I am at the stage where it is time to contemplate a lifetime of being a cattle rancher. Most of these years have been spent doing a lot of horseback riding, both for necessary cattle work and also just riding because I liked being horseback.
During these years, I have ridden through a lot of hills in diverse parts of the country. Many hours have been spent riding our home ranch northeast of Merriman, Nebraska. My dad, Bob Moreland, put me on a horse quite early, and by the time I was seven years old he was expecting me to be a helpful cowhand. By the summer of 1960, my dad’s cowherd exceeded in numbers what his 4000 acre ranch would run. For both the summers of 1960 and 1961, Dad put out about 120 cow/calf pairs for summer grazing with Don Yardley, who ranched east of Chadron, Nebraska in the pine tree country. Don had pasture about five miles north of Highway 20. Both of those summers, when I was eight and nine, I got in on helping trail our cattle those five miles to the pasture from where we unloaded the trucks at the highway. The same ride was duplicated at the end of those summers to get them back to where they could be loaded on trucks to haul them back to Merriman.
In the fall of 1961, right around the time I turned ten years old, Dad purchased forty big seven-ton stacks of hay from Franklin Jackson. The Jackson Ranch was about ten miles southwest of Martin, South Dakota, and the hay would be fed out at that location. One cold windy November morning, Dad and I left our ranch at daybreak. He was riding Penny, a good sorrel gelding who was ¾ Quarter Horse and ¼ Morgan. Penny was a grandson of the noted stallion “Peter McCue,” and he was a tough very cowy horse. I was riding my good paint mare, Spot, and she was a dandy horse for young kids. We rode a couple miles to where about 200 cows were waiting in our furthest northwest pasture. Before the day was over, we trailed these cows to the Jackson Ranch, a distance of nearly 20 miles. Dad’s cousin, Joy Fairhead, met us when we crossed Highway 73 north of Merriman, and he was our guide through the hills. Hank Leetch, Franklin’s hired hand, rode in from the north to guide us the remaining miles to the Jackson Ranch. We arrived after dark, and Elsie Jackson’s good supper was very much a delight to this cold tired hungry ten-year-old boy. Jack Moreland (my granddad) met us at the Jackson Ranch. We hauled Joy Fairhead’s horse (Lady) home in the back of the pickup, which was equipped with a stock-rack. Spot and Penny were fed hay and left in the corral to be hauled home another time. I fell asleep long before we arrived home.
That same fall, I helped Dad trail about 75 cows home about ten miles from my Uncle Stan’s place, south of Merriman. This drive was made more memorable because the cows’ calves had just been pulled off and sold that morning, and this ten mile drive didn’t get started until it was nearly dark. There was no moon that night, and if the cows hadn’t been Herefords with bits of white showing up, we’d have never gotten them trailed home. It was just the two of us, and I was only ten. We had to cross Highway 20 in the dark, but fortunately no traffic went by while we did it. Once again, I was a pretty sleepy boy before we got the cattle home and had time to go to bed.
In late 1961, Dad bought 2140 acres of the Fred Fuchser ranch about twenty-five miles southwest of Merriman as the crow flies. Dad’s brother, Stan Moreland, purchased 2020 acres of the same ranch. Starting in the spring of 1962, we made many 25-30 mile cattle drives through the years going back and forth to these summer ranges. In 1967, Dad purchased 2352 acres from Lester Leach at the rate of $68 per acre and also acquired 640 acres of school land lease. This new land was northeast of our Fuchser pasture. Stan Moreland traded his Fuchser pasture for 1700 acres of the Ralph Arnot land, which was much closer to his home ranch. In 1972, we purchased another 2720 acres from Lester Leach at the rate of $72 per acre. This land was purchased by me, and Dad leased it each year for enough money for me to make the annual land payment. This newest property served as the connecting link between the other two land acquisitions. This gave us a total of 7852 acres of contiguous deeded land and school lease, which was quite a few hills that we rode horseback very often.
In the middle of August of 1966, I helped John Burton and his son Mitch move hay machinery from George Burton’s ranch a few miles northeast of Ellsworth to John’s ranch just south of the Niobrara River southeast of Gordon. This was a trip of about 65 miles cross country. I drove a team pulling a wagon, and John was driving a small Allis-Chalmers tractor which pulled a four-wheeled hay sled with a two-horse hay sweep tied onto the sled. This trip took two and a half days, and it rained two and a half inches while we made the trip. We spent one night in a leaky-roofed barn on the Henry Ahrens Ranch. Another highlight of the trip was pulling into the U-Cross Ranch (also known as the Fawn Lake Cattle Company) right at noon in a goose-drowning rainstorm, and being invited to eat dinner with the large ranch crew. After dinner, the rain let up. We harnessed our team and continued our trek through the hills. The U-Cross crew saddled up to spend the afternoon branding late calves. Fourteen riders rode away from the barn that day, and one of them led a horse for the boss, John Kime, to use when they arrived at their destination. John Kime drove a pickup carrying fire wood, branding irons, and vaccine for the job at hand. It is noteworthy that all of these cowboys were hired hands on this ranch, and had merely been rained out of the hayfield. At that time on this ranch all the hay was put up with horses instead of tractors, and many men were needed to stack the hay. Our second night, we were close enough to the Burton Ranch that we called home from Frank Bornemann’s house and John’s wife, Ardith, came after us in a vehicle to take us home for the night. When Ardith arrived to pick us up, we were treated to a scrumptious supper with Frank, Margaret, and Roseann Bornemann.
My cousins, Ken Moreland and John Fairhead, and I, and a good friend Davy Jones from Martin all had the “camping bug” when we were in our early high school years. In June of 1967, the four of us embarked from Dad’s newly acquired Leach Place on a two-day ride. We all had good saddle horses, and we had one not-so-good mare for our single pack horse. We had no packing experience and were using a little kid saddle for a pack saddle. We had bed-rolls and food tied on, and it was all covered with a tarp and tied down with a rope. Our mare was uncooperative, soft and fat, and she stalled clear out on us a few times. The pack slid sideways on several occasions, and each time had to be redone. Our destination was the U-Cross Ranch, now that I knew the way after having been over the route when I drove John Burton’s team. As we rode through the Sasse-Vinton Ranch, a man came out of the shop. He was curious about who we might be. He’d seen us coming for a couple miles, and at first thought we were leading a milk cow. Alas, it was just our poorly packed pack horse.
We didn’t take along any water, knowing there would be a windmill at least every mile. We forgot to factor in that the wind would not be blowing on the day we took off on our ride. It was a hot muggy day, and yes, we did get mighty thirsty. On one occasion our pack slid off and the pack horse went on strike. John and I decided to ride across a meadow to try to get a drink. We took along some kind of container to haul water back to Ken and Davy. In the meantime, they got thirsty enough to try drinking some sorghum syrup that was along for our next morning pancakes. Their plan didn’t work very well, because sorghum syrup isn’t highly regarded as a thirst-quenching liquid. John and I did manage to get some water by taking turns climbing the windmill tower to turn the wheel.
We made it to the U-Cross, and camped a mile or two to the southeast. We hobbled our horses and settled in for the night. A rain storm came along dumping about a quarter of an inch of rain on us. The next morning, mosquitoes were swarming our poor horses. The hobbles were wet and hard to get loose, and the horses were fighting and fidgety from the bugs. It took some doing to get the horses captured, saddled, breakfast eaten (the pancakes were a bit dry without adequate sorghum syrup), and packed up to resume our trip. We decided to cut our trip shorter than planned and just try to get back to the Leach Place, where we had started. Even doing this was about a 25 mile ride for the day. A fog had settled in, so we pretty much took the same route back so we wouldn’t get lost. This day turned out chilly. We rode by an old windmill, and saw a few boards that had fallen off. We decided to make a little fire so we could get warm. After the rain, the boards were wet. In the foggy damp conditions, we weren’t having much luck getting the fire going. A couple men came along in a pickup, and we told them what we were doing. They watched our lack of survival skills for a little bit, and admonished us before they drove off, “Be careful with the fire, boys.” We laughed as we remounted our horses, and thought there would be no worries about the fire that never got started. After final tabulations for the trip, it was determined that we either packed or re-packed the horse a total of 12 times. Each time took approximately 30 minutes, so this task took six hours of our two-day trip.
Ken Moreland, John Fairhead, Davy Jones, and I went on another camping trip in June of 1969. By then I had acquired a team of mules from Giles Reece, proprietor of the Rawhide Trading Post in Gordon. Bonnie and Clyde and a wagon made an easier way to haul our gear. For this trip we started at the old Jack Noble place, which John’s dad Joy Fairhead had recently purchased. It was about 15 miles south of Merriman and four miles east. Our destination this time was Indian Hill, just south of the Snake River, and approximately 15 or 16 miles to travel. This time we had invited along a couple men from the NEBRASKAland magazine. Lou Ell and Bob Snow were fun guys to get to know. Lou Ell was a well-respected photographer, and Bob Snow came to write a story of our adventure. The whole escapade was featured in the August 1969 edition of NEBRASKAland magazine, and was entitled “Adventure into the Hostile Hills” by Ken Moreland, as told to Bob Snow. Lou Ell became a good friend, and he again accompanied us on a deer hunting horse pack trip along the Niobrara in November of 1971.
In the summer of 1970, right after I graduated from high school, I had the pleasure of working on the Moose Head, a dude ranch in the heart of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The ranch had capacity to entertain 60 guests, and they had 65 horses for the guests and wranglers to ride. There were about 20 people on the work force, and most of us were college-aged young folks. As a wrangler, guiding trail rides was my main responsibility. I also had opportunity to break a couple saddle horses to drive, and two of the ranch hands with carpenter skills rigged up a flat-bed wagon so we could have Sunday evening hay rides. This job was basically a paid vacation, but once again there were lots of hills and mountains on which to ride.
During the fall of 1971, I worked for L.D. Frome, Outfitter. His operation was headquartered at Afton, Wyoming in Star Valley, but he had hunting camps in the Teton Wilderness Area northeast of Jackson. On that job, my first responsibility was being on the crew for a twelve-day pack trip through Yellowstone. There were 20 guests, 10 crew members who were guides, cooks, and packers, and 65 horses and pack mules on this trip. This pack trip started on the 23rd of August, and when it was completed, we went right into setting up camps for the elk hunting season. Our base camp was at the mouth of Box Creek on Turpin Meadow, and our main hunting camp was at the foot of Hawk’s Rest, 28 miles from base camp. We had another hunting camp 25 more miles away on up the Thorofare, and on up Pass Creek. This Pass Creek camp was closer to Cody, Wyoming but we always packed into it from the Jackson side. Along this Thorofare River is the point in the lower 48 continental United States farthest from any roads. I think it is something like 32 miles from any road of any kind, as the crow flies. Once again, there were lots of hills and mountains to cover horseback, and I averaged riding about 30 miles per day from the 23rd of August until October 31st of that year. It was a great life for a young man who fancied himself as a cowboy. I even had ear muffs with a wire brace so I could keep my ears warm and still wear a hat on all those cold snowy blustery fall days.
My wife, Carol McCrory, and I were married on June 23rd, 1979. Carol’s mother is Jean Ravenscroft McCrory McGaughey, and her step-father was Royal McGaughey who ranched south of Eli. Carol and I moved into a trailer house on my dad’s summer range, the old Leach Place, 20 miles south of Merriman. We lived in a nice 14’ x 80’ trailer house. It had wooden siding and asphalt shingles, along with 2” x 6” insulated walls, so it was a fairly nice trailer home. I made “cowboy-looking” skirting out of 1” x 10” rough lumber, with lathe batting. We covered the big old barn with brown steel siding. The barn was 62’ x 66’ and it was 30 feet high in the center on each end. We implicated a big Spearhead brand into the décor on the east side by using white steel siding. The brand itself is 23’ wide and 16’ high, and it is still part of the barn as of 2017. Carol and I made all new corrals on this ranch by using lodgepole pine rails and rough lumber windbreaks. When all this lumber was new, it smelled very mountainy and looked pretty cowboy cool. Carol and I put up all the hay we could find on this ranch, and stacked it with an F-11 Farmhand loader mounted on a “reversed” IHC “M” tractor. We put up 104 four-ton stacks the first summer, 64 stacks the second summer, and only 57 stacks the third summer because of drought. We also planted 60 acres of dry-land alfalfa, and it took hold real well. In the mid-1980’s, this deep-rooted dryland alfalfa yielded five tons per acre on three cuttings of hay.
We were wintering 200 cows on this ranch, and our first two winters of married life we fed all our hay with a four horse feed team, cabling on half of a four-ton stack at a time. We called the horses the “Rushmore Four,” and named them Tom, Teddy, George, and Abe. A neighbor and team-penning partner, Bob Yeager, baled our alfalfa field in big round bales. I had a “Little Dickens” horse-drawn bale handler, equipped with an 8 horsepower Briggs and Stratton engine. It worked much like a pick-up with a hydraulic bale bed, and the arms could load and roll out two big round bales. In those days, we tried to portray a traditional cowboy image, and we rode horseback on lots of hills.
During our married life living on the old Leach Place (from 1979-1986) our cow herd was growing and several of those years were very short of rain. During the summer of 1982, we pastured 145 pairs and five bulls on the Vinton Ranch which was managed by Stan Sasse, about 16 miles to the southwest. These cattle were trailed to that location about the middle of May. Stan Sasse looked after the cattle, but three times during that summer, I rode horseback from our house to that pasture and back, to check the cattle. It was 16 miles from our house to the far end of that Vinton pasture. I had two ground-covering half Tennessee Walking horses that I took on those rides. Their names were Cactus and Sandbur. Both horses were raised on the Hub McMurtrey Ranch south of Nenzel, and they were bred to cover miles. On each of these trips, I deviated my routes so new country could be explored. I saw a lot of different hills from the backs of those horses.
We were scheduled to bring these cattle home about October 1st of that year (1982). Carol was unable to ride because we had a new baby boy, Will, who was born two and a half months premature on August 17th. Dave and Mary Jones volunteered to help trail the cattle home. Dave, Mary, and I all rode horses from our ranch for the 16 miles to the far end of the Vinton pasture. My sister Sybil drove a pickup with camping gear, and I led a horse for her to ride when needed. The four of us camped out that night, and then rounded up and trailed the cows and calves home the next day. We got the cattle home early enough in the day that we were able to attend Rob Cole’s horse sale, which was held at the rodeo grounds on the west side of Merriman. It was a fun and memorable day, all things considered.
Later on, in late November of 1982, I got in on a six-day 65-mile cattle drive helping John and Mitch Burton trail 314 calves from their south ranch near Ellsworth up to their north ranch by the Niobrara. These calves had only been weaned for two weeks, and about ten inches of snow on the ground contributed to memories of this trip. We camped out each night, but with a stove inside our tent, accommodations rivaled that of any Hotel Ritz.
In 1986, our family traded the ranch south of Merriman for the Snyder Ranch northeast of Merriman. This place joined my dad’s 4,000 acre home ranch. The Snyder Ranch was by then owned by the Production Credit Agency. A three-way trade was made. We purchased the 15,070 acre Snyder ranch for $1,000,000.00 ($66.36 dollars per acre). Butch Shadbolt bought our south ranch for $520,000.00 ($72.10 per acre), and he made his check out to the PCA. We then owed the PCA $480,000.00 for the remainder of the Snyder Ranch. Dad acquired two-thirds of the Snyder Ranch and two-thirds of the debt. Carol and I claimed one third of the new ranch, and assumed one third of the debt.
We took possession of our new Snyder Ranch on May 1st, 1986. By then, Carol and I had assembled about 350 cows. We fed our last stack of hay at the old ranch on April 27th of that year. The next day, we trailed about 300 pairs to the ranch owned by Royal McGaughey, Carol’s step-dad. The other 50 cows, which either hadn’t calved, had late calves, or sick calves, were temporarily left behind and hauled up a couple days later. We bought a stack of hay from Royal, and fed it late in the afternoon when we arrived with the cattle. It lasted them all through the next day, April 29th, and we resumed our cattle drive north to the new ranch on April 30th. Our cowboy crew consisted of Dad, Sybil, Cary Nelson (who had helped me calve out the cows), Bob Yeager, John Burton, Craig and Joy Miles (Carol’s sister), and me. Will was only three years old, but he rode horseback all the way, too, on his faithful steed Amigo. One of the cowboys would lead Amigo, or Carol led the horse out of the window of our pickup, which served as the chuck-wagon.
Our new ranch was big enough that we had lots of hills on which to ride. In the many years that have since passed by, we have pastured cattle on several different ranches. All of these we have covered on horseback, all in the line of duty. I have also attended many brandings through the years, and have helped round up on lots of hills at these brandings. When I was a kid, our branding roster included the ranches owned by: Ronald Snyder (where Carol and I now live), Bruce Weber (where the Dave Roth family now lives), Joy and John Fairhead, Garould and Leigh Fairhead, Stan and Ken Moreland, Mrs. Eva Bowring, Kenneth and Zale Quible, Stan Boltz (where Mike McConaughey now lives), Bill Gaskins (now owned by Brett Heath), and my dad’s Green Valley Hereford Ranch (which our son Brock now owns, and where he and his family live). Other brandings I’ve attended through the years and ridden horseback on lots of hills include the ranches of Bill Arnot, Rory Cross, Shadbolt home ranch, Gary Jensen, Randall Warner (southwest of Scottsbluff), Craig Miles (south of Valentine), John Christensen (later his son-in-law Kevin Hodson), Forrest Stewart, John Burton, Mike McConaughey, Bob Yeager, Gary Nielsen, Greg Nielsen, Jack Cobb, Rich Cobb, Jim Heath, Mike Albert, Bill Albert, Kurt Cleek, Jim Gray, and Dave Roth.
Even though Carol and I have done considerable horseback riding in the line of occupational cattle work, we have also ridden horses on lots of hills in the line of recreation. In October of 1983, we enjoyed taking a trail ride from Royal McGaughey’s place to the Snake River and Indian Hill, on land owned by Chris Abbott and his family. At least two horse-drawn wagons were involved, plus numerous horse riders. We have an old photograph of our son Will (who was just barely past a year old) standing in front of our tent at the campsite. On another trip during Labor Day week-end in September of 1985, several families had a ride and camping trip that started at the JO Ranch just southeast of Merriman, owned by Stan Moreland. Our destination was the mouth of Leander Creek, where it runs into the Niobrara River, a ride of about ten miles. Carol had one arm in a sling from a dislocated shoulder, but she drove our team of Belgians (Malcolm and John) pulling a wagon loaded with camping supplies. Other participants were Dave and Mary Jones, Todd and Samantha Trask, Terry and Janet Nelson and their two kids Dave and Julie, Carol and me. We had five pack horses also, loaded rather lightly and mostly along for “picturesque effect.” Bob and Beth Yeager rode Bob’s horse double across the river to join us at the camp, and Jack Cobb came with his team and wagon. Jack was our guide the next day showing us old homesteads along the river.
In 1989, Don Marshall from Cody organized a Cody to Mullen trail ride. It was four days total, but we didn’t join the ride until early morning of the second day. We had a team of mules (Kate and Isabel) and a two-seated buggy. Our son Will was six years old, and he rode all the way on his good little pony Joker. I also had along a young paint gelding, which I rode part of the time and led out the side of the buggy part of the time. When I rode him, Carol would drive the mules, besides keeping track of three-year-old Tiffany and four-month-old Brock. Quite a few people were involved in this expedition, as there were five teams with wagons and nearly forty riders. Jack Cobb was nearing his 79th birthday, but he drove a Belgian four-abreast team of horses and pulled a fairly large covered wagon all the way. Our destination was Mullen on the Fourth of July, where we joined the parade honoring Mullen’s 100 year celebration. One memorable aspect of this trip was weathering a tremendous two-inch downpour shortly after arriving at the “700 Corrals” where we planned to spend the night. Most of us ended up spending the remainder of that night in a big barn up the highway to the north.
We participated in many other trail rides through the years. One ride organized by Don Marshall started north of Cody and went to the Bowring Ranch to commemorate Sod House Sunday. The overnight camping spot was on the old Joe Vinton ranch north of Eli. We took part in several “Ride the Ridge” day-long adventures in Chadron State Park or Fort Robinson State Park (with up to 300 riders). Dale Cady organized a ride from his place south of Merriman to the location where in 1875 the John Gordon party had their wagons and freight burned by U.S. Cavalry for trespassing. We rode back to the Cady ranch, where we all enjoyed a carry-in supper in Dale and Gloria’s house.
Another fun ride was in connection with the annual Windmill Days Celebration in Hyannis. I don’t recall what year it would have been, but probably in about 1990. Al Davis was promoting a trail ride from Hyannis to his OLO Ranch. Will was a young boy, and he and I decided to attend. Will rode his good little horse Joker, and I had a pretty nice looking young Appaloosa gelding I had recently purchased at the Rushville horse sale. I think my final bid was $1025. The ride was good for this young horse, and he held up well. Al Davis led the ride, and took us on a slightly round-about more scenic route. It was a long hot day, but quite enjoyable. We all rode by Mother Lake, and many rode out into the water to get cooled off. Dick Daly had a team of Belgians pulling a wagon, and they were big and fat enough that the hot day and nearly 25 mile trip was hard on them. He had to ease them along and go slower toward the end of the day. A bountiful steak supper awaited all the participants when we arrived at the OLO. This was the first time I had the opportunity to visit the editor of the Grant County News, Sharon Wheelock. We enjoyed a nice visit during supper. Many of the riders camped there that night, and we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast before we departed to our various home destinations the next day.
On three different occasions, John Fairhead, Forrest Stewart, and I made a one-day horseback ride to see a lot of new country. The first time, we started at our place. We rode north about six miles to where Elm Creek starts in a little Sandhills pocket, and followed it for a ways. Then we rode west through land owned by LaCreek Wildlife Refuge. Some of this land goes unused for long periods of time, and it was of interest to us that we saw much more wildlife on harder-used private ground than on the long-dormant federal ground. We eventually rode south and ended up at John Fairhead’s ranch. Carol came to pick up Forrest and me, as Forrest’s vehicle and trailer were at our place.
On the second such ride, we started from Forrest Stewart’s place a few miles southeast of Tuthill, SD. This time we rode to the east and made a big circle through what is now called the Mustang Meadow Ranch, now owned by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Then it was owned by Alan Day, whose sister Sandra Day O’Conner was at the time a justice on the United States Supreme Court. Alan Day took in unadoptable wild horses for the U.S. Government, and at one time had at least 1500 of the mustangs stocking his ranch. On this particular trip, John, Forrest, and I discovered about half a dozen cows with a “little ear” on them. These cows had originated on the Mormon-owned Deseret Ranch in Florida. They hadn’t panned out real well in this northern climate, and had been rounded up and sold to a ranch in Nevada. These few head had been missed in the round-up, so we told the ones in charge about them. They were happy to know we’d seen the cattle because they thought they were short. I rode a stocking-legged mule on this trip, and when he refused to cross the White River, John and Forrest dallied on and pulled him across. I stayed on for the ride, because I didn’t want to get my feet wet. John found and carried along for several miles a bleached-out horse skull as a souvenir of our outing.
Our last trip of this nature was a fairly nice but quite windy January day, with top temperature getting up to around 40 degrees. Earlier that morning, John and my wife Carol had taken John’s pickup and trailer to the Mogle Bridge south of Cody. Then John, Forrest, and I met at John Wickman’s place on Bear Creek south of Eli. Our goal was to ride along Bear Creek to where it flows into the Niobrara, and then follow the Niobrara to the Mogle Bridge. We packed along our lunches and headed out. We rode our horses to the top of a very tall hill a few miles east, and could see a long ways in any direction. None of us had ever been through these particular hills before, but we soon realized that there is a very tall sandy bank north of the mouth of Bear Creek. We decided to go down over the top, which we did. John stayed on his horse all the way down, but both Forrest and I got off, walked, and led our horses. If a horse or rider ever started rolling, it would be a long way to the bottom. When we reached the bottom, we decided to eat our lunches and think out our plan. Originally we had planned to stay on the north side of the river, but this was impossible due to the fact that the sandy cliff went straight down into the Niobrara. We had two choices—go back up the harsh cliff which we had just come down and then continue riding east, or ford the cold river where chunks of ice floated by, and continue east on the south side. We decided to “take the plunge” and cross the river. We did have enough sense to first cross Bear Creek and then cross the Niobrara upstream where not quite so much water was flowing down.
John took the lead on his good dependable Palomino gelding. I left enough space so as not to splash John and his horse, and then followed. John was nearly across in good shape. My big paint horse Tomahawk was doing fine. I then looked behind me. Forrest was on a three-year-old, and his horse was going down in the water. I’m not sure why, but I turned Tomahawk around to see if I could help Forrest. Not only was I of no use to Forrest, but Tomahawk got dizzy and went down also. Both Forrest and I were instant pedestrians, and cold wet ones at that. We both clambered for the distant south shore blundering through chest deep water, dodging chunks of ice as we went. Finally we both emerged, soaking wet, and miles from any shelter. John was kind of nervous thinking he’d soon have two hypothermic derelicts on his hands. I was breathing hard and probably quite near to having a heart attack, as I labored to a fallen tree. There I propped myself against it, and took off my chaps and then my boots one at a time to dump the water out. It was very hard pulling each boot back on over my wet socks. John thought we should get a fire going, but Forrest and I decided we’d just walk and try to get warm that way. We’d walk awhile and ride awhile. Forrest had little short rubber overshoes on over his boots. Since they seemed to not allow the water to get away, he ended up taking them off and tying them onto his saddle. Both Forrest and I were wearing leather shotgun chaps. These helped break the wind, and I’m sure we would both have been much colder had we not been wearing them. We finally arrived at John’s pickup and trailer, after about a seven mile ride. By then we were either getting warmed up or just becoming accustomed to our discomfort. We both survived in good shape, and I don’t think either one of us even caught a cold out of the deal. All is well that ends well.
On November 8th, 1997 Carol and I and our three kids rode mules to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. John Burton was living in Wickenburg, Arizona for the winter. He met us and rode along. Coincidentally it was 50 years to the day from when he had crossed the Grand Canyon riding his own horse and leading a pack horse. In 1947, John Burton rode all the way from Ellsworth, Nebraska to the Grand Canyon. He rode down the North Rim and rode back out to the South Rim. There he sold his horses, packed his saddle in a gunny sack, and rode a bus back to Nebraska. I spent the night of my 46th birthday at the Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Canyon. We celebrated with a delightful steak supper and all the trimmings, which had all been packed down on mules. This time we weren’t horseback on lots of hills, but muleback through lots of canyons.
A lot of times through the years, it has just been fun to get on a horse and cover some miles. It’s good for the horse, and a refreshing head-clearing experience for the rider. Having heard of 100 mile rides in a day, I challenged myself to the thought that it would be fun to say I had done it. When mentioning this idea to Carol, she said if I was going to do it, she was going to do it, too. We kept the thought in our minds, and decided to do it in connection with Old West Days in Valentine, which was October 1st through October 4th in 1998. The full moon would be October 5th of that year, so we planned our ride for Friday, October 2nd, thinking if the hour got late the moon would be big enough to help our cause. It is 100 miles from Clinton, Nebraska to Valentine, so this was our route. We rode down in the barrow-pit along Highway 20, so didn’t have to open any gates. We did do the ride, and we each used five different horses to do it. We changed about every 20 miles. Carol’s mother, Jean McGaughey, followed along with the pickup and trailer, and hauled spare horses. My dad, Bob Moreland, met us in Merriman with six different horses, and the four tired ones went back home with him. The trip was accomplished in 14 hours and 15 minutes. Yes, we were a bit stiff and sore the next day, but we did get to ride horseback on lots of hills during the process.
For many years, Dad wintered calves and summered yearlings with Stan Barber and Paul Groper, both having ranches near Long Valley, South Dakota. I have been horseback on those hills many times. Carol and I will celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary this coming June. Here is a list of some of the places where we have rented pasture through these years. Most of these places we have thoroughly covered by riding horseback working and gathering cattle. The list includes the ranches of: Bill Tumblin, John Wickman, and Kenny Morton from Eli; Forrest Stewart, Doyle Fullerton, and Jim Heath from north of Cody; Esther Reiman, Dennis Bakley, and Robb Cook from Tuthill; West Spear Ranch, south of Nenzel; Ray Gardiner, southeast of Martin; Stan Moreland, Zale Quible, Cody Gale, Rich Cobb, John Fairhead, Stan Boltz, Shane Wobig, Jerry Peterson, and Jordon Skinner from Merriman. Other ranches where we have placed cattle for feed and pasture, but have not necessarily done much horseback riding include the Reis Ranch and Kenner Ranch, both south of Wood Lake; John Two Eagle, Rosebud, SD; Tim and Dee Painter, south of Valentine; Denny Blower, Motley, Minnesota—we pastured 340 yearling heifers with Denny during our bad drought year of 2012; Rodney Rayhill, Martin, SD; Jess Halstead, Arnold, NE; Greg Nielsen, Rex and Nancy Peterson, all from Gordon. In retrospect, I probably should have been buying land instead of renting pastures all these years, but that is 20-20 hindsight. I did get to run cattle in some of the best grass country in America, and doing so has been my great privilege. It’s been a wonderful life, and I’ve been horseback on lots of hills.