Big money, big rowels |

Big money, big rowels

I read Lee Pitts story in the Dec. 12, 2022 issue of The Fence Post and thoroughly enjoyed it. It took me back to the mid-70s when I wore solid spur covers on Crockett Spurs with big rowels.

I was working road construction in Craig, Colo., and riding circle for Elmer Mack. Elmer had inherited all the ground from his father where the Craig power plant now stands. He had a contract with them to keep cows on any ground that they had not started mining. I had a camp up above the south ridge of the power plant where I had my tent, my young game chickens and my two horses. I was up in the dark saddling a horse and pushing any cows who had drifted further then I had pushed them back the previous night. I would also ride down to the pond and make sure there was not any cows stuck in it.

My allusions of Bonanza being the all-time greatest western were soon blown all to heck. I never watched the program again. One night a big cow was bogged down in the pond and I threw a rope around her horns, as I had watched Hoss do too many times. I took a dally and proceeded to drag her out. At this point my horse tried to buck me off. Quite disgusted with my horse I rode back to camp got my pickup and went back to the pond. I broke four lariats and finally wound up wrapping rags around her horns and using a chain to get her out.

I went down to Elmer’s to see how this mystery was solved in the olden days. Elmer met me at the back door still with his boots on and as I proceeded to take mine off he said we don’t do that around here. Now his house was a two-story clapboard house but there was new lawn and flowers that his wife had planted. And I could see through the window it had been redecorated so I was awful nervous about going in with spurs on. I walked in easy as I could to the chair using mostly my toes to keep my rowels up. Elmer’s rowels dug at least two chunks by the time he got to his chair. Whatever flooring used to be had been replaced with all new beautiful hardwood flooring. I looked at Mrs. Mack with sheepish eyes and she just grinned and said it’s all right Butch. When he ruins this floor he’s going to put in another. Elmer just laughed and smiled as was his way and asked me what I was up to. I asked him how much loose change he had in his pockets because I needed four new lariats. He went to his desk and threw more money in front of me than a dozen lariats cost and said I know there’s a story with this. I told him what happened and he laughed till I thought he was going to fall out of his chair.

This is all fine and dandy, but how did you take care of this in the old days. The harder I pulled on that old bag the less she helped. That’s just the way they are said Elmer, they must like the way the mud feels because they sure do not want to come out of it. Butch we have had as many as four teams hooked to one cow to try and get them out.

Elmer Mack was a legend and a bronc rider in his own kind. He made the first qualified ride on Gen. Pershing

Gen. Pershing was a big gray bucking horse who was rounded up in the sand wash area west of Maybell Colo. Back in those days the country was full of wild horses, but they were managed for the ranchers by horsemen such as my grandfather. Gen.

Gen. Pershing was a product of a Mustang Morgan mare and a Percheron stud, or so the legend goes. The legend further goes he was just a great big stout bronc who was un-ridable. He remained that way for 20 years.

The first qualified ride came from a boy named Elmer Mack, only 11 years old. Elmer was so short his dad had to set him in the saddle. Bronc riding in those days was an art, never to be seen again. Only two other riders ever rode Gen. Pershing. You buckaroos can look up Gen. Pershing the bucking horse and if you go far enough, you will find pictures of Steamboat Colo., during the old days. You will find photos of Gen. Pershing bucking and if you enlarge them they will say below the cowboy was bucked off.

At the time I knew Elmer he was 81 years old and my granddad had a poem the newspaperman wrote when Elmer whipped the strongman that was there with the circus. It seems the strongman was giving off challenges at the local bar which no one would take until Elmer arrived. Elmer is listed as saying I have ridden about every kind of horse I think I can ride you. My granddad had the poem and like a lot of other things when he passed his daughters and one son got in a fight over everything he owned and I do not know where it went.

 It went something as follows:

Elmer grasp the giant man only as tall as he could stand

He stood only 5 foot tall but he made a giant jump and began to make his brand

Rowels on the left, rowels on the right grabbing the giants collar with all his might

It is not known for sure and no one could prove it but the giant claims he bit

However it was not long before the giant began wiping his eyes and wanted to sit

Elmer said I will make you a deal as the giant wiped away the last tear

We will call it quits if we set down and you let me buy you a beer

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