Roger Thompson: Horsin’ Around 3-7-11
March 7, 2011
The love of good Western books is my desire. I love to read good ones but it seems there are not many Western authors left. So when I came across a book written by Mike R. Dunbar, I decided to give it a try. As I started reading, I thought the book was written about me.
It seems the main character in the book is a young boy who is traveling west on a train from Oklahoma to Montana to take a job on a ranch to be a cowboy. As I read the book it brought back memories of how I boarded a train in Dallas, Texas, and headed for a ranch job in Montana. It was a long boring ride but when I stepped off at Monida, Mont., about 5:30 a.m., it was like stepping back in time. The little town of Monida was store fronts all lined up facing the railroad tracks and other than a few houses it was all ranch land behind.
No one was up and the town looked deserted so I left my trunk on the platform and walked over to the hotel and entered. In the small lobby I found no one there either, so after looking around, I lay down on the couch and went to sleep. Not long after I could hear people moving around so I got up and went into the dining hall and ordered breakfast.
Still no one was there to pick me up so I rented a room and went to bed. Some time that afternoon Walter Sperry showed up to pick me up and I was glad to see him. Throwing my trunk into the back of the pick-up we headed out to the ranch. I had never seen so much open space in my life even in Texas. The valley was all rolling hills, bordered on three sides with mountains. About an hour later we were on the Sperry/Kennedy ranch and drove past the big house where Clayton Kennedy lived.
Then I followed the river to the house where I was going to live for the summer. As I entered it was like the old ranch house where I stayed with my dad and mom. The house sat on a hill overlooking the river with a barn and corrals down the hill. There were not any electric lines running to the house and a wood pile in the back. Inside was a wood cook stove and table in one room with three bedrooms. Clayton led me down the hall to my bedroom with a wood stove and single bed.
Walt and his nephew, Bobbie, slept in an adjoining bedroom. There were plenty of blankets for the bed and I wondered how cold it got up there in Montana in the summer. To my relief there was a door at the foot of my bed so I wouldn’t have to wander through the house to go to the bathroom at night. Each room had a single light bulb hanging in the middle of the room. I found out that they were 12 volt bulbs powered by a boom full of car batteries in the old wood room, with heat from the wood stoves in the house. One of the chores each day was to go out back and split wood from the wood pile and put it in the wood boxes by the stoves.
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We had to milk an old range cow for the milk we drank and water came out of the river for drinking, washing dishes, bathing, and washing clothes. It was a daily chore to keep the house going and Walt said that the cook and other hand would show up in a day or two. The first night I felt I had stepped back in time which was just where I wanted to be. So about dark I stepped out to breath the fresh mountain air and remind myself this was not just a dream. I was excited and fell into bed that night to sleep like a baby all snuggled down in all those blankets.
Prior to his retirement, Roger Thompson was a CHA certified instructor of advanced Western horsemanship and beginning English riding.