Roger Thompson: Horsin’ Around
Fort Collins, Colo.
I read an article the other day about how our life has changed in this country in my life time. I remember my grandmother talking about her life changing but never thought it would happen to me. So I drifted back to an old frontiersman I knew when I was in my early teens.
B.E. Denton born and raised in West Texas left home as a teenager and drifted around before winding up in Abilene, Texas, looking to hire on with a large cow heard being driven north. Abilene was a wild western town at that time. It was full of old Buffalo hunters, trappers and Indian fighters. The town was packed with saloons, shooting galleries – for the men to show their skills – and housed of ill repute, also to satisfy needs of the men waiting there.
B.E. Denton, being a young cowboy, idled his time there waiting for some one needing cowboys to drive a herd of cattle north. He admitted that he was not well known in that town so he spent most of his time at the shooting galleries honing his shooting skills. As a young man, I remember those shooting galleries and spent many of my hours there impressing who gathered around with my shooting skills.
Later in life while on a trip to Germany, I accompanied a family to a “Shoots-infest” (Happy gathering like a county fair in this country). I wanted to win a large teddy bear for a little girl in the family I was staying with. So sliding my cowboy hat on back of my head and picking up the 22 caliber rifle, I wrested my elbows on the table I took aim, then began shooting all the balloons, targets and moving items on the board. When I finished a crowd of folks had gathered around behind me. What they didn’t know was that I had grown up with my dad’s old 22 rifle.
Denton said this was a little out of the ordinary because he used two pistols, one in each hand, hitting the bull’s eye 19 out of 20 times.
About then was when the town Marshal showed up. Now Denton remembered his brush with Marshal Heck Thomas up in Oklahoma and didn’t want any more to do with the law. So he just stood there looking the Marshal straight in the eye as the lawman told all the boys to have a good time but to keep the noise down because they now had a preacher living in town.
Denton thought he had better cool down a little. Then he met up with an old friend from another trail drive a year before. When Len Shipman showed a picture of his girlfriend, Denton wondered if his whole world was settling down. So the boys rented a hotel room and got some sleep.
Next morning they came across some fiddlers at a restaurant and tipped them a dollar each to play “Hell Among the Yearlings,” one of their favorites. That’s when they were told there was going to be a dance that night out side of town and decided to go.
Denton said “In them days a women’s dress was from 60 to 90 yards of cloth, and they wore six or seven petticoats and they was pretty bungle some. I’ll tell you. We didn’t know, in them days that women had legs. On account of their many skirts. But now they seem to be all legs, same as a man.”
The next morning they gathered up a few more cowboys and decided to go hunting. After a short ride, they came upon a herd of five antelope, now we call them “Prong horn.” They were bedded down in a bunch of five. Being down wind, Denton told them not to shoot because he wanted to rope one.
The antelope split in five directions and the cowboy picked a buck. “With my hair streamin’ in the wind, me and Topsy, his life time horse, was after him. Faster and faster we went and closer and closer we got. A runnun’ and jumpin’ over dog holes and brush. Flyin’ by rattlesnakes. The antelope first and then me and Topsy.” Denton told me.
“Finally, I got close enough to swing my rope. We raised so much sand and dust crossin’ them plains that day the boys said it looked like a twister commin’.
“I kept gainnin’ on the buck a little at a time, and makin’ my loop real small, I swung at his head, and before you could think, I had him.
“I had run that buck 14 miles before I got close enough to rope him. I met the boys comin’ to meet me and was a leadin’ and draggin’ this buck antelope alive back to Abilene.
“After this ropin’ stunt, we painted the town red. The marshal only said, Boys, have a good time. But if there was any sleep in that town that night I don’t know where it was.
“That’s how I got my nickname of Cyclone”.
I roped a bear once but never could get close enough to rope an antelope. I think Cyclone was telling the truth and if so, Topsy was an exceptional horse.
Prior to his retirement, Roger Thompson was a CHA certified instructor of advanced Western horsemanship and beginning English riding.