A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 89
mounted, one of the cattle buyers tossed a saddle blanket on the ground in front of the horse. The startled pony reared and then plunged toward the fence with the evident intention of scraping off its rider. But the boy kept his head and managed to bring the frightened animal under control. Corral practical jokes are often pretty rough. Bud was a professional horse breaker, and it was up to him to ride the bad ones. This first morning his horse stood crouched back on his haunches, ears flat, nostrils flaring. Slowly Bud walked up to him, rested his hand gently on the horse’s neck, whispering softly and then leaped lightly into the saddle. The rebellious animal bucked a few times and then settled down. Unlike most of the other riders, Bud wore no spurs. When I remarked on this to Sadie, she said he never wore them; it was his pride to control a horse only by his gentle voice and firm hand on the reins. I was introduced to the others - two men from each of the surrounding ranches whose livestock roamed this range. The custom is to roundup the cattle from all the ranches; then on the last day each team parts out its own herd to drive away to the home ranch. At the head of the contingent from the Bell ranch was Elmer Bell, overseer of his father’s vast acreage, a big heavy man with round but handsome features and fine eyes. He was a superb horseman, Sadie told me, who could ride a horse all day over rough country and bring it home fresh, when other men, lighter but without his finesse, would ride the animal to exhaustion over the same terrain. Another family member was Sam Worthington, a tall, lean Kentuckian, who sat his saddle with no style at all and wore jeans and a dirty black hat. This is not an attractive description, perhaps, and yet “ Mr. Sam” had a very real charm. He had come to the Bell ranch as a young cowboy, had married one of the Bell daughters, and was now boss of his wife’s miles of grazing land. He knew every animal individually, and when it came to parting out cattle, Bud said Mr. Sam was a genius. When all were mounted, we rode a couple of miles down the road, where we stopped at the point from which the cowboys would scatter out over the hills, two by two, to round up the cattle. We would search for them in the surrounding canyons and then drive them to an appointed central spot. Because we were riding the Bell range that day, Elmer Bell was the master of the range and designated the direction each pair of riders should take. Etiquette of the cattle country makes it incumbent upon the master to assume the longest, hardest ride himself. Tomorrow we would ride to a different point of the compass, and some other member of the party would be the master of the range.
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