Thunder Butte

September 02, 2005

A Cowboy At a Tender Age

When I was about six years old, I more or less learned to read by reading old "Western" magazines. These were pulp fiction, dealing mostly with gun fighters and outlaws who rode the Western ranges. Well, I got the idea that a real man was one who “forked a bronc”* at an early age, took his whiskey straight, and never backed down from a fight.

In those days, I used to sit on top of Thunder Butte and listen to the old steam train pull in and out of Faith. It was over 20 miles away. You couldn’t see the train but you could hear the whistle as it echoed across the plains. It was the most lonesome and mournful sound one could ever imagine. One day, on hearing the old train whistle as it was leaving Faith, I decided to ride into Faith and have a fling. A neighbor, Ruben Strong, had a magnificent red, pacer stallion, about 16 hands and a beautiful horse to behold. I asked Ruben if I could borrow his stallion for the day. He agreed and I rode to Faith.

On my arrival in town, I rode up and down Main street a couple of times just to make sure the locals all got a look at the most magnificent saddle horse in the area. Next, I stopped in front of one of the saloons, ground hitched the stallion in front of the saloon, swaggered in, climbed up on a bar stool, and ordered a shot of whiskey. The bartender, without blinking an eye, poured me a shot, slid the glass over in front of me and waited for the results. I tossed off the shot, thought I would die, but never blinked. I just threw my silver dollar on the bar and swaggered out.

It was the custom then for the cowboys to stop at the West Hotel, and Mrs. Joyce would run them a hot bath for twenty five cents, so that was my next stop. After a good bath and running low on money, I rode up and down Main a couple more times. Then, since the sun was getting low in the west, I started for home.

I wish I could remember the bartender’s name. About a year ago, I heard that he was alive and well, and living in Las Vegas. He must be over a hundred years old now.

--John Crowley

*Mount a horse.
Mike Crowley Friday, September 02, 2005


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