Thunder Butte

September 03, 2007

Old Mexican Longhorn

I wrote a poem called ‘Old Mexican Longhorn.’ The part where I was a kid is absolutely true—that old, long-horned cow terrified me when I was younger than [five]. I think she was in league with the devil. She would, or so I thought, lie in wait for me someplace out of sight. Then, when I left the house, she would start to bellow and paw the earth and start for me. I actually think she used to have flame coming out of her nostrils. Well, you can read the poem [below]. You will see that I embellished it by continuing the story into my older years.


Some said she was spawn of satan, but I know different,
I know that old cow was satan himself.
She had to been the onriest critter that ever appeared on
this planet.
I can still see me run’n when I was jist so high, my fat
little legs churn’n, run’n bent for leather to get away from
her. That ole longhorn eyes blaz’n fire, snort’n smoke and
ashes and boy was she after me.

I wandered out by the bunkhouse one day and ‘for I knowed what was happen’n she was make’n hay.
I made the house and the screen door slammed and the
earth shook as she pawed the ground and bellowed.
I just hid under the kitchen table and shook.

She was a caution, hell on hooves they said.
One day I had to go, you know, natures thing
I’m sitt’n on my haunches, careful not to sit on my spurs
down by the cottonwoods, out of harm’s way I thought
chew’n on a blade of grass, swatt’n an occasional fly off
my bare ass and I heard what sounded like thunder off a
ways, it was down by them thar bushes in the creek bed
that-a-way , then it turned in to bushes crash’n and I’m
gitt’n pretty scared, start to pull up my pants and --- too
late it’s that ole Mexican Longhorn and she sees me.

Shirt tail fly’n straight out behind, spurs sing’n a song,
I race for that bunkhouse but the trail is too damn long.
Just short of the door, in an old hog waller, I trip on a
spur and go full length in to that mud. Can you just
see it now? My pants down around my knees, knee deep
in mud, flat on my face, that damn Mexican Longhorn won’t
even touch me there.

I hear her off in the trees, snort’n , paw’n the ground, but
made it in to the bunkhouse and sorta got cleaned up.
It’s been come’n on for a long time now and this is the day.
Got down my ole 30-30, walk out and I’m gonna shoot that cow. I start for the bank of trees. Damn if she did’n see
me first and I thot it was the end of the earth.

The ground shook and wind roared as that ole Mexican cow
came out of them trees. I take one look and I turn tail and
run. In seconds flat, one of them long horns caught me by
the pants and next thing I know I’m fly’n through the air,
splash’n in that hog waller again.

Next fall came and went and I found out later that old Mexican Longhorn got rounded up with a bunch of yearling
steers and went off to Sooo City. Probably been ground up
for a joosey MacDonald’s and none too soon I guess.

First time I ever went to church, was in the city one day and
pass’n one of them Cathedrals I just had to stop and pray.
Deer Lord I just wanta thank ye for save’n me . You took
care of satan a while back jist when my luck was run’n out.
Thanks lord, she’d a got me fer sure if you hadn't stepped
in and took her out.

--John Crowley
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September 02, 2007

Beehive and Hilltop Schools

The original spelling of my Dad’s name—who I’ve always known as John—was “Eugean,” a variant spelling of Eugene. Dad never liked the name. Later in life, he adopted the more standard “Eugene” and switched it with his middle name. His old school records list him as “Gean,” though.

I was able to find some of these old records about my Dad's school days around Thunder Butte while in Faith last March. They come from a few pages in a photocopied binder that I found at the new Faith museum. The binder was titled, "The Way They Were - Ziebach County Rural Schools 1910 - 1978," compiled by Carol Johnson. This is what I was able to learn—

During the 1927-28 school year, my Dad attended the Beehive school with his sister Cecil. She was 12 and in the sixth grade and he was six and in the first grade. Mind you, this was a one room schoolhouse, which was common to the area around the butte until recent times. Their classmates included three of Frank Veit’s kids—Harold, age five and in 1st grade, Alvin, age six and in 1st grade, and Treva, age nine and in 3rd grade. Ada Jones had a son, Gerald, in the class. He was 14 and in the 8th grade. Mrs. William Soam had two daughters in the class for a time—Amy, age eight and in the 1st grade, and Clara, age five and also in the 1st grade. Both of the Soam girls dropped out, as did Harold Veit. Possibly some of the kids were too young and not ready for school. The woman shown as the teacher for four months of the school year—it’s not clear who taught the rest of the term—was Margaret Stephenson. Her salary is listed as $85.

During the 1928-29 school year, records show my Dad—at age seven and in the 2nd grade—was the only member of his family left in the Beehive school. There were fewer students, too. Four of Frank Veit’s kids were attending—Treva, age 10 and in the 3rd grade, Alvin, age 8 and in the 1st grade, Harold, age 7 and in the 1st grade, and Roy, age five. However, Roy dropped out because he was too young for school. The only other kid in the school at the time was Woodrow Hayes, son of J.A. Hayes. Woodrow was 14 and in the 7th grade. The teacher for the first half of the school term was Minnie Hayes, whose salary was $95.

My Dad doesn’t remember the teachers, but he remembers the Veit kids, most of who he says used to get the “jump on me and try to beat me up.” He remembers the Veit girl, Treva, as being the nice one of the bunch. Of Treva, he says “she was way older than me and she used to beat hell out of all the other Veits when they would [try] to beat me up.”

Another source, "South Dakota's Ziebach County, History of the Prairie", published in 1982 by the Ziebach County Historical Society in Dupree, SD, says this about those attending the Beehive school: “Students in 1931 were Treva, Alvin, Harold and Roy Veit, Gean Crowley and Helen Roseneau.” The book also says that the Beehive school “was located about 8 miles south of Glad Valley and ran from 1917 through 1936.” It also says: “On the official records the school was called Beehive, but locally it is known as ‘Beebe’. Elmer Beebe was the first teacher in 1917-18. After the Beehive school closed, “Dutch Parrot bought the building and later sold it to Pickers.”

It’s too bad that I wasn’t able to find any records of the Hilltop school, where my Dad later attended. He says “that’s where I used to live in the sheep wagon, so I wouldn't have to ride in the blizzards, because it was something like eight miles from home.”

Both the Beehive and Hilltop schools were one room schoolhouses, and probably were not much different from either of those old schoolhouses depicted in the photos from last month’s post on the schoolhouses of Thunder Butte.

--Mike Crowley
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September 01, 2007

Geanie Wants Beanies

Yes, they called me "Geanie" when I was little, somebody did anyway. I didn't learn to hate it without help. One of my fondest memories goes back to a cattle drive when all the neighboring ranchers were having dinner at our place. I would keep saying "Geanie wants beanies," because I loved beans--this was when I was not even [five] yet. Fred Schrader, an old heavy set, bowlegged rancher kept teasing me, saying "Geanie wants a beanie, Geanie wants a beanie," then being so tickled with his own joke, he hit his leg with a resounding thump. The pocket full of stick matches that he always carried burst into flame. His pants went up like a big cloud of flame and he ran for the creek screaming his head off and jumped in the creek. Tickles me to this day that he got his comeuppance.

--John Crowley (formerly Gene, Gean, and/or Geanie)
Mike Crowley Saturday, September 01, 2007 | (0) comments |