Hello, As we get closer to Halloween, it gives time to think of Halloweens from the past.
Several years ago there was a fire called the Halloween fire. It was a windy devil and a fire started over toward Sidney, Montana. It burned for miles and miles. I think it was finally stopped by the Little Missouri River south of Watford City.
Wasn’t as bad as the fire that the late, great Danny Woods used to tell about. Danny was a rancher down in the breaks along the little river. He had wonderful stories that he told so much; eventually he began to believe them.
One time I was telling him about a fire we fought on Fort Berthold. He said that was nothing. The ranchers from western North Dakota had fought a fire years ago. It had started up in Montana on the east bank of the Yellowstone. It came roaring across McKenzie County and ranchers were fighting it horseback. They would kill a cow, split it open and drag it across that fire. The fire kept roaring along, and they were having hell keeping up with it. They figured they could stop it at the Little Missouri. The wind was so bad they didn’t have a chance. It jumped the river and headed southeast. The ranchers in hot pursuit. And I mean hot!
At the Missouri River they were sure they had it. But no! It jumped the river and headed southeast. Whipping and spurring the firefighters kept at it. By now more cowboys had joined the fire line and they were keeping it narrow. Just five or six miles wide. But still advancing. In South Dakota it widened out a little so at times it seemed like the whole world was on fire.
Finally, at Sioux City, Iowa, they got it stopped. Once again by the Missouri River. I told Danny they must have been riding some awful tough horses. I mean that’s an eight hundred mile gallop. Danny said the railroad was so glad they got the fire put out, they loaded the horses and firefighters in rail cars, put a case of whiskey in each car, and hauled them back to Dickinson!
Danny could tell stories!
I remember him being concerned about the war in Vietnam. He had heard on the news that the Viet Cong were training gorillas to fight in the jungle. He knew a lot of friends that had fought in the Big War, but he didn’t think they ever had to fight gorillas.
One last Danny story. He told Shirley about how they used to trail those longhorn cattle up from Texas. Now, I know the last trail drives were in the late 1800’s, so I’m pretty sure Danny wasn’t there, but then it was his story.
Anyway, many of these longhorn cows had baby calves when they started, or calved along the trail. And these little longhorn calves were tough, but not up to a trail drive. So each morning, they’d rope these mama cows and tie the baby calves up between their horns! Then at night, they’d catch the cows and let the babies down to nurse!
There used to be real cowboys! Not like when Evan, my grandson was two. He was crying one day because he couldn’t go with Grandpa to the Mountain. Will was trying to get him to quit crying and said, “Tough cowboys don’t cry!”
Evan just stopped for a second and said, “I’m going to be a crying cowboy!”
Dean Meyer is a former state legislator and currently ranches in southwest North Dakota. He has been a featured columnist around the state for many years.