1881: The four-day horse trapping

One day, it was October 26, the Farmer discovered that a number of his horses on the meadows were missing. A friend claimed to have seen them somewhere in the mountains not far from the Yellowstone with another herd of horses. Therefore, the Farmer decided to go into the mountains on horseback in order to trap his horses; I would escort him.

In the early morning hours of the next day two riding horses and one pack horse are being saddled up. We leave at around 10 o’clock. At first we ride up the valley of the Bridger Creek during most beautiful fall weather. In the course of the afternoon, after we had put about 25 miles (40km) behind us, we set up our bivouac in a wide valley. The Brackett Creek ran close by. The night was starlit. Far away from any human dwelling we are all alone in the world and soon a deep sleep covers our tired bodies. After a refreshing night’s sleep we set out early and ride into a gorgeous fall morning. At the foot of a hill we got of the horses and tied them down. Then we climb up the hill through a lot of scrub. On top, we enjoy quite a panoramic view. Even though we have a good long glass, we are not able to spot any horses anywhere on the prairies. Around noon we reach the 25-yard creek.

In the course of the afternoon we come by three farms. The owner of the last farm we get to, Mr. Officer, informed us that he saw the described horses with a herd of another farmer. We stay at the farm for the night, but in the open air. This time I sleep rather uneasy: no wonder, since not far from us several coyotes sound their nightmarish howls. The next forenoon we hunt up- and downhill but unsuccessfully, until we arrive at the farm of the old bachelor, Mr. Granniss, who owns a larger herd of horses. We get settled in on the farm and whilst we are kindly being served a meal, we find out that the landlord indeed has several unknown horses amongst his herd. Therefore we shortly set forth and ride, on separate paths, up the hill.My horse was acting rather stubborn. He was named “Schkukum“(good) by an Indian from whom Gottschalk purchased the animal. Because it did not want to behave according to its honorary name today, I cut off a sharp thorn from a hedge which had a healing influence on the mobility of my noble runner. Despite riding around for a long time I have zero success –  there is no horse to be found anywhere. Slowly I ride down the hill again towards the farm, which I am able to get to before dark. Gottschalk is not back yet. Only in the evening – it was probably around eight and very dark outside – I hear a loud yell. Gottschalk was outside with a herd of 30 horses. Quickly I open the fences and together we chase the animals in to a “Corral”, a circular fenced in space. The lost horses and a mule were among them. The landlord did not seem satisfied by our success; he had rather kept the horses. However, he put on a good face and invited us to dinner. Easily we started eating and thoroughly enjoyed the freshly baked bread which was served with every meal. It was homemade by the farmer and another housemate. Not long after that we stretch out on the floor where we spread out our buffalo hides. After an excellent night’s sleep, we were all saddled up at six the next morning.

It was Sunday, October 30th. Beforehand we had separated the four horses and the mule that belonged to us from the rest of the herd. The farmer Granniss was of big help. The animals did not want to separate from the herd. Therefore, Granniss went into the corral and began to chase all the horses along the inside of the fence. Then he skillfully threw the lasso around the neck of a precious black mare that belonged to us. Soon the others followed, whom I separately had jump out of the group. After Gottschalk rode ahead with the black mare by the hand, I chased the other horses galloping before me, but after a short distance the horses break out sideways and turn around in order to get back to the herd. This happens quite a few times until old Grannis eventually sat up on one of the horses, no saddle, no bridle, pushing a rope into the horse’s mouth. We had covered quite a distance like that – the horses trotting behind Gottschalk – when the old guy jumps off the horse, agile like a young cat, and slowly returned to his farm afoot.

Meanwhile, we keep galloping until after some time we see the Yellowstone River to our left, whereas the mountains get closer to our right, so we no longer had to fear for the horses to break away. Finally, after galloping for one and a half hours, we change into trotting and now are at more ease to enjoy the beautiful river valley. The Yellowstone does not stay by our side for too long. Soon we turn right, higher up into the mountains. A cold wind is blowing our way, right through my thin clothes. After some time, while we are riding along the edge of a forest, Gottschalk about 100 feet ahead of me, I spotted a horseman coming our way. Quickly I take my rifle off the cantle into my right hand and steer my horse closer to the farmer. He as well had taken his rifle in his hand and was ready to fire. As the stranger comes closer, we exchange a friendly “How do you do”, the rifle is being put back onto the thick cantle and the ride continues.

We soon get to a drivable path, a downright highway, on which, around noon – What a surprise for me! – we find a tavern. The “Halfway House” of Hopper. After we put the horses into a safe shelter, we very much enjoy a simple but very good meal. Then we stretch our limbs, which are tired from a six-hour long horseback ride, for a well-deserved rest. After resting for two hours we swing back into the saddle. However, riding on a horseback is getting quite difficult for me, since I my body has turned stiff from the strenuousness. The Farmer who was riding ahead of me seemed to have felt the same way, however, we do not let it show to one another. We get ever higher into the Rocky Mountains; the wind fiercely blows into our faces, soon it starts to rain. Now we only get ahead step by step. The narrow paths get steeper and steeper. We finally reach the summit. In the meantime, the rain had soaked us pretty good.

In countless turns it now goes downhill towards to valley of the Bridger Creek. The rain gradually turns into snow. It starts to get dark when we reach the valley – only a few more miles and we arrive at our destination. After a fast trot we finally get to the farm, drenched through to the skin. The night had closed in completely. The horses, except our saddle and pack horses, are easily being sent onto the snow-covered meadows where they unite with the rest of the herd. The Farmer told me that the horses, because they are constantly being held outside, in the summer and in the winter time, are very hardy and able to withstand any weather events. In the winter time the fur gets as thick as a pelt. Inside the house, I quickly take of the clothes which are ready to be wrung out. Then I lay down in bed covered in a woolen blanket.

During dinner Mrs. Gottschalk gave me a letter from my brother Adolf, who lots of news from Barmen since the passing of my father. Then we three stay together in the wood-fired warmed living room for some cozy chit-chat, in which our four-day trapping adventure is of course the main topic.

translated by Julia Strehlau-Jacobs

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