Horses in the Mountains of
Montana and Idaho
Return to Yellowstone
Halo Ranch Outfitters is operated by a family of professional cowboys. Some of the cowboy Poetry that is included revolves around a cowboys way of life.
Many of the true
in this link of Halo Ranch Outfitters have
connection with the
wranglers and guides that are connected with the Eagle Ridge Ranch. The
guides who work for Yellowstone Horses-Eagle Ridge Ranch conduct
horseback riding tours into the mountains on the
that are included in this link deal with the local area and stories
that seem likely to be true- or at least most of them.
ROY THE HORSE By Tom Angell
As I was setting in the Idaho Livestock Auction sale-ring during the spring of 1986, a powerful built muscular Quarter Horse stud was pushed into the auction arena. This beautiful bay stud weighed about 1300 pounds; his powerful neck was very thick as older stud’s necks usually are. His mane was long and unkempt, his tail nearly drug the ground, and he still had not lost his winter hair. Earlier, during this sale, several wild horses had been auctioned off. Like this big bay stud, these horses had been herded into the ring; the earlier horses were not halter broke and they were forced in, wild eyed and afraid of the blaring loud-speaker, hundreds of people staring at them, and the two men, with buggy whips standing behind the three, short, protective post areas within the ring.
Later I found that this big stud had been captured and brought to Idaho Falls along with the wild horses that had sold earlier, but aside from that there was no similarity between the horses. This big stud trotted into the ring with his head held high; he looked at the new, strange, surroundings, and then carefully proceeded to search for the way out. However, as soon as he determined that he was in an enclosed area, instead of becoming frantic, as wild horses usually do, he deliberately approached the closest man with the buggy whip.
Soon the man with the buggy whip realized that he was the one who needed to find a way out! Twice, the man snapped his buggy whip in the powerful bay stud’s face, but the big horse kept coming; the man then bolted for the small door leading up to the auctioneer’s booth. The big thick necked stud then turned his attention to the other man in the ring. This man did not bother to snap his buggy whip, he quickly ran for the concrete and cable wall that separated the auction ring from the spectator seating and frantically crawled between the cables. This all happened before the auctioneer ever started the bidding!
As I watched the fiasco in front of me, even though I was there to buy saddle horses for my newly planned horseback riding business, thoughts of a bucking horse for my sons to practice on crept into my mind. However, because of this new business venture that I was trying to establish, the bucking horse thoughts were short lived; I only had a small amount of money to spend and I needed to buy saddle horses.
I’ll now quickly explain this business venture. A few years previous, the State Highway Department had purchased land that adjoined the single lane highway that ran from Idaho Falls into Montana. They had made these purchases with intentions of constructing a four lane freeway. For the most part these freeway plans were not welcomed by the land owners; the properties were obtained using a unique, and as far as I’m concerned very unfair law! The Highway Department legally had the right to condemn and then purchase property that they considered necessary to make highway improvements. The highway department’s goal was to bypass larger towns such as Rigby, Rexburg, Sugar City, and pass under the town of St. Anthony. Their plan was to obliterate the small towns of Lorenzo, Thornton, and Chester. They were mostly successful in obtaining the property necessary to construct the new freeway. Wherever possible they tried to construct the freeway near where the old highway was, especially where the old highway adjoined the railroad right-of-way that had been established back in the homesteading days.
The Middle Branch of the Fall River runs down through my home ranch. Just north of our ranch, this stream also passed under the existing highway and railroad tracks. The Middle Branch of the Fall River is a natural flow stream, although there have been some alterations in its original course, and canals have been created to divert some of its water, it’s the same stream that was here before man settled the area.
Approximately one half mile north of our home, and just a few yards north of the highway and railroad bridges that cross the Middle Branch, there is a very swift waterfall. Because of the swiftness of the water that passes down over it, the waterfall stays open year round and there is no ice accumulation next to the banks. Just a quick note: Because of this natural ecological factor that causes open water year round, before the construction of the tabernacle in St. Anthony, the Yellowstone Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints actually conducted their wintertime baptisms in the water at the base of this waterfall!
The highway department ran into a problem because of the waterfall; in order for the new freeway to follow the existing highway and railroad right of way, it would actually have to pass over the waterfall. Because of the resistance from the Cazier family, whose homestead would be wiped out, along with the need to construct an unrealistic bridge over the waterfall, the highway department chose to alter the freeway’s location and actually go around the home site and waterfall.
Because of this deviation of the freeway, a small three cornered tract of land about three acres in size was created. Because this tract was bordered by the abandoned two lane highway to the south and the newly constructed, restricted access freeway to the north, and even though it had rich soil in permanent pasture, because of its restricted access the chunk of land was no longer used by anyone.
I made arrangements with the land owner to rent the property. I then built a hitching rack, and constructed an 8’x12’ overhead sign that said: Horseback Riding. That was the beginning of my commercial horseback riding career. The business was small; it was mostly run by my kids with Bobbi being the main wrangler and guide. We would saddle the horses at the barn each morning, then ride and lead them north one half mile to the hitching rack by the freeway. We would then stand around waiting for people to “drop in”.
When the drop-ins showed up, we took guided rides on our ranch, starting on the narrow stretch of land located on the banks of the Middle Branch of the Fall River. Even though the half mile stretch of land between our place and the railroad tracks is right-away that belongs to the Fall River Canal Company and my neighbor Zane Bloom actually has the grazing rights for it, Zane told me he was not interested in using it. Consequently that stretch of pasture has been part of the Halo Ranch for as long as I’ve ran the place.
The guides, after reaching our own deeded property, and depending on who was conducting the ride, rode in different directions. Even though our deeded property lies on both sides of the stream, there wasn’t and still isn’t a bridge across the Middle Branch of the Fall River. In order to reach the southern portion of the ranch, our rides crossed the stream; we used a different crossing when taking the ride out than we did when bringing the rides back. After crossing the water, our rides followed the meadow that adjoined the stream usually riding close to the small, but steep cliffs located on the east side. It’s a beautiful ride! The water runs very fast down through this section of our ranch. Back when we were conducting these rides there were huge boulders located in the stream and the water would hit them, splash magnificently in the air, and create a fine mist of water particles in which little miniature rainbows could be seen. A few years ago, the canal company decided to dig these boulders out of the stream and pile them on the bank along its side. What a waste of money! The same amount of water ran the length of our place then, every bit as fast as it does now; the only thing the excavations changed was the amount of grass on the sides of the creek where the boulders are now piled, and fewer crossing areas. We now have just two; one is up near a concrete and metal structure that is used to divert a large stream of water into a man-made canal called the “Cross-Cut Canal. This crossing was usually used during the first portion of the ride. The second crossing is a rougher, rocky one located near the southwest border of our ranch. After crossing the Middle Branch we would ride the pastures and hills that our ranch is composed of. Depending on the guests, the ride usually lasted about an hour which included the mounting time. Even though the ride was trivial compared to what we do now, the guests always enjoyed it.
Now back to the big, powerful stud and the horse auction in Idaho Falls. My goal was to have ten available saddle horses for our new business, and I only had five. Because of my limited resources I was looking for bargain type horses. As the bidding started, I soon noticed that no one was interested in bidding on the stud, not even Bish Jenkins who at the time was the largest canner-market horse buyer in the country! Thoughts of my sons, especially my oldest son Travis who I was sure would someday be the World Champion Saddle Bronc rider, again crept into my mind; I cautiously raised my hand. The auctioneer immediately recognized my bid and with very few attempts to get a higher bid, he said, “Sold!”
Suddenly I thought, “What did I do?”
After the sale was over, I found the people that brought the wild horses to the auction; an old rancher proceeded to tell me quite a story about this big stud. To start with, they had given him a name, it was “Roy”. Roy was about ten years old and had been the top stud in the herd of wild horses that he ran with. For years, the ranchers who ran their cows in the same area as the wild horses would periodically have spring roundups and capture a few of the wild horses. This was extra money in their pockets because they sold the horses, as canners, by the pound. About fifteen years earlier, because of the inter-breeding that was taking place, the horses in the wild horse herd were becoming smaller. Wanting to correct the situation, these ranchers concentrated on capturing studs in their roundups, and then they would turn quarter horse studs back out with the mares. It didn’t work! The smart, wily, old wild-horse studs that the ranchers couldn’t capture would either kill the newly introduced quarter horse studs or keep them driven away from the mares.
In 1976, on the very day of the spring roundup, one of the ranchers had a prize, papered mare, die as she gave birth; her newborn foal, who had been fathered by a heavy muscled top notch stud, lived. It just so happened that during the roundup, one of the captured wild-horse mares also gave birth. The rancher, who was one of the men that had been trying to up-breed the herd, came upon a plan. He killed the wild horse mare’s colt, put his prize mare’s foal, Roy, at her side, and turned them back out on the range!
It worked; the wild-horse mare claimed and raised the new foal! Within a few years Roy, having been raised as a wild horse, and naturally accepted by the other horses in the herd, and using the things he learned growing up in this fierce environment, along with his enormous stature, started driving those older, but smaller wild horse studs away. Soon, Roy was the top stud in the herd! Within a short time, the mares that Roy serviced started giving birth to larger, better quality colts. Three and four years later the larger, filly colts that he fathered were ready to start reproducing and Roy bred them as well; their colts were even larger! This process continued and the size of the horses in this wild horse herd increased dramatically.
Line breeding can work great; an outstanding
qualities, such as muscles and overall size can be amplified very
However, by the same token, inbreeding will also cause genetic
problems. By this time, Roy, in many cases, was actually
his great-granddaughters. He was big and powerful and would not let any
of the other studs, including his own, now larger, stud colts near any
of the mares in his herd. Knowing this, and not wanting to
genetic deformities develop, the ranchers chose to capture Roy during
their spring roundup of 1986. Even though Roy was well bred,
was ten years old and had been raised as a wild horse; except for the
day he was born he and had never been touched by human hand.
ranchers knew there was no sense in trying to make a saddle horse out
of him so they chose to sell him for slaughter right along with the
a quick note:
in those days, did anyone try to train a mustang; this has since
changed drastically with the governments "adoption" program. Now,
because of the changes in laws, the majority of the slaughtered horses
today are shipped to Europe and Japan where the lean meat is considered
After learning about Roy’s life history, I proceeded to try and load him in my borrowed trailer. I had also purchased a couple of other horses during the sale but when I tried to load the horses together, I could see it was hopeless. I then chose to haul Roy back up to the ranch by himself and then make another trip back down for the other horses. By this time I was really having misgivings about my purchase!
A couple of days after the sale we ran Roy into the bucking chute of our rodeo arena. He was not halter broke and it was a fight getting the bronc halter and saddle on him, but we finally succeeded. We had good arena crew of four; my son Travis was an outstanding bronc rider; seldom was he ever thrown. His two younger brothers Chad and Jerry were just getting to the point where they could almost ride the bucking barrel, but they were far from good bronc riders! I’m not sure, but I don’t think either of them had ever actually been on a saddle bronc at this time but they both had aspirations to become bronc riders). My youngest son, Blake, was good at opening the chute gate and I was the pick-up man
With this crew of flankers, pickup men, and gate openers all prepared to “rodeo”. Travis climbed on and said, “Outside!”
Our big powerful stud burst from the chute, "crow-hopped" about three times, and then loped off across the arena! Thinking that Jerry might have missed the flank, we ran him back in and tried him again. The results were the same; he wouldn’t buck! Now I was really disgusted with myself for buying such a worthless chunk of horseflesh. During the next few days, twelve year old Chad and Jerry even tried him out. It was hopeless; I finally conceded that he was just a canner.
Knowing that studs didn’t bring much by the pound, and not wanting a horse around that couldn’t be led, I castrated Roy and then as he recuperated, and was sore from his surgery, went right to work breaking him to lead. To our amazement, he was very cooperative and quickly learned to lead. We were so impressed with how fast he gentled down, we decided to try breaking him to ride. He was amazing! A ten year old wild-horse stud, that had never been handled, should have been nearly impossible to break to ride. He wasn’t; he was highly intelligent and he trained abnormally fast.
At this time, my brother Casey was working for a cattle ranch in Hamer, Idaho; the ranch belonged to a wealthy rancher by the name of Larsen. Casey’s main duties were in the feedlot portion of this huge ranch. Employees of this ranch had the option to use their own horses and Casey has an extraordinary ability to work with horses. He could, and still can train a horse to perfection! Knowing this, and knowing that Roy was showing promise of becoming a well broke horse, I asked Casey if he would like to finish this green-broke, thirteen hundred pound, ten year old quarter-horse gelding. He agreed and it turned out to be a great move. After about eight months of intense riding in the runs and alleys of this huge feedlot, Casey brought Roy back. I have never, even to this day, ridden a better broke horse! At the slightest command, Roy would do anything you asked. He could single out cows, shut and open gates, and in many cases do things without even being told. He could drag big bulls, stand and hold the rope tight as Casey climbed off and doctored steers, open and shut gates with his nose, and the list went on and on. Casey, who has spent a good share of his life on the back of the horse, told everyone that Roy was the best broke horse he had ever used.
Our home ranch based horseback riding operation lasted only one year.
In 1987 we were offered the horseback riding concession at Harriman
State Park and eagerly took it. We took all of our horses and
saddles to Harriman State Park and spent the next 18 years, conducting
horseback rides in the mountains and meadows of Island Park.
As you probably guessed, Roy was my favorite horse.
For many years Roy was #1. When I say #1, he was first place in every way. First, all herds of horses have a pecking order. The #1 horse is always quite bossy; in most cases the #1 horse in a pecking order will nip at any horse that gets in his territory, but Roy didn’t. Just for example, if there is a fresh chunk of hay thrown into the corral, the #1 horse will have the first opportunity to eat it. With most #1 horses, if there is only one flake of hay, the #1 horse will eat his fill before allowing the lower horses in the pecking order to try it. No one ever challenged Roy for that right, but if there was enough hay there for other horses, Roy didn’t object to other horses coming up and eating with him. Without exception, all of the other horses accepted Roy as #1 but the unique thing with Roy’s prestigious #1 position was almost as if he had sent out a proclamation that said: “I won’t pick on you, but don’t you ever challenge me!”
To continue on with the #1 details, besides being the top of the pecking order I’ll mention some others. Who was my #1 guide horse? Roy. Who was the smoothest loping horse I owned? Roy. Who was the fastest walking horse I owned? Not Roy, he would much rather break into a trot than try to walk super fast. Who was my favorite wrangle horse? For many years it was Roy, he would be standing at the barn door waiting to be saddled every morning. However, about five years ago he started moving off to the far corner of the wrangle pasture about the same time he saw me walk into the corral. I then had to walk out to get him. When loading a large load of horses in a trailer, who did I save until last because I knew he would shove his way in regardless of how little space there was left? Roy.
Yes, Roy was the greatest horse I’ve ever owned, but he
perfect. For years, because of his huge powerful stature, a
person couldn’t even see his withers. Consequently
saddle, with an expanded full quarter horse tree, had to be
Even with the special saddle we had to pull the cinch tighter and
tighter every time we mounted someone. His back was so round
we had to use a special breast collar with an over the neck strap to
keep the saddle from rolling. For years and years we had to
special bridle on Roy. The main reason for the special bridle
because we always used him as the wrangle horse and he always wanted to
push the horses in from the pasture faster than was wise to do. With an
ordinary bit in his mouth, Roy was hard to hold back! In fact, without
the special bridle a person would actually have to pull the reins as
tight as he could and then dally them around the saddle horn to hold
him in check; this was only while he was running with other
horses. In fact, because of the fact that Roy could be used
all ages and experience of riders, often we used him for real young
kids. It didn’t matter if they are too small to do
hang on the saddle horn, he wouldn’t take them anywhere but
rest of the horses.
AROUND the turn of the
century there were plenty of characters like old Geyser Bob in every
Western community. Too "stove up" to take their .place in the
rigorous life around them, they eked out a living chopping firewood,
swamping out saloons, or doing whatever odd chores they could lay a hand
"There you are, Elk," he said, "have one on the house. And just let's see how those jokers like it when they come down for their evening's drinking and meet up with a full-grown elk on the front piazza." Leaning the fork against the wall, the old man headed for his cabin. FOR a long time no one approached or; left the hotel. As dusk drew on, Bob sat by his window, smoking and waiting. At last be caught a movement in the pines, and a bit later made out the form of the elk as it moved out into the open, picking up the scattered hay. Presently it was licking at the wisps scattered on the steps."You reckon that animal's locoed?" somebody wanted to know.
"Now," whispered Geyser Bob fervently, "when some of those danged soldiers show up, we'll see who's most scared, them or the elk!"
But no one came, and the animal began cautiously working up the steps. Finally it made it to the porch, and stood eating the hay in the corner there. Again Bob prayed for just one soldier to appear—or even a drummer—so he could watch what happened when the frightened bull plunged past him, down the steps. But no one came and the elk, having found a comfortable camp, filled his belly and lay down in the hay pile.
Bob returned from stoking the stove little later, to see three soldiers from Fort Yellowstone swinging up the path. Anticipating the joys of a free evening, they were in a gay mood as they hurried toward the bar. There was a quick commotion on the porch, and a yellow-brown apparition rose up before them on the steps.
With one accord the soldiers broke ranks and fled for the side door of the building.
This was as much as Geyser Bob had hoped for. But now the elk gave it that extra something that was to make the old man's revenge complete. Instead of taking off for the woods as fast as his knobby big-jointed legs would carry him, Mr. Elk bounded off the porch and gave chase. As the three soldiers rounded the corner the animal stopped running but, instead of cutting for the timber, he returned to his bed en the porch.
"You're crazy!" the barkeep told the three when they accused him of harboring vicious wild animals on the porch. “Where would I get an elk? What kind of Forty Rod have you boys been drinking anyhow?"
"Bet you the drinks you aren't man enough to step out on the porch to see," one of the soldiers taunted.
The barkeep stepped out quickly—and stepped back twice as fast. White-faced, he slammed home the bolt and stood listening to the thud of the big antlers against the door, as the elk served notice that the porch was his domain and he didn't welcome strangers. Without a word, the bartender turned back to the bar and set out the drinks.
Huntley Childs, owner of the hotel, and his friend, Roger Pryor, tried it next. They made somewhat better time back around the building than the soldiers had; they had to, for the bull elk followed them clear around to the side door. Next came the assistant park superintendent, Joe DeBarr. Through the window they saw him approaching, caught his attention, and told him to circle around and come in the back door. Joe did, but the elk was onto that one, too, and charged around the corner just as Joe dived into the woodshed. Inside the barroom they held a council.
"Not likely. An old granddaddy elk is mighty mean-tempered and cantankerous once he makes up his mind to protect something be figures is rightfully his. This one seems to have staked out his claim on that hay pile."
"Who the blazes left it out there, anyhow?"
"That's what I'd like to know, and I'd sure like to get my hands on him," the hotel's manager, Campbell, said.
Someone came up with the suggestion that the elk, wearied with eating snow, must crave a drink of water to settle all that hay. It seemed a reasonable surmise, so men jostled each other for vantage points in the windows while manager Campbell slipped out the side door with a big bucket of water from the kitchen well. The elk heard the door open and came pounding off the porch.
Step by step Campbell advanced. "Here you are, boy," be soothed. "Here's a nice warm drink of water. Come and get it."
The elk came, with a rush. Campbell tarried not, but jumped for the open door. In seconds, all that remained of the big wooden bucket was the iron rin and the bail, which had somehow became entangled on the animal’s rack. Haughtily, the elk returned to his bed while Campbell went upstairs for dry clothing.
"This is too much," De Barr said. "That elk is locoed. I'm going to call headquarters and get permission to shoot him.” This was easier said than done. "What's the matter with you?" his boss roared, when De Barr phoned headquarters. "That hotel is within the boundaries of the park, isn't it? And that elk is the property of the United States Government, isn't it? You can frighten it away, if you like, but under no circumstances is it to be harmed. I'll have the hide off anyone who takes a shot at it."
The elk, however, was in no mood to he frightened out of his warm bed, so after considerable more cranking of the old wall telephone, a squad from Fort Yellowstone was dispatched to take over the task. Smartly they marched down the road, their guns loaded with blanks. The elk heard them coming and stood up to watch the show.
In the cabin Geyser Bob, who'd enjoyed his revenge but had been about to give it up in favor of a little sleep, tossed a couple more chunks of wood on the fire and decided to stick around a while longer too.
The squad deployed to face the veranda.
"Ready, aim fire!" barked the sergeant.
The volley rattled the windows and made Mr. Elk shake his head until the bucket rim banged his forehead. Lightly he stepped to the veranda's edge and stood waiting. The next volley brought him in one graceful leap to the ground.
"We've got him now," the sergeant exulted. "Give him one more and he’ll head for the tall timber."
A fourth volley rang out—and the elk made up his mind. He charged, and the Army of the United States scattered like quail. His enemies dispersed, the elk ambled leisurely back to his bed. .
Periodically, as the night advanced, someone would open the side door. Instantly there would be a clatter of hoofs and the bull elk would flash into view around the corner. He had them cornered, and he knew it. No one cared to make a run for it to get away; the nearest shelter was too far and the snow too deep. The animal's temper seemed to grow shorter each time his rest was brokenly the necessity of having to chase his captives back indoors, so along about midnight Campbell finally gave up trying to close the bar and started assigning bed rooms. "And since nobody is exactly free to leave," he said reluctantly, "I guess this time they'll have to be on the house." During all the excitement of the night the old bull elk must have sprained a foreleg, for when dawn broke, cold and clear, he was observed limping morosely back into the forest. Whether it was that, or whether he decided a little tame hay wasn't worth such a fracas, he never came back.
Maybe he didn't have to. Maybe, as some folks claimed, a lot of company hay disappeared that winter, usually about the time Geyser Bob made those mysterious treks of his back into the pines. But that was well onto fifty years ago, and stories get a mite twisted in the years.
But one thing all oldtimers around the Yellowstone will tell you for a fact: down-and-out and working for bed and board or not, Geyser Bob was probably the most respectfully treated man around the park that year. Soldier or civilian, nobody ever dared josh the old man again.
Montana is full of strange but true stories By Steven Gillman
This is a strange but true story from twenty-five years ago, when I was sixteen. I had just hitched a ride back out to Interstate 90 as the sun set. The night before I had been caught alone in the back country on the northern edge of Yellowstone National Park, in a freak May blizzard. A grizzly bear pawed the ground outside my tent in the middle of the night. That is another story however.
This strange-but-true-story starts with my thumb out, as I stood on the side of the freeway ramp. There was snow on the lilac flowers, even here in the valley near Livingston. My tennis shoes were still wet from stumbling through the mountains earlier in the day. After an hour or more, a car finally pulled over. This is how I met Violet.
It was difficult to determine her age, but from the stories she told, I guessed she was in her fifties. She told me she was on her way home from her brother's trial in Bozeman. I asked her what he was on trial for, and she told me "He killed his girlfriend." In case I doubted her, she flipped over the newspaper on the seat and there she was on the front page, with the headline, "Sister Says He Should Be Hanged."
"He cut her up for no good reason," she added. Not knowing what to say, I said nothing. Although she seemed perfectly comfortable talking about it, she graciously changed the subject.
"Have a hard time getting a ride here?" she asked me. I told her I had. "That's because a few years back a man was killed by a hitchhiker on the highway down to Yellowstone," she explained. "They found the hitchhiker in the woods near the highway, roasting the man's heart over a fire."
"I guess that explains why it's hard to get rides here," I agreed.
She had only had trouble with a hitchhiker once, she told me. "He was even younger than you, and he pulled a knife on me and tried to rob me." I asked her what she did, and she replied casually, "I just pulled out my gun on him and told him he better behave if he wanted a ride." That seemed fair, I agreed.
She went on to tell me about the last time she was camping in Yellowstone, back in the fifties, when her husband was still alive. They saw a missile come out of the sky and hit a mountain, triggering an earthquake. Then army officials came and told everyone in the area that it was a matter of national security, and they couldn't say a word about it. I nodded and asked for a few more details.
Then came the story about the UFO. An alien spacecraft had hovered over them on another camping trip, picking up their trailer in a "tractor beam" and lifting it off the hitch, into the sky. It was dropped in a field nearby, and the sheriff, who was driving behind them at the moment saw the whole thing.
She generously let me spend the night at her house, in her brothers room. In the morning, before driving me back out to the freeway, she even offered to let me take any of her brothers clothes or cowboy boots, since, "He won't be needing them anymore." I declined.
Later that year, safely home in Michigan, I got a letter from Violet, wishing me a merry Christmas. She
had drawn a picture at the top of a dog in a spacesuit, which she labeled "Space Dog." In the meantime, I had discovered that there had been an earthquake in the Yellowstone area when she claimed they saw the missile, and it had been strong enough to form a new lake.
I still assumed the killer hitchhiker was at least an exaggeration. It wasn't. Years later all the grizzly details were in the news because they were letting the killer go free now that he was sane. The authorities were having a hard time finding a town to place him in.
I still haven't read or heard anything about an alien spacecraft that picks up camping trailers, but I'm waiting. Who knows? Montana is full of strange but true stories.
BLACKFEET CREATION TALE
LEGEND OF THE BEGINNING
Black Bones, a respected Blackfeet elder, told Ella E. Clark the
creation myth in 1953.
Old Man came from the south, making the mountains, the prairies, and the forests as he passed along, making the birds and the animals also. He traveled northward making things as he went, putting red paint in the ground here and there --arranging the world as we see it today.
Going on north after he had rested, he stumbled over a knoll and fell down on his knees. He said aloud, "You are a bad thing to make me stumble so." Then he raised up two large buttes there and named them the Knees. They are called the Knees to this day. He went on farther north, and with some of the rocks he carried with him he built the Sweet Grass Hills.
Old Man covered the plains with grass for the animals to feed on. He marked off a piece of ground and in it made all kinds of roots and berries to grow: camas, carrots, turnips, bitterroot, sarvisberries, bull-berries, cherries, plums, and rosebuds. He planted trees, and he put all kinds of animals on the ground.
When he created the bighorn sheep with its big head and horns, he made it out on the prairie. But it did not travel easily on the prairie; it was awkward and could not go fast. So Old Man took it by its horns, led it up into the mountain, and turned it loose. There the bighorn skipped about among the rocks and went up fearful places with ease. So Old Man said to it, "This is the kind of place that suits you; this is what you are fitted for, the rocks, and the mountains."
While he was in the mountains, he made the antelope out of dirt and turned it loose to see how it would do. It ran so fast that it fell over some rocks and hurt itself. Seeing that the mountains were not the place for it, Old Man took the antelope down to the prairie and turned it loose. When he saw it running away fast and gracefully, he said, "This is what you are suited to, the broad prairie."
One day Old Man decided that he would make a woman and a child. So he formed them both of clay, the woman and the child, her son.
After he had molded the clay in human shape, he said to it,"You must be people." And then he covered it up and went away. The next morning he went to the place, took off the covering, looked at the images, and said "Arise and walk." They did so. They walked down to the river with their maker, and then he told them that his name was NAPI, Old Man.
This is how we came to be people. It is he who made us.
The first people were poor and naked, and they did not know how to do anything for themselves. Old Man showed them the roots and berries and said "You can eat these." Then he pointed to certain trees, "When the bark of these trees is young and tender, it is good. Then you can peel it off and eat it."
He told the people that the animals also should be their food. "These are your herds," he said. "All these little animals that live on the ground -- squirrels, rabbits, skunks, beavers, are good to eat. You need not fear to eat their flesh. All the birds that fly, these too, I have made for you, so that you can eat of their flesh."
Old Man took the first people over the prairies and through the forests, then the swamps to show them the different plants he had created. He told them what herbs were good for sicknesses, saying often, "The root of this herb or the leaf of this herb, if gathered in a certain month of the year, is good for certain sickness." In that way the people learned the power of all herbs. Then he showed them how to make weapons with which to kill the animals for their food. First, he went out and cut some sarvisberry shoots, brought them in, and peeled the bark off them. He took one of the larger shoots, flattened it, tied a string to it, and thus made a bow. Then he caught one of the birds he had made, took feathers from its wing, split them, and tied them to a shaft of wood.
At first he tied four feathers along the shaft, and with this bow sent the arrow toward its mark. But he found that it did not fly well. When he used only three feathers, it went straight to the mark. Then he went out and began to break sharp pieces off the stones. When he tied them at the ends of his arrows, he found that the black flint stones, and some white flint, made the best arrow points.
When the people had learned to make bow and arrows, Old Man taught them how to shoot animals and birds. Because it is not healthful to eat animals' flesh raw, he showed the first people how to make fire. He gathered soft, dry rotten driftwood and made a punk of it. Then he found a piece of hard wood and drilled a hole in it with an arrow point. He gave the first man a pointed piece of hard wood and showed him how to roll it between his hands until sparks came out and the punk caught fire. Then he showed the people how to cook the meat of the animals they had killed and how to eat it.
He told them to get a certain kind of stone that was on the land, while he found a harder stone. With the hard stone he had them hollow out the softer one and so make a kettle. Thus, they made their dishes.
Old Man told the first people how to get spirit power: "Go away by yourself and go to sleep. Something will come to you in your dream that will help you. It may be some animal. Whatever this animal tells you in your sleep, you must do. Obey it. Be guided by it. If later you want help, if you are traveling alone and cry aloud for help, your prayer will be answered. It may be by an eagle, perhaps by a buffalo, perhaps by a bear. Whatever animal hears your prayer you must listen to it."
That was how the first people got along in the world, by the power given to them in their dreams.
this, Old Man kept on traveling north. Many of the animals that he had
followed him. They understood when he spoke to them, and they were his
servants. When he got to the north point of the
By way of answer, Old Man made many images of clay in the form of buffalo. Then he blew breath upon them and they stood up. When he made signs to them, they started to run. Then he said to the people, "Those animals--buffalo--are your food."
"But how can we kill them?" the people asked.
"I will show you," he answered.
He took them to a cliff and told them to build rock piles: "Now hide behind these piles of rocks," he said. "I will lead the buffalo this way. When they are opposite you, rise up."
After telling them what to do, he started toward the herd of buffalo. When he called the animals, they started to run toward him, and they followed him until they were inside the piles of rock. Then Old Man dropped back. As the people rose up, the buffalo ran in a straight line and jumped over the cliff.
"Go down and take the flesh of those animals," said Old Man.
The people tried to tear the limbs apart, but they could not. Old Man went to the edge of the cliff, broke off some pieces with sharp edges, and told the people to cut the flesh with these rocks. They obeyed him. When they had skinned the buffalo, they set up some poles and put the hides on them. Thus they made a shelter to sleep under.
Old Man had taught the people all these things, he started off again,
north until he came to where the Bow and
When he awoke from his sleep, he traveled farther north until he came to a high hill. He climbed to the top of it and there he sat down to rest. As he gazed over the country, he was greatly pleased by it. Looking at the steep hill below him, he said to himself, "This is a fine place for sliding. I will have some fun." And he began to slide down the hill. The marks where he slid are to be seen yet, and the place is known to all the Blackfeet tribes as "Old ManŐs Sliding Ground."
Old Man can never die. Long ago he left the Blackfeet and went away toward the west, disappearing in the mountains. Before he started, he said to the people, "I will always take care of you, and some day I will return."
Even today some people think that he spoke the truth and that when he comes back he will bring with him the buffalo, which they believe the white men have hidden. Others remember that before he left them he said that when he returned he would find them a different people. They would be living in a different world, he said, from that which he had created for them and had taught them to live in.
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