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Postcard from the Past - Return to Council of War

Written by Dick Perue

In our last “Postcard” we related how Chico saved Charley Smith from being gored by a wild cow. In his book “My Sporting Holidays,” English nobleman and Wyoming ranch owner Henry Seton-Karr continues the story as thus:

“To return now to our council of war. 

“‘That was a handy throw of yours this afternoon,’ remarked Frank to Chico.

“‘Maybe it had been better for this outfit if I’d missed that darned heifer!’ retorted Chico.

“We both looked at him in some surprise.

“‘See here, boss,’ continued Chico, turning to me, ‘Can I fire any of the hands I want to?’

“Frank and I assured him that he could, if the reasons were good.

“In response to further inquiry, it came out that Charley Smith and one Al Hurt, a Rawlins local butcher, had recently registered a brand, the ‘flat-iron,’ into which the ‘Pick’ brand could, with a few deft touches of a hot iron, be easily converted; that Charley’s cows on the Pick range were increasing in number with surprising rapidity; that Charley could, single-handed, rope and throw any cow or steer on the range; and that, in short, some straight cattle-stealing was going on at the expense of the Pick Company, which he, Chico, was considerably qualified if he was not going to stop. Frank usually left all the details of running a roundup to the foreman, and in this case he was remaining behind at the ranch for a few days to attend to some business details, so that it was agreed to give Chico a free hand.

“The next day our hunting party crossed the North Platte River, and two days after, we were camped in a mountain valley, intent on a month’s shooting and camp-life. The roundup party was to start on the day following.

“The Medicine Bow Range is now, to all intents and purposes, hunted out, but in those days it was different. Sheep ranching was in its infancy, and game had not yet been driven out or exterminated in this district of the Rockies. I had seen some fresh elk (wapiti) tracks as we got into our permanent camp that night, and as we sat round the camp-fire after supper, smoking the anticipatory and contemplative pipe, I well remember looking forward to the morrow with the keen delight only known in its fullness to the hunter who has just reached the happy hunting-grounds. 

“Coming events, we are told, cast their shadows before, but not an inkling of the tragedy that had then occurred, as it happened, on Sand Creek, 30 miles or so away, crossed our minds; not a single foreboding of the news that was to reach us within 24 hours, and change all our plans, deepened the shadows of the night. . . .”

But, then, that’s another cow chip to throw on the next campfire.