MEN, MULES, & MOUNTAINS
HORSES, & OXEN
By Truman B. Runeiman
In writing under the above caption, I start somewhat through the back door by writing of the Mountains firs, and the “Toll House Grade” in eastern Fresno County in particular, it was built by private enterprise, but had been taken over by the County and toll collection halted by the time I saw and went up it in year 1889.
I was five and one half years of age at that time. I do not recall too much about that trip, but a few things are clear in my memory. Two of my Mothers, Brothers and their families were camped somewhere near Pineridge, and Father took his family up for the first time, we got there soon after noon, I had a brand new pair of shoes, and ruined them before night, sliding down a big old rock. My cousin Ed, my age, sat down on an old log that had a “yellow Jackets” nest and got badly stung, and the Yellow Jackets tried to carry off the bacon while it was still frying in the pan, this was all I remember of that trip.
A couple of years later, being a little older, I was able to see and understand something of what it really was. The road took off in a southeast direction from Tollhouse, along the mountain for three miles, the grade, on this portion was 30 degrees average, that is 30 ft. rise in every 100 ft., and there were short areas where it was a little more than that and an equal number a little less, however it was a continuous rise with no level portions at all.
It was chiseled out of the side of the mountain and on the outside of the ruts there was only a singlefile, foot path width, between the ruts and the edge, and on the inside next to the mountain, not even that. My Sister and I tried walking the outside but it was just too scary, so we followed the wagon.
There were only, about a half dozen pullouts in the entire three miles, and the downgrade wagons had the right-of-way on the inside next to the mountain, whether on the right or left, this was a rule of the roads on all mountain roads, and a good one also as it gave the drivers a chance in the failure of their brakes, to force their wheel hubs into the bank and at least help to stop their outfits. All of the big outfits had bell chimes mounted on the top of the hames of their lead team; the chimes could be heard a mile or more and were to warn anyone going up to get out onto a pull-out.
At the end of the south-east direction, the “Grade” turned almost directly north, for five miles on the other side of the mountain, this portion of the Grade was called the “East Grade”, and was a comparatively easy rise. It terminated at “Widow Waites” Station. The road continued on from there, in a north-east direction Ockenden and Pineridge.
Where the East Grade turned north, was named, “Cape Horn”, probably from the southernmost point of South America, as the “Grade” was almost identical, in shape and direction as the coast line of South America, from Cape Horn.
The bears and Indians followed the canyon from “Widow Wait’s” direction to Tollhouse, and that is the route of the present road, some criticism has been made of the old route chosen, but those critics forget that the outfits for which it was to be used were sometimes 150 to 175 ft. long and would never been able to either get up or down around all the curves and switchbacks of the present road.
During the summer and fall months, when the “Grade” was in its greatest use, that portion on the south-west side of the mountain, was dragged every night, this did not quite fill the ruts, there were a few springs, scattered along the route, and a little stream of water from them was run down each wheel track. It would follow them as far as a mile without a break; this was undoubtly down to help hold the road in condition, also aid in braking the wagons in coming down.
The road was widened a little and the curves improved every year; it was a slow process as it was almost entirely rock, a great deal of it very hard, hand drilling and blasting was the only means of doing anything with it in those days.
During the time between 1889 and 1898, when I went up it at least every other year, there were a dozen or more of the big outfits hauling lumber off Pine Ridge, as the whole ridge was known in those days, down “Toll House Grade”, these outfits consisted of ten or twelve animals and two wagons, a lead wagon and a trailer wagon, but in the later years as the improving of the roads continued, one sixteen animal team with a lead wagon and two trailer wagons was used. (I will write of this outfit later)
The outfits that hauled the lumber, almost invariably, loaded a thousand board feet to the animal, and being at least, only partly seasoned, it weighed close to a ton and one half this multiplied by ten or twelve, plus a couple tons of wagons, was really something to bring down, three miles of 30 degree grade.
The wagons had breaks on both sides of their rear wheels and these were re-lined every trip before starting down. The drivers would also cut a young fir tree 6 or 8 inches in diameter at the top of the grade at Cape Horn and fasten it to the rear trailer, as a drag. Then, when they got to the bottom, or nearly so, would take it loose and roll what was left off the road a couple of hundred yards east of Tollhouse Station, in the spring as soon as these drags accumulated, they were set afire and the fire would never go out, day or night, all season long, (I saw this fire every time I made the trip).
Just a short distance below Cape Horn, there was a sharp and dangerous corner. I happened to witness, how the bigger outfits had to maneuver and inch their way around it, almost a foot at a time. The driver, of course, riding his rear wheel horse, put his pointers, or the team just ahead of the wheelers, over the chain and down the bank, and they were pulling all they could; this was to keep the teams ahead from pulling the outfit into the inside bank and up-setting the whole works into the canyon, after a few feet and before the pointers could scramble back, he had the “sixes”, the team ahead of the pointers, across the chain in the opposite direction and up the bank pulling, and as quick as the pointers scrambled back, he put them also up the hill across the chain, to keep the outfit from heading straight for the canyon, it was the most marvelous piece of horse-man-ship I ever saw. I presume all of the big outfits had to do the some thing.
These animals, I saw do this, were mules; there was not a line on them nor were they fastened together except at the lead bar from which they pulled. They did what the driver told them to do and did it instantly, how they could be trained to do so, is beyond me. It took confidence, judgment, ability, and just plain guts on the part of the driver to do that kind of thing, anything but perfection was just not good enough, and meant disaster to the driver, his animals, and the whole outfit. It still gives me a thrill to think of seeing it, though three-fourth of a century has passed, since I did actually see it done.
I also witnessed another maneuver part way down the “Grade”, where the driver had to put his pointers over the chain, to get around a corner, but the “sixes” were not involved in that one, these were the only maneuvers I witnessed. There could have been more places where they had to be used.
A word about the way the teams were hooked up to the wagons, how it was possible to execute the things they did with the teams, the wheelers were, of course, hitched directly to the wagon, with the usual double tree, with its single-tree for each horse. A “stay-chain” was also attached to the “single-tree” and back to the front axle of the wagon, these chains were not tight unless one horse was 10 or 12 inches ahead of the other. The pointers were hitched directly to the end of the wagon tongue, with a pair of stretchers, these consisted of a pipe four and one-half feet long with a single-tree at each and a chain, also, about two and one-half feet long, with a hook at the loose end. These were hooked to the wagon tongue. There was a chain called a fifth chain, about ten feet long, hooked to the wagon tongue, also. This had a ring at the outer end, to this the next pair or stretchers and the next fifth chain were attached and so on up to the leaders, the stay chains and the way the stretchers were designed, made it possible for every animal to exert his total power, if called on to do so, regardless of his mates capability. (This was just another example of the efficiency of the way things were done in those days.)
The only evidence of an accident I ever saw was on the “East Grade”. It was of a wreck of a wagon and a load of lumber, I was told the driver had six horses and some were killed. The wreck was lying at the bottom of the canyon, two or three hundred feet below the road, there was little down grade or other factor that could have caused it. My guess is that a wheel broke on the outside and toppled the wagon and its load, into the canyon, and it of course, took the team with it.
Not too far from where we saw the wreck, there is a granite monolith jutting out of the mountain over the grade, if my memory is correct as to the size, there were two hundred and fifty tons of it exposed, and it looked as though as it might turn loose any time. Once when we were passing below it, some “joker” had stuck a manzanita walking cane under it as a prop, to keep it from falling. I cannot recall Father’s exact words, but they were to the effect that whoever did it, was surely and optimist.
A short distance beyond “Widow Waite’s Station” there was a comparative, short and steep hill, called, as near as I can guess at the spelling, “Jacoby Hill”. There was no really deep canyon on either side of the road; it came down the side of the mountain rather than around it. The entire hill was of shale and the wagons would get to sliding regardless of the brakes, and it was said that more horses were killed on this hill, than all the rest of the entire road.
The last time I went up that hill was in 1898, with my Uncle Mart Maxwell. I was fourteen years old at the time. As we started up we commenced to smell something and the odor got stronger and stronger, until it was awful. We soon saw where it was coming form; someone had killed a fine, large grey horse, it was a couple of rods off the road, and an Indian Squaw was cutting, one and one quarter square strips from its haunch; how she could stand to be near it, I do not know.
My Uncle, on that trip had what was called a “spike team”, or a pair of horses on the wagon, and one on the end of the wagon tongue. He had an ordinary two-horse wagon, and no load other than a few bales of hay to feed his horses. He was going up to bring his family home that had been camping at Ockeden.
As we were going up, we led the third horse until we got to Tollhouse. Uncle Mart was a great one for saving time so we took a short-cut from Letcher to Humphrey’s Station. There was a little steep hill just before we got there. I was doing the driving. He had not relined his brakes, and as we were going down the hill, they would not hold the wagon; he said to bank it, so I did. I drove so close the wagon hit of the front wheel went into the bank and hit a rock, concealed by dirt, and did we ever stop.
We camped over night at Humphrey’s and Uncle Mart relined the brakes, before we started on the next morning. I don’t think Uncle mart was ever scared in his life, but I don’t think he liked the way I stopped the wagon coming down that hill.
We got to Tollhouse before the long-line outfits had got down, and had to wait, while waiting, I saw an old “sow” do something that can hardly be believed. Where so many teams were being fed every day, with rolled barley and barley hay, as there was at Tollhouse, there was bound to be quite a lot of spillage of grain.
There was always some hogs loose around there every year, but this time an old “sow” with her bunch of piglets, or rather, near “hoglets”, dominated the picture. She was two or more years old and would weigh 300 lbs. when in good flesh. She had climbed or jumped up into a wagon and ripped open a sack of barley, all wagon beds were near close to four feet high; how she managed to get up there, I don’t know, but I see her jump down when she got chased out.
Uncle Mart did not want to wait until the next morning, so started on up about 11 a.m. The third horse was a sorrel, that someone had turned loose; he was half-locoed or a horse moron, or something. Uncle Mart had picked him up and fattened him up and thought he could get some work out of him, which he could if anyone would.
We hitched him to the end of the wagon tongue and I had to lead him, he would pull so hard as to exhaust himself, then quit. The sun was shooting straight at that three miles of “Grade” and it was hotter than four kinds of “hot places”. I fought that crazy horse all the way up that three miles on foot. It took a lot of rests and time, and was an experience that I could never be hired to do again, at any price. We finally made it, but got in late.
Two of our neighbor families, the Jim Hamilton’s and the Milt Mason’s were camped with the Maxwell’s near Ockeden, at an abandoned mill site, there was some cabins there, the glass windows had been taken, but the campers covered the openings with grain sacks and used them to sleep in.
Ira, George, Jim, and Walter Mason, and myself, slept in a small cabin by our-selves, a bonfire would be started about dark and everybody would gather around about an hour and one-half after dark. We would hear a wild animal coming down the canyon that led right by the camp. We would hear it first on one side of the canyon, then on the other, more than likely, there was a pair, but whatever it was, they had a scream that made your hair stand on end and sent our valley dogs crawling under the cabins’ floors to hide.
We called it the “Ki-Yi” and all that had to be said was that it was about time for the “Ki-Yi” to be coming, to send the smaller fry up to yen years old, scooting to bed. One night after George, Ira and I had gone to bed, we got to speculating what we would do if it came and jumped through the sack nailed over the window. This was, of course, for the benefit of Jim and Walter, who were about ten. We had been kicking the idea around for a while and the Mason’s dog, Rover, got lonesome or figured it safer where we were, and did that very thing; jumped through the sack over the window. There was no difference in scares, until we realized just what had came through that window.
The sawmills were always located down in the canyons, and to get the lumber out and up to the main road, the teamsters would have to pull their lead wagons out first, park it on a slight down-grade, then go back for their trailer wagon, even then it was a really tough job sometimes, and as one man expressed it, “It was no place for a Schoolmarm” when the teamsters were talking to their mules, in getting the job done.
Hooking up the trailers to their lead wagons was really a dangerous job. The trailer tongues were short, only about four feet long, and the drivers had to guide them into place by hand, and any slight difference in the wheel tracks, would cause the tongue to whip side-ways, and more teamsters were injured in this operation, than all others combined.
Our own family outfit was ideal for those mountain trips, our spring wagon was light in comparison with the ordinary ranch wagon, but was capable of carrying a thousand lb. load, anywhere, and that was all the load a team could take up the “Grade”. Our team were cross-bred “Oregon Mustangs”, strong, willing, and healthy, with plenty of daylight under them.
It was almost exactly forty miles from our home to Tollhouse, which was a good days’ travel for any horse, including saddle horses. Our team would make it easily; we would camp at the Schoolhouse about a mile below Tollhouse, then get up about 3 a.m. and get up to Cape Horn by 7 a.m. before the down traffic got that far. All the up traffic stayed clear of the down traffic on that 30 degree grade, between 7 and 10 a.m. Of course, it was always known what outfits were in the hills, and when they would be coming down, the up traffic would then have clear sailing, other than small outfits that could get on the pull-outs.
I think I was seven, when we camped on “Stevenson Creek” with a family by the name of Lemon, that had lived for a time in the “Iowa School” district and had a daughter three years older than my sister Lizzie. Mr. Lemon had a placer, gold mine on the creek, that is now covered by “Shaver Lake”.
Mr. Lemon had bought a supply of water down the mountain ridge on the north, in a ditch and dropped it down the mountain in a pipe line, starting with a 10 or 12 inch size and decreasing it and ending it with a nozzle, the pressure was so great, the nozzle was mounted on a tripod, and a 5 or 6 fool lever attached to it to be able to direct its direction.
The daughter Grace, was showing my sister and I the works, and demonstrated how it was used. She turned on the water to the nozzle, and in almost no time, washed down a couple of yards of sand and gravel, then took a gold pan and washed a little of it, and got about $2.50 worth of gold. There was one little nugget a little larger and the shape of a grain of wheat and smaller stuff. This was the only gold I ever saw taken from the earth.
There had been a band of sheep taken through there earlier in the summer and a bear or some other wild animal had, scattered the band, and there were quite a few half grown lambs around there. The Lemon’s were using them as a meat supply, I saw a couple, they had black faces, which was not too common in the Merino’s that were mostly raised in Fresno County.
A year or two after that, we were again on Stevenson Creek, when they were building the first Dam to form Shaver Lake. Father, my Sister and I, were out on the trail just west of the Dam, when we saw a commotion in a parch of manzanitia bushes down the hill from us. It continued for quite awhile, and Father decided it must be a bear, eating the berries. He had just picked up a rock to throw into them to route it out when a fellow raised up. He had been cutting himself a manzanitia cane; he never knew how lucky he was to raise up just then.
On all our various trips at that period, we saw the lumbering operation. At first they were using only oxen in logging. They hauled the logs on four wheel trucks. The wheels were just a foot section of a tree with an iron or steel band around it. A bolster mounted between each pair of wheels, a coupling pole from the rear pair to the front pair and a tongue to guide it, and that was it, the axle must have been of wood, as they squealed to high heaven as they rolled along.
They would pull the truck along-side the down tree, that had been sawed in 12 to 20 foot logs, put down a timber at each bolster, man-handle a chain under a log, then back over the log and truck, hitch all but the wheel pair of oxen, onto the chain and literally roll the log up onto the truck.
They usually hauled three logs, the first two, side by side, and the third on top of these, after the first log was out of the way, they would put their team through the opening, and drag the chain through and under the next log, and then back out and over, and roll that one up and on. In a restricted area, I have seen yokes of oxen going through an opening, and other yokes coming out, and having to crowd through to do it. That is one thing I don’t believe you could do with mules or horses.
It is an almost life-long regret that I never got to see the “Bull-Whackers” as the drivers of the ox teams were called, breaking their oxen to work. They like the “Mule-Skinners” and the “Head-bed Drivers” carried a whip, but it was different from the others, except the “pop” which if that was possible, made a louder noise and was being popped almost continually. While the other drivers used their whips to alert or make their teams do some particular thing, the Bull-Whackers seemed to use their pop to keep their teams awake. I never saw one of them actually strike their animals, but told them by voice what they wanted them to do.
Their whips were different from the other drivers, and each had a different method of popping their whips. The Bull-Whackers whip had a hardwood handle, about two and one foot long, a braided lash about twelve feet long, an inch in diameter at the handle and tapering to a point at the lash. The Header-bed Drivers, used theirs in much the same manner as a fisherman does his pole and line, holding a large loop in his hand and throwing it out with the whip handle. The Mule-Skinners, threw their black-snakes in any direction, with the sudden stop creating the pop. But the Bull-Whackers, starts theirs with the handle and lash laid out in a straight line behind them and swung it straight out again making the pop from the sudden stop. They had a small spike protruding from their whip handle about three-fourths of an inch, it was sharp, and I saw it used a time or two, to get action from a stubborn bull.
Every ox team seemed to have a Star, Jim Spot, and Bally, these last, of course, always white faced, in every team. The Bull-Whackers in yoking up would pop his whip, raise one end of the yoke of the lead team and call, “come Star”. Star would be lying down chewing his cud, he would immediately quit chewing his cud, waggle his ears, then slowly raise up on his hind legs, then his fore legs, then stretch, then twist his tail, and start slowly waling slowly up to the driver and stick his neck under the yoke. The driver would put on his ox-bow, then he would call “come Jim”. Jim would go through the exact slow motion process. They never stopped moving, but you had to watch closely to be sure of it.
It was the same thing with all ten of them in each team, once in a while one got ornery and he got gabbed with that spike and got it taken out of him.
Everything about the oxen driving was slower than slow, but they were more powerful than mules or horses, and were never getting sick or hurt. They could be corralled in a third or less the area, than mules or horses, and a few stumps or big rocks that would keep the later, bunged up or crippled, from their continually quarreling and fighting was not problem. They could even be fed on the ground without waste, which could not be done with horses and mules.
All the mills that I was familiar with used three teams of ten head (five yoke) in their logging. There was always a slight hill to the unloading yard; this was to enable the man-handling of the logs with “cant-hooks”, down to the saws.
Just before the hauling of the logs by trucks passed out of the picture, one mill was using two ox teams of ten head and one team of twelve head of mules. The ox teams would take their load right up the hill with no apparent additional effort, but the mule team with its two additional animals would get stuck every time. The driver would get down off his wheeler and go up the line, and dress down one with his “black-snake” and they would come un-stuck and take the load on up. How he could tell which mule was not doing all he could, was something I never could figure out.
The last bulls I saw used was by a fellow that hauled distilled brandy from “Wests Winery” at the corner of McCall Ave. and Manning Ave. to Selma. He used two bulls that stood about 15 hands high and weighed close to a ten apiece. He used regular, horse harness on them by turning the horse collars and harness up side down. He used four animals, those two bulls on the wheel and as odd a pair of horses as you ever saw in the lead.
One horse was quite tall and skinny, the other saddle-horse size. His load was six and one-half tens and his wagon was made for one-third that load. He hauled to the freight cars on the S.P.R.R. in Selma. I was told that a rear wheel broke a quarter mile, from the cars. It happened close to a lumber yard and he got a timber and rigged it from the front axle and back under the rear axle on the broken wheel side, and literally dragged his load the rest of the way. No four or six mules or horses would have been strong enough to have done so.
The building of the first dam of Stevenson Creek to form Shaver Lake was to create a supply of water to float the rough cut lumber by flume down to Clovis, about 35 or 40 miles away, where it was stacked and seasoned. At first it was thrown loose into the flume and away it would go, but they found that if a board caught on something, it would create a jam that would cause the water to over-flow and shoot enough lumber to build a house into the canyon before thee operation could be stopped and the dam cleared. They soon came up with the idea of clamping it in 12 by 12 inch bungles and overcame the loss almost entirely.
With the completion of the flume and saw-mill at Shaver Lake, the old method of hauling the logs and the ox teams went out, and little upright steam boiler engines called, “Donkey Engines” took their place in the woods. Skids were built up the bottom of the canyons and the Donkey Engines with their drums and cables. Dragged the logs to the skid-way, which was a couple of trees 12 to 16 inches in diameter, laid side by side, much in the manner of a railroad track, and the logs rolled onto them and then skidded down and dropped into the Lake and then floated to the mill.
They would place 9 to 12 logs, depending on size, on the skid-way, fasten the cable which was end-less, to the outer-most log and way they would go about as fast as a slow walk. A boy 12 to 14 of age would sit astraddle the front log of the train as they called it, he had a five gallon pail of tallow and a stick about four feet long with a foot long rag or soft leather on the end and he would slap tallow on the skids, first on one side then the other as the log train progressed. The terrific weight would heat the skids from friction, so hot that smoke would be raising from the rear end, as it passed along.
Some of the logs were so full of pitch that they would sink in the Lake, and a couple of loggers were always busy with their grappling hooks raising these and fastening a floater log on each side, to float them to the mill. There were another couple at the mill selecting them and getting them in position to go to the saws.
It was quite a thrill for a ten year old boy, to see the loggers walking around on those floating logs. I heard that they had a “nigger” in the mill to turn the logs. It was not quite what I expected; it was nothing but a steel post with a hinged arm on one side that dropped out as it came through the floor, hit the log and turned it one quarter then folded up as it went down.
I wish to write of a mule team used in connection with the operation of the sawmill at Shaver Lake. I did see the team with its load coming down in 1910. The rest of this I was told by my Uncle Jim Kennedy who was hauling rasin tray shook from some smaller mills on the Ridge, and was entirely familiar with the team and its operation.
Madary’s Planning Mill in Fresno had contracted with a man from Clovis to haul by wagon, the quarter sawed, sugar and yellow pine, clear stock, that he used in making window sash, doors, and cabinets, in his mill-work operation. His reason was that it was to valuable to risk shattering in the fluming operation.
The contractor built his lead wagon on his ranch near Clovis, and at a cost reported to be $1,000.00, which was four times the cost of the best ordinary wagon. It was the biggest and strongest wagon I ever saw; it had not one but two three-quarter inch steel tires on the wheels and carried 12 to 15 tons of load when I saw it. He used two additional wagons as trailers.
He had assembled fourteen miler and two horses to pull this outfit. They were undoubtedly the finest ever put together, the mules were all “bright bays” weighing 11 to 12 hundred pounds, the perfect size for mules. The two horses were a pair of beautiful “Greys”; they would weigh about 15 to 16 hundred pounds, also, the perfect size for the job.
I came on them at Humphrey’s Station, they were parked for their noon rest. They were not fed at noon but left hitched. The mules or a large part of them were laying down in their harness, ever which way, and looked as though it would be a job to untangle them. My father-in-law was with me and we waited to see them start on their way. When the driver spoke to them, those laying down got up, and into their places in perfect order.
They used the entire week to make the round trip to Fresno from the Mill, their longest haul in one day was 14 miles, their shortest 8 miles. Their load, as near as I could guess, and I was familiar with lumber, was the proverbial thousand board feet to the animal with the weight of the three wagons; the over-all load was 25 to 30 tons.
The year I saw them was their third year on that haul, and there was not an animal over six years in the team. That meant that they had been put on the job as two and three year old. The driver was not the owner, it was told he wanted a week off to get married and asked the owner to take over. The owner said to turn them into the corral, that he had driven them from Academy to Clovis one day, and had chewed a whole plug of “Star” (tobacco), that it was just too slow for him.
My Uncle said, he had followed the outfit out the Tollhouse Grade, and the driver would be, at times, back visiting with him, and the team would be going right on up by themselves, making the turns as though he were right with them.
A little more about mules I saw. In 1947, in crossing the Continent, we went to “Grant Canyon”. Going in from Williams, just before we came in sight of the Hotel and Camps, we came to two very large barns and corrals. I never saw so many mules in one place in my life. I thought I had bumped into some immense farming operation. I never saw mules that acted like these, either. They were feeding or wandering around quietly. Any mules I seen, even as few as ten or twenty, in one corral, there was a quarrel or fuss, going on somewhere amongst them, and the way these acted, surely aroused my curiosity.
That night in the lobby of the “Bright Angel Lodge”, a half dozen or more young fellows in their “Levi trousers and jumbers” came in. There were signs all over the place, advertising the pack trip sown into the canyon, all stressing, never having had an accident, to their tourists, in their trip, down or back.
I went over to these young fellows and asked, who could tell me about the mules. The young fellow I approached said he had charge of them, and asked what I wanted to know. I told him that it looked to as though they had a couple of hundred. He said they had 147. I then asked him how in the world they trained them for that kind of a job. He said they had a world of stuff to pack down into the bottom of the canyon, and if a mule got pushed off the trail and they got him back, he never got pushed off again.
The was about all I got out of him, but in the “Saturday Evening Post”, a couple of years later, a reporter and cornered this same fellow and got a pretty complete story.
The story was a most interesting article, and appeared about 1949, as I remember it, they never brought a mule in off the range until they were five years old. Their first lesson was that they had to depend on humans for their food, which did not take long. Then an old auto tire was rolled into his corral. It is mule nature to chase any strange dog or like animal out of their corral; the mule would never stop until he had kicked the tire out of his corral, when this had happened, he was immediately lassoed, thrown and the tire strapped to his hind leg with a short chain. He immediately undertook to again kick it out; it would wallop him every time he kicked. He would never quit until he was exhausted, then it was immediately taken off and his training began. None of the mules thus treated were ever known to kick again under any circumstances. He was then put to work packing supplies down into the canyon, and the packs were purposely made wide enough to teach him to avoid bumping the wall or getting pushed off the trial.
The above is only a part of the article, that was in the “Post”, which can undoubtedly be found in the files of out Library’s or news-papers. If anyone wished to look it up, it would be more than worthwhile to those interested in such things.
On that same trip when we saw the mules at Grand Canyon, we stopped overnight at Grand Island, Nebraska. They were advertising that Grand Island had at one time been the largest “Mule Market” in the world, buying and selling them by the thousands. The Army would but as many as three thousand at a time. That is a lot of anything, with as much “cussedness” and power as mules.
There is one more mule I must tell about on that same trip in ’47. As we crossed Alabama or Mississippi, I saw a big old farmer, plowing his six or seven acre corn patch with one mule. He, like his master was big also, they came striding out of a corn row and without breaking their stride, turned back a few rows over and kept striding away, and fast. Our mules would stop at the end of the row and spend as much time as we would let them before turning back. That farmer sure must have had the “Indian Sign” or something, on big “Old Jack”, it just was not natural.
In the ‘90’s the Army would send a couple of Company’s of Calvary, to Kings Canyon National Park. Also, a couple to Sequoia National Park in the summer time from the Presido’s at San Francisco, and Monterey. I guess it was to give them a change of scene or some training in mobility also.
We would hear of their coming through, usually several abreast and in parade formation. It was a beautiful and impressive sight to see that many horses of one color and their riders all with their blue uniforms marching along as through nothing could stop them. The horses were all of a size and conformation.
Their supply wagons followed along behind the Company’s, each wagon drawn by four mules. One wagon had two sorrel mules in the lead, I never saw such mules, ever before or after, they looked 17 hands high and were quite slim; their ears were the longest I ever saw on mules and one ear of one had been broken down about a third of its length from his head, and both of them flopped their ears forward and back at every step, their heads were exceedingly long also. They were the meanest looking mules I ever saw. The whole outfit, men, saddle horses, and wagons moved right along.
I don’t recall ever seeing any sorrel mules in out district. We had black, brown, both bright and red bays, an occasional buck-skin and grey, but a larger proportion than any other, just mule-color. I hardly know how to describe it, as I never saw any other animal. Except possibly the mule deer bucks in the mountains during the rutting season, with hair that color, it was the color of elephant hide, probably inherited from their hy-bred origin.
Horses were of all kinds, proud, lazy, plodders, dumb, crazy, mean, flighty, trust-worthy and not, and even morons, but no liars, though I am not too sure of that. My Uncle John Fraizer had a beautiful red roan mare of which his Brother George said that she could trot longer under the shade of a tree on a hot day than any other horse that ever lived.
There were three men who were outstanding in handling those that were hard to handle; they were Sam Brandon, John Long, and my Uncle Mart Maxwell. Each had a different method, and kept it to himself.
None of them abused their animals. I saw them in action and I think I know something of their methods. Sam Brandon was, undoubtedly, the best horse-man I ever saw or heard of. He would take the most vicious horse and these, other than the stallions, were made that way by abuse, and make a workable animal out of them, kicking and running away, was the most common fault. He just wouldn’t let them do it, and taught them they could not. For kickers, he fixed a rope through a ring at the top of their harness down to their fore-foot, and when they tried to kick, he pulled the foot up and they could not, that’s all.
Once I hooked up, for the first time, by herself, a young driver mare to a cart. She had been driven with a mate a few times, but not single by herself. I was going up on the San Joaquin River to build some picnic buildings, boats, barn, and a dance hall and wanted to leave her mate for Father to drive as she had been broken to drive single.
Father helped e to get her hooked up. When I told her to go, she immediately threw herself. Father sat on her head to hold her down, until I got her unhooked, so she could get up without breaking something, she got up in the shafts of the cart, and we never let her get out, but hooked her up again, whether Father’s sitting on her head made her give up throwing herself again or not, she went that time.
I had got a miler or so up the road when I came on. Sam diving a horse along the roadside without any tool or anything. I was joshing him about having so many lines and no tool, my colt got excited and gave a big jump, and the loops that held the seat of the cart, which had got cocked somewhat in the fracas at home, turned loose dropped the seat down on the axle. There I was looking up at her, I held her, and Sam pulled up his horses front foot, and tied it, and came over and held my horse until I could get untangled, and the cart seat hooked up right again. Another thing happened on that trip with her. About half way between Fresno and the River, we ran into a hail storm. She wouldn’t face it, and I wouldn’t let her go back, so we sat it out right there. It was soon over, and then she went on.
It is said that “you can lead a horse to water, but cannot make him drink” but Sam Brandon could, and I saw him do it. He had taken over the Fowler Livery Stable, and a bunch of fellows had got together and purchased a Grey Percheron Stallion in the mid-west that had been imported from France.
They got him cheap; he was perfect as to conformation and weighted about a ton and was as near right for breeding as could be, but was so obstreperous and uncontrollable as to be hard to handle.
They turned him over to Sam and he kept him in a small corral at the Livery Stable just to give the reader an idea of what the young fellows that worked there thought about him. I will tell an incident I witnessed. I was coming down the street with my horse and cart when I saw three or four of them coming out of the stable on the dead run, all in different directions, of course, being young myself, I had to see what that was all about.
What had happened was that an ornery young fellow, (still living), that could imitate the “neigh” of a stallion had done so, kicked the side of a stall, raised a big clatter, and started running down between the stalls, yelling, “look out, Grey is loose!” The other fellows never stopped to look, but took off like rabbits out of a brush heap that had been set afire.
I don’t recall whether it was at that time or later that I saw Sam make “Grey” drink. He brought him out with a lead strap snapped to his stallion halter, which was only different from ordinary halters in that it had a short chain fastened on one side, and through a ring on the other side in place of the usual chin strap which tightened on the animals lower jaw, much in the same manner as a dog’s choke chain.
Grey, immediately tried to jerk away; Sam jerked up the chain against his jaw, and when he didn’t behave, he grabbed the short chain in his left hand and the stallions left flank with his right hand, and around and around they went, the stallion trying to get away from that flank held a few times around and he was ready to behave. He didn’t go down that time, but when Sam first started with him, they would keep it up until the stallion would get so dizzy he could not stand up.
This time Sam lead him over to the water trough after the go-around, he did not offer to drink. Sam told him to put his nose in the water, which he did, but still did not swallow. Sam told him to drink, and he started to gulp it down. It is hard to believe but others saw it also. “Grey” knew he had to or fall down.
Uncle Mart Maxwell would trade for a horse that someone could not handle at a bargain value, and in a week my Aunt Lizzie would be driving it all over. He never told but I think he used the old “Indian Walk Down” method. It was said that an Indian could walk down any wild horse on the plains in the early days if he had to. He would just keep the horse moving, never letting him rest or sleep, until he did not care whether he got caught or not. I think Uncle Mart, after he got a bad one going, just kept him at it until he had no will to do anything, he did not have too.
In 1905 when Father was building, John Long’s home on Fowler Avenue, and I was working with him. We saw John handle a horse he had got; it was a moron if we ever saw one. He did not know anything, and did not intend to learn.
John had a grey horse he had trained named “Ben”. Neither Ben or his master were big in size, but they were sure “mighty” in getting the job done, whatever it might be.
John Saddled Ben and got a halter on the “moron”, and led him out on a vacant field close by, fastened the lead rope to the saddle-horn, got off and told Bed to take him away. The horse was not going to go anywhere, and Ben could not drag him, but he could and did keep turning him around. He soon lay down, but Ben kept right on turning him around, and he soon learned it was easier on his hide and neck to be on his feet and go along with Ben. In just a few days, John was using him along-side Ben on a springwagon, making regular trips to Fresno, two or three times a week.
I will now write of our own team. I was just over a year old when Father bought them. They were mares; their names, Pet and Nell. Pet was six; Nell four years old. Twenty-one years later, Father and I buried Pet, Nell lived a couple or three years longer, I was gone by that time and the Mason boys helped Father bury her. They were all that horses could be; we took care of them, and they took care of us, as far as it was possible for horses to so do.
I started feeding them and cleaning their barn when I was six years old, I was not big enough to lead them out to water as they would sometimes come out on their hind legs and do a lot of rearing around, from just feeling good. It was not many months before I could water them though, the first time I tried it, Nell jerked away, and after that I snapped their halter chains together and that put a stop to that.
Those mares never hurt me, not even accidentally, they even seemed to look out for me. I could crawl over or under them and do anything I wanted to do, after I got old and big enough to harness them, Nell did nip me a time or two, when I got careless or purposely pulled a few hairs in buckling her bellyband, usually just put her ears back, though.
Pet was a very proud, and even fastidious horse, she would not lay down in her stall if it was not clean, but would sleep standing up as horses would often do. She was a beautiful dark Chestnut sorrel, with a slightly lighter mane and tail. She carried her head very high, with her neck almost straight up, was a natural leader and lived y the motto “They shall not pass”, (more about that later).
Nell was a Dapple Grey, and one that was willing to go along, but could not care less. It seemed to me that kept them cleaned and curried that she would deliberately stretch her neck to lay down where she would get soiled. She made up my mind for me that I would never but a Grey horse, and I never did.
They were both about 16 hands high, Pet weighed about 1150 lbs. and was slightly rawboned at the hips. Nell was about 150 lbs. heavier and a beautiful conformation.
Father was no horseman, Nell would fly back every time he would hitch her to a real lead, but eventually take hold and give him a real pull. But Pet, when told to pull, never quit until you told her to. She never went back in her life, you had to be careful, she was not too far ahead when you brought her up to something to hitch to.
I think I could have taught her to back, but Father had never bothered to do so. After I got big enough and did work them, Nell never refused to take hold of any load when I told her to, just why, I don’t know. Kid-like, I would deliberately test her, even with loads she could not move, maybe it was because I cared for them so many years.
Pet never was driven single until she was twelve years old. A friend, Jim Turner, brought his team and was doing some scraping with the four horses. He loved good horses. He hitched Pet to his Petaluma’s cart to go up and pick up Father who was working in Fowler, and we discovered we had a marvelous horse. It was just over three miles to where Father was working, and she trotted that distance with that heavy cart in just over nine minutes, and through a full half mile of very sandy road. She could and did trot faster than any saddle horse could run. I never saw her break her trot, she trotted with her hind feet well spread, and her front feet between then and overstepped 17 inches with her hind feet.
I think the only thing that ever passed her was a fellow on his gasoline velocipede on the R.R. track, (a track-walker); she was then 17 or 18 years old. Mother and I were on our way to Fresno, about Calwa we noticed Pet perk up her ears and let out her speed. Soon she did it again, and we heard the velocipede and commenced to try to hold her in, but she gave it a real race for a little while, but it was just too fast for her.
Once my Sister Lizzie was driving her home from Fowler, and came up to a band of sheep, about a quarter mile north of Dinuba Ave. There was a burro with his pack on his back, right in the middle of the band. He was going along with his head down, Pet could not make out just what he was, and decided it did not look safe to her, so she took Lizzie and the buggy straight for home across a stubble field as fast as she could go. She was not running off, just playing safe.
The last time Nell went up the “Toll House Grade”, I was twelve years old. Father, my cousin Arthur Maxwell, and I were with her. Art had put in one of their horses named “Dock”, to make the team. We had our spring-wagon. After a day or two at Ockeden and Pineridge, we decided to go over to Kinkey Creek and Laurel Creek.
We started out in the morning, and Dock that had came into California from Nevada, with a pack on his own back, got scared, or pretended to of another horse with a pack on his back, feeding just over a rail fence by the roadside. The fence was quite high and he had his head down, and all Dock could see was that pack bobbing around so away he went, and Nell with him.
Father was driving and he let them run, the road followed the top of a ridge and was safe enough, and with only a slight grade. Father let them run quite a ways, then trot almost all the way to Kinkey Creek, it was a fast trip. The bridge across Dinkey had been washed out, and we had to ford it.
The ford was almost solidly covered with rocks, the shape and size of medium-sized watermelons. The horses were able to put their feet down between the rocks, but the wagon wheels had no eyes and bounced and slid off these rocks in a way that gave permanent remembrance.
We went on a few miles to Laurel Creek where some men were mining for gold. They were shoveling sand and gravel into sluice boxes that had riffles in them. They told us it was only a couple of miles to the “McKinley Grove” of big trees.
Father was more interested in the mining, but Art and I wanted to see the Sequoia. A boy about my age told us when we crossed the creek to take the left hand trail, we were there before noon, so we took our horses and took out bare-back. There was a long steep hill of shale just across the creek that the trail climbed. We kept going for several miles and did not come to any big trees and decided someone had lied, so turned back pretty mad. When we came to that steep shale hill, we had to get off and walk and lead our horses. I was riding Nell, of course, she was pretty cautious going down that loose stuff, my patience was pretty thin and when she got too slow, I would pull her with the reins, and she would slide. I sure had her where the hair was short that time.
We finally go down and back to camp about dark; that boy that had directed us was not around, we looked him up the next morning. He swore he had told us to take the right hand trail, maybe he did, and we mis-understood him, so we took out on the right hand trail, and in about a mile came to Bear Creek. It was only a rod across, and looked about a foot deep to me and Nell also. She stepped right out into it, but it was twice the depth we thought, and I shot right over her head into it, new levi’s and all, and was I ever mad. Art was behind me and had not come into sight, so I got Nell across and back on her. Art came along on Dock, and they went through the same performance, and I wasn’t mad any more. We soon came to where a bear had been sharpening his claws on a big Fir tree, he must have been a big one as his marks were 8 or 9 feet up. We went on and soon came to the big trees, they were the first I had ever seen, as there were none on “Pine Ridge”.
Another story about a couple of horses and a couple of men. When I was 13 or 14, a man moved onto a little ranch, a half mile west of ours. I don’t recall his name, he stopped me one day and offered me a dollar if I would take his team and wagon and go to Caruthers and pick up a dozen or so shoats. A fellow was to deliver at a certain time there. A dollar was hard to come by those days and I agreed.
It was cold and foggy weather, I got to his place at the time he had set. He had his team hitched to a light wagon and a crate for the pigs on it. His team was what we called a “shot-gun” team and they were rearing to go as I turned them onto the road a couple of rods from the start, they really exploded. I let them run, I had ridden faster then they could run. The road was wide open, also, the wheat fields along-side. It did not take long for them the settle down to a trot and I kept them at it. I had never been to Caruthers, but I knew where it was, in those days the roads out that way did not always follow the section lines, but went from “hither to yon”.
I got there a half hour before the time set, but had hardly had got stopped, and here the other fellow came with the shoats. He came in on the run, roaring and bellowing, he was big and dirty, he drove up along-side and wanted to know if that was So and So’s outfit. I told him “yes”, he jumped down into his wagon and still roaring started to catch the shoats and pitch them to me. I had the advantage of him, as all I had to do was grab them by the ears and slide them into the crate. When he had caught and pitched them all, still roaring, I unfastened my lines and took off. That “yes” was all the word he got out of me.
On the road back I figured that what he was roaring about was that he thought he had got “skinned” in the deal, and the fact that the fellow that hired me used the reason that he was not feeling too good made me that maybe he had, and that I had been sent into the “Bears Den” to gather up the marbles.
When I got back with the pigs, the fellow that had hired me decided that it had not taken long enough to be worth a dollar. But a bargain was a bargain as far as I was concerned, and I stood pat. I guess he decided that with my Father a half mile away on one side, and a couple of Uncles less than that on the other side, I was right and he come through. He left the neighborhood a few months after, and I had no more contact with him.