‘Old Blue’ – Knowing Hoss
While researching material for another project, I came across this unpublished manuscript in the Bob Martin/Dick Perue collection and pass it along to the readers of the “Postcard of the Past.” Enjoy this article, believed to have been written in the 1930s by an A.S. Gillespie of Rock River.
A cairn by the roadside where the highway north out of Fort Collins crosses into Wyoming notifies the wayfarer that he is passing the grave of “Old Blue.” Taut barbed wires confine the heap of stones marking the last resting place of the former Warren Ranch cow pony. The spot is hallowed in the memory of many a cowboy who knew and admired Old Blue in his working days.
A weather-beaten painted sign bears a tribute to the departed equine. A tenderfoot wrote it and put it up. The epitaph is noted with curiosity by passing motorists, and many are the inquiries as to the story of the famous horse.
Fred E. Warren, son of the late Senator Warren and manager of the Warren Ranches in Wyoming, gives an account briefly as follows:
“The horse was a blue roan cow pony of average appearance but of unusual wisdom. In his early years, he was used for ordinary work on the range but later found his calling in the education of colts. He was the horse that would drag them into the barn when they were first roped. Then, with the recalcitrant colt tied in the stall, he would be sent in alongside of the plunging animal so that the help could get to the head of the young horse without getting the eternal daylights kicked out of them.
“When we had horses to break for driving, Old Blue was the horse that was harnessed with the youngster to sit on the singletree when the youngster felt like running away and to jump to the collar and drag him ahead by main strength when the colt felt balky.
“As he grew older he seemed to know what was expected of him and furthermore he seemed endowed with quite a sense of humor. If a new man came in the spring and fancied himself as a rider Old Blue was saddled up and given to him as his means of transport. On such occasions, the rascal would look back to size up his rider and then crow-hop around to discover whether the man could really ride or not. As soon as he felt his man slipping he would look back and almost wink his eye as he stopped dead still.
“At other times it was the custom to have the new hands lead Old Blue to water from the barn to a little stream that ran by a short distance away. On such occasion, he would invariably bury his nose in the stream and apparently drink with great gusto, regardless of the fact that only a few minutes before perhaps two or three of our new hands had led him at different times to the same place. In short, he was the universal pet on the ranch, and when the time came for him to cash in his chips, there was much grief in the bunkhouse.
“We had on the ranch at that time a young follow who had at one time fallen into considerable money which was promptly spent on various kinds of whoopee, which won him the title of ‘million dollar cowboy.’ The million dollar cowboy in his grief over the loss of the horse felt that the occasion called for an elaborate funeral service, and so on a Sunday the horse was buried with considerable ceremony. Appropriate sermons were delivered, and I think the boys even tackled a hymn.”
The headboard, with the following inscription, was made at the time and has never been changed although it has many times been repainted.
Erected to the Memory
of Old Blue
The Best Old Cow Pony
That Ever Pulled on a Rope
by the Cow Punchers of the 7XL Outfit
Rest in Peace
At first there was only a small pile of stones placed upon the grave, but for sometime afterwards, it used to be the custom when driving raw colts with the breaking cart to pick up stones along the way, bring them to Old Blue’s grave and pile them up until there was quite a cairn made up of stones from miles around – and incidentally, I suspect that it contained most of the section corners within range of the ranch – at least they have all disappeared.