Remembering Cattle Drives
By Dick Perue
Memories of cattle drives, hunting and fishing trips, ranching and good times with a life-long friend came flashing back as I helped the family write the obituary for Chuck Sanger, who passed away recently.
The story of a life-long Carbon County resident, pioneer rancher, cowboy, cattleman and outfitter Charles “Chuck” A. Sanger, 84, appears in this week’s Wyoming Livestock Roundup.
As has been the case way too many times this spring and summer, I again ask for your indulgence as I reminisce about the good times back when Chuck and I were kids on neighboring ranches. His family was on Jack Creek and the Perue family on the Pick Ranch, west of Saratoga.
One of my fondest memories of our friendship as “young men of 12 or 13” was helping with the cattle drives in early summer. Chuck’s grandparents would put a crew together to trail cattle 60 miles from Jack Creek Ranch to the summer range at Sulphur Ranch on Muddy Creek.
It took three or four days to drive the dries, steers, bulls and a few horses to Muddy Creek, but more than a week to push the cows and calves the 60 miles. Of course, the biggest problem was some cows were still calving, while other young calves would always try to turn back.
There were always a lot of good drovers on the drive who would put up with us greenhorns, plus the rancher gave us a good saddle horse that knew the territory and had been on the trail before. Al Enberg also fed good grub and was patient.
Although some grass and a few good springs existed between the Jack Creek Ranch and Muddy Creek, the drive was mostly over arid ground with bad water. The rancher’s advice was, “If your horse won’t drink out of the water hole, don’t you, plus never force your horse to cross Sage or Muddy creeks. Let him pick the way.”
Both creeks would suck us down to the bottom in a flash and the savvy horse knew it.
Other good advice was to look for a skipper or bug in the spring before drinking out of it. Otherwise, the alkali water gave us what was called “the Rocky Mountain quick step” to the nearest sage brush.
Also, don’t believe the old cowboy who tells you slapping the rear end of the dung covered cow and plastering it on your mouth will cure cold sores and chapped lips. However, from then on, it sure keeps you from licking your lips.
After arriving at the historic stop of Sulphur Springs, it was an adventure to sleep in the old sod-roof bunkhouse filled with pack rats stealing everything. The best defense was a flashlight and a .22 pistol to deter them as they scampered across the log rafters.
As a youngster, I wanted to be a cowboy like Chuck, but suffered from hay fever so bad – my eyes would swell shut and I would have violent sneezing fits. At the age of 15, I became a printer and reporter, while Chuck kept on cowboying.
Although we went different ways, we both were able to enjoy the great life the Upper North Platte River Valley had to offer – Chuck as a successful rancher and inductee into the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame, and me as an award-winning weekly newspaper publisher and inductee into the Wyoming Press Hall of Fame.
Happy trails, good friend, on your next cattle drive! I look forward to riding with you again someday.