Monday, October 31, 2011

The Old 3 R's Trail

October 24, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Early one fall morning Bill  Barkley arrived at the ranch and told me to saddle up, we were going to move some stock down to the Three R’s Corral near Dinosaur Mountain. I saddled up an old cow pony named Scooter. He was a large bay standing about fifteen and half hands, and weighting in at about eleven hundred and fifty pounds. Scooter was a good ride and I did enjoy handling him. This would be my first trip over
the Three R’s Trail.

Bill and I had rounded up about twenty-five head of yearlings the day before. Now Barkley planned on moving them down to the Quarter Circle W Ranch (Three R’s). Apacheland stood near the old Three R’s. A few years ago, the entire old Three R’s Ranch was razed.

Bill took the lead out of the corral and I hazed the yearlings into motion. They were through the gate and on their way with me eating a large cloud of dust. Now I knew why cowboys wore bandanas. It’s amazing how much dust twenty-five yearlings can stir up when the trail is dry. Bill rode flank and I rode drag. Oh, by the way, drag is riding at the rear of the herd and eating all the dust.

One yearling appeared to know his way back to the Quarter Circle W. Once the cattle settled down and begin to trail, the job of moving them became easier. I finally moved over to Bill’s flank and we chatted as the cattle moved along the trail.

“See up there, Slim, that is where mom killed a mountain sheep in 1915 with an old 30-40 Kraig rifle,” said Bill. What a shot Gertie must have been to make such a kill. The distance appeared to be at least four hundred yards.

Bill told me how many Desert  Bighorn Sheep roamed Superstition Mountain when he was a kid. He talked about the antelope that lived on the desert around Dinosaur Mountain. I couldn’t believe antelope use to be plentiful on the desert near the base of Superstition Mountain. Yes, the region had changed a lot in forty years.

As the cattle continue to walk slowly toward the Three R’s Ranch a Mule deer became part of our herd. Bill said it wasn’t uncommon to have as many mule deer in the herd as cattle when taking this trail. As we rounded Promontory Hill we could see Dinosaur Mountain in the distance some four or five miles away. The cattle continue walking slowly along the trail. Bill then started another story about how the Indians use to gather Mesquite beans along the alluvial fans of Superstition Mountain. “The first time my mother saw those Indians she thought they were on the warpath. Once she got acquainted with a few of them she found out  they were gathering Mesquite beans and Goat nut beans,” he said. Goat nuts were sometimes called Jojoba. One story would lead into another.

I was a young and not-too-cautious man at the time. I coiled my rope with the intentions of trying to throw a loop on one of the small Mule deer bucks that was no more than twenty-five feet away. The deer totally ignored us. Bill called to me and said, “You had better think about it for a moment, Slim, before you throw a loop on that Mule deer.” Then Bill started another story about a young buckaroo he knew once, who threw
a loop on a four-point buck up near Sunflower. When his catch rope was stretched tight the buck turned around and ran at his horse right up the rope. The deer then jumped to clear the horse and collided with the cowboy in the saddle. This was a wreck that would remain a part of cowboy vernacular for decades to come.

The cowboy ended up with a broken arm and two holes in his chest. Bill said he almost bled to death before they could get him to a doctor. After Bill’s short story, I coiled my rope and enjoyed watching the deer walk in and out of the herd. Bill had a unique way of discouraging dangerous behavior that could result in serious injury or an accident.

Bill told me there was a tank about two miles ahead and he wanted to water the yearlings. As we approached we could see Mallard ducks flying off the earthen stock tank. The ducks startled the yearlings momentarily, but they soon calmed down. The ducks circled the tank until we finally moved on. There must have been a dozen or more of them flying about.

While looking at the Mallards, Bill told me another story about a cowboy who almost drowned in a stock tank. Never let your horse get into a stock tank you don’t know. If the bottom is too soft and the horse rolls on you, the horse could easily drown you in six inches of water. Again, Bill was very convincing. I soon figured out, if an eleven hundred-pound horse were to roll on you in a stock tank and cause you to inhale silt as you came up for air, I could see clearly how easy it would be to drown. Another lesson learned from Bill Barkley.

About a half-mile west of the stock tank we ran into a herd of Javelina. These pig-like animals ran right through the middle of the yearlings scattering them in different directions. ill and I were rounding up spooked yearlings all over the desert. Finally, we got them gathered and trailing once more. Scooter and I had plenty of cactus thorns to attest to our effort to corral these young cattle.

We finally could see the windmill and we knew the corral wasn’t much farther down the trail. Finally, we could see one of Julian King’s houses and civilization. I ask Bill what was going on near the old ranch house and he told me they were building a movie set.

We finally got the cattle put away and rode over to Bill’s mother’s new home for dinner. Gertie, to all the cowboys, had prepared a wonderful meal for a couple of hard working men. Gertie made every effort to make me feel at home. When she became inquisitive about my experience as a cowboy I became quite nervous. Then she looked at me and said, I was too young to be very experienced at working cattle. She then asked Bill where he had found me. Bill mention my dad and that seem to ease her interest in me.

Out her front window I could see only a couple of homes in the area. She commented on  all the folks that were moving out to the desert. She believed the area would be covered with houses someday. What a vision she had for what the future held for this area. I will  always cherish that evening at Gertie Barkley’s home and the stories she told me about the old days and real cowboys of her day. Men like her late husband, William A. Barkley and a son like William Thomas Barkley. They were true Arizona cowmen.

I visited Gertie’s home a few times after she passed away and visited with her daughter Nancy and her husband Ken. I could still feel the spirit of this cowgirl of the Superstition Mountain stage. I have the deepest respect for these fine people who helped guide me through that youthful part of life when guidance was most needed to keep me safe.

The Three R’s trail from the Quarter Circle U Ranch to the Three R’s Ranch was a great learning experience for me. The lesson has lasted me a lifetime.