Monday, March 20, 2017

"Arkie" Johnston: Occupation Cowboy

March 13, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

I remember the day as if it were yesterday, when I met “Arkie” for the first time at Dallas Adair’s Greenhorn Stable next to the Superstition Inn. Dallas told me Arkie’s name, but that was about all. He was showing Arkie some tricks to packing a horse for a trip over rugged terrain in the mountains. This was some time in either 1972 or 1973. Eventually, I was talking to Arkie and he told me he was giving up truck driving to become a cowboy. He was adamant about making this decision. He had been raised on a farm in Minesota around horses and cows. He understood working stock and cattle. He wanted more than anything to be cowboy on a ranch in the American Southwest. From that day on he worked on those cowboy skills. Packing, riding, roping, fence work, windmill work and whatever else was part of a cowboy or rancher’s job. Arkie soon found there wasn’t much money in just being a cowboy so he decided to start his own pack outfit. He decided to take on an old cowboy, “Bud” Lane as a partner. Bud was quite a legend in these parts with a reputation as a very skilled cowboy and rodeo rider. It wasn’t long before Arkie opened Peralta Stables on South Meridian Road below Broadway Road in Apache Junction. Arkie and his stables were almost our neighbors.

Arkie Johnston, a top hand,
a good cowboy who would help
 just about anyone in distress or in trouble.
Shea Lynn, my daughter, loved horses like all young girls so she eventually got a job attending to Arkie’s five children and helping Pandy, Arkie’s wife. We were always taking Shea Lynn down to Arkie’s to baby sit. Shea Lynn started riding Crow occasionally and having a great time. She and Charley, Arkies son, were riding Crow one day when the horse jumped a small ditch and they both feel off. Charley broke his arm.

It was some time in the 1970s that I traded Arkie my Chevy pickup for a horse named Crow and a pair of Crockett spurs. Crow turned out to be the best horse I ever owned—and I have owned several over the years. I boarded Crow with Peralta Stables for several years until Arkie sold out and decided to manage the U Ranch for Chuck Backus sometime in the early 1980s. Knowing Arkie, it was one adventure after another. First there was the Circlestone documentary, then the legendary Joe Mays Expedition and the Crystal Skull, then the May’s Documentary. This was followed by a summer at the Reavis Ranch. On all of these Johnston adventures, I learned many new things, whether I agreed or disagreed. I met Auggie Guiterriz, Don Allen and Frank Liken. Then in 1982 the ride to the top of 5024 with Nyle Leatham, reporter for the Arizona Republic, Arkie Johnston, Ken Coltmen, Doc Case and myself. This was a trip that none of us would ever forget. Arkie started helping out on roundups here and there, learning the skills of a range cowboy and better knowledge of the cattle industry. Eventually he sold out the Peralta Stables and became ranch manager for Chuck and Judy Backus.

Arkie was at the U Ranch in the 1980s. When Arkie left the U Ranch he was a top hand, a good cowboy and knew what he was doing. He had totally fulfilled his dream to be a cowboy. He always loved the cowboy way. Arkie would help just about anyone in distress or in trouble. His heart was in the right place, but sometimes he was a bit wild like all cowboys have been at one time in their lives. He raised four sons, Will, Charley, Chester and Matt to be cowboys. These four young men will carry on his legacy.

Editor’s note: Everett Kenneth “Arkie” Johnston was born in Humbolt, Minnesota on June 29, 1944. He was U.S. Army veteran. He had five children, Will, Charlie, Matt, Chester and Catie. He had fifteen grand children. Arkie is survived by his brothers Jack and Larry, and also his sisters Linda, Phyliss, and Christina. Arkie Johnston passed away on February 22, 2017, in Mesa, Arizona.