Saturday, September 12, 2009





John Duncklee



In the early sixties I had purchased a small horse ranch near Nogales, Arizona, and after finding an attractive deal on several registered Quarterhorse mares, I was looking for a stud. My wife at the time had a grand champion halter mare, Salero Maiden. Her sire was Parker’s Chicaro a former sprinter brought to Arizona from Texas by W.D. “Dink” Parker. “Dink” put Parker’s Chicaro on the track and subsequently turned him out with his mares on the Salero Ranch near Patagonia. His bloodline was impressive: by Chicaro Bill-Chicaro TB-Chicle- Spearmint-Man o War. His dam was Beula Burns-little Joe-Black Joe-Traveler. I made some inquiries and discovered that Parker’s Chicaro was then owned by two brothers from Victorville, California. I telephoned them and made an appointment to look at the old black stallion.

They ushered me into a large barn and standing in a small stall I saw Parker’s Chicaro standing with a dull, shaggy coat, ribs starting to show and a forlorn look in his eyes. I thought about him running free on the Salero Ranch courting his mares and living a good life. I leased him on the spot. Upon his arrival at my place I could see that he was in need of lots of care. Each morning I mixed a can of condensed milk into his grain. Within three months his ribs no longer showed and his coat was a glossy black. With the exception of Salero Maiden, I bred all my mares to him that year. Chicaro and I had become friends.

A year later I received a telephone call from the younger brother inviting me for a drink at a fancy hotel bar in Nogales, Arizona. I had a distant inkling why he had called, so I drove to town. Jose Estrella, the bartender, was a congenial man, and a friend of mine from across the border. I had approached him a year or so earlier with a request: if I ordered a Scotch and soda he was to bring me a glass of ginger ale. If I ordered Scotch and water he was to indeed bring me Scotch and water. The reason for this is that this particular bar was the favorite place for livestock people to make deals. I don’t try to make deals while drinking. It is not good for my business. Therefore, when I sat in the booth with the gentlemen from California and one of their friends from Bakersfield, I asked Jose for a Scotch and soda.

The three Californians had already drunk a good supply of their chosen drinks and were almost to the point of slurring their words. We had a rally of small inconsequential conversation before the younger brother asked, “Do you want to buy a horse?”

“What horse?” I asked trying to sound like I didn’t know what he was after. I knew they had purchased an expensive Three Bars stallion before I had leased the old fellow that I stood at my little horse ranch.

“Parker’s Chicaro,” he said.

I paused and took a sip of ginger ale. “How much do you want for him?”

“Twenty-five hundred,” he said.

“Hell’s fire,” I said. “I don’t have twenty-five hundred.”

The conversation changed to something I didn’t listen to. It continued for about fifteen minutes while I made up my mind on the offer I had in mind.

“All right,” I began. “I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you a year’s note for a thousand dollars with no interest if you have the transfer papers with you and will sign the horse over to me tonight.”

He smiled. “You just bought yourself a horse, John,” he said, and went to his briefcase for the papers.

I wrote out the promissory note, signed it and we exchanged paper. Their friend entered the conversation. “Tell you what I’ll do, John. I’ll pay that note you just signed and give you a thousand dollars for the horse, and pick him up in two weeks.”

With no hesitation I said, “Parker’s Chicaro is not for sale.”

I went to the bar and ordered a Scotch and water. During the following year the gentlemen from California brought four mares to breed to Parker’s Chicaro. His stud fee was two hundred dollars. One evening after I had finished with all the outside mares, I told Jose all about the black stallion almost paying for himself.

“That horse of yours is quite a gigolo,” Jose said.




















Friday, September 11, 2009






John Duncklee

                                                                                                                                                                                 Chico was a cowboy, the only trade he knew

He rode in to my camp one day, from then our friendship grew


His home was down in Mexico, where the Rio Yaqui flows, but he

crossed the "line" when just eighteen with his saddle and his clothes


He'd heard they needed mountain hands to tie the wild ones down

He found his way to Tucson and wandered through the town


Before the day was over he had joined up with a crew

And headed for the mountains the kind of country that he knew


The boss cut out five horses, and told him where to ride

pointing out the canyons where the wild ones liked to hide


Chico used his rawhide well, and threw it without fear

not caring if his partner was far away or near


He'd bust the wild ones every day, and bring them in alone

at the end of his old rawhide rope,  'till he became well-known


He was the toughest of the mountain hands that tied the wild ones down

and he'd ride for months in the mountains,  never seein' town


One day he found an old black steer a hidin' in a draw

with one horn up and one horn down,  he threw rawhide before he saw


The look the old steer had in his eye, a look he'd seen before

in the eye of a brindle bull one day,  so he knew what was in store


The rawhide sung and found its mark around the black steer's horn

then all hell broke loose as the black steer charged through the cactus

trees and thorn


The steer kept comin' straight at his horse and hit him in the chest

The upturned horn ripped through his hide and tore in to his flesh


The horse went down and Chico fell, as the old black steer turned back

to take another run at them,  and he heard his leg bones crack


The horse got up, and with the steer, they both ran far away

They found Chico with both legs broke, in the morning the next day


Chico healed and soon got back to tyin' the wild ones down

until there no more wild ones left,  and he wandered back to town


The day he rode in to my camp he'd turned eighty the month before, and through the blurr of time,  he remembered the wild ones once more


He'd ride with me rememberin' the times he'd tied the wild ones down

He told me of the old black steer, and the times he'd had in town


He rode with me for near two years, ridin' herd on three hundred head

Then one mornin' as we saddled up, I looked over and he was dead.


The day he died was sad for me, I said good bye to my best friend

The little man from Mexico, who threw his rawhide to the end.








John Duncklee




In the early sixties, my partner and I bought some registered Brangus cattle from a breeder in Yuma. We leased a bull to service the heifers. The day the cattle arrived via truck from Yuma I was not at the ranch, but doing errands in town.


Seeing the truck parked at the loading chute when I returned, I drove to the corrals eager to see the heifers that we had purchased in order to start a breeding herd to hopefully sell registered bulls to Mexican ranchers from Sonora. The ranch bordered the highway between Tucson, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.


There were three people sitting on top rail of the corral, my partner, the truck driver and the man who did the farming for us. They looked around when I got out of my pickup and headed toward the corral gate. The bull stood separately in the middle of the closest corral. The truck driver held up his hand. “That bull is a mean one and will charge you if you go into that corral,” he said.


Lots of cattle truck drivers, because they haul cattle around the country, have the idea that they know everything there is to know about cattle. They acquire a cowboy hat and think they are cowboys. Seeing my partner perched on the corral fence I supposed that he believed everything this “cowboy” had said.


I knew that the man who raised this bull halter-broke all his bulls, so I opened the gate and walked slowly toward this “mean s.o.b”, as the truck driver had referred to him. When I had approached the corral from my pickup I had noticed that the truck driver carried a “hot shot”, a battery-powered prod that jolts an animal in order to make it move in the direction desired by the person using the devise. In those days most cattle truck drivers carried at least one of these “hot shots’ with spare batteries.


As I walked slowly, but deliberately, toward the bull I heard the truck driver tell the others I was crazier than hell. I began talking to the bull as I approached. He snorted a couple of times, shook his head at me and pawed the ground with his front hooves. Knowing that the truck driver had made him mad with the “hot-shot” a wave of anger went through me. I have always believed that animals treated gently will be gentle. Animals treated as wild animals will act like wild animals. “Hot shot” prods do not help make an animal gentle.


When I was about five feet away from the bull I stuck my arm out. The bull hadn’t moved an inch from his command post in the middle of the corral. He reached his head out toward my hand and took a whiff. I moved in closer, touched the top of his nose and with my fingers gave him a little scratching. Moving my hand up his face I smoothed his hair while continuing our conversation.


Finally I had both hands between his ears and gave him a great scratching. I played with his ears a bit. Soon I had moved around and rubbed his neck with both hands. Then I wrapped my arm around his neck and patted him. The bull looked around at me standing at his side.


Without taking my arm from around the bull’s neck I looked over at the men sitting on the corral fence with looks of total surprise on their faces.

“Damn sure is a mean bull,” I said, with all the sarcasm I could muster. “Now if one of you brave souls will go over and open the gate into the corral where the heifers are waiting for their lover, we can do without putting a halter on this mean black bull.


As I walked out of the corral toward my pickup I glanced up at the “cowboy” whose face expressed his chagrin. “You might try leaving that damn “hot shot” in the cab of your truck before someone sticks it in the most appropriate place on your body,” I said.








John Duncklee

 The storm unexpectedly rolled in with a fury. I had listened to the weather report the evenin' before as usual. The weather reports are not always right. Last night and this morning proved to be one of the wrongs. 

Winter mornin's catch a feller off guard sometimes, and this one damn sure caught this old cowboy with a bunch of heifers out in the hill pasture where there's no shelter but a couple of scrubby oak trees. After I got the coffee makin' at five o'clock I went out on the porch to stretch and test the temperature.  I was surprised to see over a foot of snow already on the ground, and it was still a peltin' down like rain, not floatin' like reg'lar snow. Not likely to stop for a while. First thing that come to mind was the heifers. The next thing I thought about was how gawdawful cold it would be ridin' out to get 'em in to the barn.

I dug in the closet and found the sheep-wool lined, high topped shoes I'd bought from the mail-order house. I tugged on an extra pair of wool socks and then put the shoes on. They felt a tad tight with the extra socks so I took 'em off, tossed the socks into the closet, and put the shoes back on. A feller's feet'll get colder'n ice cubes when his shoes or boots are too tight. That's why I don't wear boots in the winter. They're too snug. I pulled my wool cap down over my ears and went out to feed the horses.

I went through two cups of coffee and a couple of bisquits this mornin' while I waited for the saddle horses to finish their oats. Good thing I did, cause those heifers was damn sure scattered all over. A feller'd think they'd bunch up around the oaks, but not those babies. I found one bunch of fifteen standin' in the fence corner up at the far end of the hills. The rest had taken to the gullies between the snow-covered hills.  

I had decided the big bay horse would be the best for a ride in this kind of weather. He's a strong, but leggy devil, good in snow. As I was saddlin' him I bluffed the rascal by tellin' him if he went to cold back buckin' with me this mornin' I'd whop his ass. I reckon my bluff worked 'cause he just walked out right proud like it wasn't even snowin'. A course the wind was with us a goin' out. But now, after six hours of gatherin' yearlin' heifers in a whistlin' blizzard, it's plumb agin' us, and my toes are a tinglin' with the cold. I reckon my ears dropped off my head a while back 'cause I can't feel 'em. My fingers are too cold to hold a rope, so I reckon if that pair of wild ones cut back they'll have to stay out in the storm 'til tomorrow. I couldn't see to catch 'em anyway. My catch-rope's probably as stiff as a #9 wire anyhow.

The bay horse and me had a helluva time gettin' the heifers to start. Drivin' 'em agin the storm that had turned into graupel snow. A university feller told me about graupel snow one time. It's the snow what happens when water freezes around a snow flake up in a cloud, and when it comes down it's like it's a snowin' the split peas a feller makes soup outa. It'll sting hell outa your face when the wind's up.

I reckon the heifers didn't like gettin' their faces stung by the fast blowin' snow. I didn't either, but there ain't much to do about it except keep my head down so the brim of my hat catches most of the stingin'.

It's four mile, a one hour ride when there's no snow, to the hill pasture. Then there's three square mile a feller has to ride to gather the heifers. And, scattered in the gullies as they was, it took me into the afternoon before I got 'em drivin'. I tried countin' 'em, but the snow's been a comin' down so danged fast I'm doin' good just to keep 'em goin' toward the barn. A feller'd think these yearlin's would want to get to the barn as fast as they could, but they keep tryin' to cut back to where they was. I'm glad the bay horse can see 'em better'n I can. 

I can't help rememberin' my years cowboyin' in the Arizona desert. Winters are damn sure different there than these here in Wyomin'. Down there a feller has to watch out for all kinds a cactus full of stickers and spines that'll go plumb through a jacket. Had a drought down there one time, and the boss had me burnin' the spines off'n cactus so his old cows could get somethin' to eat besides sand and rocks. Did that for near two years until the winter rains rolled in and the spring weeds come up like overnight. It wasn't so bad after all. I oughta go back and get myself outa this consarned snow and cold winters. But, the summers'r hotter than the hinges a hell. Which is why I drifted north, the hot summers. Cowboyin' anywhere puts a feller out in all kinds a weather cause cows don't live in houses.

Almost to the barn. Maybe when these gals get to chompin' on some hay under the shed roof they'll appreciate my efforts. I reckon that's a good enough reason to be cowboyin'. It damn sure ain't the money. At least they're not cuttin' back anymore now that we're close to home. 

There's the boss a sittin' in his heated up car in the barnyard. Must be nice to have made enough money in Philadelphia to buy a Wyomin' ranch and a Cadillac to sit in when it's blizzardin' outside. I reckon with the cowboy wages he pays me, claimin' I'm expensive labor, he can afford most anythin' he wants. A feller'd think he could a forked out some hay for these heifers instead of just sittin' in his Cadillac.

The gate's closed and the heifers are all inside the corral. I reckon the bay'll be glad to get his nose back in some oats. I know I'm so hungry the sides of my stomach feel like they're stuck together. 

"Say, Hank, I counted the heifers as they came in and there are two of them missing."

"If you can count 'em sittin' in that there Cadillac, you're a better hand than me."

"Hank, you should probably try and find them don't you think?"

I know damn well I had a full count of the heifers safe and sound in the corral. Damn fool Cadillac cowboy.

"I'll find 'em in the mornin'. That is, if'n I don't go back to Arizona tonight." 



Thursday, September 10, 2009

Brokeback Foothill



John Duncklee

Historians, writers of the West and Earpophyles are dashing about in various states of quandary, amazement, and downright denial. It is all about a bundle of love letters found in an old, time hardened leather saddle bag, discovered in one of the myriad mine shafts in Tombstone, “The Town Too Tough To Die”. The question now posed is “Was Tombstone really tough?” Another perplexing question that through the years plagued the minds of Earpophyles is “Why did Wyatt Earp go to San Francisco when he left Tombstone? The letters first surfaced in 1981 and have passed through a succession of owners since that time.

The current owner of the bundle of love letters, Bowick Treyer, refuses to reveal where he is keeping the letters for fear that local loyal Earpophyles might possibly try to take possession of the letters to destroy the valid evidence that the famous gunfighters, Wyatt Earp and “Doc” Holliday were, in fact, lovers when they both lived in Tombstone. Many would question the social lives of the famous Marshall and the gunfighter dentist, both of whom have soared to hero reputations, in spite of their roles as murderers in the now famous “Shoot-out at the OK Corral” in Tombstone.

From some of the messages in the letters, Earp and Holliday sounded worried that after Ike Clanton found them in a rather compromising situation in Big Nose Kate’s parlor, news of their sexual preferences would get around town. Wyatt worried that he might lose his job as Marshall and “Doc” didn’t want his reputation as a fast draw gunfighter diminished in any way. In several letters the two exchanged ideas about a solution to solve their dilemma. They finally concluded that to force a shoot out would be the safest remedy because Wyatt and “Doc” were confident that they were faster with guns than any of the Clantons or McLowrys. 

Threats lashed out against Wyatt from the Clantons and McLowrys who refused to honor the Tombstone law of no firearms within the town limits. On October 26, 1881 Wyatt summoned his brothers and “Doc”. They walked, four abreast down Fremont Street toward the OK Corral. John Clum, editor of the Tombstone EPITAPH described the gunfight. Wyatt and “Doc” must have sighed in relief that their secret would not be revealed to the townsfolk to ruin their reputations as hard-core gunfighters.

Shortly after the “Only noteworthy event that ever happened in Tombstone” Wyatt tired of “Doc’s” tubercular cough and “Doc” tired of Tombstone. Wyatt went to California and “Doc” sought peace in Colorado.

The will of Bowick Treyor made no mention of the location of the love letters between Marshall Wyatt Earp and John Henry,”Doc”, Holliday.