with the Indians in the minds of many people, especially
in the east, are the cowboys. The prevalent idea in the
eastern states about the far west is much the same today
as it was fifty years ago an illusion that the moving
pictures help to keep alive. And yet, prosaic as it may
be compared with the stirring times of yore, there is
still a charm and freedom in western life unequalled in
any other part of the United States. That western people
are fully alive to the romance and adventure connected
with the settlement of the west is shown by the fact
that moving picture representations of western life are
popular to an equal extent in no other portion of the
The mouth of the Portneuf canyon was a favorite
wintering place for cattlemen and freighters because of
the feeding ground to be found on the bottoms, the
shelter afforded by the surrounding hills, and the water
supplied by the Portneuf River. For similar reasons the
Indians used the present site of Pocatello for their
winter quarters. Just west of Pocatello, along the banks
of the Snake River, lay a rich and fertile grazing
ground, where was situated the head-quarters of the old
War Bonnet Cattle company, a big outfit that operated in
this country for several years.
Until the old ranges were broken up into ranches, which
practically ended the old cowboy life, the Portneuf
canyon remained a winter haven for cattle men, and many
wild and thrilling exploits were enacted here. The
cutting up and fencing of the ranges has been inevitable
in the course of progress and development, but from the
cowboy standpoint it has not been altogether desirable
Cattle driven by a storm will run before the wind, and
when they meet an obstacle will halt rather than turn in
the face of the gale. As a result, many cattle, stopped
in their course, have perished from cold and exposure in
Cowboys and sheepherders are still seen daily on the
streets of Pocatello. Many of the latter are Mexicans
and they are looked down upon by the cowboys as being
less hardy and daring.
The two classes have never lived peaceably together
because the sheep clip the grass so close to the ground
that cattle can find no nourishment, after the sheep
have gone. For this reason fights were so common between
the sheep and cattlemen that the government finally
allotted to each grazing grounds of their own.
The sheep men go out with their charges in the early
spring and are on the range for several months at a
stretch. So many of them went insane from monotony and
loneliness that a law has been passed, requiring owners
to send two men with every outfit.
Like most men living an open and free life, these men
are for the most part generous and careless of money,
taking little thought for the future and oftimes going
to excess for the present.
Some years ago, says a resident of Pocatello, an
Italian, with infinite patience and trouble, succeeded
in catching a mountain lion in the hills and brought him
safely to town in a large cage. A band of cowboys, bent
on merry-making, surrounded the cage and danced about
it, letting out their blood-curdling yells and shooting
their guns. The lion, unaccustomed to such antics, at
first snarled savagely. Later he became quiet. The
cowboys began to thrust at him through the cage, and
then to dare one another to enter it. At length one of
the men took up the dare. Armed with a knife and a gun,
he cautiously entered the cage. The lion crouching in a
corner watched the intruder but made no movement. The
cowboy grew bolder and began to probe and kick the
beast. His companions encouraged him with more hoots and
yells, but still the lion lay quiet. Finally the
adventurer withdrew in despair of stirring up a fight.
The savage animal had been so completely cowed and
terrified by the noise that it was literally paralyzed
and unable to move.
Mr. Herman Goldsmith, now in the employ of the Oregon
Short Line, but formerly a cattleman, tells of a town
that boasted but one bathtub, owned by the barber. To
this shop repaired the soiled and weary of the community
for ablution and refreshment. One fine night a band of
cowboys shot up the town and the next day the bathtub
was gone. Search was made high and low, but no tub could
be found. The loss was serious, as there was no railway
in those days and another tub could not be purchased in
a radius of many miles. The town had little godliness,
and now even its cleanliness was gone! One fine day the
disconsolate barber was given a tip that his bathtub was
secreted in a cowboy's shack some miles distant. A
warrant was sworn out, the tub recovered, and the
culprit hied into court. Came also the barber.
"How many baths do you sell a week?" asked the judge.
"About seventy," said the barber.
"At how much per bath?" continued the judge.
"Fifty cents," answered the barber.
"How many weeks has your tub been gone?" the court
"Three," the barber said.
Then the court summarized: "Seventy baths at fifty cents
each equals thirty-five dollars per week. Three weeks at
thirty-five dollars is $105."
So he fined the cowboy $105 and costs, and reimbursed
the barber for his lost business.
The same frontier conditions that produced the cowboy
have served also to make the westerner a more rugged and
ever-ready man than the easterner. The westerner may
lack some of the culture and finish of his New England
cousin, but he is better equipped to fight the battle of
life both in his training and in his inherent qualities.
The west is developing a fine and unique type of
manhood. Its vast distances, its noble hills and
far-stretching plains make an atmosphere of bigness that
alone must influence, even inspire the race that is
native to them. It is said that a little girl, fresh
from the western plains, was asked how she liked the
east. "I don't like it," she said.
"I can not see anything because of the trees." And the
same cramped conditions that oppressed the child have
perhaps done their part in narrowing the easterner.
However that may be, the easterner is usually a man of
more narrow ideas and of stronger prejudices than the
We have one other inhabitant in Bannock County who
deserves notice before he vanishes in the face of
civilization the coyote. No one who has not heard the
yell of a coyote on a still night knows what the phrase,
"blood-curdling" means. These animals are often crossed
with dogs and make cowardly curs, until they are taught
to fight. Having once learned the noble art, it is hard
to make them keep the peace. Their pelts have a market
value today, and in time to come will probably be highly
Another class of men who made a winter rendezvous of the
present site of Pocatello were the freighters men who
drove the old freight stages from Salt Lake to Butte.
These men were true pioneers, camping along the old
trails until they knew them blindfold for hundreds of
miles, and encountering great risk from exposure and
from the Indians. Sometimes an impoverished traveler
worked his way with these freighters. He was called a
swamper, and to his lot fell all the chores of the camp
chopping wood, carrying water and building fires. He
usually paid well for his passage.
There was always bad blood between the Indians and
freighters, the former resenting the intrusion of the
teamsters as they passed through the reservation along
the old trail. The freighters prepared for trouble as
they neared the reservation limits, and frequently met
In August 1878, two men, Orson James, and another named
James, but not related to the former, were taking a load
of merchandise from Salt Lake to Butte, and were
attacked by a hostile Indian on the road between
Pocatello and Fort Hall. The red man opened fire
unexpectedly and shot James in the back. The freighters
returned the fire from behind their wagons, but in time
the Indian succeeded in hitting Orson James in the neck.
Then he rode off into the sagebrush, but was later
captured and taken to Malad City, at that time the
county seat, for trial. He was sentenced to four months'
imprisonment in the penitentiary at Boise, where he died
before his term expired. Both men recovered but Orson
James was lame during the rest of his life.
When the Indian just mentioned was taken to Malad City,
he was accompanied by a brother. This man heard Alec
Roden, a cowpuncher, remark that the Indian on trial
should be hung. He attached undue importance to these
words, thinking, in his ignorance of the white man's
methods of justice, that they would affect the verdict
unfavorably for his brother. Roden was later sent to the
Fort Hall reservation to attend to a hay contract. In
talking over the trial, Joe Rainey said to Roden, "You
should not have let that Indian's brother hear you
advise hanging. He is likely to seek revenge."
Roden laughed the fear away, but that same evening,
while he was working at the barn, the imprisoned
Indian's brother shot him dead.
'Such attacks served to keep the white men on the alert.
They were usually unprovoked, so far as the people who
were attacked knew, but an investigation generally
showed that the red man, after his fashion, was visiting
a real or supposed wrong on the first member of the
offending race he encountered.
Few features of the far west are more widely known, or
more characteristic than the prairie schooner. In parts
of South Africa the same pioneer conditions exist that
prevailed in our western states until a few years ago.
The climate and nature of the country are much the same.
It is interesting to notice that the same conditions,
ten thousand miles away, and untouched by American
western influence, have produced the same prairie
schooner that we see winding the dusty trails of Bannock
county today. It is probably safe to say that were two
bodies of men sent from Paris one five thousand miles
east and the other five thousand miles west to new
countries of like conditions, the two parties would be
found after several generations to have evolved the same
habits of dress, custom and life. Yet not the men, but
Nature, the great mother of us all, would have decided
these things for them.
The History of Bannock County
Idaho, By Arthur C. Saunders, Pocatello, Idaho. U. S.
A., The Tribune Company. Limited, 1915
Bannock County, Idaho
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