Jack was born at a time when the American Cowboy was becoming a thing of the past. The year was 1925. Thermopolis Wyoming was his home from birth. His father built a 3300 acre ranch along side of the Wind River. Early on Jack was taught the value of hard work and loyalty. Jack grew up with his three brothers, Vard, Orvil, and “J”. (He was always told that the “J” stood for just because, but could never prove it so “J” it stayed.)
You could always pick Jack outta the crowd, cause he was the tall one wearin a red shirt. He once tole me this hid the other man’s blood the best.
These four guys were rough and hardy. They could ride, hunt, shoot, and fight with the best of ’em. But what they loved the most was singin’ western songs. Jack played the mandolin; Vard played the banjo; J played the fiddle; and Orvil played an old guitar he made from driftwood. It sounded real good, but it wasn’t much to look at. Come to think of it, neither was Orvil!
The Cheyenne Days rodeo was the biggest event in the west at that time; followed up by the Calgary Stampede. Our four heroes craved adventure and decided that they were going to pack up their horses and gear in their horse trailer, pulled by their dad’s 1923 Chevy, one ton pickup and headed south down through Casper then on to Douglas. After two days, they dropped into Cheyenne.
In 1925, Cheyenne’s main street was either beer joints, eatin’ houses, and, of course, there were the bawdy houses. All connected by a wide dirt road that never seemed to dry up and the mud was so thick it would dang near pull yer boots off when you tried to cross the street. The four of them pulled up to Patty’s Hotel, parked the truck, run the horses out back to the stable, and waded in through the mud to have a well deserved supper in a nice clean place. Well, it
wern’t all that clean once Vard and J came in; they tracked mud clear across Patty’s carpet. She came at them like a whirlwind form hell.
“Alright you sad lookin’ excuses for cowhands. You get yer backsides back outside and wash them there boots off and don’t come back in until they are clean. I run a respectable establishment and you’re welcome to stay, but you had dang well better do it my way. Now with that the men pulled off their hats with a kinda winsome smile, nodded, and half whispered, ‘Yes’m,’ and headed out the back door to clean up. They must’a got in the horse trough cause when they came back in their faces were clean; their hair was combed; their boots were off; and Vard, who was never known to be a quiet man, greeted everyone with a ‘ye-e-e-e-haw aint we lookin’ better now Patty as the four of them line up fer inspection. These four was a rangy lookin’ bunch. They ranged from Orvil at 6’4″ tall to Vard at 5’8”, and each of them wore a shit-eaten grin.
Patty sauntered up to them with a wide grin and a stogie dangling out of the corner of her mouth and said, “You fellers almost look presentable now. So what’s your pleasure?”
Jay was the first, stepped forward, looked up stairs with a same shit-eaten grin and said, “I was thinkin’ about have desert first.”
With that Jack slapped him in the head with his hat and said, “No mam, that’s not what he really wants. We need to have four steaks, medium rare, a pile of taters, carrots, and a stack of bread, afor’ we do anything else.” Then he winked at J and said, “If you win tomorra’ I’ll bring you back and you can roll in the hay, but you gotta win!”
About now you’re wonderin’ what these four cowhands actually did in the rodeo. Vard was the bull rider; and a dang good one at that. J and Orvil were bronc riders, while Jack came in with steer wrastlin’ and calf ropen.
The next day found they cleaned up, saddled up, and ready to get after it. There were over 10,000 people were there to watch these cowpokes try their dangdest to win first place. At day’s end, Vard had won the $150 first prize bull riding; J and Orvil both took second place in bronc riding with each $100; while wild-man Jack won it all for his two events and pocketed $300.
Tired and sweaty and covered in dust they headed to the barber shop to get bathed, shaved, and cleaned up cause you know where they were heading when they got back to Patty’s. After about a hour and a half, looking totally presentable, they sallied into Patty’s saloon for a well earned drink.
Now these four fellers were peaceable like but never backed down from a fight
cept for Vard. He had a contagious wheeze of a laugh and you could always tell where he was because of it. It seems like trouble always come lookin’ for Vard. Him and trouble seemed to go steady. Vard turned around and leaned up against the bar, let out one of his wheeze laughs and said, “If I can’t lick the meanest of you all, one of my brothers can. Which one of you want to come first?” Well sir, this big tall Swede with the blondest hair and the biggest, square chin the guys had ever seen, with three long strides flew into Vard like a wild cat. Vard had his own cat-like moves and the first thing he did was caught the Swede square in the nuts with the toe of his boot. The Swede hit the floor on his knees with his eyes as big as tea cups looked square into the eyes of the man who had dropped him and said, “Byimmny, yew sure nailed me but good!”
About that time what appeared to be his twin brother came flying at the bar in the same manner heading straight for Jack. Now in addition to being a superb cowboy, Jack was one tough fighter. In 1923, was the light heavy weight boxing champion of Wyoming. Jack leaned off to the right and threw a solid left hook into the sternum of the Swede which promptly doubled him over like a hot slice of bread and with one quick move, Jack cracked him right on the corner of that square jaw, breaking it and knocking him colder than a wedge.
About now Patty came out with a shotgun and a whistle that when she blew it nearly popped their eardrums and hollered at Vard, “You damn fool, when you gonna learn to keep your mouth shut and stop picking on the biggest guys in the room? Now you get up stairs and find Molly and tell her she best keep you until things calm down here.” She was staring daggers when she looked directly at Jack and said, “From now on every time you knock someone out in my bar, I get $20.”
Vard started to leave, but Orvil grabbed him and said, “You know what this joint needs is some good old cowboy music. Why don’t you get out to the rig and fetch our instruments and we’ll get to stomping around here.”
J followed Vard out the door and after a bit they came back in with all the instruments and for the rest of the night Patty’s was filled with song and dance and drunken cowboys.
Morning came far too soon and with headaches and fond memories our cowboys packed up and headed back for Thermopolis.
This story continues with, “When Hell Freezes Over”.