Speaking about cowboys, Sam Stewart, known from Montana to Old Mexico as Broncho Sam, was the chief. He was not a white man, an Indian, a greaser or a negro, but he had the nose of an Indian warrior, the curly hair of an African, and the courtesy and equestrian grace of a Spaniard. A wide reputation as a “broncho breaker” gave him his name.
To master an untamed broncho and teach him to lead, to drive and to be safely-ridden was Sam’s mission during the warm weather when he was not riding the range. His special delight was to break the war-like heart of the vicious wild pony of the plains and make him the servant of man.
I’ve seen him mount a hostile “bucker,” and, clinching his italic legs around the body of his adversary, ride him till the blood would burst from Sam’s nostrils and spatter horse and rider like rain. Most everyone knows what the bucking of the barbarous Western horse means. The wild horse probably learned it from the antelope, for the latter does it the same way, i.e., he jumps straight up into the air, at the same instant curving his back and coming down stiff-legged, with all four of his feet in a bunch. The concussion is considerable.
I tried it once myself. I partially rode a roan broncho one spring day, which will always be green in my memory. The day, I mean, not the broncho.
It occupied my entire attention to safely ride the cunning little beast, and when he began to ride me I put in a minority report against it.
I have passed through an earthquake and an Indian outbreak, but I would rather ride an earthquake without saddle or bridle than to bestride a successful broncho eruption. I remember that I wore a large pair of Mexican spurs, but I forgot them until the saddle turned. Then I remembered them. Sitting down on them in an impulsive way brought them to my mind. Then the broncho steed sat down on me, and that gave the spurs an opportunity to make a more lasting impression on my mind.
To those who observed the charger with the double “cinch” across his back and the saddle in front of him like a big leather corset, sitting at the same time on my person, there must have been a tinge of amusement; but to me it was not so frolicsome.
There may be joy in a wild gallop across the boundless plains, in the crisp morning, on the back of a fleet broncho; but when you return with your ribs sticking through your vest, and find that your nimble steed has returned to town two hours ahead of you, there is a tinge of sadness about it all.
Broncho Sam, however, made a specialty of doing all the riding himself. He wouldn’t enter into any compromise and allow the horse to ride him.
In a reckless moment he offered to bet ten dollars that he could mount and ride a wild Texas steer. The money was put up. That settled it. Sam never took water. This was true in a double sense. Well, he climbed the cross-bar of the corral-gate, and asked the other boys to turn out their best steer, Marquis of Queensbury rules.
As the steer passed out, Sam slid down and wrapped those parenthetical legs of his around that high-headed, broad-horned brute, and he rode him till the fleet-footed animal fell down on the buffalo grass, ran his hot red tongue out across the blue horizon, shook his tail convulsively, swelled up sadly and died.
It took Sam four days to walk back.
A ten-dollar bill looks as large to me as the star spangled banner, some times; but that is an avenue of wealth that had not occurred to me.
I’d rather ride a buzz-saw at two dollars a day and found.