The life of a cattle rancher is never an easy one, but most think it is worth the extra effort. Cattle ranching is not a 9 to 5 kind of job, but I guess it does have it’s perks too. After all, while the day might start at sun up, it could allow for a break in the afternoon heat of the summer day. Still, when there is work to be done, you do the work, and that can mean long hours, and sometimes into the late night or early morning, without a break. That is the life my husband’s uncle, Butch Hein has chosen…or rather inherited from his dad, Walt Hein. Of course, I think it was as much earned as inherited. Quite possibly the only thing he inherited was the old homestead house, which, he doesn’t live in.
One of the things that always must be done in cattle ranching is the branding. That always means hiring a few extra hands to help with the project, because those cattle are not too keen on the process, and who can blame them. They are chased around and roped, held down by the men, and branded with a hot branding iron…ouch!! Any girl who has ever burned herself with a hair curling iron can totally relate to the plight of the cow. These days, of course, Butch has his son Scott and grandson Carson to help out, but it’s possible that he could still need additional help for branding and moving the cattle from one pasture area to another, as those are both pretty big jobs, requiring extra people to accomplish.
A number of years ago, Butch built a house at the edge of the small town of Forsyth, Montana, where he has lived all of his life. Scott had lived, with his family, a mile away or so, but then he built a house on his dad’s large section of property. It has worked well for them, because they can consolidate their equipment, and ride to work together. Scott is a partner in his dad’s ranch, and in time, will be it’s owner, so working together is a must so they both know all the ins and outs of the business. The upside to it is that Butch and Scott, as well as Scott’s family are all very close, so working together can be lots of fun. I’m happy about that, because since Scott’s mom, Bonnie died, when he was young, Butch has really need a nice family to share his love with. Scott’s family is just the family he needed. Today is Butch’s 74th birthday. Happy birthday Butch!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Over the years, I can recall that my dad, Allen Lewis Spencer had a number of hammers, of differing handles and sizes…like most men do, but for as long as I can remember, one hammer was always there. It wasn’t that this hammer was made of gold, or even looked fancy. It had a plain handle, but I suspect it is a hardwood, and not a simple pine. The handle is a medium toned wood, but it may have darkened with age and use. It also has a scorch mark about five inches long along one side, that happened when it was laid a little too close to a campfire. Dad rescued it just in the nick of time. He had to save it, you see. It wasn’t just any hammer…it was his dad’s hammer, and with his dad’s passing, the hammer was given to my dad.
Most wooden handled hammers don’t have a long handle life. That is probably the main reason that many, if not most hammers are made of metal these days. This wooden handled hammer is different, however. My grandfather, Allen Luther Spencer was a carpenter for the Great Northern Railway. His job was to build and repair seats, trim, walls, and floors…anything made of wood on the trains of the Great Northern Railway. He also made tables and chairs for his own family, and he did it all with that same hammer that my dad inherited upon his passing. Unfortunately, I never knew my grandfather, because he passed away before my parents were married. That leaves my sisters and me with only the stories we have heard from family and my Uncle Bill Spencer’s family history. I do know that while my grandfather’s work might never have been in the caliber of my cousins Gene Fredrick, and his sons, Tim and Shawn, he did make some nice things. What impresses me the most is that any work needing a hammer was done by the same hammer that my dad inherited, and that even after all the use my dad has give the hammer, it is still in amazing shape. Things were just made well in those days.
My dad took great care of that hammer, because it was as much a treasure to him as it is to me. It is so much more than just a hammer, it was my dad’s hammer, and his dad’s hammer. The handle still has the oil from Dad’s hand on it, making that spot darker than the rest of the handle, and I can tell you, that I will not be using the hammer, nor will I clean off that oil, or sand off the scorch mark, or the one little sliver of wood that was torn off of the handle at some point. You see, I think the hammer is just perfect the way it is, and I plan to display it with no changes to it at all, because it was my dad’s hammer, and to me…that makes it priceless.
Yesterday, I came across some old pictures from my mom’s side of the family, and as I looked at the list Aunt Sandy had given me, I had to do a double take. It wouldn’t seem like it was such a big deal, because it just a picture of some unnamed ranch hands from the Flying U Ranch in Rushville, Nebraska. To someone who didn’t know anything about Rushville, Nebraska, this find would be nothing really, but I do know a little bit about Rushville, Nebraska, although I don’t recall ever having been there. I’m sure that seems odd…I mean, how could I know anything about this place if I haven’t ever been there? I could have studied about it I suppose, but for me, it is more about the people who were there at a certain time in history, than it is about the place itself.
I have long known that some of my dad’s family settled in Rushville, Nebraska. In fact, I have written about them several times. My dad’s Great Aunt Theresa Elizabeth Spencer and her husband, William Jonathan Davis lived most of their married life in Rushville, Nebraska, and had a big ranch there. Several of their children also had ranches in the area. The name of the Davis ranch was Pine Creek, and interestingly enough, it is currently for sale, with an asking price of $795,000.00, a fact that I found a bit sad, because it is a bit of my family history, and it will soon be owned by someone new, if it wasn’t already.
I haven’t been able to find the Flying U Ranch so far, but I know that it is…or was…in the Rushville, Nebraska area. The Flying U Ranch was not owned by my mom’s family, but it could have been. The couple who owned the ranch was getting older, and they apparently didn’t have children or children who were still living or able to take over the ranch. They really liked my grandfather, George Byer, and they told him that if he would stay there, in Rushville, they would deed the ranch to him upon their deaths. I don’t know if Grandpa didn’t like the area, or if he thought it was too long to wait and not know when he would inherit the ranch, or if he didn’t really like the ranching life, but for whatever reason, he chose not to take them up on that generous offer. I’m sure they were sorry that he didn’t, but I don’t know who they eventually gave the ranch to or if they sold it, but it did not end up in our family.
As for me, the questions that remain, are more along the lines of…Did Grandpa ever regret his decision to pass on the Flying U Ranch?…and Did he know some of the Davis family, thereby tying the two sides of my family together long before the marriage of my parents in 1953. He obviously had some great times on the Flying U Ranch…after all, it was there that he and some of the ranch hands took pictures of their staged robbery. They must have enjoyed spending time together just goofing off. I also have to wonder how our lives might have been different, had Grandpa taken on the Flying U ranch? I had never really considered what it might have been like if we had descended from a rancher. I don’t know that I would change anything about my life, even if I could, but it is interesting to look at the possibilities when one reflects on the fact that it really is a small world.