Black History Month just ended. It got me to thinking about my dad’s old friend from his days working for the Calvary during WWII. My dad tried to enlist right after Pearl Harbor but they wouldn’t take him and rated him 4F. Dad had a couple of different stories why they wouldn’t don’t know it either one was true or not, but he decided that since they wouldn’t let him go and join the fight he would do what he did best and go to work as a wrangler for the Calvary (still had the Calvary until I think 1946 when the finally disbanded it altogether) breaking horses and mules, since they needed a lot of those animals as pack mules and for other uses in remote areas where army would sometimes find itself.
He started out at Fort Reno which had been re-commissioned when WWII broke out. It had been a fort since around 1974 but the army had stood down after WWII I believe and it was used during most of its time as a remount station and a place to give some of the tribes who had reservations nearby their monthly allotment of beef. Which is where the onerous term ‘Blanket Butt Indian from, but that’s another story.
After a time the army decided to open other remount stations and my dad agreed to go to Fort Pierre South Dakota and work up there for a little more pay. When he got there he didn’t like so when they opened a remount state in Montana he went there. That’s where he met Dusty. When he got off the train in Montana there was this little bow-legged Black man with a big wide-brimmed dusty hat standing next to a beat-up old ford pickup waving to him. It was Dusty. He had come to pick my dad and take him to the remount station, Standing Butte Horse Marine Remount Station which as Dusty told him was 45 miles from almost anywhere and 50 miles further on from nowhere. It was true as my dad told it to us later.
Dusty was born and bred to be a cowboy and he was one of the best that ever was according to my dad. What Dusty didn’t know about horses wasn’t worth knowing that also was according to my dad. They became lifelong friends.
After the war Dusty used to come stay with us every once in a while, just show up out of the blue unexpectedly and stay for a few days. He always slept with me and my brother since we had a limited number of beds or sometimes if he came during warm weather my Mom would let us go sleep with Dusty in the barn which we loved to do for two reasons, it got us out of the house at night and we could stay up as late as we wanted to listening to Dusty’s wild west stories.
He was an orphan and started working on ranches at 9 didn’t know anything else and was the most bow-legged person I ever knew, but like my dad said wasn’t no one in the world knew more about horses than Dusty. Taught my dad every thing he knew about horses and how to gentle them rather than break them. Never knew how old Dusty was pretty old we guessed almost as old as grandpa but you just couldn’t tell. The last time he came for a visit we lived on the Rafter O Ranch near Lela Texas in the windswept Texas Panhandle.
He came stayed a few days told us a few hundred new stories and one morning hopped into his old beat up ford pickup and headed out down the road. we never saw him again. Later my dad learned Dusty had died working on a ranch in southern New Mexico just keeled over one day. But dad sad as he was said they told him Dusty got a real cowboy funeral and send off. Dad eventually went to visit his gravesite to pay his last respects to the man who taught him pretty much everything he knew about horses. I still think about Dusty a lot and wonder what he would make of the fact that a Black man was our president. I miss him too!
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