1884 Iowa South-West Democrat Bedford, Iowa Oct 4, 1884
From Wyoming.Big Horn, Wyoming Territory, September 4, 1884
C. O'Dell, Esq., Bedford, Iowa: Sir - I told you in my last that assoon as I got through I would tell you about our trip from Spearfish, and describe the country as best I could.
We left our old camp in the vicinity of Spearfish, Dakota, which place and surroundings I told you of, on the 13th of August, with 254 head of cattle. We had been resting for some time, so horses andcattle were feeling tolerably fresh, and we made ten or twelve miles a day. We had no trouble in supplying ourselves with plenty of fresh meat all along the road, and in fact supplied many of our neighbors. Deer and antelope are in fine fix, and we found them plentiful. I staid with the outfit, helping drive, till the 27th, when I left them and struckout by myself, on horseback, for this place. The distance, as given me, was 120 miles, much of which lies through a wilderness, marked by Indian or cattle trails, and dotted here and there by cattle ranches.
For the first day I road down a rough and rugged gulch a distance of 15 miles, with no watter to drink. Once I turned to one side to a little pool, which on examination I found so strong of alkali, or someother poison, as to kill snakes before they could rescue themselves. In the one pool I counted near twenty which had lost their lives in this way, and in many others from one to a half dozen.
At noon I reached a cattle ranch on Powder River, where I took dinner and rest, after which I resumed my journey up the River to the mouth of Clear Creek, where at another cattle ranch I spent the night, sleeping in a house for the first time since the 14th of May.
During the next day I traveled on up Clear Creek to the U cross ranch (U) at the mouth of Piny. There I saw the greatest number of prairie dogs I ever saw in the same length of time. Near one of the dog towns I shot an animal the cowboys and I pronounced a wolverine. He was the meanest looking animal I ever saw, a size smaller than a black bear. Later in the day I shot a big, spangly, horned, black-tailed buck, without leaving the trail which I gave (to some folks who were camped) near. I reached the aforesaid ranch a little before sundown, having rode a distance of forty miles. As the boys were just preparing for supper, without a word I stripped my horse and stepped in, and was kindly welcomed. I enjoyed supper, bed and breakfast, and not a cent to pay. There were twelve boys. To the ranch belongs 1,600 cattle. The boys ride from six and ten horse apiece.
On my third and last day I rode on up Piny a few miles, and then across the hills, following dim trails, or none, to Big Horn City. Nothing special worth mentioning, except three elk some hunters had just shot down in a gang, and were just skinning.
On entering the city I rode to Mr. Jackson's, expecting to find brother Lon, but he had gone to Buffalo, the county seat, to secure the bounty on four bears he had been lucky enough to shoot the day before. They were one old one, two yearlings and one cub. They all say Lon is too risky on the hunt. At the last for one of the yearlings he took his revolver and crawled into the thicket where he could not walk, and got within four feet of it before he saw it, but one lucky shot between the eyes did it, and he came out without ascratch. We have been eating the flesh, and it is fine flavored meat, much resembling nice pork.
On Saturday I visited the Hardees, where I found my old friend, Sim Smith, from Buchanan. I returned in the evening, and in time to surprise Lon on his return. He has improved much in size since we have seen him. Not boasting, but the boys all say he is the best man physically in or about the town.
I also found Frank Hunter and Mert Price. The boys all seem to be doing well and enjoying themselves.
Big Horn City is in the valley of Goose Creek, about seven miles from the canon, where it breaks through a tolerably rough range of
the Big Horn mountains. The streams all have beautiful, level valleys, which
are nearly all cultivated. Between is rather rough, rolling prairies - not
mountains - fit only for grazing.
They raise small grain and vegetables in abundance but no corn. Since I came here I helped Lon thresh. His best wheat threashed fifty bushels per acre, after badly shelling out.
Prices generally are about double Iowa prices for products and other articles, such as store goods, etc.
I have lately contracted to teach the Big Horn school for six months at $70 per month.
Board will cost me from $20 to $25 per month. The citizens boast of their summer and fall climate. I am unable to say about that yet, for since my arrival we have had some cold rains and quite a snow, though the harvesting is not done.
Snow can be seen on the mountains at all seasons of the year. I should like to write you more deffinitely a description of the country, but have not time, or room on this sheet.
Lon and I are going on a two weeks hunt soon, as school does not commence for that length of time. I shall hope for letters from home on my return.
Yours in haste,
Big Horn City, Wyoming
From "An Old-Timer's Story of the Old Wild West. Being the recollections of Oliver Perry Hanna, pioneer, Indian fighter, Frontiersman, and first settler in Sheridan County [Wyoming]." Compiled: June, 1926 by his grandson Charles Hanna Carter [Book available from Sheridan Stationery, Book & Gallery, 206 North Main Street, Sheridan, Wy 82801. 307.674.8080]
KEMP AND O'DELL FIGHT
The first prize fight was pulled off in Big Horn City. It was fight all right, and not a boxing match. The contestants were Jim Kemp, an Englishman, and Lon O'Dell. Neither one of them had a streak of yellow. They were both real fighters. So, when they had a falling out, every one looked for trouble. Jim Kemp, however, was of the "Old School" and thorough believer in the manly sport as a proper method of settling disputes between gentlemen. As a result, he challenged O'Dell to a fight, Marquis of Queenesbury rules. O'Dell accepted and the men came together in a saloon in Big Horn. Everything was done according to rule. There were seconds, referee, time-keeper, and bottle holders, but no gloves. When the gong sounded the men went at it hammer and tongs, and kept it up until the referee called "Time!". They then washed off the blood and went at it again. After the first round both men were covered with blood and half the time neither could see his opponent, but neither would say, "Enough!" Round followed round until both men were exhausted. The referee called it a draw. The next day Lon O'Dell was in the saloon when Kemp came in. The faces of both men were so swollen and disfigured their mothers would not have recognized either of them. Jim Kemp had a big piece of fresh meat bound over his eye and when someone told him that O'Dell was in the room, he raised the bandage and peeped at his late opponent; then walking up to O'Dell, he stuck out his nad and said, "It was some jolly sport we had yesterday, don't cher know?" O'Dell, ye're a chap after me own 'heart, so he are." They shook hands and from that time on they were the best of friends.
For a number of years Kemp lived in this country and was a good citizen. Later he went to Montana and was killed by a broncho. Lon O'Dell became a balloonist and one of the nerviest men I ever knew. One time at Miles City he made an ascension and in landing broke his leg. He was under contract to make another ascension and the company refused to pay him unless it was made. O'Dell had no assistant and he needed the money badly. All the company agreed to give him the money except one man, so after failing to talk him over, O'Dell had himself carried to the balloon and up he went. When he came down he broke his leg over again and, as the company came up to him, he demanded his money. When he got it in his hand, the first thing he did was to land on that committeeman square on the nose. Another time O'Dell made an ascension, he took up fireworks to shoot off and in some way the ropes leading from the balloon ring to the bar took fire. He finally made it, but by the time he reached the upper ring all the ropes but two had burned.
A number of years later I saw him in Hardin, Montana. I asked what business he was in. He said, "I have a tent down here and a side show, come and see my animals and reptiles." I went down to the tent. We went in. O'Dell took the cover off a big box and a big, long snake ran its head up about three feet high and stuck his black tongue about six inches long out at me. I fell over backwards and crawled out of the tent. Lon tried to get me to come back in. He assured me the snakes wouldn't bite. I told him to go to the devil with his show and snakes, I had seen all I wanted to. That was the last time I ever saw Lon O'Dell.