I am just an old stove up, broken down cowboy that was born June 11, in the year of our Lord 1896 in a small, logging and sawmill town located in a little green valley high in the mountains of Southern Utah and named Pine Valley, after the heavy growth of tall pine trees on the surrounding mountains; and it was here I lived to the ripe old age of 3½ years, then moved with the family to Central Eastern Nevada where the Mormon Church was opening up a new colonizing project for its members.
My father, Samuel Alonzo Gardner, and my mother, Mary Alice Burgess, moved to Nevada June 14, 1899, on Father's birthday.
I was the fifth child in a family of 6 children when we arrived in Nevada and with conditions the way they were then, it was hard for our parents to provide for our needs, so it was up to all the family to help in any way we could, so just as soon as we were big enough to pack a milk pail, us kids would hire out to the neighbors doing chores and in this way were able to earn a few pennies and help out a little.
When our feet got a little bigger and our steps a little farther apart, we would hire out to the cattle ranchers that were scattered around the valley. Wages were small then, ranging from $15.00 to $20.00 a month, but enougn not very big, they all helped and we were glad to get them.
My first job as a real cowboy was in the fall of 1911 when I hired out to ride for Jim Riordan, who owned a cattle ranch 18 miles south of Lund. It was the fall of the year and "round-up" time when the cattle were being moved off the summer range on the mountain and down into the lower valley where the weather was warmer and the feed better.
Here the cattle were worked up into separate groups--the cows with small calves were cut out and put into pastures at the ranch, other calves large enough to be weaned were taken from their mothers and put off by themselves, then after that the beef steers and other cattle to be sold were cut out and driven to the railroad shipping pens at Caliente, Nevada, 125 miles away where they were loaded on cars and shipped to the Eastern markets. The remainder of the main herd was turned loose on the open range to rustle for themselves.
When the fall roundup was over there wasn't much left for the cowboys to do until the next spring "round-up" time.
This meant that some of the crew would be laid off for the winter. I was sure I would be the first to go, because I was the youngest. But i was happily surprised when Jim let the others go but kept me. I asked Jim why he did it this way. He said, "Well, Son, I let them go because those fellows are what we call 'Sunshine Cowboys'. They work through the summer months when the weather fits their clothes, then like the birds, they head south and follow the sunshine. I was hoping you were different and would stick with me though the winter."
Well, this made me feel pretty good, but there were times during the next few months that I questioned my better judgment of choice; for that winter turned out to be one of the worst this country had ever experienced. The snow came early and laid until late spring.
Time and research brings many changes and opportunities into the lives of people; and that's what happened to us folks here in White River Valley when a large body of copper ore was located in the nearby Robison Mining District. The few small mines were changed into a major operation with employment and higher wages for a lot of people.
It also brought in a railroad that meant greater transportation and hauling capacity. It could move livestock much faster and easier to market than could the long, hard trail drives, but it would also put the cowboy out of work.
But we can't stop progress and though the cowboys weren't too happy with the change, they soon adapted themselves to it and went to work for the mining companies at Ruth, Nevada.
I got a job with the Geroux Mining Company at Kimberly working on the steam-powered churn drills, that were drilling holes to locate the main ore bodies. I worked there through the summer, then quit to go to high school in Ely.
I went back to Lund after school let out in the spring and stayed there helping Father on the farm until the crops were all harvested in the fall. Then I took a contract from "Pop" Mormon at Illapah baling and hauling hay from his ranch to the famous silver mining town of Hamilton where it was being used to feed the 20 horse and mule teams hauling ore from the mines there to the smelters in Eureka, Nevada.
After finishing this contract I stopped at the ranch for awhile and broke some saddle horses for "Pop", before going to ride for the Adams-McGill ''DJ Outfit", with headquarters on the Hot Creek Ranch, 40 miles south of Lund. This was a good job and I worked there until the fall of 1916 when Mart, an older brother, talked me into going to St. George, Utah to school with him. Mart wanted to go to St. George where he could study music. He was playing the violin and doing a pretty good job of it, but it was all by ear and he wanted to learn to read music so that he could play the later music that was coming out.
This all took place a few years "BA" (before automobiles), so we saddled up a couple of horses and packed another one with our camp outfit, took the 225 mile trail to Utah's Dixie Land. I only stayed part of the year, for on auditing our finances, we found them insufficient to carry us both through the year, so I turned my share of our wealth over to him and took off for Pocatello,Idaho. I went to work for the Union Pacific Railroad, riding a steam locomotive, which was a lot different from the old cow ponies I had been used to riding. This was another good job and I would probably have stayed with it for some time if World War I hadn't broken out and soon hadme over in France helping my buddies whip the Germans.
Now fighting a war is not an enjoyable excursion but we put up with it for a couple of years. While a little rough going while over there, it was an experience that will never be forgotten and wasn't all bad either. The "top brass" believed quite strongly in physical fitness and promoted all kinds of athletic activities. Boxing matches were tops on the list of entertainment and we held them quite regular and that suited me fine, for I like boxing; and it gave me an opportunity to pick up where I left off before joining the Army. I learned a lot for I had a chance to meet some of the best boxers of the time and I took advantage of it until I was able to hold my own with the best of them, and with a lot of help, to hold the "Welter Weight Championship" of the A.E.F.
I came home in April 1919 and soon after got married and started another war of my own that lasted for about 12 years to finally end in a divorce and without any one knowing who won. During this marriage period I worked for Kennecott Copper Company as a locomotive engineer, then had to quit on account of my health that didn't agree with the coal smoke from the engine and steam shovels, mixing with the gas I'd gotten in the Army didn't work, so I left and went back to ranching and cowboying so I could be out in the fresh air (doctor's orders) and in due time I got married again, this time to my present wife, Emma Kogan. Together we did some homesteading in Butte Valley, but the great depression of the early 1930's put a stop to that by tying up all the money in the country so tight that the established ranchers had a hard time making a go of it. In fact a lot of them didn't and went broke and homesteading was out of the question so I got a job from the Government doing mechanical work for the Forest Service in California and later with the CCC Camps in Nevada. While doing this I bought a ranch in Cave Valley, over east of Lund, and we ranched here for ourselves until we had to leave on account ofno school facilities for the children so I sold out and took a job managing a big cattle outfit overnear Austin, Nevada where we had good schooling for the children and a good job, but it onlylasted for three years when the owners, who were bankers and had bought the ranch for financial speculation purposes only, sold it out from under us; but we didn't care too much for we weretired of chasing around from job to job and were ready to settle down some place permanently sowe moved back to Lund (our starting place), and where we still owned our home. We've never been sorry we did for I went right to work as a deputy sheriff for the County and at the same time we filled a six year mission for the Church working with the Indians at Duckwater. Then after 19 years of police work in both White Pine and Nye Counties, I retired so that we could live happily together with our 9 children, 39 grand and 41 great grand children that we had accumulated over the years and we wanted to spend the rest of our lives in the little old town of Lund, Nevada, thegreatest little community and filled with the greatest people in the whole world.
And now with a final request of Him, who is in charge of all our destinies, for a few more years in which to try and correct, as far as possible, the many errors and mistakes that I have made throughout my life; and to try and get these worn out old feet of mine that don't track toogood any more headed in the right direction again, instead of trying to turn around and go back into the past and live it all over again.
But now as long as this can never happen, I'll just ring off and leave a little space open to record anything that may yet happen before I hang up my spurs for the last time. And so with wishing you all a happy landing, I'll just say So Long and hang up.
Written and submitted by:
Neil L. Gardner, Sr.