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228 The Land in Transition Tracks indicated the foreman had given lengthy chase to a band of mustangs .Probablyfrustratedbecausehecouldnotcapturethestallionleading the band, he pulled a revolver and shot the stallion. In the process hisownhorsetrippedandthegunaccidentallydischargedagain,killing the foreman. As the search party sat on their horses around the body a cowboy said, “Poor fellow”; to which Barnum replied, “Poor horse.”47 On the Sparks-Tinnin ranches in far northeastern Nevada, a horseman of special stature came along during the 1880s. Henry Harris was born in Williamson County, Texas, and came to Nevada to work for John Sparks in 1885 as a seventeen-year-old houseboy. He did not remain a houseboyverylong,forhehadnaturaltalentasariderandroper.Inlater yearsthebywordofElkoCountycowboyswas,“Ifithadhair,Henrycould ride it.”48 One other thing: Henry Harris was black. In fact, John Sparks employedmanyblackcowboysonhisranchesinTexasandNevada.Will Pickett, the original bulldogger of wild west shows, got his start on Sparks’sTexasranch.49 HenryHarrisbecameforemanofaranchcrewof blackcowboysontheBoars’NestRanchonSalmonFallsCreekandlater becameoneoftwowagonbossesforSparks-Harrell.Herantheroundup wagon that worked the Idaho side of the range, and Tap Duncan ran another on the Nevada side.50 OnoneoccasionHenryhadtheSparks-HarrellwagononDevilCreek for the spring roundup. He was in his bedroll when the horse wrangler mounted to bring in the horse herd for the crew. After the wrangler’s horse threw him twice, Henry jumped from his bedroll, pulled on his boots, and rode the horse to a standstill in his red underwear. The boots were necessary for the big silver spurs he used to rake the horse from Xank to shoulder. Henry dismounted, none too gently set the wrangler on the horse, and climbed back into his bedroll, still wearing his boots and spurs.51 Henryhadanincrediblycasualrelationshipwithhorses.Heprobably had more runaways and horse accidents than any other cowboy in the Making Hay in the Great Basin 229 sagebrush/grasslands. He would hook a team of mustangs to a wagon or mower, put them through maneuvers as if they were a well-broke team, and then deliberately push the team to the edge of a runaway. A big sorrelhorsecalledBenroamedtheSnakeRivervalleyslopesoftheSparks Harrell range. Ben could be caught without too much trouble, and it becamepopularsportforfarmboysfromthegrowingirrigatedareasalong the Snake to try and ride him. Ben’s reputation grew with each farm boy he piled. The ranch crew eventually brought Ben into headquarters, where he was happy to munch wild hay from a manger under a lean-to besidethehorsecorral.Naturally,therewereslyremarksaboutthepossibility of Henry taking a ride on the best bucking horse in the country. Henry waited until he had a good crowd of onlookers before he slipped intothecorral,tookamane-holdonBen,andthrewhimselfonbareback under the lean-to! Everyone stopped breathing in expectation of Henry beingbuckedthroughtheshedroof,butoldBenjustkeptmunchinghay. Perhaps Henry’s audacity was just too much for him.52 Henry was a master with a rawhide lariat. One day, he and Foley, another foreman, were roping and throwing young horses entering a corral at San Jacinto. As each horse came through the gate, they took turns catchingitstwofrontlegsandthrowingit.Thecowboyswereawedbythis display of roping expertise. Horse after horse was crowded through the gate, but neither roper missed. Finally, maybe in response to the awe of their audience, the two ropers got out of synchrony and caught the same horse.ThehorseXippedandbrokehisneck,leavingtwosheepishforemen with slack ropes and a laughing crew.53 After the hard winter of 1889–90, many of the black Texas cowboys drifted away. Henry stayed and remained a noted Wgure in the ranching industry until he died in 1937.54 He was not completely alone, for his brother, Leige, also came to Nevada from Texas. There were others, too. Adelaide Hawes refers to occasional black cowboys in The Valley of Tall Grass. Henry Harris explained to the Harrell boys one reason why most Horses, Tame and Wild in the Sagebrush 229 230 The Land in Transition of the black cowboys left. They asked with the curiosity of youth why Henrynevermarried.Helaughedandsaid,“Theresurearealotofblack galshangingaroundthesagebrush.”55 LeigesolvedthisproblembymarryingLizard ,oneofthedaughtersofIndianMike,aBannockIndianwho never went to the Fort Hall reservation. The family lived largely on Sparks-Tinnin and later Sparks-Harrell rangeland from Rock Creek at the Snake to the upper ranches of Salmon Falls Creek, eking out an existence as hunter/gatherers, mustang runners, and seasonal hay hands onSparks-Harrellranches.ThemarriageofLizardtothetall,handsome Leige was an astute political move because of Henry’s position with the ranch management. It ensured permission to roam on the company’s rangelandandoccasionalcreditatthecompanystoreatSanJacinto.Ethnologicallyitbecameatangledweb ,especiallywhenIndianMike’sfamily fell on hard times and was almost wiped out in the last Indian uprising of the West just before World War I.56 When he was an old man, Henry was riding a big sorrel horse in the...


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