Telling tales: Celebrating family, ranch and community |

Telling tales: Celebrating family, ranch and community

For the Sept. 26, 2009 edition of Tri-State Livestock News.

A December 1 deadline is foremost in my mind these days. That’s when submissions are due for Beyond Echoing Footsteps, a sequel to Echoing Footsteps. The latter, published in 1967, chronicles the history of individuals and communities in Montana’s Powder River County. Broadus, the county seat, is celebrating its centennial in 2010.

I vividly recall my paternal grandfather – seated at our family’s dining table, in front of a newfangled, reel-to-reel tape recorder – recounting how he, his father, and one brother came to Miles City and southern Custer County in 1910. (The Montana legislature created Powder River County out of Custer County in 1919.) The question-and-answer session I eavesdropped on in 1964 provided information on both my father’s family and the Coalwood community where I was raised. That information later appeared in Echoing Footsteps. My mother and a neighbor designed the cover of the book, tweaking and refining pencil sketches until it met committee approval. The entire process was intriguing to me.

Fast forward; it’s my turn to contribute to a second edition. Over the past several months my brothers, mother, and I have discussed what photos and information to include as we prepare our individual stories. The process has prompted a lot of reminiscing along with one of my favorite pastimes – looking through old photographs.

A handful of Montana ranch families completed a similar task this year. In commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, owners of ranches that have been in operation for more than 100 years were invited to submit photos and a 1,000-word narrative about their heritage. Despite attempts to get the word out, co-editor Linda Grosskopf admits that not all the qualifying ranches are represented. Having said that, more than 142 ranches are included in The Weak Ones Turned Back, The Cowards Never Started: A Century of Ranching in Montana.

The 472-page hardback has a full-color dust jacket and b/w historical images. Three thousand copies are to be printed. They will be delivered in early December 2009, in time for Christmas. Approximately half of the books had already been sold as of mid-September. To order your copy send $50 to MSGA, 420 N. California, Helena, MT 59601; (406) 442-3420;

If you’ve ever attended an auction sale conducted by South Dakota native Bob Penfield, you’ve heard him stop the sale to expound on the history or significance of an item. Most of his stories relate to pioneering, homesteading, and ranching in the Dakotas and Montana. Penfield’s knowledge goes beyond providing bid-enhancing banter. He is a walking, talking treasure trove of regional facts and lore.

A couple years back, Bob told me he was writing a book and sent me a sample chapter entitled “Hill Brothers Horses.” Set in 1951, it chronicles the adventure of gathering 200+ head of range delivery horses near Lindsay, MT. It is one of 18 stories from the 40s, 50s and 60s in Horse Tails.

I caught up with Bob at a book signing last month and discovered that he has a second book: Dad Lemmon’s Friends. Dad is Ed Lemmon (1857-1946), the boss cowman after whom Lemmon, SD was named. Lemmon once managed the largest fenced pasture in the world – 865,000 acres – an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. He bossed the single largest cattle roundup in history and held the record for largest number of cattle (900) cut out, roped, and brought to the branding fire in a single day.

The 128-page Horse Tails, with horses as the common theme, sells for $19. Dad Lemmon’s Friends is 220 pages about the characters who lived in and around Lemmon prior to the 1950s. It sells for $21. Ever the salesman, Bob offers both books, postage included, for $35. Send orders to Bob Penfield, PO Box 111, Bowman, ND 58623; 701-523-3652; (Note: Horse Tails is currently sold out. A fourth printing is expected to arrive by the first of November.)

Bob has two other titles for sale, both by Wyoming author Paul Hennessey. Paul moved into a nursing home not long ago, and Bob purchased his remaining inventory of books. Tipperary: The Diary of a Bucking Horse, 1905-1932 (1989, 157 pages) is available in paperback for $14 and in hardback $24. The hardback ‘Tin Horn Hank’ Keenen and the World’s Youngest Cowboy (1993, 184 pages) is $19.