he old ones who know such things tell that the Bad River country around Fort Pierre, S.D., and the Punkin’ Buttes country in Northeastern Wyoming are fertile ground for everything “cowboy.” Both regions climatically and geographically dish out the kind of challenges that have historically produced great cowboys and horses – the kind with good foundations.
The Camblin outfit lies among the Punkin’ Buttes between Wright and Gillette, Wyo., and also has ties with the Bad River – and the cowgirls, cowboys and cowponies produced there for more than a century all have deep foundations. The Wyoming end of the deal started in 1892 when 15-year-old Earl “Cam” Camblin, already a 5-year veteran of horse racing tracks back East in Kansas, was caught up in the cogs of history as part of the Johnson County Invasion, which brought him to the W.C. Irvine Ranch as a bodyguard. After leaving Irvine’s in 1900 Camblin started cowboying and breaking horses for the Keeline Brothers’ big Hogeye and Flying Circle outfits scattered from the Platte to the Belle Fourche and all along the Rochelle Hills, challenging territory for both man and horse. From there he branched out to repping for big outfits, cowboying, and freighting over a wide scope of country.
Cam was yet unaware of pretty Christina Ziglar growing up on her parents’ ranch along the Bad River. But when the family sold out and moved West, to land they’d bought from old-time horseman Frank Smith, the die was cast for the start of yet another foundation. Smith had established his ranch near the Punkin’ Buttes after arriving with a Texas trail herd in the 1880s, and was raising, buying, selling and trading a lot of horses.
When Christina’s parents died not long after their 1911 arrival in Wyoming she was left with the care of the place as well as several younger siblings. Young Cam could see Christina needed help – and he liked the looks of the girl, the looks of the country, and the looks of Frank Smith’s horses. It wasn’t long before he claimed them all and began indulging his passion for raising quality caballos that would build a legendary reputation as Quarter Circle Y Horses…along with a family of eight fine children.
That colorful past provides a solid foundation for the classy, athletic bands of North Four Mile Creek Horses grazing near the Punkin’ Buttes today. Founded on the blood of Frank Smith’s early range herd – a cow-y mix of everything from draft to Indian pony – and improved by Kentucky Thoroughbred blood Cam Camblin soon imported to infuse the speed he’d come to love so early in life, the Quarter Circle Y herd was even further upgraded when Quarter Horses came on the scene in the late 1940s.
Foundation is emphasized on today’s North Four Mile Creek outfit, and many of the best and deepest Foundation Quarter Horse bloodlines run through the veins of the roan, grullo, buckskin, gray, palomino, chestnut, black and bay foals frolicking in belly-deep green grass there this spring. These horses run up into the mid-80-percentages Foundation as Hancock, King, Three Bars, Blackburn, Poco Bueno, and Driftwood dominate like crown jewels, set off by more modern brilliants like Dry Doc, Peppy San, Colonel Freckles, Hollywood Gold, Two Eyed Jack, Magnolia Bar and many others.
History gives us only Cam’s pet name of “Rex” for the Thoroughbred foundation sire, but we do know most of the cash derived from several rail carloads of broke horses was spent to buy him in Kentucky. Exhibiting typical pioneer ingenuity, Cam had contacted a horse racing acquaintance from Kentucky to determine the local equine demand. Discovering a sure market, he gathered somewhere between 55 and 80 head of mostly unbroke horses off the prairie, trailed them to Gillette, and loaded them up for the ride of their life. Cam picked up a horseman friend as the Kentucky-bound horse train passed through Nebraska. Once they reached Bluegrass-country the duo spent the summer breaking and training horses to suit the needs of potential buyers, whether to ride or drive. The several thousand dollars they’d pocketed by the time all the ponies had gone to new homes was sufficient to buy the “hot blood stud” Cam’s mouth had been watering for – first of its kind to be introduced to that part of Northeastern Wyoming.
The introduction didn’t come that year, though, as Cam’s Nebraska friend’s agreed-upon summer wage was one year’s use of the stallion; so man and horse unloaded in Nebraska. When a year had passed Cam and his saddle rode the rails south, then rode the stud the few hundred miles back to the Punkin’ Buttes, proving he had endurance as well as speed.
A cattle buyer Cam met at Keeline’s had been asked by Eastern polo-playing friends to look for potential polo ponies out West. He immediately thought of the canny way Cam Camblin’s horses watched a cow . . . knowing they’d learn to watch a ball in the same way. He connected Cam and the polo enthusiasts, and before long many Quarter Circle Y horses transitioned proudly to successful careers on prominent polo fields. They were also in demand by U.S. Army horse buyers, even before the Remount program of blooded government stallions was implemented across the West.
Cam and Christina Camblin’s first son arrived in 1915. They named him Earl, but the handle “Earlie” stuck and that’s how he’s remembered across Northeastern Wyoming today as old-timers recall his cowboy prowess – beginning with his bronc riding win at the ripe old age of 10 in the Savageton, Wyo. 4th of July rodeo. A stint in the US Army’s First Cavalry, starting and training war horses at Ft. Lewis, Wash., only deepened Earlie’s equine affinity; as did his several-year wartime separation from the ranch to places as far away as Japan and the Philippines.
Finally home on Wyoming range after WW II ended in 1945, Earlie soon married, started a family, and began to enrich the equine gene pool on Four Mile Creek. He continued this with the introduction of more cow-sense and a strong dose of speed in 1960, through a King-ranch-bred Quarter Horse stud named King’s Imp. Carefully selected registered mares were also added as time passed.
The legacy continued as Earlie and Jean raised three children on the ranch. The eldest, Tut, named after a Camblin horseman uncle from Miles City, Mont., is the current ranch patriarch. After growing up on the ranch and absorbing a strong foundation working with his dad and granddad, they sent him out to “work for as many good outfits as you can” so he could learn different ways, different country, different ideas and become as well-rounded as possible.
Tut married Collette, who’s been around horses all her life, last fall and she’s taking hold like she’d always been part of the ranch. Collette’s son Jacob Hickey is also pitching right in. “He’s big and stout and helps with all the heavy work, all the things you have to do before you can ride your horses,” Tut says, adding, “He’s a blessing.”
Tut’s son TJ Camblin, his wife Jimmie Sue and children Dalton, Wyatt and Cassidy live near Dillon, Mont. where TJ works for the Matador outfit. Calving, gathering, trailing, roping, doctoring outside alone and helping brand from 7,000 – 8,000 head of calves in a year, TJ needs plenty of fresh horses to ride. He’s glad to take many mature North Four Mile geldings up there for a few years “seasoning.”
“They come home plumb user-friendly,” Tut grins, pleased that through TJ’s help they can offer buyers proven, trustworthy ranch horses that are solid, sound and have “done it all” outside, in all conditions.
Tut’s daughter Tammy Camblin grew up starting a lot of colts alongside her dad and TJ at the home ranch. Although she holds an outside job these days she’s still on the ranch, a real good hand who works with the horses as much as possible. Right alongside her is younger sister Tiffany – both still learning from their dad as he learned from his dad and granddad before him.
“We use a lot of the old ways,” Tut grins, “but we’ve learned a lot, and we’re still learning. You never go in the pen with a colt without coming out smarter. Tammy and Tiffany are just like teamwork, each has a little different style and approach with the colts and together it’s perfect,” the proud dad declares.
Tiffany’s husband Mark Schwenke takes up a lot of slack on the workload. “He does all my muscle work,” Tiffany says. “He’s always behind the scenes, never getting credit and never wanting any, he just loves the horses and is always there when he’s needed,” she proudly avows – a sentiment Tut quickly echoes.
Just as Tut nearly pops his buttons talking about his kids, he joins Tiffany and Mark in their greatest pleasure of seeing their kids Caylyn, Savanna and Bridger ride, love horses, and begin to work their own ponies in the round corral. “Some people just sit a horse, some people ride horses,” Tiffany grins, “And you can just see the generational natural horsemanship in this family . . . from such an early age, even.”
“It’s always been my goal to make a hand wherever I go,” she grins. “You do it for the love of horses and the lifestyle. I feel honored to be born into a cowboy family and I’m thankful I got an education that can’t be bought. I love working with and riding colts. It is very rewarding watching them learn and develop,” she concludes.
The historic Camblin love of fine equines, coupled with the generational vision of breeding, training, ranchworking and marketing all-around using horses has established an equine legacy as timeless and enduring as the ranch’s landmark Punkin’ Buttes. Tut knows of North Four Mile Creek horses he’s sold to Oregon, Maine, Texas, Florida, California and everywhere in between and says, “We find that a lot of people who buy colts from us keep them as studs, which shows me they have faith in our breeding program and the kind of using horses we produce.”
Their senior sire is the 2001-model metallic buckskin ZACKS DUN IT, by the HOLLYWOOD DUN IT son BANJOE DUN IT, and out of the ZAN PAR BARR-bred ZACKS TIDY BONANZA. To cross on his daughters, the Camblins chose a good-riding bay 2008 grandson of PADDYS IRISH WHISKEY. WHISKEY BAR is by MONTANA WHISKEY, whose dam is a DOC O DYNAMITE daughter. His dam JA BAR LUCKY PAIGE carries strong infusions of JB KING, PEPPY SAN, and CUSTUS RASTUS.
“Every decade the demand for horses changes,” Tut emphasizes. “Needs change, fads change, marketing changes, and we have to move with that and provide horses to fit the need.”
Marketing is one of the most important components to the horse business, and Tiffany has taken North Four Mile Horse Ranch marketing to cyberspace, utilizing the internet and social media to replace hauling to horse sales, holding production sales, or even campaigning their horses on the show circuit to build a reputation. The world can come to your door through a computer… and today’s people buy horses when they get there.
Disposition is a key quality the Camblin family selectively breeds for, resulting in genetics that produce colorful, strong withered, well muscled, athletic, kind, cow-y, intelligent horses which train quickly in every discipline. Combined with the cowboy savvy and well-tested traditions of now five generations of Camblin horsemen and women who start the colts and put a solid training foundation under them, North Four Mile Creek and Double T Performance horses are truly the all-around using kind, lacking in nothing, from foundation to legacy.