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C. M. R. 

Cowboy Artist 


Cowboy Artist , 


/ h 

New York 

To my sister, who first suggested that 
I write this book. 

Copyright 1957, by Austin Russell 





Charles Marion Russell, the Cowboy Artist, was my 
uncle and when I was young I lived with him for years 
both at his Great Falls home and his summer camp, Bull's 
Head Lodge, up in the Rockies. I went with him on pack- 
trips, -and when he and Nancy, his wife, were away I 
batched in his log cabin studio. 

That was before the first World War, and now Joe 
DeYong and I are the only people left alive who knew 
Charlie intimately by dint of living under his roof. We 
helped him pack, and make and break camp, and chop 
firewood, and fetch water. We saw him, as few did, when 
he got grumpy, which is to say when he was fighting a 
picture for sometimes his pictures fought back and wouldn't 
be painted. 

And we, I think, were the only people for whom Charlie 
quit the home range and painted pictures of Huns and Tar- 
tars and Aztecs and Romans. But this, of course, was mere 
byplay, not to be taken seriously. 

In his own field the northern plains Indians and the 
cattlemen Charlie was as accurate a historian as Catlin, 
a century earlier. He never romanticized his subject: he 
never improved on his punchers and Indians he painted 
them as they were. 

I have tried to do the same sort of job with this bi- 
ography. It has not been novelized or fictionalized in any 
way: there are no invented incidents or conversations, and 
there is no plot except the course of Charlie's life. 

January, 1957 AUSTIN RUSSELL. 


Chapter Page 

Foreword 5 

1. When Cattlemen Ruled from Canada to Mexico 
(ThelSSO's) 9 

2. The Russell Farm As Big, Almost, As a Barony 12 

3. How Three Ancestors Got Scalped 17 

4. Boyhood Cultural Influences 28 

5. Early Art Influences 40 

6. Charlie Russell Meets His Totem 45 

7. Eleven Years of Riding the Range 58 

8. Charlie's First Commission 65 

9. Warning Against Marriage 79 

10. Charlie Acquires a Manager 88 

11. Charlie Gets a Home And a Studio 103 

12. Nancy Discovers Her Father 109 

13. Charlie in Montana 113 

14. Charlie And Sundry Survivors from a Gaudier 
Day 127 

15. Great Falls Background 133 

16. Domestic Details 146 

17. A Summer At Lake McDonald 153 

18. Charlie And The Indians 162 

19. Genealogical Research 168 

20. Horses of Humiliation 172 

21. Anecdotes Of Lake McDonald 185 

22. The Give-Away Dance 198 

23. Charlie And Nancy As Partners 204 

24. The Twilight Wolf 211 

25. The Big Mural At Helena 218 

26. Injun-Jo Galoopie 230 

27. The Last Christmas Card And The Other Rider 240 
Postscript 244 
Sources Quoted 246 

Illustrations follow page 128 

When Cattlemen Ruled From Canada 
To Mexico (The 1880's) 

High noon on the high prairie, in the distance a flat- 
topped butte as red as paint, sun shining, rocks glowing, 
breeze blowing, grass flowing, and Charlie Russell, twenty- 
two years old as slim as a boy, as blonde as a Swede, and 
burned as brown as an Indian riding "outer circle/* 
looking for strays which had got away from the herd. 

In every beef herd there are always a few solitary, 
hermit-minded steers, blighted beings who wander off by 
themselves, and like "rogue elephants'* in Ceylon these are 
always the most ugly and dangerous. They want to be left 
alone, to go where the grazing takes them, to drift before the 
wind; they resent intruders; and a steer, with his needle- 
pointed horns, is better equipped than most neurotics to 
implement his resentment. 

Riding down a deep draw with sharp bends in it, blue 
shadows under the overhang, and pinnacle rocks like a 
miniature bad-lands, Charlie came suddenly on one of these 
hermits, a big longhorn in a vicious state of mind. 

The steer, ruminating, had heard hoofs coming and was 
prepared; Charlie wasn't. The first Charlie knew of the steer 
was when he heard an angry snort and his horse shied. 

Before he could unloop his rope the steer jumped him, 
got him in the cut, and crowded him right up against the 



A good cow-horse would have slipped out of it with, a 
quick stop and a whirl-around backwards, but Charlie was 
breaking in a new pony and it got rattled and shied sideways 
up against the rock. There was no room to swing the rope 
and Charlie had no quirt. 

There was only one thing to do. 

The near horn was about to gut his horse when Charlie 
pulled his gun got it out just in time and reached over, 
arm's length, and shot straight down right through the steer's 
head. It was a f orty-f ive and though it didn't touch the brain 
part of the skull just went through the nose bone the im- 
pact of the heavy bullet almost knocked the steer flat. It 
spraddled out wide, all fours, and shook its head it must 
have been badly powder-burned the most astonished animal 
in all Montana. It probably thought if a steer thinks that 
it had been hit by lightning. Then it wobbled off sideways, 
still shaking its head. 

The bullet had made a clean hole right through the nose 
bone, the tongue, and the lower jaw, and thick black smoke 
was still streaming out of the wound both above and below. 
Charlie sat in the saddle watching and was surprised at how 
much smoke came out and how long it kept coming. 

It was before the First World War that I heard my 
uncle, Charlie Russell, tell this, and even now, after all these 
years, I can see it like a picture: Charlie sitting there in the 
saddle with both hands up nearly shoulder high, in one the 
reins, in the other the forty-five it too still smoking he and 
his horse both watching the steer stagger off; and behind 
them the pinnacle rocks and the shadow under the cutbank 
bright blue shadow and the shelving slope on which the 
pony stood, and the sun streaming down; I can see it all in 


When Cattlemen Ruled (The 1880's) 

There was magic in Charlie's talk: he made you see 
things. And yet he told none of this in detailt/ote just saw it. 
Of course, for your mind's eye to fill in the background you 
had to know the country. 

And he, and his horse, and the steer, dead years and 
years ago, and nothing left anywhere now to show for their 
meeting. Unless indeed, as some people believe, the record 
thereof like the record of everything else that ever hap- 
penedis still somewhere in the universe. Still there and 
ready for us to read as soon as we learn how. 

All this sounds like the start of a two-gun western but is 
really just one of the thousand things that Charlie saw while 
he was still punching cows; saw it more vividly than you and 
I would see it: and painted it later, when he became Charles 
M. Russell, the Cowboy Artist. 


The Russell Farm As Big, Almost, 
As A Barony 

Charles Marion Russell, who wound up in Montana as 
the Cowboy Artist, began life in St. Louis as a problem child: 
not bad, not vicious, not even as cruel as most boys he was 
too fond of animals but he just wouldn't stay in school. 

Inspired by his father reading aloud, he did learn to read 
and write, and devoured Mayne Reid, Harry Castleman and 
other early writers of boys' books, but reading and writing 
was as far as he got. Why bother learning long division and 
how to parse a sentence when he intended to go out West and 
fight Indians? 

Born during the Civil War, on March 19, 1864, Charlie 
spent most of his childhood on the old Russell farm at Oak 
Hill which was then outside St. Louis but is now in it. It was 
an enormous place, stretching from west of Kingshighway 
right to Grand Avenue, from Arsenal Street to the Gravois 
Road. (With all that land the family should have grown rich 
but didn't.) When Charlie was born, it had been divided 
among the four children of James Russell three Russell fami- 
lies, one Parker and they still had a patch of forest of their 
own called Grandma's Woods. Each family had a big brick 
house big for those days on the highest part of Oak Hill. 
They could see for miles in every direction. 

Besides cornfields and pastures and pear and apple 
orchards, they had a large stone wine house and vineyards 


The Russell FarmAs Big, Almost, As A Barony 

which reached almost to Grand Avenue, and made so much 
wine that they sold it in barrels, not in bottles. They had also, 
right on the farm, a pond which they called The Lake as if 
it was the only one with a home-made boat in it, and even 
a home-made island. They had also, right on the farm, a coal 
and fireclay mine coal and clay often go together in over- 
lapping seams a company store for the miners, and the works 
or "diggings," a pattern-shop, a brick shed, a pug-mill, and a 
street of old fashioned bee-hive kilns with domes like an 
oriental village. 

The three Russell brothers and their Parker brother-in- 
law called themselves the Parker-Russell Mining and Manu- 
facturing Co., and their sons and grandsons kept the firm 
going for seventy-four years. 

Altogether the old Russell farm was an ideal place for 
some twenty active cousins of all sizes. 

Besides the cousins, for playing and fighting pur- 
poses, there were the kids from the "diggin's," the 
children of Welsh miners, come all the way from the Old 
Country; people who still said thee and thou and had 
queer un-American names like Wagstaff and Woodruff and 
Holdsworth but they pronounced it 'Oldsworth. 

One of the Wagstaffs told Charlie, "Thou art a rare 

He wasn't quoting anything that was the way he talked. 
Charlie never forgot it. 

Yet there was no danger of the kids growing up to be 
hill billies and saying "hit" for "it," as country people still do 
in Missouri. 

Right there, in plain sight across the mile-wide hollow of 
the Mill Creek Valley, was St. Louis a smudge of soft-coal 
smoke by day, a dull glow of coal-gas lamps by night the 
metropolis of the whole Mississippi-Missouri River country, 
the biggest city, barring New Orleans, west of Cincinnati, 
with schools and universities one Catholic, one Protestant 



and hospitals and breweries, and factories and horse-cars, and 
even an art gallery, and everything that goes to make a city. 

Oak Hill is not very far from the Grant Farm, and before 
the war Charlie's father, Charles Russell, Sr. had often seen 
U. S. Grant hauling mine-props on the Gravois Road. At that 
time, Grant though a hero of the Mexican War was con- 
sidered a drunk and a failure; by the time Charlie was big 
enough to notice such things Grant was President. 

The Russells had a church of their own at Oak Hill, 
built by the four families Presbyterian originally, but 
one of the uncles married an Episcopalian and she changed 
the church to suit and called it Holy Innocents; and the other 
brothers and sisters-in-law were such gunnies that they let 
her get away with it. 

The great flood of Catholic immigration and Catholic 
babies had fust begun, but the country was predominantly 
Protestant, and people were still on intimate terms with Holy 
Writ. Sunday mornings the Russells went to church, Sunday 
afternoons the family assembled in the living-room and the 
children took turns reading aloud from the Bible. Charlie's 
elder brother Bent, straggling phonetically with the big 
words and hard names of the Old Testament, produced one 
of those long-lasting family jokes "Pee-Harry-O of Egg- 
wiped" meaning Pharoah of Egypt. 

Another Sunday, reading from the New Testament, 
Bent did even better "He re-bucked the waves and there fell 
a great clam." 

The re-bucked waves flattened over backwards and 
the great clam falling slowly from the heavens make a solemn 
and impressive picture. It fell, you feel sure, amid an awful 
silence, lit with a lurid light. 

Insensibly, Protestantism was beginning to wear thin. 
The ladies of the family really believed: the men were more 
or less Unitarian; they went to church but with reservations. 
The children just as a matter of course went to both church 


The Russell Farm As Big, Almost, As A Barony 

and Sunday School. They were inoculated but it didn't take: 
Charlie grew up without any particular religion. 

Charlie must have been an odd-looking little kid, sturdily 
built, as blonde as a Swede so blonde that from a distance he 
seemed to have no eyebrows, though, really he had heavy 
ones with fierce blue eyes and a stubborn mouth; and he 
was just as active as his brothers and cousins with nothing 
whatever to show that he was an artist. Nothing except that 
he was forever drawing and modeling animals in beeswax 
and bread crumbs. (They had no modeling wax then, or 
plasticene, or anything like that.) But the family paid little 
attention to this because Charlie had an Aunt Sue, an elder 
sister, also named Sue, and a younger brother Wolfert, all 
all of whom drew just as well as he did. 

Wolfert drew better. I still have his sketchbook filled 
with girls and horses, and his drawings at seventeen were 
superior to anything Charlie did until he was nearly thirty. 
(The name Wolfert came from a New Amsterdam ancestor, 
Wolfert Ecker originally Acker of Wolfert' s Roost on the 
Hudson. See Washington Irving, who lived at Wolfert's 
Roost and renamed it Sunnyside.) But Wolfert Russell died 
of typhoid at nineteen. Every family in those days had some- 
body die of typhoid or smallpox or yellow-jack; and in 
Swamp-east Missouri thousands lived all their lives to the 
tune of chills-and-f ever, which is to say malaria. 

Do you remember Dickens' American Notes and the 
stress he lays on malaria? Some historians think it was slowly 
spreading malaria that ruined first Greece and then Rome; 
but on the Mississippi, as the country settled up, the fever 
seemed to recede. 

Charlie's elder brother, Silas Bent Russell (another 
family name, but he suppressed the Silas and signed himself 
S. Bent), a tall, slim kid, also with blue eyes but his were 



speculative rather than fierce intended to be, and eventu- 
ally became, an engineer. As a boy he was always tinkering 
with gadgets. Reading somewhere that evaporation causes 
coolness, he rigged up two umbrellas over his bed, and two 
watering-pots with counter-weights to sprinkle them and a 
complicated system of gutters to carry off the excess moisture, 
which as he learned by experimentdidn't evaporate. It took 
him only two hours to get to bed, and once in he couldn't get 
out. Long afterwards his wife remarked, "When I heard 
about the umbrellas I should, right there and then, have 
refused to marry him." 

But wives, of course, were far in the future, and Charlie 
and Bent and their younger brothers, Ed and Guy and 
Wolf ert, foresaw as little as anybody else what rows they had 
to hoe. 

Ed and Guy, next in age after Charlie, had an Irish 
nurse and spoke with a brogue which they didn't get over 
till they started to school. 

Here is Charlie's memory painted many years later 
of the Russell house at Oak Hill. And here and probably 
more accurate in its proportions is Bent's. 


How Three Ancestors Got Scalped 

Recently, in a box of old photographs, I found this statement, 
dated Aug. 4, 1911, by Charlie's father, C. S. Russell. He did 
not sign it and gives no reason but apparently it was written 
for somebody who intended to write Charlie's biography. 

"My father's father came from Rockbridge County, 
Virginia, in which County my father (James Russell) was 

"The family later moved to Tennessee when my father 
was still a boy. When quite a young man my father left home 
and at one time taught school. At another time he lived in 
Cape Girardeau where he edited a paper. 

"My uncle, William Russell, coming from a family of ten 
brothers and two sisters, moved to St. Louis about 1805. He 
bought a farm then located in St. Louis County, from a 
family named Rector. 

"After my uncle William had settled in St. Louis, my 
father (James) followed him, coming here about 1811. He 
bought the farm from his brother William which contained 
432 acres comprising the original Oak Hill Property. 

"My mother, Lucy Bent Russell, advanced part of the 
money paid for the farm and 100 acres of the property 
remained in her name. This 100 acres is now known as the 
L. B. Russell Estate Company property. 

"My father's first wife died before he came to St. Louis. 
Soon after moving and when about forty years old, my father 
married Lucy Bent who was then about twenty. 



"My father had at one time practically closed the sale 
of his farm. One Sunday morning after quite a storm, he went 
out for a walk around the place expecting to sign the papers 
to dispose of his farm the next day. The storm had caused the 
earth to wash in places and he discovered an outcrop of coal 
near what is now Tholozan Ave. just east of Morganford 
Road. When the purchaser came the next day to close the 
deal, my father told him that he had decided not to sell. 
Soon after this he opened up a coal mine with a drift where 
the first outcrop was found. He continued mining coal till the 
time of his death. 

"During this period he used to sell coal in St. Louis and 
used to have it hauled down town by ox team. ( As slow as the 
grace of God. Put both your hands flat on your knees: slide 
one forward as far as the wrist, then draw it back: slide the 
other forward etc.that's how oxen walk. They never do 
more than walk. ) 

"The city at that time extended as far west as about 4th 
Street and a little north of the present Court House. (Oak 
Hill extended from Grand Avenue [36th Street] to Kingshigh- 
way [50th Street] and beyond, so it was a long haul. They 
had to circle Chouteau's Pond and cross the Millcreek 

Charlie's father, Charles Silas Russell (1833-1917) 
looked something like the pictures of Porfirio Diaz, the 
Mexican dictator, who was almost pure Indian. This led 
their neighbors, the Compton family, to believe the Russells 
had Indian blood; but there is no hint of it in the family tree, 
and the only other Russell who looked Indian was Charlie 
himself. By middle age he had the high cheekbones, little 
eyesat least they looked little after a lifetime of squinting 
against the prairie sun heavy jaw, hard mouth, short neck, 
square shoulders, and well-built body that marked the 
oldtime Indian. But none of this showed as a child, and he 
was much the blondest of the family, his hair and eyelashes 


How Three Ancestors Got Scalped 

being almost white. Even in maturity he had almost no hair 
on his body: he was as smooth as a statue. Which is also 
very Indian. 

Charlie did have halfbreed cousinsone of them an 
outlaw with a price on his head a great uncle who was a 
squawman, and two other uncles who got scalped. Two cen- 
turies earlier a third member of the family had been scalped. 
These were Charlie's ancestors, the Bents. 

In 1638 (eighteen years after the Mayflower} a certain 
John Bent came from Penton-Grafton, southwest of London, 
and settled in Sudbury, Massachusetts. His son, Peter Bent, 
had his house burnt and his son scalped in King Philip's War. 
After this Peter Bent returned to England but his family 
remained in America. 

In 1804, just after the Louisiana Purchase, Peter Bent's 
great-great-grandson, Silas Bent, a Massachusetts lawyer, 
came on horseback and f latboat by way of Ohio and Virginia 
where he married Martha Kerr to Saint Louis, Missouri. 
By 1809 he was Presiding Judge of the Louisiana Territory, 
and from 1813 to his death in 1827 he was Chief Justice of 
the Missouri Territory. 

This Judge Silas Bent had eleven children, and in 1826 
his daughter, Lucy Bent, married James Russell of St. Louis, 
and became Charlie Russell's grandmother. (In the book of 
the Bent genealogy Lucy's husband is called Joseph Russell, 
but this is a misprint: the family Bible gives James.) 

St. Louis was as far west as Lucy went, but her brothers, 
the Bent boys went farther and fared worse. Their story 
is tragic, and much too long to give here (it is given in detail 
in Bent's Fort by David Lavender) but what happened to 
them and their children had such an effect on their St. Louis 
nephew, Charlie Russell, that to tell his story it is necessary to 
tell theirs. Because what the Bents did and what was done 



to themexplains how Charlie felt about the whites and the 
Indians. And that affected his art: he never, except on order, 
painted American soldiers killing American Indians. 

A list of dates tells the main story: 

1816. George Bent, second son of Judge Silas Bent, went 
west for the Missouri Fur Co. into what is now Montana. 
These were the days when the famous Hudson Bay Co. of 
Canada as powerful as the big corporations are now was 
fighting the American companies, and they were fighting 
each other. The Bents, small fry, were soon driven, south. 

1821. Mexico freed itself from Spain. 

1826. Lucy Bent married James Russell in St. Louis, and 
that same year her brothers, Charles, George, William, and 
Robert Bent, built their first trading post in what was then 
Kansas but is now Colorado. 

1832. They founded Bent's Fort on the Arkansaw River, 
which was for years the largest and most important trading 
post in the U.S.A. It had 'dobe walls four feet thick and 
fifteen high, two thirty-foot watch-towers with cannon, and 
over the main gate a square belfry with a small telescope. It 
had also a big walled corral for horses and oxen. (The Bents 
were the first to use freight-wagons instead of pack trains 
you don't have to unload a freight-wagon every night as you 
do a pack-horse. ) 

Besides the people who lived at the Post, the Bents 
employed one hundred trappers. Kit Carson ran one of their 
wagon-trains. It was from Fort Bent that the U.S. army 
officers, Kearney and Doniphan, started their historic inarch 
to Santa Fe and the Pacific, one of the Bents acting as guide. 

While they were building the post, the Mexican peons 
brought the smallpox. William caught it but lived through- 
pockmarked for life and warned the Cheyenne Indians 
away. He had already great influence with the tribe, and, 
later, he helped to keep them out of the Civil War. For a time 
he was Indian Agent. He married Owl Woman, a full-blood 


How Three Ancestors Got Scalped 

Cheyenne, whose father was White Thunder, the keeper of 
the sacred bundle of "Medicine Arrows." These magic arrows 
( two Buffalo Arrows they meant Meat two Man Arrows 
they meant War) played a part in dividing the tribe and led 
to their migrating south. 

1835. Charles Bent, William's elder brother, married 
Maria Ignacia Jaramillo. Her sister Josefa was Kit Carson's 
wife. (I don't know whether they were the same family, 
but a Spaniard, Captain Jaramillo, wrote the memoirs of 
Coronado's Kansas expedition in 1541.) 

1837. Charles Bent was imprisoned by Mexicans. Ignacia 
dug up seven thousand dollars from the 'dobe floor and ran- 
somed him. 

1838. F. Laboue wrote in barbarous French to Papin at 
Fort Pierre, "Dear Friend, if I had to give you details of all 
the bastards that are here in the Fort, I would not have 
enough paper in all Fort Laramie." His horses are in miser- 
able shape, he is short-handed, he wants alcohol, "as much 
as you can send," and William Bent has been causing trouble. 
The Bents' own partner, Ceran St. Vrain, was another 
Frenchman. In those days St. Louis Frenchmen were all over 
the place, like you know what. 

1841. Robert, youngest of the Bent brothers, left the 
wagon train to shoot a buffalo for meat and was scalped by 
the Comanches. 

1847. Charles, the eldest brother, was the first Civil 
Governor of New Mexico under the Stars and Stripes. This 
was just after we seized the country and, naturally, the 
Mexicans didn't like us, 

On his new job, Charles Bent made three refusals, and 
the third was fatal. 

First, though warned Taos was dangerous, he refused a 
military escort and went there with his family. 

Second, he refused to free some Mexicans who were 
being held for trial. 



Third, that night a mob gathered and tried to break in, 
and Charles refused to open the door. Instead he asked 
through the door: "What do you want?" 

Tomasito, the local bad man, answered: "We want your 

Charles still wouldn't open, so they shot him through 
the door broke it in, filled him full of arrows, and scalped 
him. His ten-year-old son, Alfredo, kept saying, "Let's fight 
them, Papa!" 

While this was happening, Ignacia and the other women 
dug a hole through the 'dobe wall with a poker and a big iron 
spoon and crawled through with the children into the next 

Charles pulled three arrows out of his face and crawled 
through after them. He died there of his wounds. The insur- 
rectos did not kill Ignacia and the children but they scalped 
her brother, Pablo Jaramillo. 

When at last the soldiers came, George Bent was fore- 
man of the jury. Sixteen were hanged in Taos: but they 
didn't hang Tomasito a U.S. dragoon shot him through the 

William Bent and his squaw Owl Woman had four 
halfbreed children: Mary, Robert, George, and Charles, 

To keep them from growing up as tribal savages they 
were educated in St. Louis and lived there with their aunt, 
Dorcas Bent Carr. (Her grandaughter, Anne Eliot Clen- 
denin, later married Charlie Russell's elder brother, the 
engineer.) This Aunt Dorcas and her husband, Judge 
William Chiles Carr-who built the first brick house in St. 
Louis and gave Carr Park to the City and rode horseback all 
the way to Washington to get a charter for the first public 
school lived in southern splendor with slaves and blooded 
racehorses-but Judge Carr freed his slaves long before 
Lincoln. A splendor which must have been hard on little 
halfbreed cousins raw from the wilds of the Arkansaw, and 


How Three Ancestors Got Scalped 

may have had something to do with turning Charles-the 
youngest into an outlaw, Mary, the eldest, grew up to marry 
a saloon keeper. Later a still younger half-sister, Julia, mar- 
ried another halfbreed and went back and lived with the 
Indians. Tribal life had its charms. 

Meanwhile their father, William Bent, and his brothers 
and their partner, Ceran St. Vrain, prospered mightily; their 
wagon trains and their pack trains and their traders and store- 
keepersfor they built more than one trading post covered 
a territory which now includes seven states. The adobe 
empire David Lavender calls it. They had also enormous 
land grants. 

Owl Woman had died in giving birth to Charles, Jr. 
(later the outlaw), and was buried, Indian fashion, in a 
tree: and William married her younger sister, Yellow Woman, 
and had the daughter Julia mentioned above, who married 
the halfbreed Ed Guerrier. She would not be the only one 
of the family to turn Indian. 

1847. A bad year for the Bents. Charles, the Governor, 
was killed in Taos, and George, the second brother, died at 
Bent's Fort. 

1849. Was worse. The Bent, St. Vrain & Co. partnership 
broke up. Cholera, brought by the Forty-niner gold rash, 
killed half of William's people, the Southern Cheyenne, 
among them Owl Woman's mother, old White Thunder's 
wife. She too was buried in a tree scaffold grave. 

1849, The U.S. army wanted to buy Bent's Fort and make 
it into an army post, but they wouldn't pay William's price 
sixteen thousand dollars so he blew up the magazine and 
built a smaller place a few miles down the river. Why he 
burned the Fort is a mystery, (Later, 1852, he built a large 
stone fort at Big Timbers.) William's son, George Bent 2nd, 
said the old Bent's Fort was burned the same year, 1852. 

1860. Mary Bent, the eldest daughter, married R. M. 
Moore and bore William's first grandchild. 



1861. William Bent was loyal during the Civil War. He 
opposed Albert Pike, author of "Dixie," and kept the 
Cheyennes quiet, but his own halfbreed sons, George and 
Charles, Jr. though both under age, joined the Confederates. 

1862. George Bent, Jr. captured at the battle of Corinth. 

1863. When William Bent was living on the Purgatoire 
River The River of Lost Souls (El Rio de Las Animas 
Perdidas en Purgatorio)but American cowboys called it the 
Picketwire his halfbreed sons, George and Charles, left him 
to join the Indians. 

1864. Charlie Russell, the artist, born in St. Louis. 

1865. Alfredo Bent, son of Governor Charles, murdered 
in Taos by a Mexican called Greek George. Alfredo's children 
and his sisters Estafina and Teresina sold their share of the 
land-grant for eighteen thousand dollars. It was soon resold 
for six hundred and fifty thousand, and, almost immediately, 
resold again to an English Syndicate for twice that. 

1865. Indian war. See halfbreed Robert Bent's account 
of what he saw soldiers do to Indian women and children. 
(Item: a little girl, six years old, buried in the sand to hide 
her. Two soldiers dug her out and shot her. There were also 
some fancy mutilations and rippings up. Item: Three children 
who had somehow escaped being killed were exhibited in 
a cage at a Denver carnival. This was a bit too raw and the 
U.S. Government ransomed them.) Kit Carson, by then a 
brigadier general, told the army that Col. Bent knew more 
about the Indians than he did. William offered to guarantee 
with his life that he could get all the tribes at peace within 
three months. While he was doing this, General Connor's 
Pawnee Scouts caught William's wife, Yellow Woman, near 
Powder River and scalped her and killed her. 

1867. Halfbreed George Bent quit his younger brother 
Charles (the outlaw) and helped to gather the tribes for 
another vain treaty. (Vain because the whites broke it. ) 


How Three Ancestors Got Scalped 

Charles Bent-no doubt the Cheyennes called him 
Cholly: just as the Crees and Blackfoot did Charlie Russell, 
"Cholly, my f riend"-though educated in St. Louis as a white 
man, had also been initiated into a tribal secret society, The 
Dog Soldiers, and now, after the army made a particularly 
brutal massacre of Cheyenne women and children, he 
repudiated the whites and turned Indian. Though only 
nineteen years old-according to the Bent genealogy he may 
have been only seventeenCharles Bent was already a leader 
and led the Dog Soldiers in a raid on Downer's Stage Station 
and tortured and mutilated and killed. A contemporary called 
him, "The worst desperado the plains have ever seen." Gov- 
ernor Gilpin outlawed him and put a price of five thousand 
dollars on his head. His father disowned him. 

Mary, his elder sister, still put a candle in the window to 
signal Charles: but when at last he came it was not to see 
Mary. An issue of Harpers Magazine, in 1869 gives William's 
account of it, "My daughter saw something that looked like 
an Indian's head sticking up over the bank of the irrigating 

ditch. It was Charley. he said he was after the Old Man, 

meaning me. I was off in New Mexico she asked the 

durn'd scoundrel to come to the house. *No' he said, 1 only 
wanted the Old Man/ and he uncocked his rifle and went 
away. That's the last we've seen of him." 

1868. Charles was wounded in a tribal battle with the 
Pawnees, The wound did not heal and he died it is said of 
malaria in camp. With his influence over the Indians he 
was evidently a much more dangerous person than the 
famous Billy the Kid; but who ever heard of Charley Bent 
the Breed? 

1869. Custer massacred the Cheyennes on the Washita 
River some of the tribe, joining the Sioux, were to help kill 
Custer at the Little Big Horn and shortly after, William 
Bent, leading one of his wagon-trains, fell sick. He was able 
to reach the ranch on the Purgatory River, and died there of 



pneumonia, May 19th. Mary, Ms eldest daughter, was with 

Bent County, Colorado, still bears his name. 

Charlie Russell, the future artist, was then five years 
old. You might think that hearing these things about his Bent 
cousins would discourage Charlie's desire to go west, but it 

Note well that none of the above killings were caused 
by Indians going into white man's country: it was always the 
whites who went into Indian country. 

Someone should write a tragic novel about the Baldy 
Bents of Lost Souls River. A Gothic novel. It would take a 
Faulkner to write it. 

(For most, though not all, of the above, see Bent's Fort 
by David Lavender. It contains an immense amount of in- 
formation and is well indexed. ) 

William's youngest brother, Silas Bent later Captain- 
was with Perry at the opening of Japan. This Captain Silas 
Bent was an important person in his own right, mapping the 
Japanese currents, especially the Kuro Shiwo, the Black Tide, 
which controls Japan's climate and corresponds to the 
Atlantic Gulf Stream. He too had dealt with Indians in the 
Seminole War. He resigned his Commission at the start of the 
Civil War but did not fight for the South. 

The other side of the family had also dealt with Indians 
way back in colonial days. For example, when Charlie's elder 
brother, Silas Bent Russell, grew up, he married Anne Eliot 
Clendenin, a great granddaughter of Gloriana Austin, 
daughter of Moses Austin and sister of Stephen Austin who 
founded Texas. As recently as 1938, marauders from the 
Lone Star State stole by night into Potosi, Missouri, and tried 
to dig up Moses and move his bones to Texas; but the 
Missourians awoke just in time and chased the Longhoms 


How Three Ancestors Got Scalped 

This Anne Eliot Clendenin was also a direct descendant 
of John Eliot, "the Apostle to the Indians," who translated 
the Bible into Mohawk. When the Christian Colonists 
shipped their Indian captives down to Cuba to sell them into 
slavery where the climate soon killed them in the sugar 
cane fields only two men in the whole colony protested. 
One of them was John Eliot. 

Charlie Russell was himself directly descended from the 
Hicks family of Hicksville and Hempstead, Long Island, from 
the Wolfert Eckers whose house on the Hudson was burnt 
by the English in the Revolution and from the Van Tassels 
who figure in The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow. 

So much for ancestors. 


Boyhood Cultural Influences 

Charlie's father, Charles Silas Russellson of James 
Russell and Lucy Bent was a healthy optimist who smoked 
cigars right down to the bitter tip, skewering the tip with a 
toothpick when it got too short and too hot to hold. He drank 
whiskey three times daily, and ate whatever he pleased as 
long as he lived. I remember, when he was old and lived with 
us. seeing him sit by the table in the livingroom and consume 
most of a box of candy while he was reading: and he de- 
voured any kind of book with the same appetite and enjoyed 
just as much as the assembled offspring the boy's books he 
read aloud. 

He also, when necessary, whipped the assembled off- 
spring with a canvas-backed razor-strop without inducing 
any complexes, neuroses, or other modern improvements. 

Charlie's mother, Mary Mead Russell we have her 
picture, taken the year she married, and if it doesn't flatter 
her she was a beauty was, after the fashion of the time, kept 
busy having babies two died too young to be christened 
but as she died when I was a child I don't remember much 
about her. Charles senior survived a full generation and 
married again. 

Though not wealthy, the four families were comfortably 
off. In the Civil War they were Southern sympathizers but 
never owned any slaves. They had an immense tract of land 
in what is now South St. Louis, nine streets are still named 
after different members a cousin, Anne Russell Allen, gave 


Boyhood Cultural Influences 

her name to three streets arranged in that order and had 
they shown foresight, they should, with the steadily in- 
creasing demand for fireclay, have become rich, as the 
Evans and Howards and Christies and Walshes and other 
competitors did. But the Russells preferred to live right now 
and not worry about the future. 

This preference was influenced by one of the uncles, 
Trumbull Gustine Russell. All the children were afraid of Ms 
eagle eye and his gray goatee and the important way he 
cleared his throat; he declared he couldn't live on chips and 
whetstones, so he lived on the company till. The others 
protested but joined him. For years they went along 
swimmingly, declaring a dividend every time they got a nice 
order and not setting up anything for depreciation or even 
for replacement and repairs. Why should they as long as the 
farm produced both coal and fireclay the famous Chelten- 
ham clay which made St. Louis known wherever men used 

But Uncle John played the organ and chewed tobacco. 
He had a small pipe-organ installed in the house and played 
it, preferably after midnight when the family had gone to 
bed, leaning over at intervals to spill tobacco juice back 
of the pipes. In the end he waterlogged the organ. When 
you pressed the foot pedal, the treble pipes gurgled, oogle, 
oogle, and gave a liquid note. All the family, what's left 
of them, deny thisthey say Charlie invented it. However 
there certainly was an organ, and Uncle John did chew. 
It's only Indians who swallow tobacco juice; the white man 
has to spill. 

When Charlie's brother Bent grew up and married and 
had a house of his ownhe was a civil engineer and worked 
for the Water Department he kept in the front hall an 
ornamental bronze turtle, You stepped on the head, the cara- 
pace rose up, and there was a spittoon. And yet people talk 
about the Middle West as if it was purely utilitarian and had 



no arts or artifacts of its own. Bent was my f ather, the turtle's 
name was Ee-sop and I used to play with him when mother 
wasn't looking. As civilization slowly overtook us, mother 
suppressed Ee-sop. 

But all this, of course, came a generation later. 

In Charlie's boyhood people did more visiting than they 
do now, whole families staying with their relatives for 
months, and though there was not much drunkenness the men 
drank whiskey every day just as the ladies drank coffee, 
(When they built the transcontinental railroad the contract 
stated that part of the men's pay would be in whiskey. ) 

Every country house had in front of it a circular bed of 
mint. Every sideboard had a brass or silver tray and on it 
two matched vessels with long necks and glass stoppers a 
"caraff" for water and a decanter. (I don't know why they 
decanted the whiskey. Perhaps they were ashamed of the 
brand. Or maybe it hadn't paid taxes.) Every visitor was 
given a drink. 

The whiskey in those days was fiery stuff. You'd throw 
half a glassful down your neckwithout touching lips or 
tongue and then, quick, before your liver burst into flames, 
grab for the water. 

For five minutes after taking a drink nobody said any- 
thingthey couldn't. They just stood there and goggled at 
each other. 

After a couple of drinks like that you could go out and 
really cope with the world. Some of the family did some high- 
grade coping which is why we are now nearly extinct. 

At least that's how Charlie told it afterward, but he may 
have exaggerated. 

The kids, of course, got no whiskey, only in summertime 
an occasional mint julep mostly cracked ice and sugar. 
Charlie could remember his first white sugar. Before that it 
was brown and juicy stuff which came in big hunks and had 
quite a different taste. It also had embedded in it enormous 


Boyhood Cultural Influences 

cockroaches the American equivalent of flies in amber. 
Americans always do everything bigger: the classical fly in 
amber was small potatoes compared to the American roach. 

Baseball does not seem to have been popular at Oak Hill. 
Rugby was unknown but they played a primitive kind of 
soccer, mostly a shin-kicking contest; the kid who could take 
it, and keep taking it, right on the shin, won the game. 
More often they played Settlers and Indians, cutting the 
sweat-band out of an old hat and sticking it full of feathers. 

Also they hunted; crows, rabbits, squirrels, foxes 
anything that ran or jumped or flew. 

Between times they went around getting in trouble. My 
father Bent, for instance, Charlie's elder brother, the gadget 
engineer, was wandering through the "works" one Sunday 
morning and it occurred to him that he had never climbed 
down the mine chain in the shaft. Which he proceeded to 
do. He climbed down all right and after poking around in 
the dark and discovering that there was too much mysterious 
dripping in the sumps, and much too many echoes, he 
decided to climb up again; but couldn't. He'd get within ten 
feet of the top and then his arms would give out and he had 
to get down again, quick, or fall. He stayed down all day, 
accompanied by the echoes, and it wasn't till late afternoon 
that the yard boss, cutting across through the property, heard 
his yells and wound him up on the chain. Net result, broken 
blisters on his palms, the knees rubbed out of his Sunday 
pants, and an enthusiastic seance with the strop. 

Public too, lest the smaller kids go and do likewise. 

But they aU learned to climb. Hay baling machines were 
new then, and Bent, fooling around the hay bam, climbed 
ten or twelve feet up the glossy yellow cliff of the stacked 
bales and then climbed down again, dusting his long and 
skinny hands as if he had really done something, 

The smaller kids admired and prepared to imitate, but a 
fat and rather elderly riverside bum who was working on the 



farm for a few days, said, "Here's how to do it!" and jabbing 
toes and flat palms in between the bales he ran straight up 
the stack, right to the gable and it was a high-pitched roof. 

It looked easy the way he did it, just like a squirrel scam- 
pering up a tree, but when you tried you found that if you 
slowed up before you reached the top, or if your hand 
slipped, or your arms gave out, you slid, face-front, down the 
bales, polishing your nose the wrong wayand hay cuts like 
glassand got a back-busting fall. A fall with sound effects 
from the younger brethren. 

As soon as they were big enough to be trusted with a gun 
or, as their mothers thought, much sooner they began 
hunting. Bent, as the eldest, had a gun of his own, a muzzle- 
loader, but the small fry hunted in packs one gun to a whole 
bunch of boys. They had strict orders to stay back of the gun. 

Though the Americans had already exterminated the 
famous wild pigeons which once in their migrations darkened 
the sky and eclipsed the sun, there was still no closed season, 
no game was protected. 

One of the boys' favorite songs was a rigarnarole iden- 
tifying the different species by their caudal appendages: 
The raccoon's tail has rings all around, 
The possum's tail hit drags the ground, 
The rabbit's tail hit is so short 
He has no tail a-tall. 

But it was only on special occasions, and under grown- 
up guidance, that they went coon hunting with lanterns. 

Mostly they shot birds, doves, blue jays, red headed 
woodpeckers anything that flew. 

Crows were plentiful but just as cagey as they are now- 
hard to get within range and almost impossible to get a sec- 
ond shot at. You had to kill with the first. 

One bright morning before breakfast Bent heard the 
whole flock down at the far end of the corn field, cawing 
and croaking and hollering, ganging a hawk they had cor- 


Boyhood Cultural Influences 

nered in a tree. Knowing he would get no second shot, Bent 
took only the charge in his gun, stalked them through the 
corn, and actually got within range. He winged the biggest 
and blackest and brought it down just at the edge of the corn 
but the crow was only wounded, fluttering and flapping and 
jumping and squawking to heaven, trying to fly with one 
wing. His brethern heard him and instead of taking flight the 
whole flock circled about the fallen leader, yelling and 
raising cain and acting as if they were going to knock Bent's 
eyes out. All his life he never forgot his regret that he hadn't 
brought along a second charge; he could have killed half a 

Here is Charlie's description written forty years after 
of one of his hunts: 

" seeing these birds in these woods [i.e., the remnant of 
Grandma's Woods] reminds me of when I was a youngster 
of about 9 winters hunting with a party of kids. We had one 
gun this weapon was the old time muzzel loading musket 
there was but one boy in the party long enough to lode her 
without the aid of a stump so of corse he packed the am- 
munition an done most of the loding. we were shooting in 
turns at aney thing in sight, well I kept belly-along saying My 
turn an the big kid saying Youl get yours an I did. When 
he loded for me I remember how the rod jumped clear of 
the barel [i.e., he rammed in so much powder] He spent 
five or more miuntes tamping the lode then hand- 
ing the gun to me said Thair that would kill a Tiger an I 
think it would if bed been on the same end I was. My game 
was crows. I climbed to the top of a rail fence to get cleane 
range. and then as the Books say for an instant my 
hawk eye measured the glistening barrel then the death 
like stillness was broken by the crack of my faithful wepon 
an I kept it broken with howls for quite a while." 
The quotation is from a letter illuminated in water- 
colorbut almost devoid of punctuation written to old 
Mr. Trigg of Great Falls when Charlie visited St. Louis in 



1903. The drawing shows autumn woods, a bursting cloud of 
smoke, the dogs running away, the small boys crouching be- 
hind a tree, the big boy laughing, and Charlie being kicked 
backward off a high rail fence, 

Charlie, who seems to have been his father s favorite, 
had a pony of his own named Gyp, but all the boys learned 
to ride. Like other country people they always had carriage 
horses, the farm required several work teams, at the 
"digginY* they used both horses and mules; so there was 
plenty of horsekind for the kids to practice on. 

Of course, the boys all had dogs, so many that it was 
a fixed rule, "no dogs allowed in the house/' This was one 
of "the laws of the Meads and Russells that altereth not." 
I didn't realize till I went to school that this family saying 
was a twist from the Greek the Laws of the Medes and 

Charlie had a lot of Mead cousinshis mother was Mary 
Mead, the daughter of a St. Louis jeweler. Later, at the time 
of the St. Louis World Fair, 1904, an English Mead, an en- 
gineer, and his son stayed with the St. Louis Meads and had 
dinner at our house. 

The Russells, of course, were not the only big land- 
owners on the Diggins; the Binghams had a large "plantation" 
along Bingham Avenue, as did the Christy family and others. 
Here are some notes from outside the family record: They 
come from The Old Gravois Coal Diggins by Mary Joan 

"I have never read a word about a part of St. Louis 
which used to be known as the Old Gravois Coal Diggins. 
Yet my parents told me that it was the Diggins that enticed 
my Scotch grandfather, who had located in Albany, on his 
arrival from Scotland, and my English grandfather, who 
had located in Cleveland, to Missouri. Both grandfathers 
hoped to get rich at coal mining. In addition to coal on the 


Boyhood Cultural Influences 

Diggins, there was fireclay. And a few miles south of St. 
Louis there was lead. [It was from Missouri lead mines that 
Moses and Stephen Austin got the money for their Texas 

"The Gravois Diggins were marked all over with coal 
pits and pit banksthe refuse from the coal pits and sink 
holes where pits had been. [When they abandon a mine 
they "pull the props" and the overload settles.] Morganford 
Road ran through one of the old pit banks near the location 
of the German Lutheran Church at Meramac Street. 

"The first Oak Hill School on the Diggins was on Russell 
property opposite the Company Store on Morganford Road. 
The second Oak Hill school was on Tholozan Avenue near 
Holy Innocents Church, which, according to old records, 
was built as a memorial to a daughter of the Parkers. The 
second school had two rooms, one downstairs, the other up. 

"There were two grocery stores and two saloons on 
the Diggins. One store was kept by a widow named 
Woodruff her son John became manager of the Company 
Store with his brother William as assistant. 

"The other store, and saloon combined, was kept by a 
German named Beck, a long low-built place with a porch 
all across the front. As Beck's business grew he added more 
rooms to the place. he became owner of a large part of 
the Diggins. He built a big brick building on the corner of 
Beck Avenue and Morganford Road, had himself made 
postmaster, and changed the name of the Gravois Coal 
Diggins to Beckville. 

"The other saloon on the Diggins was run by a cripple 
named Wandless . 

"The first and only drygoods store on the Diggins in 
early days was owned by a Latter-Days Saints minister 
[Mormon] named Hazeldine . 



"Before the Civil War liberated the slaves, each planta- 
tion had its own blacksmith. After the war a man named 
Grimm started the first blacksmith shop on the Diggins. 

"Then there was Shinbiddle's place on the edge of the 
Diggins opposite the spot now occupied by the Bevo Mill. 

"Bamberger's Grove where the House of the Good 
Shepherd now stands was laid out like a park with gravel 
paths, flower beds, and here and there an iron deer, life- 
size, half hidden in the shrubbery. There was a pavilion for 
dancing, seats and tables and, of course, a bar. later a 
hall was built there Lodge meetings were held in the 
room upstairs and dances below. The women and girls wore 
calico dresses for the dances ." 

Old Johnny Woodruff, who, when I knew him, kept the 
stock books at the Oak Hill plant, told me he started work, 
at twelve, as a plough boy on the Russell farm, and so did 
BiU Gutgeschell, the factory foreman. Bert Morris, the 
Superintendent, also began at twelve years old by off- 
bearing handmade brick on a wooden pallet. 

(You off -bear brick on a pallet each brick seven and a 
half poundsfor a ten-hour day and you'll earn your living. 
In the evening after supper the other boys played ball and 
tag in the street, but Bert just sat on the front steps; he was 
too tired to play. ) 

When I knew them they were all elderly, and all had 
worked all their lives for the Company. 

Woodruff remembered Charlie as a wild, crazy kind of 
kid who never said much but was always very active. 

Charlie's boyhood was only three generations ago: How 
did he think? Much as small boys do now but with this 
difference there were almost no gadgets. 

For instance, there were no elevators: if you lived, or 
worked on the sixth floor you climbed six flights of steps. 


Boyhood Cultural Influences 

Gas lighting was new then. There were no electric lights, 
not even arc-lights, no flashlights, no telephones. No movies, 
no radio, no television. The explosive engine had not been 
invented, so there were no flying machines except the gas 
balloon of the County Fair and the paper hot-air balloon of 
the Fourth of July. There were no autos, no trucks, no motor 
buses, no speedboats. Because there were no motors, gasoline 
was so worthless that they poured it down the sewer. 

The Parker-Russell M. & M. Co. designed, manufactured, 
erected and put in operation coal gas benches for gas- 
plants. One problem was, what to do with the tar? Tar was 
used for roofing and caulking and that's about all. There were 
no tar products, no plastics, not even celluloid, no synthetic 
flavors, no aspirin, and no vitamins. There was no major 
league ball, no professional football or hockey, no spectator 
sports of any kind except boxing, wrestling, cock-fighting, 
horse races and horse shows. The County Fair and the State 
Fair were the big events of the year. In St. Louis the big 
event was the Veiled Prophet's Parade. 

There was very little imported food. At Christmas each 
child got one orange. It looked like an orange it wasn't dyed. 

Most men chewed tobacco in the Ozarks both men 
and women chewed snuff but nobody chewed gum; there 
wasn't any. And no ice cream. 

To offset all this there was still a Frontier. It played an 
enormous part in Charlie's thought. Even as a child he 
couldn't help knowing that the thousands of strangers pour- 
ing through St. Louis were all of them heading west. 

At Oak Hill when Charlie climbed out a top window 
onto the roof to look at the sunset, he was looking at the 
Frontier. St. Louis, on the west bank of the Mississippi, was 
the jumping-off place: right there the West began. During 
its short life, the Pony Express started from the other edge 
of the state at Rubidoux Landing. 



Of course, Charlie as a child did not put all this stuff 
into words. Even as a man he didn't put such stuff into 
words: he put it into pictures. 

But the climax and catastrophe of Charlie's boyhood 
was the great conspiracy to gang the teacher. 

The big boys got it up, the tough kids from the Diggins 
Bent and the elder cousins being then old enough to go 
to school in St. Louis but Charlie, young, small, bold, and 
inexperienced, was the one who took the plot most seriously. 
He really meant it. It was agreed that the next time the 
teacher started to whip the biggest boy the whole school 
would rise in fury. 

When the great hour came the school did rise but 
only to see the better. Charlie alone started forward, a 
small blonde bulldog (being one of the littlest he sat in the 
front row) and got what he should have expected. 

As he expressed it, right from the jump it was the 
teacher's fight the first round closed with Charlie bottom 
up and on the receiving end of the biggest whipping the 
school had ever seen. 

"Now go home and tell your mother!" said teacher. 

Charlie did he really should have known better mother 
told father and after supper Charlie received again. More- 
over he took back with him next morning an open letter tell- 
ing the teacher to go as far as he liked. 

It all came under the head of education after this no 
more conspiring. On the rare occasions when Charlie had 
to fight he did it on his own. He never did much fighting; 
he made friends too easily, and he wasn't the type that people 
pick on very much not that type. 

(Twenty years later, visiting the family in St. Louis, 
Charlie rode one evening on the back platform of the street 
car, and all the way uptown a drunk, a total stranger, in- 
sisted on talking to him, the stupid, noisy, repetitious talk 


Boyhood Cultural Influences 

of the tiresome souse. To which Charlie listened very 
patiently, laughing at jokes with no laugh in them and 
answering yes and no. Finally a second drunk hitherto 
silent and also a stranger leaned over and tapped Charlie's 
shoulder and said earnestly, "Mister, if I was as hard looking 
as you are, I wouldn't let anybody talk to me!" ) 

Going to school in the city, Bent had to rise early, and it 
was his habit to wake Charlie by jerking off the blankets 
and chanting, "Arouse, Jove, and slay thy meat! 7 * 

Which Charlie supposed was a quotation from Homer 
or something. 

Long after I repeated this to Bent (my father). He 
denied it flatly, couldn't remember any such quotation; 
and I am sure that even as a boy he would never have 
said "Arouse." 

So here you have two brothers both honest as men 
go contradicting each other. Did Bent really say something 
of the kind and then forget it utterly, or did Charlie's uncon- 
scious just invent the whole thing and attribute it to his big 

Perhaps it was a tribal or racial memory, a dim echo 
of something that happened in a former life, a preview 
Bent waking a preview brother long before Charlie was 


Early Art Influences 

As the children grew older, the four families generally 
wintered in St. Louis. Bent and most of the others had been 
born at Oak Hill but Charlie was born in the city on the 
corner of 16th and Olive. In the course of time the house 
was torn down but after Charlie's death the Junior Chamber 
of Commerce set up a bronze marker. Bronze can be melted 
and sold over again, so the marker was stolen sic semper 
gloria in the Middle West. 

St. Louis was then the largest fur center in the world. 
Except for the new art museum there was not much art 
there, but on the steep east edge of town where the streets 
sloped down to the levee with its endless row of paddle- 
wheel steamers, was the old St. Louis Court House, where, 
before the Civil War, they sold slaves at public auction, 
standing them up on a block to be fingered and felt over; 
and this Court House had and still has richly colored 
murals by Carl Wimar, the first St. Louis artist. Wimar 
ran to gorgeous red sunsets and silvery moonlit rivers, 
and the new Art Museum had several of his paintings A 
Buffalo Hunt, Indians Approaching A Trading Post, and 
The Captive Charger. 

They were really good work and Charlie admired them 
intensely though he remarked that the excessively woolly 
buffalos had no necks and couldn't graze unless they got 
down flat, like an alligator. He liked especially The Captive 
Charger, Indians leading off a cavalry horse with sabre 


Early Art Influences 

still slung from saddle. Later, when he had lived among the 
Indians, Charlie realized that the Indian wouldn't be leading 
the horsehe'd ride it. 

The Museum must have been quite small and I don't 
know where it was located in Charlie's boyhood, but a 
generation later, when I went to school at 19th and Wash- 
ington, it was only a couple of blocks off and we kids used 
to infest it on Free Day. One enterprising youth discovered 
that on certain classical bronzes the fig leaves evidently 
an afterthought were hinged and could be propped up 
with a match. We left them propped like an awning and 
the guards ran us out. 

At this same boys' school, at that same time, was the 
now famous T. S. Eliot. Though he early shook the Middle 
West off his shoes and went to England, he was never able 
to shake it out of his blood and it bore fruit in The Waste 
Land ( Westland?). It looks as if the richer the country from 
which he comes, the more pessimistic the writer. Compare 
Mark Twain. But this has nothing to do with Charlie. Unless 
indeed you explain it by saying that Charlie went west and 
stayed hopeful, whereas Eliot, Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce 
and the rest went east, saw Europe, and were embittered 
for life. It is possible that Europeans might reject this 

Psuedo-classical bronzes did not interest Charlie, but 
his last winter in St. Louis he was sent to art school. Where 
he was set to drawing still life models, cones and cubes and so 
forth which wasn't at all what he wanted to draw. He went 
only twice, then he began playing hookey just as he did from 
regular school and spent his days on the levee, admiring 
the river men and trappers and fur traders, and watching 
them load the trade-boats wood-burners that crawled 
slowly up the Mississippi to Columbia Bottoms and then 
up the snag-filled Missouri to Fort Benton in the far-off 



and immense Montana Territory. Which Charlie imagined 
as an endless Mayne Reid prairie, covered, like the Kansas 
prairie, with waist-deep grass through which galloped herds 
of buffalo hunted by Indians-in war-bonnets-and the 
Indians hunted by blueclad, yellow-striped cavalry. He had 
no idea how the Montana prairie really looked with sage 
and bunch-grass and in the background flat-topped buttes 
and fantastic bad-lands. 

Those were the days of the last Indian Wars when the 
U.S. generals hardened to massacre by the march through 
Georgiadeliberately provoked the plains tribes into revolt 
and then butchered them at Wounded Knee and other 
places of slaughter. The Indians, of course, had no chance 
against disciplined soldiers. It wasn't the red man's skill 
but the white man's recklessness that caused the Custer 
massacre on the Little Big Horn. 

Charlie's great-uncle, William Bent of Bent's Port- 
though two of his halfbreed sons were in the Southern array- 
played a great part in keeping the Indians out of the Civil 
War. When the chiefs came to him for advice he told them 
to lay low, stay on their own range and keep clear of the 
ruckus. And keep their young men home; among the tribes 
it was always the young men who made trouble. 

Boys, too, make trouble. As Charlie grew bigger, he 
got harder to control, and in his early teens but they didn't 
talk about teen-agers then he and his friend Archie Douglas 
played hookey for nearly two months before they got caught. 
Finally they ran away from home. 

Having very little money they started early and set 
out afoot across Missouri, getting lifts on farm wagons and 
intending to work their way to Montana Territory. By night 
they were in parts quite new to them and stopped at a 
farmhouse and asked for work. The farmer sized them up 
and fed them and gave them work plenty of it and after 


Early Art Influences 

a couple of days Archie weakened or perhaps he was just 
more intelligent and went home. Charlie, more resolute, 
stuck it out for weeks, and when at last he returned to Oak 
Hill, the family acted as if he hadn't been away. His father 
had heard from the farmer and knew all the time where he 

Foreseeing that Charlie would certainly run away 
again, Charles Senior sent him to military school at Burl- 
ington, New Jersey. Military school was the place you sent 
boys you couldn't control at home. The school might or 
might not impart an education but it did control. The 
tougher the kid, the tougher the treatment. 

Charlie, not bad but in his own way intractable, spent 
hours walking guard the regulation penalty for inattention 
and was cured, permanently, of any ambition to be a 

Finding he couldn't buck the faculty, he got his class- 
work done, especially arithmetic, by getting other boys to 
do it for him, bribing them with little figures of Indians 
and animals and caricatures of the teacher in unedifying 
poses. Logical result: confiscation of the art, its secret ex- 
hibition at instructors' mess, and, for the artist, more guard 

Under this system Charlie's mouth got more stubborn 
still and his eyes fiercer, but he learned some of the hard 
facts of life and came home determined not to go back to 

His father saw and made the big decision and took the 
big risk. Said he, "Charles, how would you like to go West? 
A friend of mine, Mr. Pike Miller, has a sheep ranch out in 
the Montana Territory and is willing to teach you the busi- 
ness. Remember, you'll be a long ways from home much 
further than you were at school! But perhaps a few weeks' 
real hardship will make you more ready to get an education." 



So early in March, 1880, just before his sixteenth birth- 
day, Charlie went west. 

He was not the first of the family to go there. His great 
uncle, George Bent, elder brother of William Bent of 
Bent's Fort, was fur-trading on the Upper Missouri in what 
is now Montana as early as 1816. 


Charlie Russell Meets His Totem 

Pike Miller had a ranch in the Judith Basin and ran 
sheep on the Upper Judith River in central Montana. Instead 
of taking a steamboat up the Missouri, as Charlie had always 
expected, he and Pike went by way of the Utah Northern 
Railroad to Red Rock, and thence by stagecoach overland 
to Last Chance Gulch, or, as they now call it, Helena, the 
largest town in the whole Montana Territory. 

It was from a train window that Charlie got his first 
look at the great plains and saw the mountains come up 
over the edge real mountains such as he had never seen: 
mountains with snow on them. 

But it was from the driver's seat of the stagecoach that 
he began to see things in close detail a troop of booted 
cavalry, blueclad, with Civil War sabres; a coyote watching 
them from up on a benchland; and a bunch of pronghorns 
(antelope) skimming away, like dust, in the distance. 

At the top of a rise the stage stopped to blow the horses, 
and the passengers got down to stretch their legs; and 
there, back from the road and under a clump of bunch- 
grass, Charlie found his first buffalo skull, bleached chalk 
white and with the nose bones split but the horns still on. 
Of course, he had seen cow skulls in Missouri but they were 
not magic like this. 

You figure him as a sturdy tow-headed kid in city 
clothes but he had already got rid of his necktie as un- 



sentimental looking a person as it is possible to imagine- 
considering the skull and its deep eye-sockets, turning it 
over with his foot, and stooping and rubbing it with his 
thumb to see if the white came off. He didn't make any poor 
Yorick oration. 

The early Greeks saved the skulls of the sacrificial 
cattle and boiled them clean and nailed them up on the 
walls of their wooden temples. Where they were so im- 
pressive with their dark eye socketsthe emptiness and 
uttemess of deaththat when the Greeks learned to build in 
stone they carved the skulls in marble hung with garlands; 
and architects have been using them ever since mostly all 
out of proportion. 

Charlie knew little and cared less about the early Greeks, 
but afterward when he became an artist he took the buffalo 
skull for his trademark. The Bull's Head, he called it. 

At the time he thought little about it there was too 
much to see. Much that you can't see now. 

Montana did not look as it does today. The gang-plow 
had not yet broken the prairie sod, packed hard and thick 
for thousands of years by the migrating buffalo. There were 
no fences, no wheat, no sugar beets, no rutabagas; no 
dandelions along the right of way; no trees except willows 
and cottonwoods along the river. No tumbleweed that 
modern substitute for the stampeding buffalo rolling 
across the open before the wind. (The tumbleweed came 
in with the first wheat.) No English sparrowsbrought 
to America, like the English dandelion, because they were 
so cute. 

There were no foreigners, almost no Negroes, but 
plenty of French Canadians, mostly halfbreeds. Besides 
the tribes already rounded up and herded on reservations, 
there were still quite a few Indians on the loose. Except 
for squaws and prostitutes there were very few women. Like 


Charlie Russell Meets His Totem 

Canada geese, prostitutes migrated with the seasons. In 
spring, boatloads of girls came up the Missouri to Fort 
Benton to summer in Montana; and in fall went back down 
river to winter in St. Louis. Some didn't go back they got 

Except small local herds, there were no cattle. The first 
Texas longhorns were driven north to Montana two years 
after Charlie got there. Not shipped in cattle-cars but trail- 
driven overland across the unf enced prairie, fording creeks 
and swimming rivers, and being months on the way. 

Helena with its mountain right behind it was a revelation 
to Charlie a long street of plank shacks, mostly one-story 
but some with false fronts to suggest a second floor, wooden 
sidewalks, already in bad shape, and a dirt street always 
either rolling with dust or kneedeep in mud except when it 
was frozen hard in winter. Every fourth or fifth house was 
a saloon. Almost everybody wore a belt and a gun; some wore 

The street was lined with freight outfits, two or three 
huge covered wagons chained end to end and drawn by 
twelve or even fourteen span of horses or, sometimes, by 
the famous Missouri mules. The nigh-wheelernext to the 
front wagon was saddled. The jerk-line man rode him, 
jerking the line that led to the lead span. Beside the jerk- 
line man there were bull-whackers and mule-skinners 
snapping whips with sixteen-foot lashes that popped like a 
rifle report. They boasted they could snap a horsefly off 
the leader's eyelashes without making him wink. They could 
also lay a mule's back open with one cut. The skinner's 
talk was as hide-blistering as his whip, and the team, 
especially the mules, understood profanity and answered 
in kind with snorts and squeals and bawls of defiance, 
kicking and biting like stallions. And a mule can bite like 
a bear-trap and kick with both ends. 



Books always talk about range horses, and cattle, and 
sheep, but the Missouri mule played as big a part as the 
horse in settling the West. 

It was a U.S. cavalry general who described the army 

The aw-ee-ing, 

Kicking, jawing, 

Bucking, biting, 

Swearing, fighting, 

Rat-tailed, piebald, 

Glistening eye-balled, 

Missouri army mule. 

And, of course, besides mule teams and horse teams, 
there were bull-teamsreally oxen, not bulls as slow as 
the grace of God. In the southwestern deserts the U.S. army 
even tried camels but the packers didn't like the ugly, 
grunting, stubborn, spitting beasts and didn't give them a 
fair trial. The British army used thousands of camels. But 
there were no camels in Helena. 

Charlie, not saying much and secretly a bit cowed, 
looked the confusion over and knew, without needing to 
say so, that this was his country; here was where he belonged. 
He knew right then that he was going to stay. And he was 
going to get clothes to suit the country. 

Especially when he saw a whole family of French 
Canuck halfbreeds ride single file down the street, dressed 
more or less like Indians, with moccasins, sashes, and 
blanket capotes a, sort of bathrobe overcoat made of a white 
Hudson Bay blanket with three or four red bands at the 
edge to show the thickness of the weave but wearing broad- 
brimmed hats and each with a covered rifle across in front 
of him. 

There were Indians too it was ration time for the red 
men standing around on the edge of the confusion or 


Charlie Russell Meets His Totem 

riding through it in their quiet way, all wearing skin 
leggings and robes. Buffalo robes, mostly, stripped of hair 
ana chewed soft by the squaws. 

The Indian woman made arrows the same way: held 
one end in her teeth and twirled the shaft between her palms 
to break the pith inside. If you don't break the pith it will 
dry crooked and warp the shaft. Want to be sure it's a 
real Indian arrow? Look for the tooth marks on it, the lady's 

The Indians on their pinto ponies, riding through Helena 
to get the government ration, said even less than Charlie, In- 
deed said nothing except an occasional long-drawn "Ho-ho- 
hay-eeeeel" The Ho-ho, deep and guttural; the hay expressing 

They were surprised at the white man's ways who 
wouldn't be? 

Long afterwards, when I knew him, Charlie declared 
that in his whole life he had never heard an Indian say 
"Ugh! Ugh!" as they do in two-gun westerns and the movies. 

Teddy Roosevelt, that greatest, or at least most vo- 
ciferous, of all westerners, once made a long oration to the 
Indians, and whenever he paused for breath and applause, 
the assembled braves, squatting on their hunkers, would 
put a cupped hand up across their lips and utter a deep- 
mouthed "Bush-t>aW" 

As the speech went on and on, it became a regular 
chorus, *Bush-u>flW Rush-wahY' 

Teddy asked the Government Agent what Bush-wah 

The Agent blushed and fidgetted and looked uncom- 
fortable and answered in a whisper, *Tm afraid it means 
buffalo chips." 

Buffalo chips otherwise cow-flopsare what vou burn 
out on the prairie where there isn't any wood. You prop up 



three on edge like cards-they're flat as a pancakeand they 
burn with a bright blue flame and a strong smell of am- 
monia. After months of cooking over a chip fire you get so 
used to the ammonia flavor that home cooking seems sort of 

They outfitted in Helena, Pike buying a wagon and 
four horses, and Charlie paying for two of them. These were 
not Indian ponies but big work horses and one of Charlie's 
was a mare. 

Charlie also bought a buckskin shirt and a big hat with 
a fancy band on it and a Hudson Bay sash, nine foot long 
and colored red, blue, yellow, green, and purplewhich 
Pike considered damn foolishness. 

But Charlie just shut his mouthhardand went ahead 
and bought 'em: yes, and wore 'em. That's how he got his 
first nickname Buckskin Kid. 

Loading up with grub, they pulled out for Judith Gap, 
the pass into the Basin. There was no road, only a very rough 
wagon trail, and they had a hard time crossing the Crazy 
Mountains, where one of their horses gave out. 

They finally got across but Charlie was off wagon travel 
for life. Thenceforth he stuck to pack and saddle horses, 
which can go almost anywhere that a man can go. 

He was soon off the sheep too. The shepherd is a roman- 
tic figure in poetry, but in Montana, ah how different! In 
India they have a brain-fever bird which in the hot weather 
repeats one note over and over until the white man goes 
crazy. You listen to a herd of sheep, blot , blot, blot, blot, blat, 
for twenty-four hours and you won't need any brain-fever 
bird. And you can't get away from it you can hear it for 
miles. And they're such nasty, dirty looking beasts. Wherever 
they go they leave a desert; they graze the grass down to 
the roots. 

Charlie, who always knew what he didn't like, stood 
it a few weeks, and then he and Pike had an argument 


Charlie Russell Meets His Totem 

and split up, and Charlie took his two horses and quit the 
ranch, The ranchers didn't act as if they were going to miss 
him very much, as Pike and everybody around there con- 
sidered the Russell kid pretty ornery. By which they probably 
meant that he was stubborn and wouldn't let them boss him. 

Charlie knew that a stage station down the valley needed 
a stock-herder, but when he asked for the job he found that 
his eloquent explanation of just what he thought about sheep 
and sheep-herders, had got there ahead of him, and they 
were afraid to trust him with their horses: they thought 
he didn't like animals. 

This was a blow he hadn't expected. He had no food and 
mighty little money, and no place to go, and no friends or 
even acquaintances except at the Miller ranch. And home 
and St. Louis were a long ways off. 

Too proud and still too ignorant of western ways to say 
he was hungry if he had they would certainly have fed 
him and staked him to some grub he set out for the Judith 
River, leading his pack horse loaded with nothing except 
a very light bed. Bed-roll the westerners called it a blanket 
or two rolled up inside a tarpy or a slicker. 

By then it was late afternoon. 

Of course, this wasn't much of an adventure compared 
to what he had read in Mayne Reid and Frank on the Prairie 
and other boys' books, but still, when you're sixteen and have 
never been alone before, it's kind of scary to see the shadows 
lengthen and blue dusk come oozing down the coulies, and 
not a sign of a ranch or a road or town, or anything except 
the empty open. And over there, in plain sight and still lit 
by the sun which no longer lit the prairie were the Crazies, 
so-called because of their queer, unnatural-looking peaks. 
They do look crazy and desolate. Indians call them the 
Ghost Mountains. Do you know what the sign-language 
word is for ghost? Big-Eyes-At-Night 


Charlie didn't believe in ghosts, but all the same he 

wasn't a bit comfortable. 

Just at dark he came to the river and picketed his 

horses and made camp-which is to say built a fire and 

unrolled his bed. 

He didn't enjoy the prospect of lying down and not 
knowing what was sneaking up on him, and running water- 
noiseless by day-does a lot of whispering and conspiring at 
night, and every little while it gives a nasty sort of chuckle 
as if to say, "In just a few minutes well grab him!" 

Suddenly out of the darkness a harsh voice said, "Well, 
kid, what you doing here?" 

Charlie almost jumped out of his pants and turned 
and saw a stranger sizing him up. 

"Camping," said Charlie. 

fc< Where's your grub?" 

"Haven't got any." 

"Where you going?" 

"To get a job." 

"Where you from?" 

Charlie told him, and the stranger said, "You better 
come over and camp with me. I've got a lot of elk meat and 
beans and coffee. My name's Jake Hoover." 

So Charlie threw in with him for the night and learned 
that Jake was a hunter and trapper-a meat-hunter-selling 
meat to the settlers and sending pelts and skins to the 
big trading post at Fort Benton. His way of life so suited 
the boy that they became partners and worked together 
two years. 

Jake told Charlie to get rid of his big team horses, 
especially the mare, saying, "This is no place for a lady boss 
-if she gets the notion she'll quit the country and take 
every cayuse in the basin with her." 

Which in fact is how the plains Indians first got their 
horsesstrays from the Spanish herds way down in Mexico. 


Charlie Russell Meets His Totem 

And strays are nearly always led, at first, by a mare. Later 
one of her colts, a stallion, takes the lead and bosses his 
harem around. 

It's remarkable how in only two centuries the plains 
Indianswho had never domesticated any animal except 
the dog all got horses. And the same thing happened in 
lower South America, where the pampas tribes who had 
always gone afoot became a race of horsemen. 

The horse changed the Indian's whole way of life and 
began a new culture. Tribes which had farmed stopped 
farming and took to hunting on horseback. Riding horses 
is much more interesting than cutting sprouts also easier. 

It was a real culture: a civilization complete in itself, 
self-sufficient and self-sustaining. But for the white man's 
coming it could have gone on indefinitely, slowly compli- 
cating and perfecting itself. It might have produced con- 
querors. Do you know that the three greatest conquerors 
were all nomads and all colored? Attila the Hun, Genghis 
Khan the Mongol, Timur the Tartar, all conquered 
more widely than Alexander or Napoleon or the other 
white conquerors. But the Indians came late: the white 
man's superior weapons and superior numbers not his 
superior courage would say kaput to the red man. 

Of course, horses on the loose increase quite rapidly. 
On the prairie they have no enemy except the wolf and he 
can't do much unless he catches a horse bogged down in 
mud or snow. The mare has a colt every year till she's 
eighteen or twenty, and just a couple of hours after birth 
the colt can run almost as fast as his mother. In other ways, 
too, the mare is well able to take care of herself. In the 
hardest blizzard, when the prairie is glazed with ice, she 
can paw through it and get at the grass beneath. 

Come to think of it, the Indian pony has as good a 
pedigree as any thoroughbred. When, set in motion by 
Mohammed, the Arabs out of Asia, conquered Egypt, they 



brought their horses with them to the Nile. Thence they 
spread west across the whole width of Africa, conquering 
the Moors; and the Moors in turn crossed the Strait of 
Gibraltar and conquered Spain, and brought their Arab 
horses with them. The modern Spaniards inherited both a 
lot of Moorish blood and Moorish horses and took them to 
the Americas where they became in time the Indian pony. 
First cousin, though he doesn't know it, to the race horse. 
For it was from the Godolphin Arabian, brought from Arabia 
to England, that all the modern thoroughbreds descend. 

Charlie, though as stubborn as a blue mule, knew good 
advice when he got it. In just a few days they met a bunch 
of Pay-gan Indians that's the tribal name; it doesn't mean 
pagan or heathen, though these were both. 

This was Charlie's first encounter with the red men. He 
couldn't talk to them at all but Jake couldmostly in sign 
language and they traded the two big work-horses for 
two smaller but more serviceable Indian ponies. One of 
them was a pinto (pinto means "painted") spotted white 
and bay and brown with black legs and mane and tail. 
Charlie named him "Monte" after the Mexican card game. 
When they thus met, Charlie and Monte were both young; 
when Monte died of old age in 1904, Charlie had ridden 
and packed him thousands of miles. Everybody who knew 
Kid Russell knew Monte. 

A water color dated 1905 and called "When I was a kid," 
shows Charlie and Monte crossing the mountains: Monte 
walking daintily downhill among sloping boulders, picking 
his way; and Charlie being a kid looking as fierce as 
possible in a beaded buckskin shirt and leggings, with a 
big sheath-knife in his sash, and a covered Winchester 
across the horn in front of him. He is smoking a cigaret 
and looking tough exactly the same expression that you can 
see today on the corner hep-cats, punks and so forth in L.A. 
or New York. Behind him, winding single-file among the 


Charlie Russell Meets His Totem 

rocks, come the pack horses, and behind them up on the 
sky-lineJake Hoover, not looking tough, just looking what 
he was a mountain-man on his way to a good time in town. 

Jake and Charlie had six horses a saddle horse apiece 
and four packs. They hunted and trapped, selling bear, 
deer, and elk-meat to the settlers who were trickling into 
the country, and sending furs and skins to the big trading 
post at Fort Benton on the Upper Missouri. An ideal life for 

Later, when he began whoring around and drinking and 
gambling he had, perhaps, more fun or at least more noisy 
fun but never again the perfection of that first year in the 
foothills, up in the mountains, and out on the plains. Never 
again the thrill when for the first time he and Jake and the 
packs went clattering into town. You're young only once. 
Charlie was young the right way and look what it did for 

When he was old and tired, he always said that no 
matter what happened, "I'm glad I lived when I did not 
twenty years later. I saw things when they were new/' 

Of course, he was new too then, he and Monte. And 
Jake, though he seemed old, or at least elderly, was really 
only thirty. 

It's new eyes that make a new world. 

Jake had a log cabin and what he called a ranch up in 
the edge of the foothills and was so far civilized that he kept 
a few hens and a rooster. The latter, having no competition 
and supposing himself the only rooster in the universe, got 
very cocky and bossed the hens around and even talked 
tough to Jake, 

Once when Jake was in town raising hell, Charlie came 
back to the ranch to feed the stock and stayed there alone 
several days and amused himself by making passes at the 
rooster every time he entered the corral; but he was careful 
always to give the rooster the fight, that is to run away and 



leave him in possession of the field. The rooster began to 
think himself invincible. 

Jake came home at last, broke and a bit shaky from his 
diversions, and shed his boots and went out, barefoot, with 
a frying-pan full of scraps to feed the chickens. The hens 
knew him and came cluttering about his feet to get their 
rations but the rooster, swollen up like a turkey-cock with 
self-importance, stayed aloof for the moment, working up a 
swell rage and enjoying it. Then, just as Jake stooped over 
to talk to the hens, the rooster ran up behind and jumped 
him and jabbed both spurs into Jake's bare ankle. It hurt. 
It also surprised Jake, who wasn't expecting to be jumped in 
his own corral. And when he turned, the rooster flew at 
his face. Jake was in no mood to give away a fight. He hit 
out with the frying-pan and killed the rooster dead. 

"A hell of a rancher you are!" said Charlie. "Now what 
are the hens going to do?" 

"I guess they'll do without," said Jake, "God damn his 
guts trying to crawl my hump in my own corral! I must 
be in awful shape when even the roosters pick on me!" 

For Jake and Charlie were both innocent enough to 
suppose that to lay eggs the hens need a rooster around. 

The next time Jake was in town Charlie had a much 
more scary adventure. 

Long before the sun clears the horizon there is plenty of 
light to travel by. Charlie was in the cabin starting breakfast, 
and just at sun-up he heard hoofs outside not iron horse- 
shoes but a barefoot pony. He stepped to the door, and 
there, swinging down from saddle, was a blanket Indian, 
a big fierce-looking buck with his hair combed all on one 
side and a hawk feather in it at a raking angle, and in his 
free hand a rifle. 

Charlie's heart jumped and went into reverse. It made 
his blood flow backward just to look at him. 


Charlie Russell Meets His Totem 

The buck didn't hobble or tie his horse; he just dropped 
the end of the long line on the ground. (Indians used 
neither bit nor headstall; they rode with only one rein, 
a rawhide rope tied around the pony's lower jaw. The pony 
soon got bridlewise and divined what his rider wanted; he 
didn't wait to have his jaw jerked sideways. ) 

"How!" said the buck, and he crooked the rifle in the 
bend of his arm and strode up to the door-Charlie making 
way for him and stalked in. 

It was peace time, no war was going on, but the Indians 
had a lot to avenge: there were still plenty of white men 
who, whenever they caught an Indian alone, killed him 
just as a matter of course, and the Indians knew it, and, 
when they got the chance, did likewise. So Charlie had good 
reason to be scared. 

He was just starting breakfast for one, and now he got 
breakfast for two. 

When I was a boy I had for years a pen-and-ink sketch 
on brown wrapping paper remember the old-fashioned 
butcher paper with black spots on it? which Charlie sent 
home in a letter Charlie, with his hair on end, tossing flap- 
jacks and burning bacon, and the Indian with the rifle across 
his knees, sitting there watching him. The caption: "Plenty 
good breakfast/' 

In the end the Indian said "How!" again and departed, 
not lifting any scalps. Probably he had thought the whole 
thing funny, but Charlie hadn't. Much wit and humor de- 
pend on who's holding the gun. 


Eleven Years Of Riding The Range 

In the spring of *81 Charlie's father sent him the money 
to come home. Charlie returned it, saying he was going to 
save up enough to pay his own way; and the next spring he 
did go back to St. Louis. Charlie was now eighteen. 

The family were surprised to see how he had changed 
and grown up, and what a good story-teller he had become, 
but were shocked at the way his English had deteriorated- 
full not merely of westernisms but plain bad grammar. His 
spelling, always a minus quantity, was now minus minimus. 
And they certainly didn't approve of his clothes. Especially 
his mother, his sister Sue, and his innumerable aunts and 
female cousins. But his boy cousins and his own brothers 
were fascinated: so much so that as soon as they finished 
school, both Bent and Ed went west, one to California, the 
other to Nevada and Montana. 

The neighbors and family friends, though amused, 
were quite sure that Charlie Russell would never amount 
to much. "A cowboy," they pointed out, "is just a farmhand. 
He'll end up marrying a squaw." 

The Russells were living in town and almost the first 
thing Charlie did was to take the train out to Oak Hill and 
visit his friends from the "diggings." 

He had promised his mother to be home for supper. 
Returning at twilight to the little wooden waiting-room on 
the Oak Hill branch of the Missouri Pacific, he saw a sales- 
man, showily dressed, walking up and down the platform. 


Eleven Years Of Riding The Range 

The salesman took one look at Charlie and immediately 
went around the corner of the station, ostensibly to get out 
of the wind and light a cigar. When he returned, rings, watch- 
chain, stick-pin, gold fraternity emblem every article of 
jewelry had disappeared. That's what he thought about 
Charlie; no wonder his mother didn't like Charlie's clothes. 
But Charlie just thought it funny. 

Civilization made Charlie restless. He stayed home 
only four weeks and then returned to Montana, taking along 
his cousin Jim Fulkerson. At Billings Jim got mountain fever 
and the doctor made up a poultice so virulent in its action 
that when he applied it to the sick boy's face it burned his 
eyes and blinded him; it was a merciful thing when Jim 

Paying the doctor had used up all their money. Alone 
again and afoot with only four bits in his pocket and two 
hundred miles between him and Hoover, things looked 
pretty bad. But Charlie met a fellow he knew and borrowed 
a horse and saddle and set out across country for the Judith. 

It was early April and there were still patches of snow. 
Fifteen miles out of town he saw a string of riders coming 
to meet him. It was a cow outfit coming in to get a thousand 
dogies for the 12 Z & V outfit up in the Basin. (Doug/i-geez, 
please, to rhyme with dough, and it means ordinary range 

Charlie asked for a job, and the boss, John Cabler, hired 
him to night-wrangle the horses, that is, keep them together 
while the rest of the men were asleep around the chuck 
wagon. This night work was Charlie's first job as a puncher. 

In those days most punchers owned a horse but did 
not use it when working, as the outfit provided each rider 
with a string of six or more horses of ten even ten horses to 
each man, so even a small camp would have quite a herd. 



Charlie, as Indian-faced as possible but privately not 
at all sure what was going to happen, ate an early and anxious 
supper, saddled up, and rode out to take charge. 

"Whatever happens/' said Cabler, "keep ? em together 
don't let 'em squander out all over the flat." 

Range horses sleep the first part of the night, but along 
about one o'clock in the morning they get up and graze for 
a couple of hours, and then lie down again. Never standing 
in stall, they haven't got the habit like stable horses of 
sleeping standing up. 

Unlike the woods which are as black as the inside of 
your hat, there's always some light on the prairie, even on a 
starless night; but in wet weather the night-wrangler has 
to see that the horses don't drift off across country in the 
rain; and there's always the danger that they, like cattle, may 
be stampeded by a thunder storm. The wrangler, riding 
slowly around the bunch, sings to himself not only because 
he's lonely but to warn the horses where he is so that they 
won't be startled when he suddenly looms up over them. 
One frightened horse, snorting and floundering up on his 
feet, can start the whole herd. The wrangler likewise wears 
his yellow slicker both because it keeps him warm the 
high prairie, three thousand feet or more above sea level, 
gets cold at night and also because it shows up in the dark 
and the horses can see it. 

All of which Charlie knew by hearsay and now proved 
by experience. There was no storm that night and he held 
the bunch and was glad to see the dawn. Night-herding, 
sun-down to sun-up, is a long shift. 

They were a month on the trail, and turned loose at 
Ross Fork, where they met the Judith Roundup. 

They were getting back toward Hoover and the country 
Charlie knew, but he liked what he'd seen of the cow business 
and wanted more. 


Eleven Years Of Riding The Range 

The round-up foreman, Horace Brewster, had just 
quarreled with his night herder and fired him; and Cabler 
gave Charlie such a good "recommend" that he got the 
job. He might not have got it if anybody there had known 
who he wasthat's the kind of reputation his break with 
Pike Miller and his life with Jake Hoover had given him. 
Even as it was there were some doubts about him. 

Old man True asked who the new night herder was, 
and Ed Older spoke up and said, "I think it's Kid Russell." 

"Who's Kid Russell?" 

"Why /'said Ed, "lie's the kid who drew S. S. Hobson's 
ranch so real." 

"Well/'says True, "if it's Buckskin Kid, I'm betting that 
by morning we'll be afoot!" 

He didn't mean Charlie would steal the horses but just 
sleep on the job and let them get away. In dry weather the 
wrangler who wants to take a nap will find some horse on 
the edge of the herd and kick him upmake him move over 
and then the wrangler lies down on the ground the horse has 
got warm. 

But Charlie didn't sleep. 

Though everybody called him "that ornery Kid Russell" 
he held the bunch, and at that time they had about four hun- 
dred saddle horses. And it wasn't so easy to keep an eye at 
night on four hundred horses in a country where there 
wasn't a fence between old Mexico and the Canadian line. 
This, you remember, was 1882, and Charlie was eighteen. 

Charlie stayed with the outfit all summer, and next 
fall old man True hired him to night-herd beef, and for the 
best part of the next eleven years Charlie sang to the horses 
and cattle. 

In between he drew and painted the things he saw but 
made no attempt to sell what he painted. His drawing was 
getting better all the time but he didn't know how to com- 
pose a picture and consequently put in too much detail. And 



he had nobody to criticize his work or to talk to about it or 
make suggestions. 

Charlie was no longer sturdy and chunky: he had grown 
tall and thin but still kept his square shoulders and short 
neckand life in the saddle had made him, as it did most of 
them, markedly bowlegged. A photograph taken when he 
was about twenty-two shows a really ferocious looking young 
fellow with a big, hard mouth, a prominent chin, wide, high 
cheekbones and fierce eyes, staring out of the picture. For 
a short time he cultivated a mustache, but had to cut it off 
it was so white, he said, that it made him snow-blind. 

Besides his regular painting Charlie did considerable 
decorating sketches, usually humorous, presented to saloon 
keepers, and gifts to various girls in the cribs and "houses/' 
(Out west they didn't crudely call it a whorehouse, just 
"the house," it being, except for ranch houses and saloons, 
almost the only house the cowpuncher ever entered.) 

Charlie's gifts to the girls were little pictures, brightly 
colored, even pictures of posies, red roses in full bloom and 
ferns and stuff, painted on big wooden sugar scoops and 
other inappropriate articles, all meant to hang up on the 
wall. They were hung up with ribbons and plush and brass- 
headed tacks they were strong on red plush. The ladies 
treasured them, as is proved by the fact that twenty years 
later, when I was living with Charlie, suddenly, without 
warning, there would appear a wooden shovel, platter, 
scoop, butter barrel or what not, each with its faded little 
picture, and each accompanied by a middle-aged intensely 
respectable married woman they all married in the end 
who wanted Charlie to touch it up, "You know, brighten 
it up a little!" 

These apparitions filled Mrs. Russell with fury. But 
she had to be tactful and hurt no feelings and make no 
enemies, and most of all she had, somehow, to circumvent 
their insistence that Charlie sign it. They all wanted his 


Eleven Years Of Riding The Range 

name and the buffalo skull. It wouldn't do, Mrs. R. declared, 
to have some wooden shovel, with a drunken rapture of 
posies painted on it, turn up at an exhibition. 

(There's an untapped field for collectorsI wonder no- 
body's thought of it.) 

Two Great Falls saloons, the Mint run by Sid Willis 
and the Silver Dollar run by Bill Ranee the latter being the 
first place I ever saw with the floor inlaid with silver dollars, 
and it had a clock that ran backwards to read in the mirror 
up behind the bar had quite a collection of Charlie's work. 
Especially a quadruptych (that doesn't sound right anyhow 
it was a triptych with four pictures) that presented "Just a 
little sunshine" a cow puncher riding the range and sing- 
ing in the sun: "Just a little rain'* the same puncher in a 
slicker, he and his horse half drowned: "Just a little happi- 
ness" he is in town, sitting, shouting, on the edge of the 
bed with the girl pulling his boots off: "Just a little pain" 
he is back on the range, his horse, in the middle distance, 
is watching him with surprise, beside him on the ground lie 
a blue medicine bottle and a syringe he has just dropped, 
and he is holding on to himself with both hands and jump- 
ing up into the air with agony. 

This sort of thing too had to be kept out of exhibitions. 
It isn't always easy being an artist's wife. 

But exhibitions came later. For eleven years, 1882-92, 
Charlie rode the range and got along without a wife to edit 

I am unable to give lush details of Charlie's love life, 
for he seldom mentioned it and never in detail. Although I 
gather from other old-timers that it was not entirely a 
celibate phase of his development, there is nothing to show 
for it now except a few of the aforesaid wooden hang-ups. 

Those were the big days of the cattle business in 
Montana, and indeed in the whole West, and Charlie saw 
the northern part of it every way from the ace. Saw and 



remembered it in minutest detail, and later on he put it 
down in pictures. That's why his stuff, like Remington's 
but Remington specialized on the army has such historical 

And I, had I had sense enough to ask questions and 
make a few notes, might have recorded all of it. Nary a 
note, hardly even a question; apparently I thought my Uncle 
Charlie was going to live forever. 



Charlie's First Commission 

In the fall of 1886 there was good grass and nice open 
weather till Christmas. 

When at last the snow came, it came to stay there 
was two feet on the level. This is unusual in Montana where 
snow seldom lies very long in the open. It doesn't melt- 
nothing melts at thirty below it just dries up and powders 
and the wind blows it away piles it in huge drifts under 
every cut-bank. 

But this winter, the famous winter of '87, it crusted 
over and stayed. The stage line had to send out men on 
snowshoes to cut willows and stick them up in the snow to 
mark the road. In part of the country these willows were 
still standing in May. 

Because there had been such good grass the horses came 
through the winter fat they pawed through the crust and 
kept on eating. But cloven footed cattle can't paw they 
just go back in the brush and hump up, tail to the wind, 
and starve. Which made it nice for the wolves they too 
came through the winter fat. 

Charlie was wintering with the bunch at the O H ranch. 

Jesse Phillips, the O H owner was there and when at 
last the stage came through from Helena he got a letter 
from Louie Kaufman, one of the biggest cattlemen in the 
whole country. Louie asked how the cattle were doing. 

Jesse started to write a letter and tell him how tough It 
was. They were all sitting around the kerosene lamp on the 
table and Charlie said, 'Til make a sketch to go with it." 



Which he did. 

"Hell!" said Jesse, "Louie don't need a letter that'll be 

It was a picture, not much bigger than a postcard, of 
a Bar-R cow, one of Kaufman s brand, and Charlie wrote 
under it, "Waiting for Chinook." 

The chinook wind is peculiar to that part of the country. 
You go to bed with everything frozen hard and the snow 
creaking so that you can hear a man walk half a mile away. 
Along in the night a queer sound wakes you; it gets louder 
and louder; you sit up in bed and hear chinook come moan- 
ing over the prairie it has a different sound from other winds 
and in half an hour the snow on the roof is melting and the 
gutters running. By morning the country will be almost 
bare. That's chinook. 

But this winter chinook didn't come and the cattle 
died by thousands. 

Though Charlie didn't foresee it, this little watercolor 
drawing circulated among stockmen everywhere and made 
him known over the whole Northwest. Indeed, it made him 

Years afterward some enterprising person turned it 
into a postcard, entitled "The Last of Ten Thousand/' and 
it is still in circulation today, long after Charlie's death. In 
the prairie country you're bound to find it in any rack of 

Next year, 1888, Charlie now twenty-fourwent up 
across the Line into the Northwest Territory with the Blood 
(Kainah) Indians, one of the three Ootlashoot or Black- 
foot tribes, and lived with them for six months. He was 
friends with a young buck named Sleeping Thunder, and 
through him the older men of the tribe got to know Charlie 
and liked him so well that they wanted him to join them 
and marry one of their women. They thought his drawings 


Charlie's First Commission 

a kind of magic medicine, each drawing a spirit picture, 
a sort of colored shadow, a shadow that lasted. 

Because his tight blue riding britches, foxed (rein- 
forced) in the seat with white buckskin, made him look 
from behind like the rear view of an antelope, they called 
him Ah-wah-cons, which means Prong-horn or Antelope. 

That's how most Indians get their names some pecu- 
liarity in looks or speech or action. And that, as told later 
on, is how Almost-a-woman got his unusual name. 

Some Indians get their names in dreams: they go off 
alone up in the hills, and fast and smoke with the sun 
and have dreams and visions. If they dream of an animal, 
they recognize him at once as their totem and take his name. 

While Charlie was living with the Bloods he learned 
a little Pay-gani, and especially he learned Sign Language, 
and learned it so well that he could talk to any of the prairie 
tribes. The sign language is something like deaf-and-dumb 
talk but not spelt out with letters it's all gestures, little 
pictures made with the hands. It is much the most remark- 
able invention of the American Indians all the plains 
tribes could savvy each other in sign-talk. 

Each group of tribes had its own spoken language; 
they couldn't talk to their neighbors with their lips they 
could with their hands. 

Charlie could tell a story, make jokes and describe the 
country he had just traversed and the animals and people 
he saw, all in sign language. Being an artist and using his 
hands so well, he was as graceful about it as an Indian it's 
fascinating stuff to watch. 

An account of a trip, translated into words, all simple 
declarative sentences, would go like this: 

"Long time ago new grass (spring of the year) I 
rope my horse I fork him/' (Forking the first and second 
fingers of the the right hand over the left wrist as you bestride 
a horse, the straightened out fingers of the left hand shap- 



ing the horse's head, the thumb his ear. As soon as your 
hand is astride him, the horse jogs off toward the right, 
shaking his head, twitching his ear you can almost hear 
him snort. ) "I ride across prairie I come to foothills come 
to mountains see lake see boat get on boat go up lake- 
see big house/' (The two hands dovetailed together with 
fingers sticking out straight to show the projecting logs at 
the comer of a log cabin,) "See many people not related 
( a hotel full of strangers ) much money much food much 
gambling. I eat drink smoke dance have a good time. 
Many drinks. (Motion of drinking out of whiskey glass, 
then the hand, with fingers wiggling upward like smoke, 
goes up in front of his nose to above his head: i.e., he 
drinks and gets smoke in his head he's drunk.) Sun goes 
down money gone I go back in woods unroll bed sleep 
wake up hear a little noise lie still listen hear another 
little noise no like sit up look this way look that way- 
look behind me big eyes in the dark (a ghost, a dead man) 
Me scared my heart was on the ground." 

All told, every word of it, in gestures. An Indian could 
do it so fast, and so easily, that the different moves flowed 
over into each other, continuous motion, a sort of visual 
music, as if he was playing an unseen instrument. 

An Indian, talking his own language, often accompanies 
it with sign-talk a running pictorial comment on what he 
is saying. His hands illustrate, elaborate and reinforce his 

For a few days after leaving the trading post the Bloods 
lived high, then they began to run out of white man's 
delicacies and Charlie went for six months without sugar or 

This impressed me immensely when Charlie told it I 
could hardly imagine life without sugar or anything sweet. 

"I missed the sugar only a few days," said Charlie, 
"then I got used to it. But I never got used to doing without 


Charlie's First Commission 

salt. It got so bad that I dreamed about it almost every 
night dreamed o finding a big lump of it, Once I dreamed 
of walking through a salt mine, the walls and roof of rock 
salt, I never saw a salt mine but I knew there were places 
like that and it was certainly real in my dream." 

Salt must have a smell for animals because years later 
when I was up in the Rockies with Charlie he planted a 
couple of big lumps of rock salt in the hillside next the cabin 
and in just a few nights the deer came down and licked it. 
After that, at night we often saw deer in the clearing between 
the camp and the lake. Once I got up in the dark and went 
out to the spring to get a drink and walked right onto a buck 
and two does, I didn't see them till the buck coughed ex- 
actly like a man and scared me backwards. Then I saw them 
bounding away through the timber, jumping floating., 
really over the down trees. Except for that cough, they 
made almost no noise. And their legs so slim you'd think 
they'd snap at the first jump, and their hoofs so dainty. 
But in the love moon, the mating season, the buck's hoofs, 
as sharp as razors, are as dangerous as his horns. You grab 
him by both horns and think you're safe, but he'll reach up 
and disembowel you with his hoof. 

While he was with the Indians, Charlie saw a lot of the 
Red Coats, the famous Northwest Mounted they really wore 
red coats then, not the miserable khaki they wear now who 
were watching the Bloods and occasionally turning them 
back when they strayed too far off their range. They wouldn't 
see a red coat for weeks and then some afternoon a soli- 
tary trooper would come riding into camp, with his boots 
shined up and his buttons just so, and they knew they were 
being watched. The Indians have lived like that for gen- 
erationswatched and herded around like range cattle no 
wonder they act like animals and are cowed and sullen. 

When he became an artist, Charlie painted the Red 
Coats more than once. At the big rodeo in Calgary the 



Prince of Wales, now the Duke of Windsor, bought a red coat 
picture for his Canadian ranch, and when Charlie went to 
England it was always the red coat pictures that attracted 
most attention, 

Charlie liked the Indian's way of life and had he gone 
west a few years earlier he would undoubtedly have become 
a squaw man, like his Bent uncles and as the Bloods wished 
but he came late, he couldn't help seeing that the Indian's 
day was done, so in the early spring of 1889 he quit the 
camp and rode back across the Line to join his own people. 
He was in rags and wore moccasins his boots had given out 
and Monte and Gray Eagle were barefoot. Up near the 
Tetons he met Horace Brewster who staked him to boots 
and grub and money, and he went to the Judith and got back 
his job as a puncher. That same summer the cattle outfits 
began to move north of the Missouri, and at summer's end 
Charlie wintered for the last time with Jake Hoover. 

Many years later he met Hoover on the Coast, where 
he had become a boatman and took tourists fishing;. 

But wherever he went, whether up across the Line with 
the Bloods, or back in the foothills with Jake Hoover or riding 
the range with some outfit, or wintering at a ranch house or 
in town, Charlie always had along a few squares of watercolor 
paint and in his pants pocket a black lump of wax and in 
between everything else he was drawing and modeling. 

When not in the saddle he seemed to lead a pretty idle 
existence, but really, though he wasn't aware of it and 
though he never considered it work he was really working 
hard at what he was meant to do. 

He was also beginning to drink pretty hard. But this, 
of course, only when they were in town; on the range they 
wouldn't see a town, or even a house for months on end. 

And always there was an intermittent flow of little ad- 
ventures. Not much to read about, most of them, but 
exciting while they lasted and often dangerous. 


Charlie's First Commission 

The time, for instance, just after the last Indian war, 
when Charlie, who had been in town and was riding alone 
across country to join his outfit, came at dark through thick 
brush down to a water-hole. It was still dusk up on the level 
but down in the coulie it was already night. He knew there 
was water there but he couldn't see anything and had to let 
the horse find it. A horse can smell water but you can't not 
when it's fit to drink. 

Down in the hollow when the wind blew west there was 
a terrible smell Charlie supposed it must be a dead cow or 
wolf or something but the water seemed all right and the 
horse drank without hesitation; so Charlie did likewise 
and made camp, and mostly the wind blew the other way. 

At dawn he sat up and saw his horse looking fixedly at 
something, and Charlie looked too and saw what there 
was to see back in the brush, which was shoulder high, a 
dead Indian. Some one had shot him as he came down to 
drink. The brush propped him up at an angle, almost stand- 
ing, but his head had fallen back and his eyes were open 
and staring at the sky. It was summer and the wolves hadn't 
bothered him. 

Charlie didn't collect any souvenirs or stop for breakfast 
but got out of there, quick. Other Indians might happen 
along, and he didn't feel easy till he had put miles between 
him and the dead man. 

Charlie didn't always get off unmarked. Once when 
they were either branding or cutting I forget which a steer, 
roped by the forefoot by another puncher, fell against Charlie 
and drove the sharp tip of its horn right through his boot 
and instep and into the ground, and wedged the toe bones 
apart so wide and so painfully, that for years afterward 
he walked lame. Half a generation later, when I knew him 
and it had long since stopped hurting, he still out of habit, 
favored that foot a little. 



There were endless incidents like that: every once in a 
while somebody got hurt, and occasionally somebody got 

Speaking of cutting, you may think that a steer, castrated 
in early adolescence, could not have much love life. But 
in large herds there will often be a young bull or two who 
is somehow overlooked and escapes the knife, and when 
he matures and starts sniffing around for a lady, if he can't 
find a cow he will finally pick on a steer if you can't get 
boots you must wear shoes. 

The steer though emasculated, still has the instincts of 
a gentlemanhe objects, plenty. He refuses to be seduced, 
so the only thing left is rape. And if you go out on the range 
and try to rape a longhorn, you'll find it a man-size job, 
even a bull-size. The victim puts up an astonishing row and 
the other steers, excited by the noise and the smell of vital 
juice, go crazy with frustrated desire and begin bawling 
and squealing. Presently one of them, quite out of his head, 
tries to climb the bullwho is fully occupied with his victim, 
a second steer climbs the first; a third the second and so on, 
and in no time at all you have the whole herd strung out, 
pick-a-back, in single file; and the bull, up in front, with 
all that weight on his hindquarters and his belly sagged down 
almost to the ground, is in a state of mind quite beyond 
description. You would be too if you tried to do business 
with a whole football team hanging on behind and yelling 
and foaming at the mouth. 

The whole herd is screaming to heaven, horns are click- 
ing like mad as others rush up to get in on the orgasm, and 
sooner or later somebody gets gored. 

That adds a new smell, and the instant they sniff blood 
the cattle go crazy in earnest. They gore and trample any 
steer who gets a drop of blood on him: of course, those 
who do the goring get bloodied up too and are gored in 
turn, and what began as rape ends in general massacre. 


Charlie's First Commission 

You can imagine how the range boss and his riders re- 
spond to this if they don't break it up right at the start 
they are liable to lose a large part of the herd. 

The same thing, at least the massacre part, can be started 
in the dark by a sleepy or careless night wrangler. 

In every herd there are a few one-eyed steers it's easy 
to get an eye poked out if you go around with a crowd of 
longhorns and these one-eyed gentry, not trusting their 
brethren overmuch, always want to sleep on the edge of the 
herd where they can keep their one good eye on the others. 

They are a nuisance and a trap for the night herder. 
In the dark his horse accidentally steps on the steer's tail. 
That hurts, plenty. Mr. Steer says so, out loud, and scrambles 
up on his feet and in so doing tears the whiskbroom-end 
still under the horse's hoof right off his own tail. That 
hurts too, and the steer lunges off through the herd, bawling 
and whipping his flanks with the bleeding stump and 
spraying the drops all around him. 

The cattle nearest him smell the blood and lumber up 
and take after him, also bawling. In less than a minute the 
whole herd is up and milling around in the dark, others get 
stepped on and the massacre begins. 

And if you think it's easy to stop a stampede at night 
with the chuck wagon and the sleeping riders a mile or two 
away you try it! 

There are, of course, plenty of other things lightning 
for instance which will start a stampede at night. 

People kept open house in the cattle country the few 
who had houses there was social life of a kind, and women 
were still so rare that a house with a girl in it, even the 
homeliest kind of girl, never lacked plenty of callers. A lady 
school teacher, forty years old and with spectacles, would 
draw men big husky, young men around her from that 
whole corner of the state. They would sit around for days, 



gaping at her and laughing foolishly, and eat up everything 
in the place. 

The Edgars, St. Louis neighbors of the Russell family, 
had a big ranch in Montana, and Charlie went there as often 
as he could because of a visiting daughter, Lolly Edgar, 
whom he thought the prettiest girl he had ever seen. He had 
lots of competition. The house, a wide, one-story log building 
with a pole corral in back and a hitching rack fifty foot 
long in front, had always a bunch of saddle horses before it, 
standing humped with their tails to the wind. 

Riding up to the ranch, Charlie would recognize some of 
the horses and know who was ahead of him. A strange horse 
with a fancy rig and silver conchos on the tapaderos (the 
big leather stirrup-flaps) would make him bristle up like 
a dog's hair some pretty boy from an outside outfit was in. 

Charlie wanted to marry Lolly, and she, like Barkis 
was willin': but old man Edgar horned in and sent her 
home to St. Louis. He wasn't going to let any daughter of 
his marry a no-good cow puncher like Charlie Russell. Charlie 
never forgot her. 

Years later, when Charlie married, his wife, herself a 
very pretty girl, was always just a bit jealous of Lolly Edgar. 
Charlie had once made the unfortunate remark that he didn't 
like girls with meaty noses. Mrs. Russell, with a trim old- 
fashioned figure and curves and so forth, applied this to 
herself which Charlie hadn't meant at all and ever after 
pictured Lolly as a Grecian goddess, a willowy Artemis with 
a non-meaty nose. 

One wonders what sort of mental picture she had of 
Lolly, whom she had never seen. 

When I saw Lolly she being then middle aged, married 
and with a whole flock of kids she was still very fine looking. 

Another time this was before Lolly left and years 
before Charlie married there were St, Louis guests at the 
Edgar ranch, a Captain George Kerr, his stepdaughter, 


Charlie's First Commission 

and his niece, the niece being related to Charlie by marriage, 
her elder sister having married Charlie's elder brother Bent, 
the gadget engineer. Both daughter and niece were pretty 
and there was a regular concourse at the ranch, people 
coming in from miles around just to look at the girls. 

Captain George (Confederate), an impressive old party 
with money, high flown Southern manners, and when he 
was crossed such a majestic and even awful bearing that 
the family in private called him the Royal Gorge, had 
gathered that Charlie Russell was the black sheep of his 
tribe, a ne'er-do-well, a waster, a rover and, in short, a 
drunken bum. He wasn't at all sure he wanted the girls to 
meet him. 

But when they met after all the Captain had been 
through four years of Civil War and knew a man when he 
saw him he was so impressed that he ordered an oil paint- 
ing and asked what it would cost. After some complicated 
mathematics Charlie named a very modest figure; about 
enough to pay for stretching the canvas, the paint and 
three new brushes, and a round of drinks for the house. 

"Oh, I'm sure that isn't enough!" said the Captain, 
and doubled the price. 

This was Charlie's first real commission. 
The picture, "Counting Coup" (but they pronounce it 
Koo it's French Canadian and means a blow) and repro- 
duced later under the caption "When Sioux and Blackfeet 
Meet," shows how Charlie's friend, Chief Medicine-Whip 
of the Bloods, got his name by riding in among the Sioux 
and hitting the Sioux medicine-man with his quirt. 

Captain Kerr was my mother's uncle and when he moved 
to the Coast he gave the picture to her and it hung for 
years in our diningroom in St. Louis. It has good drawing 
and action but is so different in color from his later style that 
you would hardly think it Charlie's work. 



(Speaking of style: just last year I saw in a show win- 
dow on Park Avenue, two small oils which bore Charlie's 
name and buffalo skull but were manifest forgeries. One, 
a fight with rustlers, was copied from a larger original but 
the forger had put a blue waterhole in the foreground. The 
other, a mountain lion, was striking and mysterious looking, 
but Charlie didn't paint it. The storekeeper, of course, 
didn't know they were fakes. Joe de Yong writes me that 
he has seen quite a number of faked Russells on the coast. ) 

You can imagine what sort of notions were put into 
Charlie's head by getting all that money for doing what he 
would have done for nothing. 

It was then that he began to think seriously of setting up 
as an artist. 

According to common report the left wing of Price's 
army (Confederate) migrated to Montana after the Civil 
War, and among them so many from the Mule State that to 
admit you came from Missouri made people grin. The saying 
ran, and still runs today, "Not all Missourians are horse 
thieves, but all horse thieves are Missourians." 

Horse stealing was the most serious crime in the cattle 
country and was always punished by hanging. Which is 
easy to understand as a man set afoot on the prairie can 
starve or die of thirst, and also it isn't safe to let range cattle 
see you out of the saddle. Used from birth to men on horse- 
back, they don't know what you are and may attack you. 
And, of course, when there was trouble with Indians or out- 
laws, a man caught afoot was helpless. 

Among the Missourians, and inspired by Charlie's ad- 
ventures, his brothers and cousins also went west: Bent to 
California as a mining engineer, and Ed, the best looking 
and tallest of the family, first to Montana with Charlie, 
where he punched cows on the spring and fall roundups, 
and then to Nevada prospecting. But Ed was better educated 
than Charlie; he saw that prospecting was mere luck, mostly 


Charlie's First Commission 

hard luck, so he quit adventuring and went back to St. Louis 
to sell fire brick and special shapes for the Parker Russell 
Company. Ed was engaged to marry the younger sister 
of Bent's wife, when he died, still young, of pneumonia. 
Wolfert, the youngest of the five brothers, was already dead, 
and Guy died three years later. Thus there remained only 
Bent and Charlie. 

Charlie had a prosperous cousin, Chiles Carr, a big, tall, 
slim, fine-looking fellow (his grandfather, old Judge Carr, 
built the first brick house in St. Louis and gave Carr Park to 
the city ) and Chiles had a ranch in Montana where he kept 
open house and lived and drank in a sort of feudal splendor, 
and had all kinds of friends until his money gave out. 

At that time Charlie was working for the Lazy K out- 
fit and when Chiles went broke, Charlie got him a job as 
a rider. 

Right from the jump the job went wrong. The foreman 
was a tough-talking proposition and when they went out 
in the pole corral to get their horses the company provided 
each rider with a string of horses Chiles, who could ride 
but was used to having a ranch-hand saddle up for him, 
missed his throw. The horses, of course, were skittish, dodg- 
ing and plunging and bunching up the way they always do, 
and Chiles' loop, instead of settling neatly over the horse's 
head and around his neck, fell on his back and slid off over 
his hindquarters. The horse snorted derisively and got away. 

The foreman snorted too: "Don't look like much of a 
rider to me! Or do you always catch 'em by the tail?" 

Instead of turning it off with a joke or an alibi or just 
ignoring it and trying again, Chiles put on a spoiled baby act 
and quit right there. 

Charlie felt bad about it and would have fixed it up, but 
fate and a too convenient saloon gave Chiles no second 



By night he was roaring drunk, and having spent his 
last dollar he climbed into saddle he still owned a horse 
and struck out, howling, across the prairie, spurring at every 

That's the last the bunch at the saloon saw of him, and 
when he was gone from sight they could still hear his voice, 
shouting his defi to heaven. 

Heaven called his bluff. In the dark he ran his horse 
over a cut-bank. They fell thirty feet, turning over in the air, 
the horse fell on top of Chiles, and the steel horn of the 
saddle crushed his life out. 

Next morning Charlie and the bunch found them, the 
horse standing disconsolate with drooping head, trailing 
reins and a broken leg, and Chiles dead under the cut-bank. 


Warning Against Marriage 

In the spring of 1889 Charlie went back to the Judith, 
to his old job of wrangling. Horace Brewster was the cap- 
tain, the same man who hired him on Ross Fork in '82. A 
long generation later, Horace Brewster would ride horse- 
back after Charlie's coffin. All those years Charlie had been 
watching and drawing the kinds of people he met, and the 
animals and the country. He had no intention of making a 
record, he didn't know there was any historical importance 
to what he was doing; he supposed, as did everyone else, 
that the cattle business would go on forever. Actually the big 
days of the cattlemen were over inside of twelve years. 

But now the West was changing fast. Stage lines, 
freighters, steamboats and the constantly lengthening rail- 
roads were pouring white men into Montana. 

Charlie saw the change and didn't like it. By '89 the 
Judith Country was pretty well settled and sheep had begun 
to take the range and drive out the cattle. Sheep can graze 
after cattle, but cattle and horses can't graze after sheep. 
The woolies, nibbling everything right down to the roots, 
leave the country as bare as a table. Charlie saw that the 
Judith was spoiled and followed the cattle north to the Milk 
River country. 

But the sheep and the nesters (small farmers) were 
hot on his heels. It was evident that in only a few years the 
cattle and cattlemen would follow the Indians out. 



In the fall of '91 he was now twenty-sevenCharlie 
got a letter from Pretty Charlie Green, a professional gam- 
bler, offering him room and grub and seventy-five dollars 
a month if he would come to the new town at Great Falls on 
the Upper Missouri. And all he had to do was paint pictures 
and model things in wax. 

It sounded good the puncher's problem was always 
how and where he would live through the winterso Charlie 
packed Monte and saddled up his gray and took the trail. 

It was a very dry fall and as hot, almost, as midsummer. 
At noon on the second day Charlie crossed a creek the last 
water for at least another six hours but it had stopped run- 
ning, nothing left but puddles, and smelled so bad that the 
horses just sniffed it and cooled their feet but wouldn't drink. 

The creek bed was down in a deep coulie with the shore 
stepped back in terraces. Scrambling up a steep cut-bank on 
the other side they came onto a flat, waist-deep in dry grass. 
The grass had been tramped down in a wide circle just 
the way dogs do and lying there, panting with the heat 
and lolling out their tongues, were a dozen wolves. 

Charlie had often killed wolves when he was with Jake 
Hoover every once in a while they had caught one in their 
traps and he and other punchers had roped and dragged 
wolves out in the open; except afoot and in winter, he 
wasn't afraid of them. But horses are in the wild state the 
wolf is the horse's only dangerous enemy and coming on 
them suddenly that way without warning, Charlie wasn't at 
all sure what his two horses would do. Most likely they 
would stop short and fall backwards down the cut-bank. 
And a horse falling over backwards is almost sure death for 
the rider before you can swing out of saddle the horn will 
get you. So Charlie had reason to be scared. 

However, Monte and the gray were both range horses. 
They pricked their ears and snorted and shook their heads 


Warning Against Marriage 

but went on with a rush right through the wolves and 
scrambled up the next bank onto the open. 

"What did the wolves do?" I asked when Charlie told 
about it. 

"Just showed their teeth and grinned, and one, a big 
dog wolf, sat up and snarled; but they didn't try to follow 
us. They might in winter, but probably they weren't hungry. 
Just the same I was damn glad to get up onto the open, 
and as soon as we hit the level both horses broke into a run/' 

Getting no drink at the creek and short of food, Charlie 
traveled light and fast, trying to make a water hole he knew 
about. It was farther than he thought, he got there after dark 
and noticed that the horses were choosey about drinking, 
but they did drink and Charlie was so dry that he got down 
on all fours and began to lap it up. 

The water didn't smell very goodbut it doesn't at that 
time of year and he didn't think much about it till he got 
two or three little soft things on his tongue. He pulled his 
dusty neckerchief up across his lips to use as a strainer 
and sucked the water through it. At dawn he found a dead 
cow at the far end of the pond and the water floating-full 
of maggots that's what he got in his mouth. 

That cow was rather symbolical one more season and 
Charlie's life as a puncher would be over. But he still didn't 
foresee it. He knew changes impended but he didn't know 
what. Or how soon. 

When he had first come to Montana, Charlie had 
camped one night on the site of Great Falls, and, had he been 
a prophet, could have taken up land, and assuming he lived 
long enough and didn't die of starvation paying taxes even- 
tually have become a millionaire. For now when at last he 
came down to the river, Great Falls had become a town. And 
it would grow: in just a few years it would be trying to take 
the state capitol away from Helena. 



Lewis and Clark on their great trek overland from St. 
Louis to the Pacific, had also camped near by and named 
the upper falls-there are three Black Eagle because of an 
eagle which circled overhead and lit in a cottonwood on 
an island out in the river. 

The Missouri, you know, is as clear as crystal above its 
junction with the Yellowstone; it doesn't look at all like the 
coffee-colored Big Muddy at St. Louis. 

The men who founded Great Falls chief among them 
Senator Paris Gibson had enough originality to keep the new 
town from having a Broadway. It's laid out checkerboard 
fashion with wide avenues running east and west and cross 
streets north and south. Except Central Avenue, which 
divides the town, all the streets and avenues are numbered. 

Charlie rode down Central Avenue and turned in at 
the first information bureau and bought the barkeeper a 
drink and asked if he knew Pretty Charlie Green. 

"The gambellero?" said the barkeep. "Sure I know him. 
He hangs out at the Brunswick/* 

Charlie located him and was taken to yet a third bar 
and introduced to the proprietor, his prospective employer. 
Who pulled a contract as long as a stake rope and proposed 
that they sign it right then. The contract ran for one year: 
Mr. X was to house, feed and pay Charlie, and Charlie was 
to work from six A.M. to six P.M. and everything he modelled 
or painted belonged to Mr. X. 

Charlie was no business man and never would be but 
he was not a damn fool. He pointed out that painting was 
different from sawing wood, so the contract fell through 
and Charlie was left flat. It was an anxious moment; he had 
quit his job just at the wrong time of year to get another and 
he didn't know what to do. However, he rustled around and 
found a couple of cowpunchers, a round-up cook, and an out- 
of-work prizefighter, and between them they scraped to- 
gether enough to hire a shack on the South Side. As Charlie 


Warning Against Marriage 

said afterwards, sometimes the feed was pretty short, but 
they wintered. Anyhow it was better than riding the grub- 

Riding the grub-line, cowpunchers called it, when you 
wintered, free, at ranch houses. Custom required that you 
stay only three nights at each house and then move on to 
the next. 

Charlie and the prizefighter got crosswise over a girl, 
and the fighter began telling people what he was going to 
do about it. Charlie knew better than to exchange fisticuffs 
with a professional. He got out his equalizer, a big, showy, 
nickelplated six-shooter with a carved grip, and went 
where the pug was. He didn't make any warlike talk or offer 
to use the gun, but the pug saw it and there was no fight. 

This was the only time Charlie ever had to pull a gun 
on a man. 

You have heard, of course, the old rhyme about the 
equalizer which was engraved on many revolvers: 

"You need not fear a man 
Who walks beneath the skies, 
Though you be weak, 
And he be strong, 
I will equalize/* 

This same lean winter Charlie met a tenderfoot, new 
come to the Falls, a man half a generation older than himself, 
Albert Trigg, who was to become his best friend. Years later, 
when I lived in Montana, Charlie was at Trigg's house, or 
Trigg at Charlie's, four or five nights every week. 

Next spring Charlie went back to the Milk River 
country and his last job as night-wrangler for the Bear Paw 
Pool, but at the summer's end he returned to Great Falls and 
started painting pictures for a living: and though he had a 
hard time for many years just barely made enough to keep 
alive he never again rode the range. 



This was 1892 and Charlie was twenty-eight. 

Charlie never read any of our modern handbooks on 
how to improve your approach, make friends and get rich, 
but like high-proof goods he mellowed with age and by the 
time he reached thirty, people had entirely forgotten "that 
ornery Buckskin Kid" stuff and thought of Charlie Russell as 
not only a good mixer but a wonderful story teller he could 
keep the whole house laughing all evening. He could be 
coarse in coarse company, but it wasn't a cruel kind of humor; 
although a master of ironical statement, he was seldom 
sarcastic or cynical. But being a good mixer has grave dis- 
advantages, especially in a frontier society where so much of 
the mixing is done in saloons. 

In September 1895 Charlie got a real order for three 
pictures. He was living in Great Falls and he knew that if 
he stayed there it would take months to get the pictures 
done. He also knew he was drinking too much. How could 
he help it when every old-timer who came into town im- 
mediately looked up Charlie Russell and every new-timer 
wanted to be introduced? And every introduction meant 
the stranger buying Charlie a drink, Charlie buying back, 
anybody else who happened in buying for both of them, 
and they reciprocating, and so on and so on. A good time 
was had by all but under this system you don't get much 
painting done. 

Old Doc Sweet had told him straight and plain, "Charlie, 
you better stop it whiskey and paint don't mix. You're going 
to get the shakes, and then wherell your drawing be? You 
can't keep on drawing and drinking!" 

Charlie knew he was right: he had already had one at- 
tack of the shakes his hand jumping so that he couldn't 
draw and it had scared him badly. And he had long since 
reached the point where if he didn't get a drink every so 
often, he missed it. And that's no way to be when you've 
got an order for three paintings. 


Warning Against Marriage 

He knew it wasn't going to be easy to stop he'd seen too 
many of the older men try and lie knew it would be impos- 
sible as long as he stayed in the Falls. 

But he had one real advantage he was still bull-headed. 
And it is a great advantage, when youVe got to stop drink- 
ing, to have a mouth and chin and jaw like Charlie's. 

So in October he bought a last round of drinks and 
announced that he was going to Cascade to visit the 
Robertses, whom he had known ever since he first landed 
in Helena in 1880. 

"Cascade is no place to sell paintings/' said sage old Doc 
Sweet, swaying perilously and getting a fresh grip upon the 
bar. "What you need is a business manager. Why don't you 
stop drinking stop it now and go home to St. Louis and 
get one of your brothers or somebody who knows something 
to handle your paintings for you. That's what you need a 

The Word creates: a thought put into words is half 
begun of course it's the easy half. 

Charlie, though he didn't know it, was going to get a 
manager. But he didn't go to St. Louis, instead he set out 
for Cascade. 

The Robertses had living with them a girl from 
Kentucky named Nancy Mann, but the kids for some kid 
reason called her Mamie. She wasn't exactly a servant, and 
of course in those days they didn't call her a maid, not in 
Montana, but she helped out in the kitchen and with the 
kids and Mrs. Roberts gave her a home. She had no home of 
her own. Her mother was dead and her stepfather had taken 
her little half-sister and gone out to the Coast and left 
Nancy behind in Montana. 

Nancy couldn't remember Kentucky; all she knew was 
the prairie country and the foothills. She was young, plump, 
blonde and quite pretty in a round-faced way, and much 



excited by the coining of so famous a guest as Charlie Rus- 
sell. Ma Roberts told her to watch out. 

Every time Nancy said anything about Mr. Russell, or 
even looked like she was going to say something, Ma Roberts 
told her, "You watch out!" 

For Charlie, though no rounderexcept in saloons had 
what he called a fuzzy reputation. 

At sundown, just as Nancy and Mrs. Roberts were 
getting supper on the table, they heard spur rowels jingling 
on the back steps and Pa Roberts brought his guest into 
the kitchen. 

This is how Nancy described him many years after:* 

"Charlie and I were introduced. The picture that is en- 
graved on my memory of him is of a man a little above 
average height and weight, wearing a soft shirt, a Stetson 
hat on the back of his blonde head, tight trousers, held up 
by a ^half-breed sash' that clung just above the hip bones, 
high-heeled riding boots on very small, arched feet. His face 
was Indian-like, square jaw and chin, large mouth, tightly 
closed firm lips, the under protruding slightly beyond the 
short upper, straight nose, high cheek bones, gray-blue 
deep-set eyes that seemed to see everything, but with an ex- 
pression of honesty and understanding. He could not see 
wrong in anybody. He never believed any one did a bad act 
intentionally; it was always an accident. His hands were 
good-sized, perfectly shaped, with long, slender fingers. He 
loved jewelry and always wore three or four rings. They 
would not have been Charlie's hands any other way. Every- 
one noticed his hands, but it was not the rings that attracted, 
but the artistic, sensitive hands that had great strength and 
charm. When he talked, he used them a lot to emphasize 
what he was saying, much as an Indian would do." 

* Quoted from Good Medicine, Garden City Publishing Co., 1929. 

Warning Against Marriage 

They met in 1895; Nancy was sixteen and Charlie 
thirty-one; both blonde and both ignorant. But ignorance, 
especially Nancy's kind of ignorance, is plastic. 

They were both warned not to marry. The Cascade 
doctor, an old-timer and a friend of many years, told 
Charlie, "Dont marry that Mann girl. She's a nice little 
girl, and she's pretty, but she's got a bad heart she'll be 
dead inside three years. I know! Anything happening, 
the least little excitement, may kill her at any moment. 
You've never seen her faint, have you? Well, she does just 
keels over, bam! flat on the floor. And that's her heart!" 

Practically everybody warned Nancy. They pointed out 
it didn't need much pointing that Charlie drank. And he*d 
never made a decent living. He was just a common puncher, 
he had no ambition, he'd never be a boss, much less an 
owner. The only thing he'd ever owned was a saloon and 
all Montana knew how that ended. 


Charlie Acquires A Manager 

It took Charlie months to make up his mind, and when 
he finally asked Nancy she refused. He took her for a walk 
at sunset, they went down by the river and crossed the 
echoing wooden bridge, and on the bridge he proposed, and 
she said No. 

Years afterward he made a little water-color of it an 
autumn evening, the sky darkening to night, a cold wind 
blowing, and they have just left the bridge. Nancy, down- 
cast, is walking in front with her hands in a muff, her coat 
buttoned up tight and a little black hat on her head. 
Charlie following close behind with his coat blown open 
and sash and white shirt showingunlike most punchers 
he never wore a vest his arms extended in a pleading, 
persuading, arguing gesture, his hat on the back of his head. 
That's all there is to it; not much of a picture, but it tells 
the story. 

In the end of course she said Yes. 

Then it was Charlie's turn to get cold feet, but he was 
too much of a gentleman to back out. For Charlie, though 
not much of a gambler, never welched on a bet. 

Charlie and Nancy had met in October 1895, and they 
were married in September '96. It was not an expensive mar- 
riage and they went on no honeymoon trip. Between them 
they had just seventy-five dollars mostly Charlie's with 
which they furnished a one-room shack in Cascade, which is 
still standing. 


Charlie Acquires A Manager 

This gives you an idea how practical Charlie was, 
Cascade being a quite impossible place for an artist to 
make a living. 

With his wife it was not so much a question of being 
practical as of being entirely inexperienced. She didn't know 
anything except how to cook. 

Nancy was then seventeen, a pretty little blonde girl, 
plump and squeezable, with an attractive laugh and nice 
manners and very little education with nothing whatever to 
show that she was as smart as a steel trap and as quick as 
the lash of a whip. She didn't know it herself hadn't the 
least suspicion. 

But it all came out afterward when she began living with 
Charlie. For Charlie without intending or even knowing it- 
was a releasing sort of person. You could see it all the time. 
In his presence people musclebound with timidity and self- 
centeredness, relaxed and became at ease. Perhaps it was 
merely because Charlie himself was always so at ease and so 
natural, or, as they say nowadays, so well-adjusted. 

Which, according to modern psychology, is proof posi- 
tive that Charlie was not a real artist. Say the psychologists, 
blow high, blow low, come rain, come snow, no artist can ever 
be well-adjusted. Why? Because if he did get adjusted he 
would cease producing art, Charlie knew nothing about all 
this; such notions were entirely out of his ken. 

Charlie was so hopelessly foolish, backward and old- 
fashioned that he thought art a gift, the implication being 
a gift from Heaven. Of course, he didn't put it that way he 
called it luck. He hadn't earned it, he said, he didn't deserve 
it, he just had it. Which was indeed the common attitude of 
artists at the time. The more high-flown artists thought 
themselves inspired, but Charlie just called it luck. 

Of course, even fortunate people have their disappoint- 
ments. Charlie and Nancy wanted to have a baby, but never 
did. In this world you can't have all the luck. 



They lived at Cascade a year, but it was much too small 
a place to support an artist, so they pulled up stakes and 
moved to Great Falls itself no metropolis, considerably less 
than ten thousand population but a branch of the Great 
Northern (Jim Hill's railroad) ran through it and brought 
a steady trickle of prospective settlers, adventurers, tourists, 
and people with money. Charlie met most of them at the 
Silver Dollar or the Mint and once in a while somebody 
bought a picture. But he was too modest. The prices were 
really pitiful. And there were times in between windfalls 
when nobody bought a picture; and then, as Charlie said, 
"The grass wasn't so good/' 

His best outlet was black-haired Charles Schatzlein 
who ran an art store picture frames, paint, glass and so forth 
in Butte, Montana, the big, bad, drunken, gambling, 
labor-trouble town where the copper smelters are. More than 
once Schatzlein's orders paid the rent and brought in food 
just as Charlie was about to give up art and go back to the 

Said Schatzlein, taking dinner at the Russell shack, 
"Your price is too low. Out of that last bunch you sent me 
I sold one for enough to pay for all six. Which makes it 
nice for me and anybody else who sells your stuff but you 
ought to get more out of it. You're no salesman why not let 
Nancy handle that end?" 

Charlie did; he always hated to tell people how much a 
picture was worth. Nancy took hold of things, the tariff went 
up a little and behold, business, began to improve. In accord- 
ance with a mysterious law of economics, the demand in- 
creased with the price. 

But at first they were very timid about it and debated for 
days how much they dared ask for each picture. Neither 
knew a thing about Art with a capital A; neither had ever 
met a professional artist. They just went at it blind. 


Charlie Acquires A Manager 

"Dog-ignorant," Charlie said, "that's what we were." 
But they got along: very gradually the prices-and the 
market-improved and they began to live a little better. 

The St. Louis Russells feared Charlie had married a 
squaw, a half breed or something, and when at last he brought 
her home on a visit they were a bit uneasy; they didn't know 
what to expect. The ladies wondered if they would have to 
put up a tent in the backyard, or maybe a cage. They were 
exaggerating, of course, but we kids took such talk at face 
value, sitting open-mouthed around the table, listening to 
our elders and anticipating marvels. 

This was Charlie's first exhibition: he exhibited his wife. 
A successful exhibition. The family approved her at sight 
though they were shocked by her English, which was worse 
than Charlie's, and amused by her clothes and by her ignor- 
ance of everything they thought iniportant-a comfortable 
amusement spiced with superiority and condescension. But 
they found her very adaptable. Much more so than Charlie. 
A girl that age is like water; 'pour her into any pitcher, no 
matter how convoluted, and she takes the pitcher's shape 
with effortless ease. 

Nancy continually shocked her sisters-in-law. She had 
never been in a city before and her very first day downtown, 
her first ride on an elevator, she grabbed herself with both 
hands and exclaimed, "Oo! my stummick! it felt like it fell 
out!" (In those days stomach was an obscene word, not used 
in mixed company. ) "But," her sister-in-law remarked that 
evening, "she looked so pretty that every man in the cage 
thought I must have said it** 

Thus Nancy, floating through St. Louis like a fish 
through new waters, surprised at what she saw but soon at 
ease, sure of herself and Charlie. Which she pronounced 



Charlie too shocked the family more than once. His 
sister Sue now Mrs, Portis, her husband the son of Judge 
Portis, an old-fashioned southerner from Alabama took 
them to some light opera, Patience perhaps, and Nancy sat 
through it like a little lady but Charlie escaped at the first 
intermission and didn't come back. There was some sort of 
carnival on a vacant lot at the corner and Charlie took in 
die freaks and watched Bosco the Wonder eat snakes alive, 
and was waiting at the theater door when the family came 
out. Sue, the highbrow of the tribe and herself a bit of an 
artist, forgave Charlie everything except the snake eater. 

This was not mere crudeness on Charlie's part; he really 
didn't like opera. For, just as some people are color-blind, 
Charlie was tone-deaf. To him music was just noise. 

Except for a few range-songs ("My name it is Joe Bow- 
ers/I got a brother Ike," and "Sam Bass was born in Injiana/ 
It was his native home") the only song I ever heard him sing 

Tve never forgiven that blaggard Pat Shay 

Since the time that he ruined me life, 

I trayted him daycent, I thought him me friend 

Till he up and he stole way me wife." 

and the refrain, making his voice growl: 

"Now if ever I lay eyes upon the bandy-legged robber 
111 avenge me Irish honor if I hang that very day, 
111 shoot him, I'll cut Mm, 111 club him, I'll garrote him; 
111 never slape a wink until I murder Paddy Shay." 

In those days cigarets were considered disgraceful, a 
sure sign of vice and crime. They didn't become respectable 
until the First World War. Even after all these years I still 
remember the strange, new, almost magical smell of Uncle 
Charlie's Bull Durham tobacco. He was the first person I 
ever saw roll a cigaret. 

But he was strange in every way. He wore high-heeled 
boots, a big hat, no vest a startling innovation. All the men 


Charlie Acquires A Manager 

I knew wore vests even in the St. Louis summer. Instead of 
suspenders he held up his pants with a halfbreed sash, a 
Hudson Bay sash, nine feet long. And he didn't tie or 
buckle it, just tucked it like the latigo on a cinch-give it a 
jerk in the right direction and it came loose. Also he carried no 
handkerchief. In the morning he snuffed handfuls of cold 
water up his nose, and snorted it out again-as a horse does at 
a river on a dusty day-and that sufficed. I tried it f aithfully 
for weeks but it just wouldn't work; I had to carry a hanky. 

In his pants pocket Charlie always had a lump of bees- 
wax, mottled black from handling, and while he was talking 
he would take it out and work it soft and model a pig or a 
buffalo or what not, and look at it in an inquiring way and 
then mash it out with his thumb and make something else. 

He took me to see Ben Hur and the famous chariot race 
and afterward he modelled me a quadrigga, a four-horse 
chariot, mounted on a block of wood and painted and gilded. 
It had lots of action but the horses were right off the range 
and ran with their heads up and their tails flagged in a man- 
ner most unclassical. 

I too aspired to be an artist, and Charlie, inspecting my 
work, remarked, "The kid draws entirely by ear he never 
looks at what he's drawing." 

Which perhaps is why my aspirations never bore fruit. 
I favored bare-legged tribes, Greeks, Romans, Indians and 
so forth, and Charlie called my men the Round-Legs. He 
said I must have got my ideas of masculine architecture 
from the beef -trust girls in the Police Gazette. But this seems 
unlikely the only place I ever saw the Gazette was at the 
barber's, and I wasn't, as yet, old enough to draw ladies. 

This trip to St. Louis enlightened Nancy in more ways 
than one and when they went back to Great Falls she was 
much bolder in fixing picture prices. And the demand still 
improved with the price. 



They actually began to save a little money. 

Of course, there were plenty of rebuffs and disappoint- 
ments, and sometimes a small success led to a large failure. 
For instance, they were much thrilled when a real New 
York editor, William Bleasdell Cameron, visiting Montana, 
ordered several black-and-white illustrations for Field and 
Stream. They had broken into the magazine game! And 
made what seemed to Charlie a lot of money. But, though 
people liked the drawings and wrote in about them, and 
though they resulted in orders from other editors, in the 
end they gave Charlie a black eye. For when Nancy finally 
prodded him into holding his first exhibition in St. Louis, the 
Art Museum refused to buy any of Charlie's paintings, be- 
cause, as they explained, he was only an illustrator, not a real 
artist. Besides he had never studied in Europe nor lived in 
New York. Neither would they let him exhibit under their 

This was a real shock to Charlie who had supposed that 
just as a matter of course St. Louis, his own home town, 
would be glad to show his work. 

He didn't know St. Louis. 

Charlie was almost sick about it he wondered if he 
really was an artist or just a sort of faker. 

But Nancy was of sterner stuff. It made her fighting 

The St. Louis Museum still has none of Charlie's work 
and is proud of it a prophet in his own country and so forth. 
They have several of Remington's paintings, his contem- 
porary. But Remington came from New York. 

As another artist remarked in the St. Louis Post Dis- 
patch, in St. Louis art is on the bum. 

However, there seemed to be quite a lot of people who 
didn't care what the Art Museum thought. They crowded 


Charlie Acquires A Manager 

the exhibition at Strauss' gallery and bought a number of 
paintings and the papers gave it a big write-up. 

This encouraged Nancy to try exhibitions in Denver and 
Chicago and finally-1903-in New York. All succeeded; 
all got good notices; all paid expenses, and some paid a profit. 

Before he married, while he was still punching cows, 
Charlie had been to Chicago several times, riding the cattle- 
cars armed with a pole to prod the steers up on their feet 
when they lay down, this to keep the others from trampling 
them. So he felt sort of acquainted with Chicago. But he 
didn't like New York: it was too crowded and too lonely. Till 
they began to get acquainted they were terribly lonely. And 
at first the hotel cowed him. 

Nancy stood it better than Charlie. She was fifteen 
years younger and a hundred times more adaptable; and she 
was the nervous, excitable, energetic kind. Right from the 
start she went out determined to meet people, important 
people, the kind of people who could help Charlie along. It 
was quite an undertaking for a girl so ignorant and so unso- 
phisticated. And at first it was very exhausting, even for her 

But she kept on. She might she often did have stage 
fright; she might she often did have a fainting spell after 
the crisis was over, but while the battle went on, she was 
in there slugging, Her youth and appearance helped: it was 
a very unobservant art editor, critic, or dealer, who didn't 
notice how young and pretty she was. And how unsophisti- 
cated. Several tried to date her. 

Nancy's ignorance played right into their hands. Not 
knowing the gentlemanly New Yorker and how his brain 
works and how easy it is for a girl, any girl, to convince him 
forever just give him a big-eyed look and say, "Well you 
sure surprise me!" convince him forever that he's the 
original wolf, she got more than once into embarrassing and 



even painful situations, but always extricated herself with 
the forthright directness which a girl can show if she wants to. 

Excited by what they thought the narrowness of her es- 
cape the wolves naturally tried again, but upon meeting 
Charlie they always remembered that great American adage, 
Safety First, and looked elsewhere for their dates. So Nancy 
found New York distinctly exciting. 

Then, too, she was interested in shops and clothes- 
Charlie wasn't; she learned how to use the elevated Charlie 
didn't. She went around crashing gates and looking up people 
Charlie either tagged along reluctantly or stayed in the 

One rainy afternoon when his active half was out 
battling for recognition, Charlie was reduced to such straits 
that he opened the Gideon Bible and read quite a little of 
the early part, the wars and adventures of the Chosen People, 
and was surprised to find it so interesting. He concluded that 
the Hebrews were a ferocious bunch "Hew Agag in pieces 
before the Lord" and he sympathized with Hagar, and 
Ishmael, and Esau, but took a dislike to Jacob, the pious 
sharpshooter who went around getting the best of his 

Who knows, Charlie might have got religion, but just 
then success came tapping at the door or, rather, Nancy 
dragged success in, hog-tied and branded, and as far as I 
know Charlie never opened the Bible again. 

At first it was a very modest success. No sudden story- 
book triumph. But they did sell six large paintings, oil, and 
a number of water colors for twice what they had ever got 
before. And they did begin to get recognition from the critics, 
they did meet art dealers and art buyers with money. 

People are queer: The thing that pleased Charlie most 
and amused him and flattered him happened while they were 
sitting in the lobby of the swankiest hotel they had yet been 


Charlie Acquires A Manager 

in, waiting for some art biggieI forget who to come down- 
stairs. Nancy noticed that the bellhops over on their bench 
were looking at Charlie and having a big argument about 
something. Presently the littlest came over and said, "Mister, 
would you settle a bet for us?" 

"Sure," said Charlie, "what is it?" 

"One of the boys says you're Frank Gotch, and the 
other says you ain't/' 

Gotch was then the champion wrestler. He didn't really 
look at all like Charlie, but all the bell hops noticed Charlie's 

And now for the first time, thanks as always to Nancy, 
Charlie began to meet professional artists and go to their 
studios and offices some had studios, some had offices and 
watch them at work, and show them his, and get their com- 
ments and criticisms. 

At first they were mostly illustrators, newspaper and 
magazine men and advertising artists: Marchand, for in- 
stance, did westerns; Gus Mager, comics; Joe Schuerle and 
the youthful Philip Goodwin, did circus posters; the two 
Kinneys; Glachens, Schreyvogel, Schoonover; Bill Krieghoff , 
who wanted to be and later became a portrait painter, but 
was then working for Outcault Comics (the Yellow Kid, Bus- 
ter Brown and so forth); and especially Will Crawford, the 
pen-and-ink man. Krieghoff told how he saw some newspaper 
artist inking in while the copy boy tapped the edge of the 
drawing board with a ruler he was trying to get a shaky 
Will Crawford technique. 

Charlie was surprised, taken aback, and occasionally 
offended by the extreme directness and frankness with which 
some of the more coarse-minded and heavy-handed of 
these people criticized his stuff and pointed out just what 
they didn't like. But he was no Chiles Carr; he could take 



adverse comment with a wooden face and say, "I guess 
you're right/' 

Much of this adverse comment was good just what he 
needed and he knew it, and even when it made him sore, 
he used it. 

Occasionally Charlie turned the tables and criticized 
their work. 

The western artist, Albert T. Reid born in Concordia 
during the Indian wars when Colorado was still part of 
Kansas tells how he met Charlie in New York about 1906. 
At that time there was a three-story brick studio building 
on the northeast corner of 40th and Broadway, and Mar- 
chand's studio was on the third floor. Reid and Arthur 
Jamieson, the Hearst artist, went to visit Marchand. 

Climbing the steps, they saw a bridle and headstall on 
the newelpost, a stock-saddle on the bannister and in the 
saddle a model but he didn't look like a professional model 
with chaps (chaparayos), boots, spurs, and halfbreed 
sash. It was Charlie posing for Marchand. 

Marchand, himself Kansas-born, introduced them, 
"Charlie, here's a couple of hombres from the home-range," 
and they went into the studio to look at the picture Marchand 
was painting. Charlie said, "Marsh, you've got his neck too 
short a horse is the same length from the poll to the withers 
as from the withers to the croup." 

"And that," says Reid, "is the very thing I had for- 
gotten. When I was little my mother taught me to draw a 
horse inside a square, and I remembered all the dimensions 
except the neck in proportion to the back/' 

Years later the columnist, Walt Mason, another Kansan, 
wrote "The West They Knew": 

The romance and glamor and men of the West is an 
epoch of thrills and wonder and awe. It calls for pictures 


Charlie Acquires A Manager 

with color and zest, by a fellow who's seen it and one who 
can draw; who graphically tells of each spirited deed like 
paintings by Remington, Russell and Reid. 

The old Leather-neck who skippered the stage over 
prairie and mountain Saint Joe to the sea; land barren of all 
except mesquit and sage which screened the wild savage and 
coyote for me ? my eyes yearn for something on which they 
can feed a drawing by Remington, Russell or Reid, 

There are plenty good pictures and picture-chaps too 
pictures of everything under the sun, but when it comes 
to the West that I knew, with its redmen and troopers and 
man with a gun, its stages and drivers and Indian steed- 
well, I must have Remington, Russell or Reid. 

Along with the artists, Charlie began to meet writers and 
actors, the St. Louisan Augustus Thomas (Arizona, In Mis- 
souri, The Witching Hour), Caspar Whitney, editor of Out- 
ing, Emerson Hough, Alfred Henry Lewis of Wolfville, Irvin 
Cobb, Fred Stone and Francis Wilson and Will Rogersno, 
he came later, on Charlie's third or fourth trip to New York 
and particularly he met Bill Hart, then playing second parts 
the wicked villain who gets killed at the end. Charlie saw 
him first in Ben Hur in the famous chariot race in which 
Bill played Messala, the Roman villain, and quite eclipsed 
the hero. When they first met, movies and nation-wide pop- 
ularity had not yet come Bill's way. 

Later Charlie saw Bill as Trampas in The Virginian 
and objected to his fake cowboy song, "In gambling hells 
delay-ing, Ten thousand cattle stray-ing. Sons-of-guns is 
what I say, They rustled my pile, my pile away." (In those 
days sons-of-guns was a very bold word to use on the stage.) 
Said Charlie, "Why didn't you sing a real range song like 
Joe Bowers?" 

"Don't ask me/' said Bill, "ask the literary artist who 
wrote it. I'm just the poor villain who gets shot twice a day.'* 



Both Charlie and Nancy were shocked by what Mister 
Dooley would have called the hootchie-kootchie morals of 
the East. Charlie was used to rough stuff but not the New 
York kind with its characteristic smell, and after he had been 
taken to a few stags, smokers and night-clubs (but they 
called them cabarets) he concluded that Sodom and Gom- 
orrah had nothing on the big city. 

What happened to Lochinvar in a newspaper poem- 
he went to Chicago and made some tall talk about how wild 
he was and got acquainted with a gentleman in a derby hat 
who admired him greatly and bought him a Mickey Finn- 
might easily have happened to Charlie. But Lochinvar had 
no Nancy to ride herd on him and see him safe through all 

Charlie had his temptations. One lady, not a professional, 
propositioned him. She wrote perhaps modeling herself on 
that world-shaking work of art Three Weeks that she 
wanted to have a son as fine looking as Charlie. 

I don't know what Charlie did about this, if anything, 
but years later, when I was in Montana, old man Trigg told 
about it in my presence and compared Charlie to the farm 
boy in the great city who was tempted but said No, he had 
to be true to the Jersey cow. 

It cost Trigg fifteen minutes of earnest explanation 
that he was quoting the farm boy, not Charlie, and that 
he hadn't the least intention of comparing Mrs. R. to a cow. 
It isn't safe to make jokes like that before ladies, not when 
they're as touchy as Aunt Nancy. 

"Now, Mameso," said Charlie, that's what he always 
called her when he was smoothing her down, "you know 
Trigg wouldn't think a thing like that!" 

I remember I laughed at the wrong time and got myself 


Charlie Acquires A Manager 

Nowadays when you can't walk down any New York 
street without seeing at least one radio cowboy with boots, 
a big hat and a guitar a guitar, my God! Charlie wouldn't 
have been found dead at a dog fight with a guitar western, 
or pseudo-western, clothes attract no attention. But in 
Charlie's day, though there were plenty of synthetic southern 
colonels, there were few, if any, synthetic cowboys. So 
Charlie attracted lots of attention: his boots he wore them 
inside his pants but they showed his sash, his soft shirt, 
his hat, his rings, and most of all his face, made people 
look at him. 

Reading this over I see I have omitted the very thing 
which most impresses all good Americans, namely, tiaat be- 
sides the artistic, literary and theatrical crowd, Charlie met 
a number of really wealthy people and visited their homes. 
I remember the names of only two of them, the Eisleys and 
the Mackays. Later he met Dr. P. G. Cole who afterwards 
made a collection of Russells. Their wealth and their culture 
such of them as had it naturally awed Nancy more than it 
did Charlie. Yet as soon as she got over her first stage fright, 
Nancy became more at ease with them than Charlie ever 
did. He wasn't cowed by their wealth and social position 
for which he cared nothing but he saw that what the Bible 
has to say about serving Mammon is just as true now as the 
day it was written, and that nineteen hundred years of 
Christianity have not had the least effect on the gods of gold 
and what they do to their worshipers. 

Meeting these different kinds of people changed the 
look of many things for Charlie. He saw his own work in 
different perspective; he saw mistakes he had been making 
and which he had been entirely unable to see until other 
artists pointed them out. He began to correct them. 

But the biggest change was in Nancy. She had gone 
East raw and crude. She came back, not finished far from 



itbut wonderfully polished up. Her dress, her talkboth 
grammar and vocabulary and especially her way of thinking, 
all showed the change. 



Charlie Gets A Home And A Studio 

In 1900 Charlie's mother died. Three of her children, 
Ed, Guy and Wolfert, were already dead, so what she left 
went to Sue, Bent and Charlie. Charlie was then thirty-six. 

With this nest egg Nancynow general manager- 
bought a big double lot way out on Fourth Avenue North in 
the best part of Great Falls and began to build a real home, 
a story-and-a-half frame house with the bathroom down- 
stairs, as it often is in Montana, a big sunlit hall, a great big 
living-room they had so many callers storm windows, 
double doors back and front, and, in the basement, a real 
hot air furnace. 

They still ate in the kitchen, and Charlie painted in 
what the architect had called the dining-room. 

Out in back on the alley, they had a small corral and a 
stable with a big hay loft above it for Monte, now sway- 
backed with old age, and Nee-nah, a bay cow-pony. Nee-nah 
is an Indian name, not Mexican, and means "Chief." He 
too lived to great age. 

Years later, when I was living with them, George Cal- 
vert, one of Charlie's best friends, a carpenter who had be- 
come a contractor, called up one afternoonI must have been 
working night shift at the smelter because I was in bed 
and when I assured him that both Mr. and Mrs. were out, he 
appeared in a few minutes got me up again and insisted 
on going upstairs to measure the hall door of the spare bed- 
room. He acted mysteriously, wouldn't say what it was for, 



and told me to keep my mouth shut. At Christmas he pro- 
duced a hardwood door with a full-length plate-glass mir- 
ror. I believe that was the best present Nancy ever got 
she had wanted one for years. 

Later still, another contractor, putting in the new grani- 
toid sidewalk on Fourth Avenue, used his surplus material 
to make a big ace of diamonds slab, and on it, in color and 
in high relief, a white buffalo skull with black horns. This 
he inlaid in the sod on the steep slope up to the front yard 
of Charlie's house. 

Later yet, Nancy built a high retaining wall in front of 
the whole property, and set upright in the wall this diamond 
shaped coat of arms. It was, I think, the only piece of 
heraldry in Great Falls, perhaps in Montana, except, of 
course, the State Seal. 

However Columbus Hospital did have an heroic statue 
out in front chewing-gum coloredwhich Charlie called 
Columbus-with-the-Iumps-on-his-legs, because the sculptor 
hadn't been sure about the calf, whether it came in back, 
front, or on both sides; so he played safe and gave the dis- 
coverer balustrade legs with calf all the way around. 

As soon as they had finished the house and furnished 
it, Nancy began talking about some day building a studio on 
the other lot. "A place of your own!" she said. "A place where 
you can work without being disturbed, where you can shut 
yourself in and shut the world out when you get to 'fighting' 
a picture," (for Charlie sometimes had trouble with his pic- 
turesthe only time he was grumpy and dangerous to dis- 
turb ) . "A place where my friends, and every delivery boy and 
salesman, won't be bouncing in on you at all hours and 
expecting you to stop everything and entertain them." ( For 
the milk man, the ice man and so forth felt free to barge 
in at any time with their friends and relatives and exhibit 
Charlie like something in the zoo. ) "And especially a place 


Charlie Gets A Home And A Studio 

where you can have your own friends and talk without 
needing to whisper the interesting parts because you're 
afraid I'm in the next room listening. A real studio, with a 
sky light, that's what you need and it ought to be all one 
big room." 

This talk made Charlie uneasy. He knew how suddenly 
Mameso made up her mind, and, once she had made it up, 
with what furious energy she pushed anything through. 
Said he, Td ratKer have a plain log cabin, like the one I 
lived in with Jake, but bigger." Then, realizing that this 
was dangerous talk, he added, "But, of course, you couldn't 
build a log cabin in town people wouldn't like it!" 

In 1903, just one hundred years after the Louisiana 
Purchase which resulted, among other things, in Lewis and 
Clark camping on the site of Great Falls-Nancy began to 
build the studio on the lot next to the house. It was a log 
cabin, an unusually large one, and set well back from the 

Here, in her own words is her account of it as given in 
Good Medicine. 

"Charlie did not like the mess of building so he took no 
more than a mild interest in the preparations. Then, one day, 
a neighbor said, 'What are you doing at your place, Russell, 
building a corral?* 

"That settled it Charlie just thought the neighbors 
didn't want the cabin mixed in with the civilized dwellings 
and felt sure they would get up. a petition to prevent our 
building anything so unsightly as a log house in their midst. 
But way down in his heart, he wanted that studio. It was the 
right kind of work-shop for him, but he was worried at what 
he thought the neighbors would say, so he would have 
nothing to do with it. 

"He made no further comment, nor did he go near it 
until one evening, Mr. Trigg, one of our dearest friends, 



came over and said, 'Say, son, let's go see the new studio. 
That big stone fireplace looks good to me from the outside. 
Show me what it's like from the inside/ 

"Charlie looked at me kind of queer. The supper dishes 
had to be washed. That was my job just then, so Charlie took 
Mr. Trigg out to see his new studio that he had not been in. 
When they came back into the house, the dishes were all put 

"Charlie was saying, "That's going to be a good shack for 
me. The bunch can come visit, talk and smoke, while I 

TFrom that day to the end of his life he loved that 
telephone pole building more than any other place on earth 
and never finished a painting anywhere else. The walls were 
hung with all kinds of things given him by Indian friends, 
and his horse jewelry, as he called it, that had been accumu- 
lated on the range, was as precious to him as a girl's jewel 
box to her. 

"One of Charlie's great joys was to give suppers cooked 
over the fire, using a Dutch oven and frying pan, doing all 
the cooking himself. The invited guests were not to come 
near until the food was ready. There was usually bachelor 
bread, boiled beans, fried bacon, or if it was Fall, maybe 
deer meat, and coffee; the dessert must be dried apples. A 
flour sack was tucked in his sash for an apron and, as he 
worked, the great beads of perspiration would gather and 
roll down his face and neck. 

"When it was ready, with a big smile, he would step 
to the door with the gladdest call the oldtime roundup cook 
could give *Coine and get it!' 

"There was a joyous light in his eyes when anyone said 
the bread was good, or asked for a second helping of any- 
thing. When no more could be eaten, he would say, 'Sure 
you got enough; lots of grub here.' 

"Then the coffee pot would be pushed to one side, 
frying pan and Dutch oven pulled away from the fire, and 
Charlie would get the 'makins/ Sitting on his heels among 


Charlie Gets A Home And A Studio 

us, he would roll a cigarette with those long, slender fingers, 
light it, and in the smoke, drift back in his talk to times when 
there were very few, if any, white women in Montana. It 
was Nature's country. If that cabin could only tell what those 
log walls have heard!" 

The same year, 1903, St. Louis intended to celebrate the 
centennial of the Louisiana Purchase by a world's fair, the 
biggest yet. It was an ambitious project, the buildings were 
enormous, they had to dig lagoons and lakes and divert 
the River Des Peres; and a cumulative collection of delays 
resulted in the fair not being opened till the spring of 1904. 
When it did open it was impressive. The great Henry Adams 
was astonished that a backwoods town inhabited by abfect 
hinterlanders, could put on so good a show. 

Nancy had meant to have an exhibition at the Fair and 
when it was postponed she went ahead and held it anyhow, 
again not at the St. Louis Museum. The show drew crowds 
and was a success, they sold a number of pictures, both oil 
and water color, and the St. Louis papers gave Charlie a big 
write-up with details about his life, his marriage and so forth, 
and quite a lot about Nancy. Charlie, as always, gave her all 
the credit for his success. 

They were staying then at our house, 4950 Washington, 
four doors from the big yellow brick Baptist Church, the 
church with the campanile, on the corner of Kingshighway. 

In those days everything from our back gate south to 
the millionaire Bixby place on Lindell Boulevard, was vacant 
lots, head-high in summer with weeds. A jungle with rabbits 
in it and a pack of wild dogs at least that's what we called 
them they had no home. They killed my dog, Mark Harma 
yellow, named for the Republican Boss. I heard the battle, 
lying in bed, and knew Mark's warcry, but he was always 
fighting and I didn't realize this was the finish. 



AS. which has nothing to do with Charlie except that he 
was staying with us when he got that letter which put a 
new look on Nancy. 



Nancy Discovers Her Father 

At this time there was living in Illinois a Mr. J. A. 
Cooper, a thin, middle-aged, hard-working, worrying, anxious 
sort o person, who was running a country hotel in a small 
town across the river from St. Louis. The land of man, with- 
out training, trade, or profession and with only a country- 
boy education who can go almost anywhere and do almost 
anything and make a living at it, but who worries about it 
even while he's making money. Mr. Cooper had never run 
a hotel before and though the owners were satisfied with 
his management, it worried him. And he had no family with 
whom to discuss his worries and was entirely alone. 

Now Mr. Cooper came from Kentucky. 

After business hours when the colored cook, waiters and 
dish washer had gone home and the hotel was buttoned 
down for the night, he read the Post Dispatch and saw the 
big write-up about Charlie Russell, and was so astonished, 
so shocked, so utterly dumfounded, that it threw him into 
a fever of anxiety. After thinking it over he thought about 
nothing else for twenty-four hours he sat down and took 
pen in hand, a scratchy hotel pen, and wrote Charlie a letter. 
A very anxious letter. 

He invited Mr. and Mrs. Russell to come to the hotel 
as his guests and talk things over. He noted, he said, that 
the paper gave Mrs. Russell's maiden name as Nancy Maim, 
and the date of her birth, and the town she was born in, 
Mannsville, Kentucky, which was named for her grandfather. 



All which added up to this: though he, Cooper, had 
never known he had any children, Nancy must be his 
daughter. He gave dates to prove it. 

A country boy, he had married very young. He and his 
wife, also very young, lived together only a few months, then 
they quarreled and he up and quit her. Just hauled out and 
went to another part of the state. When at last he calmed 
down and decided to go home, he wrote to his wife. Getting 
no answer, he wrote to his own family and his brother wrote 
back that old Mr. Mama had made his daughter get a divorce. 
The brother, not living in Mannsville, didn't know there was 
a baby coming, so Cooper who never went home again but 
drifted around the southern part of the country, doing all 
sorts of things and always regretting the way he quit his 
wifelived for more than twenty years without knowing he 
had a daughter. 

The other side of the shield is this: soon after Nancy was 
born her mother married again, a Mr. Allen, who took her 
and the baby to Montana, Where in due time she bore an- 
other daughter, Ella Allen, Nancy's little half-sister. 

The two children were still young when their mother 
died, and Allen, a restless sort of fellow, left them with 
friends in Montana and went on to the Coast. Where he 
married again and had another batch of children. When 
this second wife died, Allen came back to Montana and got 
Ella, then ten years old, and took her out to the Coast to 
keep house for him and take care of her little half-brothers 
and half-sisters. 

Nancy, then nearly grown, was left at Cascade with the 
Robertses and didn't see Ella again for several years. Nancy, 
of course, could not remember Kentucky and knew nothing 
except the Montana prairie and foothills. Kids take their 
surroundings and their family for granted and it never 
occurred to her to ask about her own father, whom she 
supposed long since dead. She didn't even know that her 


Nancy Discovers Her Father 

name was Cooper: her mother had always called her 
Nancy Mann. 

Well, the short of it was that she and Charlie went to 
the hotel and stayed overnight with Mr. Cooper and decided 
that he undoubtedly was her father. 

He didn't look at all like her. She was blonde and plump 
and he dark and thin, but he had the same driving nervous 
energy, and though the mess he made of his marriage and a 
lifetime of loneliness had given him an anxious, timid, apolo- 
getic look, this timidity never prevented his branching out 
and trying new things in business and he nearly always made 
money. He was not the kind who would ever get rich but he 
did make money. It was an enormous release to him to find 
that he had a daughter and was not, as he had always 
supposed, entirely alone in the world. 

Naturally he was a little bit timid with her, and espe- 
cially with Charlie who, in point of age, was about midway 
between father and daughter. 

St. Louis was as far west as Mr. Cooper had ever been, 
and their westernisms, the way they thought and talked and 
acted, made them seem almost like foreigners to a Kentuck- 

Later that week he came to our house and met Charlie's 
family which must have been quite an ordeal. The only 
thing I recall about this meeting is the erratic and jerky 
gesticulation with which he accompanied his words sheer 
nervousness and self-consciousness, of course, but I was 
too young to understand. I just thought him queer. Years 
later, when I was grown, he and I boarded for a time at the 
same place in Montana and I found him quite an interesting 
person, still tirelessly energetic, still branching out and try- 
ing new kinds of work contracting, for instance, about 
which he knew nothing still making money at it, and stiE 



When they finally got acquainted, he and Charlie 
though they had almost nothing in common got along 
quite well. Feeling himself too old to address him as father, 
Charlie called him Coop. 

Next year, 1904, the St. Louis World's Fair opened, and 
Mr. Cooper managed a much larger hotel just outside the 

This time Charlie had one painting, "Pirates of the 
Plains/' in the Art Palace on top of Art Hill, but this was 
chosen by the World's Fair commission, not by the St. Louis 
Art Gallery. He had also many paintings in the Montana 
State Building. 



Charlie In Montana 

A number of years after Charlie went west, Charles 
S. Russell, his father (my grandfather), took me on a sum- 
mer vacation trip to Montana. Charlie's sister Sue and her 
husband, Tom Portis, went with us. That must have been 
in 1904, the year of the St. Louis World's Fair. 

We went up to St. Paul and thence via the Great Nor- 
thern to Havre, said to be the coldest place in Montana. A 
priest stationed there told Charlie, "If I had a house in Havre 
and another in Hell, Td sell the one in Havre/* In Montana 
they pronounce it "Hav-errr" with three or four R's. 

Born and bred in Missouri, this was for me a first view 
of the prairie, and Dakota, as flat and as green as a pool table, 
with little toy farm houses and enormous red bams, did not 
look at all like the country Charlie painted. 

We were out of Dakota and into Montana a more roll- 
ing and more barren kind of prairie when we saw our first 
coyote running away from the train. We also saw, or had 
pointed out to us, the tremendous changes made by one 
generation. The buffalo had disappeared entirely, and so had 
most other game; the English sparrow had driven out the 
native birds; the prairie sod, once broken by the plow, would 
not grow again in a thousand years; the tumbleweed un- 
known in Charlie's youth had come in with the wheat, 
and so had lesser pests innumerable; along the right of way 
the dandelion was taking everything and all this the white 
man had done in one generation. 



We did not go to Great Falls but straight up to Charlie's 
summer camp in what is now Glacier National Park but 
which was then a forest reserve. We went right in among the 
Rockies but did not see them. There was forest fire some- 
where and a thin haze of smoke hid the mountains all we 
saw were the foothills. Which looked big to me, the Ozarks 
and Lookout Mountain in Tennesee being the only mountains 
I had ever seen. 

This was long before the day of air-conditioned trains. 
The sleeper was hot, and when, after dark, we got off at 
Belton I was astonished at the mountain air, how cold it was, 
and how quick, as if alive. It woke you up wide awake and 
made you tingle. It also made your teeth chatter. I was used 
on former vacations to the sudden damp chill of the Great 
Lakes, but that chill, wet and sea-levelish, was quite differ- 
ent from this dry, high three thousand feet and sparkling 
mountain air. You could really feel it sparkle. 

After the pintsch-gas light of the sleeper the platform 
was dark as a cave. All we could see was a dimly lit station 
and a hill immensely tall against the sky, its top outlined 
by stars. Ten times as many stars as you see in the Mississippi 
Valley, and ten times brighter. 

Uncle Charlie and Aunt Nancy were there to meet us 
and hurried us onto the stage, a big farm wagon with 
benches running from front to back. I sat at the end next the 
tailgate and got a death-grip on the side, being warned that 
the road went almost straight up and I might easily be 
jolted off. There was no broad government highway then, 
just a dirt track full of ruts. 

The stage was so crowded that one of the natives, un- 
able to get a seat, walked all the way behind us with a 
swinging lantern, which kept me from seeing anything 
except his feet and legs to the knee and the ground in the 
circle of light. The pine woods on either side were as black 
as the pit. 


Charlie In Montana 

We crossed the Flathead River and climbed the hill 
which, like most hills, proved to be not quite as steep as 
expected and after a long ride through the woods (nowa- 
days the bus whirls you there in no time ) we reached Apgar 
at the foot of Lake McDonald. At its up-end were the real 
mountains and Gunsight Pass but we couldn't see them, 
we saw just the lake, as smooth as a mirror, stretching off into 
darkness. Except for three log cabins, all dark, and a log 
postoffice, there was no sign whatever of civilization. 

We lugged our suitcases down the beach not sand but 
gravel, which made a great clinking and clanking underfoot 
and embarked in a rowboat, and Charlie and I took the oars. 
Charlie was the world's worst oarsman; it was impossible to 
keep stroke with him. He rowed with a short choppy jerk 
and every few minutes he let his oars trail and turned around 
to see where he was going. He never learned and you 
couldn't persuade him to try to set his course by some tree 
or other landmark astern; he had to keep turning around to 
look ahead. 

We steered cattycorner across the end of the lake and 
as the shoreline was just an unbroken front of pine trees 
jagged against the sky, I wondered how we were going to 
find the landing. 

"There it is!" said Charlie, and I saw a dim triangular 
white thing which seemed to be hovering in the air ten feet 
above the water. 

"Welcome to Bull's Head Lodge!'* said Aunt Nancy, and 
we steered in to a log float. The white thing was a buffalo 
skull cut out of planks and set up on a pole to mark the land- 
ing. Behind it, a steep hundred yards up the hill, was the 
cabin, and Nancy lit a big railroad lantern there were no 
flashlights then and we went up. As soon as we stepped off 
the tinkling pebbles of the beach, the ground was covered, 
inches deep, with a brown and springy floor of pine needles 
as slick as glass, and shining like bronze in the lanternlighL 



There for the first time in my life I slept in a log cabin 
roofed with "shakes" big handmade cedar shingles so 
loosely laid that you could look up and see the stars between 
them; and was much impressed by the beds which were 
hinged to the wall and folded up out of the way. We all slept 
in the same room, for at that time Charlie had only one cabin 
where later he built four. 

Right beside the cabin, and black and mysterious look- 
ing in the lanternlight, was a spring of ice-water. All along 
that shore of the lake there are springs of ice-water every few 
hundred feet as if the hill itself was over a glacier. 

I could write chapters about the camp and the country 
and the people we met, both westerners and tourists, but this 
book intends to deal with Charlie, so I will merely mention 
the trade-rats who played up on the roof every night and 
stole our toothbrushes and left pine cones and strips of bark 
in exchange that's why they're called trade-rats and the 
chipmunks down near the water, and the pine-squirrels who 
scolded at us on the trails, and the porcupine who hid under 
the boat and Charlie got some of his quills by flicking him 
with a gunnysack. We also saw a skunk, very neat and 
clean looking and very leisurely and sure of himself we gave 
him the trail and we saw several bunches of deer, and a 
weasel, long and slim and as quick as a flash, who darted 
out from under a log, and a mother shrew no bigger than 
your thumb and her microscopic babies. Of course, there 
were moose back in the beaver-meadows, and bears and 
timber wolves and mountain lions, but we never saw them. 
You can live for years in the woods and never see a lion, but 
if you go hunting in the snow and backtrack the same way 
you came, just turn off a few paces to right or left and you'll 
find his prints where he has followed you, off to the side, 
without ever crossing your trail. It's sort of eerie to know that 
he is following you but never see or hear him. 


Charlie In Montana 

Another thing we didn't see for the first couple of weeks 
was the Rockies. Though we were right in them and though 
the sky looked clear and the stars shone every night there 
was just enough haze of forest fire smoke to hide the moun- 
tains. At the week's end Aunt Sue and Uncle Tom went on 
to the Coast, and that night the wind changed, the smoke 
went back, and next morning when I came down to the 
shore there were the mountains right at the head of the lake, 
real mountains, high above timber line and with snow on 
their peaks. They took your breath. Far off between them we 
could see the V-shaped notch of Gunsight Pass, and even, 
when Charlie pointed it out, the edge of the nearest glacier. 

Later we went on several pack trips with horses and 
guides up to Avalanche Basin and other places, and crossed 
the glacier, and saw the mountain meadows above timberline 
and their gorgeous flowers, especially the flaming red of the 
Indian Paintbrush, and the tall white tassel of the Beargrass, 
and heard the whistling marmots and other wonders: but 
all of this would be too long to tell and there was nothing new 
in it to Charlie. 

I remember him at our highest camp squatting on his 
heels before the fire baking bannock-bread in a pan, and 
the guide who should have done the cooking dropping 
cigaret ashes in the dough which Charlie said made no 

At the summer's end we went back to St. Louis, but two 
years later we came west again, and two years later still; and 
the third time I stayed there. Stayed in the mountains all 
summer and in the autumn went to Great Falls with Charlie. 

This must have been 1908 and Charlie was forty-four. 
Though not fat, he had thickened up and got middle-aged 

In 1908 we left the mountains and the foothills and 
crossed the prairie and drew near Great Falls, and saw, many 
miles before we got there, the tall brick stack of the smelter, 



the Big Stack, the biggest, then, in the world. For though 
Great Falls had no copper mines, it had unlimited water 
power. The smelter, the Boston & Montana Copper Com- 
pany, originally independent, was finally swallowed up by 
Anaconda, the Big Snake, which ruled and still rulesMon- 

The town itself surprised me. Though built right out on 
the prairie at the junction of Sun River and the Missouri, it 
was so hidden in trees that you couldn't see the houses. And 
every tree had been planted. At that time Great Falls 
claimed ten thousand citizens. It had already passed Helena 
and wanted to be the State capital. 

After the three-story brick houses of St. Louis, Charlie's 
one-and-a-half story frame seemed a mere cottage; and the 
double doors, front and back, and the vestibules and storm 
windows, gave an idea what kind of winter you could expect 
on the prairie. 

Charlie rebelled at asking anyone for a job but his wife 
was less sensitive and introduced me to Ed Holland, head 
of the Townsite Company, who sent me out to the car barns, 
and I began washing street cars at two fifty per big wages 
then, the steel mills back east paying only two dollars for 
a twelve-hour day. 

They broke me in as a motorman and one anxious after- 
noon I ran a car to and from the big football game. I had 
been going to games for years but always as a passenger; 
now I discovered what an ordeal it is for the motorman. 

But what impressed me about Great Falls was the 
people, especially the old-timers, Charlie's friends; they 
were so different from the people at home, and as it seemed 
to my young ignorance so crude. Spotting me as a pop-eyed 
tenderfoot, they discoursed to such effect that I concluded 
all Westerners were liars, silly liars. 

Charlie seemed to know everybody in town. 


Charlie In Montana 

Bill Ranee for instance, an incorrigible practical joker 
who ran the Silver Dollar a regular art gallery of the lighter 
side of Charlie's work and Sid Willis who ran the Mint; 
Eyebrows Conrad ) the town's only millionaire; and Old Bob 
Ford, the banker. (Conrad, according to Charlie, had seen 
all sorts of interesting things in early days but remembered 
only the price of buffalo hides, the price of this, the price of 
that; whereas his contemporary and rival, Old Bob Ford, 
could not only talk money and how he made it, but could 
also tell a lot about the old West. Some said he was really 
as rich as Conrad. ) But Conrad had one great distinction 
the Conrad herd of buffalo, the second biggest in the world. 
He must have felt some interest in the animals to keep them 
on his range land all those years. 

Senator Paris Gibson, who founded Great Falls, was still 
alive but it was a long time before I met him. 

More important than these because we saw him every 
day was Charlie's neighbor in the same block, old Mr. Albert 
Trigg, and his wife Margaret, whom Nancy called Mother, 
and his daughter Josephine, Nancy's best friend, the assistant 
librarian at the Public Library. Trigg, short and fat and with 
a big head, had a sense of humor and used to quote from a 
mythical book, Leona Leota, The Prairie Flower 7 and I still 
remember the words in which he signified that he had talked 
enough and was going home, "So saying, he darted into the 
thicket and was lost to view." 

And Trigg would get up, put on his hat, and walk out. 

Younger than Trigg, more contemporary with Charlie, 
were George Calvert the contractor and Bill Leard who ran 
the steam laundry. Leard was bald-headed and determined 
to cure it and though he wore a fur coat and big fur mittens 
and ear-muffs he went without a hat aH winter; in those days 
nobody, not even Indians, went without hats. 

"Winter out here," said Charlie, "will grow hair on a 
gum-boot," and sure enough Leard's bald poll was covered 



with a thin white fuzz which didn't look so much like hair 
as like frost coming out. Did you ever see the frost come 
out on a brick wall? That's exactly how his head looked, but 
he called it hair and was comforted. 

Then there were the Wilgur brothers, big land-owners, 
who in their day had been men of violence. It was said 
but there was no proof that they had got some of their land 
by killing. Todd, the eldest, was afraid to die, and people 
knew this and it was really cruel the way they treated him. 
As soon as Todd came into a saloon, someone was sure to 
say, "I hear old man so-and-so has cashed in/' and they would 
all begin talking about how many old-timers had died lately, 
and keep it up, till Todd, not saying anything, would give 
them an ugly look, hating them, and drink up his likker and 
get out. He knew what they were doing. They deliberately 
spoiled his drink. Instead of giving him a lift, it let him 
down; he felt worse than he did before. 

Of course, Todd had been a bad one. 

Younger still there was Percy Raban, the newspaper 
man, who looked like a slim blonde Briton and wanted to 
write child stories; and Olaf Seltzer, foreman in the machine 
shop and making big money, but discontented because he 
wanted to be an artist. He would work at his easel a while 
and then get discouraged and quit. Years later I suddenly 
saw his paintings on 57th Street, New York and recognized 
the coloring even before I stooped close enough to see the 

Then there were the smelter crowd who lived across 
the river on Smelter Hill, graduates of Boston Tech; but these 
we saw only at dances, and they, of course, were western only 
in the same way I was we all wore Stetson hats. Stetson hats 
were indeed, for the younger generation, almost the only 
sign still left of the old West. Except for Charlie and a few 
hangers-on around the livery stables, nobody wore boots. 


Charlie In Montana 

But there were, as yet, none of the professional west- 
erners you see nowadays, people in tremendous gauntlets- 
Charlie never wore gauntlets in his life and red or purple 
shirts and enormous hats. They didn't talk like such gentry 
do either-for instance, I never heard the word cow-poke 
till I came to New York. It reflects, of course, on modern 
beef cattle specially bred monstrosities with hulking bodies 
and almost no legs. In Charlie's day you didn't need to poke 
beef cattle, the long-horns were as active as deer; the problem 
was to catch up with them. 

Then there was Walter X, a spender and an all-round 
sportsman, who imported a whole pack of expensive Russian 
wolfhounds, savage brutes and big and ugly, and Walter 
was warned they were dangerous. He built them a special 
kennel on his ranch at the edge of the badlands, and allowed 
nobody to feed them except himself and his daughter, a 
little girl twelve years old. He made her go into the kennel 
with him every morning. At first he had to carry a club or a 
pitchfork, but in time the dogs got used to him. 

The baying of the pack and their howling at the moon- 
apparently the prairie moon made them homesick scared 
all the game out of the neighborhood, but Walter was proud 
of their ferocitytheir almost brainless ferocityand told 
many stories about them. He was afraid, he said, that the 
dogs would die of insomnia, because they not only kept each 
other awake by howling all night a nice noise if you like it, 
but most people don t but also they didn't dare lie down; 
they had to sleep standing up. The instant one lay down to 
take a snooze his brothers and sisters would conclude that 
he was sick and they'd all pile on him and tear him apart. 
Walter lost several this way. 

"But that," he always concluded, "is what you need in a 

Walter, something of a wolf himself a blonde wolf (he 
was quite nice looking and a fancy dresser) at last decided 



that the pack was ready and invited his friends to a real 
European wolf hunt with horse and hound. The guests were 
forbidden to bring rifles but they all had six-shooters. 

They scared up a big dog wolf at the edge of the bad- 
lands and the whole pack began baying and belling-you 
could hear them for miles. The hounds showed speed but 
no judgment. Instead of staying bunched up they trailed out 
across the flat, the fastest first, and left the riders behind 
and ran the wolf down they ran him down all right, they 
could run faster than he but they came up to him one by 
one. And though the wolf was slower on the run he was 
quicker at turning; he dodged them again and again. At 
the last instant the wolf would whirl, and the hound, red- 
eyed and crazy with excitement, would run right past, un- 
able to stop. 

When this had happened half a dozen times, the wolf, 
terrified at first, got back his nerve. The next time the 
hound came at him he just jumped aside and then jumped 
back again and struck. 

A wolf doesn't bite like a dog; he strikes with his jaws 
just as you'd strike with a hatchet. He jumps in, strikes, and 
jumps away, the two jumps being so quick that they seem all 
one movement. 

That's what the wolf did now. As the hound hurled 
past, he jumped in and struck, and tore the hound's foreleg 
almost out of the shoulder. And a hound with only three 
legs is not much good. 

The wolf did this repeatedly. The hounds caught up 
with him one by one; and one by one he slashed them and 
jumped away. He had crippled four of them before the riders 
got close enough to shoot. Then he ducked into a coulie. 

Walter had to stand a lot of razzing, but he could take 

According to his account, after four or five hunts like 
this the only wolves they got were the ones they shot the 


Charlie In Montana 

wolves would actually come down to the ranch at night 
and crap on the back step and race around outside the kennel 
and invite the hounds to come hunting. They'd travel miles 
and miles panting with urgency, said Walter, just to crap on 
the step. This sounds improbable. Of course, the wolf has 
got a nasty laugh-did you ever see him grin? No wonder his 
base-born and servile cousin, the dog, doesn't like him. 

People praise dogs all the time for loyalty but when 
you come down to cases the dog is really a traitor he betrays 
his own people. He helps his bully, Man, to kill his own 
kindred, the wolves and coyotes and foxes. 

Finally caine the night when Walter got drunk and 
stayed in town. Next morning early his daughter went out to 
feed the hounds, as she had done every day since they came. 
Fortunately it was cold weather with a fierce wind blowing 
and she had on a fur cap and coat and big mittens and a 
muffler around her throat, and over her shoes a pair of her 
father's boots. 

She started to feed the hounds and one of them snapped 
at her, and instantly the whole pack jumped her. Knocked 
her down and piled on her and began to tear her apart 
that's what they do with any game: tear it apart with their 

Her clothes saved her from being killed but they had 
her stripped almost naked before the men could run in with 
clubs and pitchforks and beat them off. It was a long time 
before the kid got over it. 

Walter came home about noon and the foreman told 
him and asked what he was going to do. 

"Ill show you what I'm going to do/' said Walter, and 
he got the Winchester and went out in the corral and shot 
the whole pack. 

Catch a wolf young enough and you can tame him 
same as a dog. Which, no doubt, is how dogs began. The 



Husky or Malamoot, the Alaskan sled-dog, is still very close 
to the wolf, and so is the purple-tongued Chow, the meat- 
dog, which the Chinese breed to eat. 

There was a rancher outside Great Falls I forget his 
name who killed a bitch wolf and kept one of the pups and 
raised it on a bottle, and the pup, growing up and not re- 
membering his mother, probably didn't know he was a wolf. 
Once, just before I came to Great Falls, the rancher brought 
him to town. 

There was also a bulldog named Napoleon, a sort of 
four-legged barfly who didn't belong to anyone in particular 
but hung out around the saloons and patrolled Central 
Avenue, the business street of the town; and this Nap was 
a killer, he had killed several dogs. Most dogs fight but sel- 
dom actually kill the loser. The bulldog, the collie, and the 
German police dog do kill they never show any mercy. 

When the wolf came down Central Avenue, Nap saw 
him, or smelled him, and started across the street to run 
him away. Men standing in front of the saloon called to the 
rancher and warned him to watch out, but he seemed to 
think the wolf could watch out for himself. 

Nap came waddling across the avenue, snarling and 
slobbering, telling the world that he didn't like wolves and 
what he was going to do about it; and the wolf stood on the 
curbnot saying anything and watched him. He had never 
seen a bulldog before and perhaps didn't know what it was. 
It smelled like dog, but, as far as he knew, no dog ever looked 
like that. 

The bulldog is a queer looking thing with his bandy 
legs and his head so big it hides the rest of his body. Ap- 
proaching, end on, he must have looked to the wolf like a 
mask with two bow legs. A very ugly, dangerous sort of 
mask deadly even. 

"Look out!" yelled the men. "If Nap gets hold of that 
wolf he wont let go." 


Charlie In Montana 

The wolf, however, didn't intend to be got hold of. 
As Nap came within ten feet of the curb, the wolf who 
hadn't said a word, Nap did all the talking suddenly 
jumped, not at him, but slantways across in front perhaps 
playing, perhaps just to see whaft would happen. Nap reached 
for him and snapped his jaws, but missed. That clarified 
things. The next time the wolf jumped jumped in and 
jumped out so quickly it seemed all one bounce he popped 
his jaws but didn't try to hold on just slashed and jumped 
away. And behold, the entire front part of Napoleon's face, 
his snout and big upper lip was dangling down in ribbons, 
dangling and bleeding, bleeding and spurting. That ended 
the battle. The wolf stood there, sort of laughing, ready to 
play some more, but Nap was not as stupid as he looked. He 
didn't know exactly what had happened but he knew he 
didn't want it to happen again. He stopped snarling and 
went back, fast, to the saloon; and though they stuck his 
face together with adhesive and patched him up the best they 
could they had to change his name and call him Rags because 
that's the way he looked. When I saw him, months later, he 
still had the scars. He looked at you through up and down 
seams as though through the ribs of a grating. 

When Charlie chose he could tell this story in a way 
that would make a dog-lover grind his teeth. For Charlie 
was sometimes perverse, and anyhow his animal affections 
were for horses. Even after all these years he still had a 
faint prejudice against dogs because of the sheep who drove 
out the cattle. I don't mean that Charlie disliked dogs, or 
any other animal; he just liked horses so much better that 
there was no comparison. 

Great Falls was a compendium of the surrounding 
country, its history and people, and had I had the wit, or 
a philosophic guide to point it out to me, I could have 
seen right there traces and vestiges of the five strata, the five 
historical layers of the West: (1) the halfbreeds, hunters, 



trappers, prospectors, and the early railroaders who killed 
off the buffalo; (2) the cattle barons and the civil war 
soldiery who rounded up the Indians on reservations; (3) 
the sheepherders who drove out the cattle; (4) the nesters 
who drove out the sheep; and now, in my day, the fifth or 
permanent layer, the bankers, money lenders and real estate 
men who took over the nesters. 

And there, right across the river, built in gigantic steps 
up the gorge of the Missouri, harnessing and taming the wild 
Upper Falls and dominating the whole countryside with 
its Big Stack, was the copper smelter with its hierarchy of 
officials and technical people on Smelter Hill, and its 
laborers, "Austrians," Le., European peasants, in Little 
Chicago. Peasants with such outlandish names that the 
foreman, putting them to work, would say, "Hell, I can't 
remember that I'll caU you Jones." The big red "Rustlers 
Card" which you filled out when you applied for work, had 

at the top a blank line: "Your name **, and under that 

a second line: "Your real name ". 

Great Falls was a metropolis. It had not only the smelter 
and lesser business enterprises but two newspapers, The 
Tribune and The Leader, owned by the same man, printed 
on the same press, and to a considerable extent edited by 
the same talent, but bitterly and ranquorously opposed in 
politics, one Democratic, the other Republican. There were 
no other political groups. Nobody in Montana had ever 
heard of Marx but we did hear about the Wobblies, the I- 
Won't-Workers, and hated them ferociously. I hadn't the 
faintest idea what they wanted. I just knew they were 
wicked and un-American everybody knew that. 



Charlie And Sundry Survivors From 
A Gaudier Day 

The frontier had long been declared closed. There was 
no more open range, the prairie had been fenced from Texas 
right up to the Canadian Line, but Great Falls still had a 
few characters from cattle days. 

One of Charlie's favorites was the stuttering old-timer, 
Py-anner Jim, who played the piano at the honkytonk dance 
hall saloon. According to Charlie, Jim and his wife Nellie 
were the originators of a foke which has been circling the 
world ever since. Jim came into the Silver Dollar with a 
brand new black eye and said Nellie had hit him with the 
alarm clock. Bill Ranee, the proprietor, asked, "Was the 
clock going?" Jim: "It was gu-gu-gu-going when it hit me!" 

Jim and Nellie did not get along very well. As Jim ex- 
pressed it, "When we gu-gu-go to bed at night I take the 
wu-wu-wu- Winchester an* Nellie takes the axe!" 

Once they were camping up in the foothills and had a 
quarrel, Jim hiding in an old prospector's shack and Nellie 
down by the crick. This time she had the Winchester and 
began pumping it into the cabin. 

"She cu-cu-cu-cotiZc&i't see me," said Jim, "but by gu-gu- 
God she seemed to know just where I was. I got down 
flu-flu-flu-/Za on the floor an' the bullets were teaxin* up 
splinters a yu-ya-yard long all aroun' me. Then I got up on 
the cu-cu-cu-cross beam under the roof an* right off she 


began shu-shu-shu-s/iooting thru the shingles-she made 
? em fly!" (Only he called them "shakes." Homemade shingles, 
you know, split off from a block of cedar with a shake-knife. 
You can Be in bed and look up and see the stars shining 
right through a shake roof, but the grooves in the cedar 
run water down it like a gutter, and as long as you keep 
the roof clean no rain comes through. Of course it's only 
back in the timber-which means up in the hills that you 
can get shakes: no shingles out on the prairie.) 

Jim drank and Nellie beat hell out of him every so 
often, but she wouldn't let anybody else do it. When he 
got in trouble as, in spite of a mild and friendly disposition, 
he frequently did Nellie always either rescued or avenged 


One gentleman, a newcomer to the Falls, got warlike 
in his cups and was going to kick Jim's teeth in. Jim held 
him off, exclaiming, "Wu-wu-wu~tpm a minute, stranger, 
did you ever su-su-su-see Nellie?" 

Nellie heard of the fracas and stopped past the butch- 
er's to borrow a cleaver or, as we say in Montana, to borrow 
the loan of a cleaver and in half a minute she had every 
man in the house trying to hide under the grand piano. It 
must have looked Like a surrealist picture Impotence Seek- 
ing Solace in Music. 

Long afterward, Irvin Cobb told what he called Charlie 
Russell's best story about Py-anner Jim. Jim and Nellie re- 
tired and built a cabin on Flathead Lake, and Jim, who loved 
pumpkin pie, planted pumpkins. He grew a beautiful vine 
which spread all over the place but nothing came of it- 
nary a pumpkin. A dirt-farmer told Jim what was wrong. 
"That's a female vine you've got to get you a male to fer- 
tilize it." 

But Jim drew the line. "I've been a no-good low-life 
all my days, but du-du-du-damned if I'm going to start 
pu-pu-pu-pimping for a punkin!" 


Nancy Cooper Russell 

Charlie Russell and Niece Isabel 
in Indian Costume at Lake McDonald 

Pen and Ink -1898 

Pen and Ink - 1900 

*';,- ,,. |! j' rt^* 1 ft* jtjar'i 1 '*. ''/^ '' " >,.'' ,' i *VW _./,' i,u /. /-"ffif/ 


Charlie's Personal Christmas Card 

"Parthian Soldier ' 
Made by Charlie for Austin (1911) 














Charlie And Sundry Survivors From A Gaudier Day 

People might look down on Py-anner Jim but everyone 
had great respect for Nellie, even the honkytonk girls, tem- 
pestuous pieces who when they got drunk fought like tigers 
among themselves. Their favorite weapon was to knock the 
rounded rim off a tall mixed-drink glass and then jab it- 
like an apple-corer at the rival beauty's face. Several of 
them carried a ring of scars around the muzzle where some 
other girl had been quicker on the jab. 

Not that it was the policy of the house to have the 
girls get drunk too early in the evening. They were sup- 
posed to take "chippy drinks," silver-fizz or golden-fizz, 
while the gentlemen, drinking real drinks, got polluted. The 
Zero, that invention of the Arabs, gives "power" to all num- 
bersadd it to 1 and it becomes 10. The presence of ladies 
made all drinks a dollar. In the crib houses even beer a 
nickel anywhere else cost a dollar a bottle. 

Jews were few and far between out west but Great 
Falls had two, Werner and Jacobs, brothers-in-law and 
rivals in the clothing business. Werner was an attractive 
person with a sense of humor. Jacobs had none a big, 
solemn, owlish looking fellow but his store was the bigger 
and the better stocked, and he was prominent in the Cham- 
ber of Commerce, the Townsite Company, the Boosters Club 
and so forth. 

One day the Werner boy came home crying the kids 
at school called him Christ-killer. 

Said he earnestly, looking up at his father, "Poppa, did 
we kill Christ?" 

"No, son," said Werner, "that was Jacobs." 

Of course, the Werner kids told their Jacobs cousins, 
and Jacobs senior said indignantly to Charlie, "That little 
Jew's going around telling people that I killed Christ!" 

"Oh well," said Charlie, the comforter, "hardly anybody 
believes it," 



One of Charlie's most intimate friends was the old 
time freighter Johnny Matheson which, he told me, means 
Son of the Bear a big, raw-boned, heavy-jawed Scotch 
Canadian, who had lived this side the line for forty years 
but was still intensely British. "Just go to England once," 
Charlie kept telling him Charlie had been there, "and 
you'll come back a howling democrat." 

But John didn't believe it. He was ten times as English 
as the king. 

Put out of business by the railroad people, even loyal 
old-timers, won't ship freight by wagon-train when they can 
ship by rail a Scotch friend had grub-staked John to a dry 
land ranch outside Great Falls where he grew wheat, and 
though he didn't Like fanning he preferred it to driving a 
team at the smelter. 

He was an old bachelor, afraid of girls, the respectable 
ones, and though whenever John came to town Charlie had 
him stay overnight he wouldn't come to supper if there were 
going to be any women except Nancy. One of her girl 
friends, Kitty Conan, set out to lad John, and one afternoon 
in the big living room she actually got him to talking. 

John told a story about an old prospector up in the 
Crazy Mountains and how a couple of boys from a camp 
down the creek kept breaking into his cabin and stealing 
molasses. One day, just at sundown, he came home, found 
the door open and heard a noise inside. Carefully leaving 
gun and knife outside, lest he be tempted to use them, he 
rushed in, banged the door to behind him, dropped the bar 
into place and shouted, "Now IVe got you!" 

Only to discover when he struck a light, that what he 
had got was a momma grizzly and her four cubs: and 
momma, cornered, was strictly on the warpath. And him 
inside with no knife! 

"Was he scared?" Kitty asked. 


Charlie And Sundry Survivors From A Gaudier Day 

"Scared? He was struck fartless. Oooh God!" said John 
with an agonized howl, suddenly remembering he was talk- 
ing to a lady, "I knew I'd say something I knew it!" and he 
Ht out for the ranch and wasn't seen in town again for weeks. 

You figure him out on the high prairie, alone in his 
one-room shack, writhing in anguish over the horrible word 
he had used in front of a girl 

And he was six foot two and powerfully built and had 
a jaw that came right out of the stone age he would have 
looked good in kilts. 

John, though always a bachelor, had not always been 
so backward about ladies. I remember his telling a trip he 
made with his freight wagons. A cowpuncher who had gone 
broke in town went with him and brought along a lady friend 
who also wanted to change her luck by trying another city. 
I think they were going to Sand Coulee or some such me- 

"It made me sore," said John, "that she hadn't come 
with me instead of with him. Well, we camped that night 
up along the river, and when I turned loose the horses they 
scared up a jack rabbit an' he jumped into the little bed- 
wagon at the back an' I cornered him an* caught him by the 
ears. The other two had made their bed up alongside the 
front wagon an' I was still sore about the girl so when they 
weren't looking I reached down inside the puncher's blan- 
kets and tucked the rabbit in way down at the foot. 

"The jack lay quiet in the warm dark as completely 
cowed as you would be if some angel or something suddenly 
snatched you up by the ears an' shut you in a dark place 
such as you had never heard of or imagined. 

"Well, we had supper, an' the girl went to bed first. As 
soon as she stuck her bare legs down inside the blankets, 
the jack, terrified, began to kick, an' clawed her with his 
toe nails from hip to ankle. 



"God! what a yell she let out an' came busting from the 
blankets she thought it was a grizzly bear at least. 

"The jack came out with her and took off across country 
for Canada, thirty foot to the jump. I bet he passed the 
Arctic Circle before he stopped to look back. Other people 
might like bare legs in bed, but not him. He hoped to God 
he'd never feel another leg. 

"The girl ran to me for protection an' I washed her 
wounds off with whiskey an' alkali water, an' put her in 
my bed she wouldn't have a thing to do with the puncher; 
she thought he done it on purpose. He was sore as a boil- 
but not at me he couldn't f igger out how in hell the rabbit 
got there. The girl stayed with me the rest of the trip. She 
said she'd seen punchers with gray-backs (cooties) an' even 
with crabs, but he was the first she ever met who had rabbits. 

"He never heard the end of it. When they saw him com- 
ing down the row, the hookers used to say, "Make him take 
off his pants before he comes in there's no knowing what 
he's got in 'em/ 

"So when he went calling on ladies he had to carry 
his pants over one arm to show it wasn't his night to have 



Great Falls Background 

Py-anner Jim and his fellows fitted perfectly into the 
mosaic of Charlie's background, but these quaint survivors 
from a dying age were soon shoved aside by other and more 
modern figures the people I met at work. 

I had washed street cars about a month when one 
autumn evening with a full moon riding in splendor over 
the prairie we went out to a dance at Black Eagle Park. 
There I met some of the Smelter people and especially the 
Chief Sampler, Arthur Crowfoot, a poker-faced Briton, 
who danced with Nancy and asked if I was going to stay 
in Great Falls. She said yes, and he offered to put me to 
work the next afternoon. I would be in the Sample Depart- 
ment and the pay was three dollars for an eight-hour day- 
big money then. It was also change-shift and a seven-day 
week, for the smelter never shuts down. You can't bank a 
blast furnace while you take a holiday. 

In the smelter everybody wore thick leather mitts not 
gloves big and loose so you could yank them off quick 
with your teeth if you got some hot slag inside; and upstairs, 
where they charged the furnaces with coke and limerock 
and copper ore and briquettes, you wore a handerchief 
around your neck and in it a wet sponge to pull up over 
your face to breathe through. The wet sponge made your 
face sore and the flue-dust, floating in the air, got into your 
pores and made enormous pimples. Everybody should have 
worn goggles, but in those days they made no attempt to 



protect the men, with the result that quite a few of the 
old-timers had only one eye. Everybody had the smelter 
cough and hawked and spat continually. 

That first afternoon shift, four to midnight, I thought 
I was in hell. I had never seen such a place. The noise, the 
smoke, the strangling sulphur smell, the flue-dust clouds 
floating like dark ghosts down the dark gangways, the sud- 
den rivers of fire from unexpected outlets; the vast "tapping 
floor" fading off into blackness at either end, the blast fur- 
naces like a row of tall brick houses, each with a stream of 
molten slag pouring out at the bottom; the reverberatories, 
and opposite them the battery of converters bottle-shaped 
furnaces like pot-bellied siege guns which suddenly keeled 
over at an angle and coughed and threw flames to the roof. 
And all the time rolling back and forth overhead rolling and 
roaring and thundering two huge traveling cranes trailing 
ladles full of molten "matte" which spat and splashed and 
ran over and dripped on the floor. And each splash, played 
over with flame, kept on spitting and splashing like a minia- 
ture volcano. Yes, it really looked like hell, a more horrifying 
hell than Dore's Dante because it was mechanical. 

Johnny Mulberry, blase to all this he wanted to be a 
railroader broke me in and showed me how to take samples 
every time they tapped a furnace; and later we went up- 
stairs to the "feeding floor" where they charged the fur- 
naceshere instead of traveling cranes was a miniature rail- 
wayand we went back into a specially dark and sulphurous 
alleyway among the McDougals, the roasting furnaces, and 
stood at last on a shaky square of dirty wooden flooring, 
and Johnny, coughing and spitting, yanked on a cable and 
behold, the floor became an elevator and rose, swaying, up 
through the darkness past the "High Line" a full-sized rail- 
roadand the enormous ore-bins and took us up right to the 
smelter roof, acres of roof shelving off into dimness; and we 


Great Falls Background 

smelt fresh air and beheld God's sky, and miles away, and 
as blue as paint on the moonlight, the Little Belt Moun- 

I used to go up there at least once every night fust to 
look at the mountains. 

Charlie had a real horror of the smelter and always re- 
fused to visit it. And he was right: what it stood for meant 
the end of everything he knew and loved. 

One of his friends, the old-time freighter John Matheson, 
went out to the smelter to take a job as a teamster. It was 
day work, the pay better than ours and the teamsters had 
Sunday off, but John took one look and said No. He'd rather 
work twelve hours on a wheat ranch and yet he hated 
ranching. Said he to Charlie, "I knew that if I stayed in that 
place that noise, that smoke, that machinery Yd hate it so 
that rd die." 

He too was right. 

Right alongside the smelter and shut off from it by 
heavy fire-doors is the Concentrator Mill. Both are built in 
set-back floors, like steps, up the gorge of the Missouri. 

Quitting my job in the smelter and starting to work in 
the concentrator was like graduating from a fiery and roaring 
hell into a cool, wet, dripping, and murmuring purgatory. 

In the smelter everything is done by fire; in the con- 
centrator by water. The smelter moves its stuff in hand 
trucks and trams and lorries and traveling cranes and ladles 
and miniature railways. The concentrator moves its stuff by 
water and gravity; everything flows downhill At the top 
are the crude-ore bins and the crushers, at the bottom the 

In the smelter it is all fire and bitter dust and biting 
smoke; most things are too hot to touch, and some things 
the converters explode like siege guns. In the concentrator 
everything jumps and jiggles and drips and gurgles; when 



the rest of the mill is quiet, just purring and murmuring, 
the bucket-elevators, lifting their intolerable load, suddenly 
groan like lost souls. 

I liked the concentrator better than the smelter though 
I had to work much harder. I had not only to make rounds 
of the whole west mill but also to drain the automatic sam- 
ple-boxessome as big as coffins dry the residue on big 
dryer tables, scrape it up and roll it with an iron rolling-pin, 
pulverize it, screen it, and put it through the dividers, and 
cut it in half, and cut it in half, and cut it in half till there 
was just enough left to fill a sample can. 

The sampler's job had the enormous advantage that the 
only dry, warm, and comfortable place in the whole mill 
was around the big dryer tables; and there, on night shift, I 
was king and didn't take orders from anyone, not even from 
the concentrator foreman. The foremen, consequently, didn't 
like us regarded us as spies and so did the men, because 
we were always checking up on the tonnage they put 
through. If there came a howl from the main office they 
knew our samples started it. 

Wherefore it was frequently remarked about our boss, 
the Chief Sampler, "Oh, he's English and he sticks his belly 

For the smelter was full of Englishmen come down across 
the Line to work in the States. Some had helped build the 
smelter twenty years before, but stiH stayed English and still 
despised America. There were also a large number of Bos- 
tonians, mining students from Boston School of Technology 
Technical Bostards, the smeltermen called them and they 
despised both the English and the Americans. 

One technical youth, a sampler, roused the ire of the 
English straw-boss by asking for a lawntren. 

"You damn f ool," said the Briton, "we don't say lawntren, 
we say fen-tern!" 


Great Falls Background 

"Ah well/' said the Bostard, "it is notorious that the 
lower clawss English cawn't speak their own language." 

Then he wondered why the English didn't like him. 

In the sample department I worked off and on with 
four Britons, Harry Rudge, BiUy Priest, Willie Wilson and 
Alec Strangways the last two regular picture Englishmen, 
little blonde mustache and all. 

Wilson was a foundling, as he expressed it "bom under 
a hedge," and the foundling home had fanned him out to a 
school where they raised jockeys. The way you raise a jockey 
is not to feed him. Catch him young, starve him and stunt 
him. In spite of starvation Wilson grew too tall and the 
school turned him out. Knowing nothing except how to ride 
he joined the cavalry, the Prince of Tech's regiment, and 
served in the Boer war and later in India. Afterward he 
went to Canada and joined the Northwest Mounted. 

Wilson told me and I retailed it to Charlie that the 
English cavalry recruit has to ride bareback for six months 
before he can use a saddle. 

Which made Charlie snort. "And I suppose," said he, 
"that in the navy they make the recruit swim for six months 
before he can board a ship. A man who has any serious rid- 
ing to do and does it bareback is certainly a fool" 

"You told me yourself," I reminded him, "that Indians 
generally ditched their saddles when they went into battle." 

"That's different," said Charlie. 

Concentrator life had its idyllic moments. Sometimes, 
past midnight, down the wet and slumbrous aisles of whir- 
ring and pouring machinery you would hear Pan's pipes or 
get a fleeting glimpse of fauns and satyrs. American satyrs. 

One morning just at dawnand summer dawn comes 
early in Montana I was making my rounds and crossed 
over the High Line a narrow plank walk right up under 
the roof with the floor and its murmuring vanners sixty feet 



below and heard,, overhead, a queer thumping, a rhythmi- 
cal thumping. Parts of the concentrator were full of thump- 
ing machinery, the Huntington mills, for instance, and the 
crusher jaws crunch, crunch, crunch, thump! But the crash- 
ers and the mills were at the far end of the building, blocks 
away, and this noise overhead, whatever it might be, was not 

I went up in the nearest elevator shack and looked out 
over the roof, acres of gently sloping roof descending in 
steps down the gorge of the Missouri. 

There, perched on a projecting gutter and swinging his 
heels was Palagi, playing his mouth-organ, and before him 
MacLoughlin, a big, tall, gangling Md, tap-dancing, or, as 
they called it then, clog-dancing. They grinned when I 
appeared and looked a little bit foolish but went right on. 
The dance was called, so they told me, "Give her a hug every 

Then there was the time at dead of night when Billy 
Wilson and I came single file across another runway and 
saw far down below a circle of flickering arc-light and in it 
Mat Cooper, another big, tall, skinny, long-legged Md he 
was stage-struck, wanted to go on the Orpheum Circuit- 
dancing all alone, dancing like mad to imaginary music and 
for an imaginary audience. To whom, when the dance was 
done, he swept off his cap, chalk-white with copper-slime, 
and bowed again and again right to the floor. 

It was goofy but it was charming and I would have 
stayed quiet till the end but Bill was a crass materialist. He 
tiptoed over to the nearest light-bulb and screwed it out 
of its socket and hurled it down on the iron top of the 
drying table, where it burst like a bomb and scared Mat 
out of his dream. 

He was shouting mad for a minute, then he grabbed his 
torch and yard-long sampler's pipe and came to look for 


Great Falls Background 

us, and he knew all the runways and ladders and cellars 
just as well as we did. 

The other two Britons, Harry Rudge and Billy Priest, 
palled around together, and Priest was supposed to be 
responsible for the "Valentine" nuisance intensely personal 
effusions with mixed-up tenses, short on meter but long on 
insult, which the weary sampler, already sore with the 
prospect of two weeks' nightshift, would find floating in the 
coffee compartment of his lunchbucket. There are few 
things more irritating than to find a soggy, indelible-penciled 
poem soaking in the coffee on which you have been depend- 
ing to give you a lift. 

In my valentine I didn't like the last two lines: but 
Palagfs in dialect was of such a nature that he didn't 
like any of the lines. 

Palagi, thinking it over, took his Valentine so much to 
heart that he lay in wait in the deepest sub-cellar, down by 
the ghostly white torrent of the tail-race, and caught first 
Harry and then Bill, privatim et seriatim, and beat hell 
out of both of them. He staged a reign of terror for three 
nights, the two Britons lurking in the sampler's shack, afraid 
to come out, and sending me forth, like Noah's dove, with 
olive branches, till the Superintendent horned in and threat- 
ened to can all three of them. He said he didn't mind a few 
fights down by the tail-race but he wasn't going to have 
the whole mill turned into a circus and samplers with flam- 
ing torches chasing each other down every gangway. 

There was an ambiguous personage, the Cellar Rat, a 
wordless European of unknown race, who lurked down in 
the sub-cellar all the time to keep the launders clear. You 
would be bending over, draining a sample box, and out of 
the corner of your eye you would catch the gleam of a torch, 
not yours, and there, down a long colonnade of piling and 



stooped like a gnome, would be the Cellar Rat watching 
you. As soon as you turned to look at him he went away. 

Gnomes, fauns, satyrs, three European figures, all in 
one smelter! Outside the smelter there were also nymphs, not 
so European. Going home at midnight, Scotty, one of the 
samplers, got off the smelter car at the same comer I did, 
but he had to walk much farther. After he left me he passed 
a grocery store and there on the sloping top of the big bread 
box was a colored gal who accosted him, "Ain't you going 
to love me?" 

"No, I ain't going to love you!" and Scotty went on, 
simmering pleasantly with self-righteous indignation until 
at the second crossing a new notion occurred to him 
maybe it was free! 

He turned and hurried back but the bird had flown; 
the top of the bread-box was empty. 

This doesn't seem to have much to do with Charlie 
except that it's part of the background against which I 
see him. A fading tapestry; but a tapestry with depth and 
sound effects yes, with touch and taste and smell. 

Even now a whiff of sulphur brings back the smelter 
and the McDougal roasting furnaces, tall sheet-iron towers 
with six superimposed floors, or hearths, of variegated 
flame, each floor a different hue. Gasping for breath through 
a wet sponge; stooping, bent double, to look through the 
furnace door, you saw a mysterious something moving 
toward you a revolving rake sweeping round and round 

and the roasting concentrate falling in fiery snow to the 
floor beneath. It was like a view of a ploughed field in hell 

but the furrows were smouldering, red, blue, and gold 
and raining down on them in sudden gusts and whirlwinds 
that fiery snow. 

It's very discouraging because now that I stop to think 
of it this book is not a picture of Charlie as he really was 


Great Falls Background 

but of Charlie seen through my eyes and against my back- 
ground, not his. The trouble is that I don't know what 
Charlie's background was his mental background, that is. 
How did the world look to him? In all the years I lived there, 
I never once tried to learn what he was thinking. 

Wholly preoccupied with my own affairs, I went around 
in a daze, astonished at the things which happened to me 
very ordinary things, all of them and paying no attention 
to anyone else except as they impinged on sacred Me. The 
result is that my memory of Charlie is mostly gaps and 
blanks: a tapestry full of holes. 

Charlie had been to Europe and seen real medieval 
tapestries, and didn't care for them "the drawing is feeble, 
the colors ugly, and the composition awful." He didn't care 
much for Egyptian carvings either but liked some of their 
figures in the round and expressed surprise at two pictured 
heads I showed him a young pharaoh's melancholy smile 
and the famous head of Queen Tye. "That's a really beautiful 
woman," he said. ( She, distinctly, didn't have a meaty nose. ) 
He liked the Assyrian lion hunts, and felt contempt for the 
horses on the Parthenon "No horse ever looked like that/' 

For Charlie was a philistine of the first water; most of 
the old masters made him tired. When his wife dragged him 
to Paris he inspected the galleries one morning and refused 
to go back once was a-nough. "Who in hell wants to look 
at miles and miles of entombments and descents from the 
Cross and martyrs crucified upside down I'd just as soon 
visit the morgue. They must have been a miserable bunch, 
those artists." 

I repeated what we heard in High School. "The artist 
didn't have much choice; he painted what he was paid to 
paint. His patrons, popes and princes and rich men afraid of 
hell's fire, were trying to buy their way into heaven with a 



holy picture. If the artist liked birds or animals or soldiers 
or whatnot he had to put them in the background." 

"Maybe that's true/* said Charlie, "I noticed right away 
that the background was often the best part of the picture, 
the only interesting part." 

Charlie was just as crude about modern art. He admired 
Church's Heart of the Andes. (So do I, but I gather that 
if you like that sort of thing it puts you at the bottom of the 
class.) He disliked Whistler but often quoted his famous 
equation, "The critic is to the artist as the flea is to the dog; 
the flea lives off the dog but he doesn't do the dog any good." 

However Charlie didn't act on this principle. As soon 
as he went east and met other artists his work showed that 
he accepted their criticism and thereby greatly improved his 
own pictures, especially in composition and in weeding out 
unnecessary detail. His early work is inferior in color, in 
plan, in every way, to what he produced after he had been 
criticized sometimes politely, sometimes not by other 
artists. Criticism, by people who know, does help. 

Being a philistine of the first water has its advantages 
Charlie kept his integrity. If he didn't like Scandiho0vian 
art he said so, and it didn't matter how many authorities 
told him he ought to admire it. 

Sometimes his untrained judgments seem to have been 
good. For instance, he didn't think much of Michelangelo's 
famous murals but did like his sculpture. Years afterward I 
read somewhere that Michelangelo agreed with him: he 
painted under protest because the Pope compelled him; 
what he wanted to do was sculpt. 

Charlie did not read much fiction. He liked Rex Beach 
he had met the villain of The Spoilers and Jack London, 
and the WolfviUe stories, but he cared little for most two-gun 
westerns. The Virginian offended him; he didn't like the 
hanging of the hero's best friend, Trampas' faked-up song 


Great Falls Background 

( "Why didn't he sing a real range-song?" ) and such details 
as the hero riding the same horse all the time, riding hard 
day and night and never once changing horses. 

He wouldn't read the historical novels of the period 
but one day he picked up Stanley Weyman's Under The 
Red Robe and the first words were "Marked cards!" and 
Charlie read it through and liked it. Nancy read Quo Vadis 
aloud and it gave Charlie such a prejudice against the 
Romans that he would never admit they were anything ex- 
cept a bunch of dirty murderers, "sitting around on marble 
bleachers torturing prisoners!" 

Mentally Montana was a slough, a "by-u" or backwater 
cut off not only from the life-giving sea but even from the 
river, the sluggish, erratic mud-river of American culture. 
We knew nothing whatever of what went on in the world. 

Europe was visibly preparing for the cataclysm of the 
First World War Montana took no interest and couldn't 
be bothered. 

Contending schools of art were turning Europe upside 
down we didn't know it, though we had heard about 
Cubism and the Nude Descending a Staircase. The other 
western artists who visited Charlie all made great fun of 
the Nude. 

And all this was infectious; even the Boston Tech 
people, who presumably had done some reading at home, 
lost the habit as soon as they came west, and settled down 
very comfortably to playing poker, and, a little later, bridge. 
Most of them married local girls and that put the M-bosh 
on books. 

This does not mean that I repined about the surrounding 
ignorance. I didn't know we were ignorant. I just thought the 
Westerners were crude and used worse English meaning 
un-St. Louis English than we did at home. 



That we inhabited an intellectual vacuum never oc- 
curred to me. 

When you consider Charlie's environment you wonder 
that he ever produced anything except the crudest kind 
of comics. What was there to encourage his art? Nothing 
whatever. Charlie is a proof that a man on a desert island 
will produce art if he has it in him. 

Charlie often got orders for pictures he couldn't or 
wouldn't paint. 

When the Russian Doukhobors, the "Old Believers," 
a fanatical religious sect who have big colonies up in Canada, 
got the notion, as they do at intervals, that the Resurrection 
was at hand, they shed their clothes and started out naked 
across the prairie to meet the Redeemer. An enterprising 
American photographed it and came on a high lope to 
Great Falls to have Charlie paint a picture. 

None of the nudes, even the young ones, were particu- 
larly alluring and there were too many mlddleaged and 
elderly people with whiskers and wild hairs and warts, 
and too many pregnant women. Even I could see that these 
photos were just plain nasty. 

"We can make a lot of money/' said the entrepreneur. 

"We're more apt to go to jail,"* said Charlie, "and any- 
how that's not the kind of picture I want to paint/' 

Then there was the millionaire mining man, Tom 
(King) Cole, who ordered a painting of Buffalo Bill and 
the Grand Duke Alexis on their celebrated buffalo hunt. 
When the painting was delivered, King Cole rejected it. 
Charlie had shown Buffalo Bill shooting a calf and that 
wouldn't do at all he must shoot a bull. Also the bull, 
running for his life, must not have his mouth open and his 
tongue out. King Cole's bulls must die in the high Roman 
way with their mouths shut. He and Nancy had quite a 
correspondence about it but Nancy won. She had learned 


Great Falls Background 

by experience that before you start to paint a picture on 
order there must first be a cash deposit. 

Why? Because the buyer tells you what he wants but 
he isn't able to make you see it his way. You paint it your 
way, and he's sure to be disappointed. 



Domestic Details 

When I went to Montana, Charlie and Nancy already 
had a steady income from a calendar picture contract re- 
newed every three years with either the Osborne Company 
or Brown & Bigelow, the two biggest calendar companies 
in the world. This gave them enough to live on and made 
them feel safer than most artists; anything else they sold 
counted as profit. 

Nancy was a spender. Charlie was not, but he was 
tapped pretty steadily by people out of luck. He wouldn't 
stake anybody for gambling. Though he could play poker 
he never did when I knew him very few artists are card 
players but in later years Nancy occasionally played 

Though a spender, even a lavish one, Nancy was canny. 
She could, and did, save money and invest it. They owned, 
and rented out, a cottage on the street behind them, Fifth 
Avenue North; they had a small dry land wheat ranch 
a few miles out of town near Johnny Matheson's place; and 
Charlie was part owner of Con Price's ranch on Kicking 
Horse Creek up in the Sweetgrass Country. They also had 
stock in the local cemetery which, for some fool reason, 
struck me as funny the idea of investing in a cemetery! 

They lived only a couple of blocks from the edge of 
town; then came a long gap, a mile or more, and then a 
suburb called Boston Heights. 


Domestic Details 

Their frame house, though small by St. Louis standards, 
was ample for their needs. On the ground floor were a 
minute storm vestibule, a big living room, a big square hall, 
dining room, bathroom, kitchen, a small bedroom for the 
cook and a closed-in back porch for the icebox. Upstairs 
there were three bedrooms, another bathroom an after- 
thought, without a tub a trunk room and a hall with a 
cot which could be used as an extra room. I remember that 
one winter three Episcopalian clergymen were snowed in 
with us by a blizzard for the best part of a week. And, of 
course, there was the big log studio with two cots where 
Joe DeYong and I e< batched" when Charlie and Nancy went 
east. We cooked on the big iron heating stove. 

The house had a wide yard three city lots in the 
back a corral, a two-horse stable with a hayloft, a chicken 
house, and, later, a garage. When at last Nancy got a car, 
Charlie refused to drive it. They didn't use the car in winter; 
they put it up on stilts. 

Beside transient guests, they usually had somebody 
living with them. The Indian girl, Jo Thorpe, stayed with 
them while she went through high school. Kitty Conan, 
Irish, was with them off and on for years. Later Charlie and 
Nancy went to California and brought back Nancy's half 
sister, Ella Allen, and put her through high school and 
business school. When I went to Great Falls she was working 
for the Tribune. She married a big Englishman, Frank Iron- 
side, and Charlie's cousin, Ferg Mead, called her Mrs. 
Stonehenge because that sounded even more English than 

In the morning Charlie woke up and got up very soon 
after sunrise. So soon, in fact, that in summer when the 
northern sun rises very early indeed his wife would lie 
in bed holding her breath, knowing that if she stirred a 
toe Charlie would wake. It took him only a couple of minutes 



to dress and then lie went down and watered and fed Nee- 
ndh and the chickens and got breakfast for the whole family 
hot cakes and bacon and coffee, boiled coffee of such 
authority that you needed only one cup. 

Sometimes they had a cook, sometimes not, depending 
on whether Nancy was feeling ladylike or economical; and 
it was a real shock to a new cook to wake on her first morn- 
ing and crawl painfully out of bed and find that the gentle- 
man of the house had her breakfast ready. But it was a 
shock to which they soon accommodated themselves. No 
cook ever left Charlie's roof except to get married. One 
married a fireman and tried to break him into getting 
breakfast but he wouldn't break, his argument being, "After 
all I ain't no artist/' 

Immediately after breakfast Charlie went out to the 
big log cabin studio in the side yard and painted till noon. 
He did surprisingly little fumbling around waiting for in- 
spiration he went right to work. About once an hour 
he sat back and rolled a cigarette and looked at what he 
had done. Usually he turned his back on the canvas and sat 
with one knee over the other, studying his work in a hand 
mirror that always lay on the shelf under the window. The 
mirror, of course, reversed the picture and showed up any 
bad drawing. This is such a common practice among artists 
that you'd think anybody would see what he was doing, 
but lots of people didn't. One woman reported that Charlie 
Russell was the most conceited man she'd ever met. "He is 
fine looking, you know," she said, "but goodness, the way 
he admires himself! Almost all the time we were talking to 
him he sat there with his knees crossed looking at himself 
in a mirror. He hardly condescended to look at us. He'd 
puff at his cigarette and then twist the mirror around a 
little and admire himself some more. You never saw a girl 
so shameless about it." 


Domestic Details 

Evidently Charlie was having trouble with the picture: 
"fighting it," as he called it. That's why he usually worked 
on two or three canvases at a time when one didn't satisfy 
him he'd let it dry and work on the other. Then, when he 
went back to the first, he saw right away what was wrong. 

At noon Charlie stopped work and went into the bath- 
room and washed his brushes with ivory soap. He washed 
each brush slowly, carefully, completely, until it was en- 
tirely clean. Never, no matter what happened, did he leave 
the house till he had washed each brush. He bought the best 
brushes and treated them right and they lasted a long time. 

You'd naturally expect an artist to be slapdash, untidy 
and careless about mechanical details, but Charlie wasn't. 
No jeweler could have been more painstaking with his tools. 
And, as remarked above, he never sat around waiting to be 
inspired. He went to work and inspiration came. 

When he finished with his brushes lunch was ready. 
If it wasn't, Charlie sat down at the table and talking 
ate all the cookies but one; and then was apologetic, "Oh 
Mameso, I've eaten almost all the cookies!" 

This annoyed Mameso also me, if I was there; I 
wanted in on the cookies. But I was at a disadvantage; I had 
been brought up St. Louis fashion to eat my cookies last. 
Charlie was like a horse: the horse eats the oats first and 
then the hay. If there were cookies on the table Charlie ate 
them first; then he didn't want much lunch. 

After lunch Charlie rolled a cigarette and strolled out 
to the cabin and lay down on the couch and went to sleep 
right away. He slept half an hour and then got up and rum- 
maged around to see if there was any candy. Though he had 
stopped drinking long ago, he still had the ex-drinker's taste 
for sweets. He ate four or five pieces and then put on his 
hat and hitched up his sash and went downtown and divided 
the afternoon between the Silver Dollar, the Mint, and one 



of the cigar stores. He bought drinks with everybody but 
drank Vichy water. At five o'clock he came home. He was 
as punctual as if he worked in an office and watched the 

After he had fed and watered Nee-nah and shut the 
chicken house, Charlie sat at the long table in the living 
room and looked at the paper till suppertime, reading mostly 
the local items, especially anything about old-timers. Supper 
was the big meal of the day the big event of the whole 
day for me. I loved to cuddle up to the table, and as Charlie 
expressed it eat till I fell over backward. Of course, he 
was exaggerating. 

Charlie himself was not a heavy eater: he ate what he 
liked and as much as he liked but he practically never over- 
ate. In all the years I Lived there I never knew him to be 
sick at the tummy but once. That was on a trip to Missoula 
when circumstances forced him to eat two enormous turkey 
dinners in swift succession at two different houses. The 
second dinner was too much. The host and hostess were 
almost strangers; Charlie didn't like to ask for the bathroom; 
with sudden sweat bursting from his forehead he excused 
himself to smoke a cigarette and went out in the yard and 
ran around like a chicken looking for cover. There wasn't 
any cover. Nancy became alarmed and followed him. The 
whole thing was very painful. 

Nancy, on the other hand, got car-sick every time she 
went on the train. The menu on the diner tempted her to 
folly. She fell; and like produced like as before. But she 
called it sick headache. 

I too had my misfortunes. When Percy Raban, the tall, 
blond, British-looking reporter who wanted to write chil- 
dren's stories, got married he and his bride wound up their 
honeymoon at Charlie's camp in the mountains, and we all 
went back together to Great Falls. The train was late; we 


Domestic Details 

were stranded for hours at Belton; tlie lunch counter had 
closed, there was nothing to eat, but somebody had given 
Nancy an enormous box of candy-coated almonds beautifully 
colored, red and blue and pink and peppermint green and 
chocolate, and licorice black, and white and yellow, and we 
ate them all, which is to say I ate most. When at last the 
train came it was crowded. Percy and his wife had to share 
a lower berth and I had the upper above them. As soon as 
I got down, the almonds got up. I spent the entire night 
climbing in and out of the berth which was restful for Percy 
and family and spoiled a brand new white sweater; it was 
colored all down the front like an Easter egg and it never 
washed out. Charlie was entirely unsympathetic: "I told 
you not to eat more than a bucketful." 

Life is full of humiliations. Charlie's best friend and 
neighbor, old Mr. Trigg, of sturdy build with a big intelli- 
gent-looking head and short arms and legs, was also, when 
life got too much for him, somewhat short-tempered. One of 
Charlie's favorite stories was how Trigg knowing by experi- 
ence what was coming sent his wife and daughter out of 
the house so he could express himself freely while putting 
up the stove pipe. An ordeal which darkened every autumn. 
This time the pipe was even more than usually recalcitrant; 
the last section the climactical, critical, all-important last 
section simply refused to be fitted. Trigg had cleaned it be- 
forehand but now as soon as he slid one end into place the 
other slid out and covered him with soot. Trigg paused and 
expressed himself several times but it didn't do any good. 

Finally on the verge, the ultimate edge, of apoplexy, he 
groaned and dashed out into the street and stopped a passer- 
by, a perfect stranger, and asked if he knew how to fix a 
stove pipe. 

'Well, I'll try/* said the stranger, who like Dom Manuel 
would try anything once, and he went in and reached up, 



two-handed, and fitted the length of pipe just as Trigg had 
done twenty times over and jiggled it, and with, a comfort- 
ing little click both ends slid into place. 

"There you are!" said the stranger, straightening down 
again and dusting his hands, He expected to be thanked. 

Trigg glared at him half a minute and then exploded, 
"Why you dirty blank blank blankety blank, what do you 
mean by coming into my house and doing it like that!" and 
he gnashed his teeth and ran the interloper off the place. 

I don't know whether this is a true story or not but I 
know Just how Trigg felt. I too have gone shambling and 
fumble-fingered all my life through a world inhabited ex- 
clusively by efficient, effective and adequate interlopers. 



A Summer At Lake McDonald 

The summer of 1910 I was late leaving the smelter and 
when I got up to the Lake, I found my Md sister there, her 
second trip west a West which was an even bigger eye- 
opener to her than it had been to me. 

The Russells had other guests that summer but the only 
one I remembered was the New York animal painter Philip 
R. Goodwin, a slim, black-haired, very boyish looking fellow 
he was about twenty-eight but didn't show it and I was 
surprised after some of Charlie's other friends to find so 
well known an artist so modest. 

Goodwin had studied with the famous Howard Pyle 
and usually spent his summers in the Maine woods or up 
in Canada, his specialty being calendar pictures, moose 
hunts, bear hunts and so forth for Remington Arms. He also 
painted big circus posters for Bamum and Ringling Brothers 
and had just illustrated Teddy Roosevelt's book on African 
hunting. This had been an anxious job as Teddy paced 
off every shot and remembered just exactly how he stood; 
and he snarled and made faces and skinned his teeth to 
show how the lion looked. Goodwin wanted to put both man 
and beast in the foreground of the picture, but Teddy was 
adamant, he had killed at one hundred and fifty yards and 
one hundred and fifty yards it had to be and not a hair's 
breadth less. And at one hundred and fifty yards either 
Teddy or Hon whichever was in the backgroundlooked 
very small. 



That summer Charlie too had an aggravating job pen 
illustrations for an enormous book by the wife of an early rail- 
roader. While her husband was surveying and building the 
transcontinental line the old lady had gone with him, riding 
thousands o miles by stage and horseback, and had seen 
many interesting things for instance, temporary wooden 
rails covered with rawhide and coyotes gnawing the hide 
and spitting out the splinters and she too, like Teddy, knew 
just exactly what kind of pictures she wanted. There was an 
argument which went on for days about the frontispiece. She 
wanted a fancy picture of herself and Pal (her husband) as 
bride and groom with wedding bells and streamers and 
hovering cupids. Amorini, she called 'em. You know, the 
nasty bloated little things with rosy buttocks who look as if 
they were made out of bubble gum. Charlie drew the line 
at amorini. After much anxious talk with Nancy he submitted 
a sketch of Pal on horseback escaping from a howling mob of 
Indians, halfbreeds, bandits, vigilantes, hold-up men and 
crooked gamblers, only to be run down and roped by Cupid 
in chaps on a pinto pony. 

"Oh no!" said the lady, "that won't do. Pal never ran 
away from anybody!" 

"Well," said Charlie, "if he wouldn't ran away from a 
bunch like that!" He left the sentence unfinished but the 
implication was clear: anybody who wouldn't run from that 
bunch ought to have his head examined. 

To supervise the job, the authoress stayed at one of 
Apgar's cabins at the foot of the Lake and the first time 
she saw Goodwin he was working on a model yacht. It was 
Goodwin who showed Charlie how to stretch a rubber band 
from the tiller to the mainsail so that the ship would steer 
itself and come about in the wind. She thought Goodwin 
a mere child and when, next day, she saw him making oil 
sketches of the river mouth to be used later in calendar 


A Summer At Lake McDonald 

pictures she expressed admiration as you would to a child 
and referred to the sketches as "pretties." 

Goodwin, as a practicing artist, was indignant. 

Charlie never forgot it. Every few mornings he'd ask, 
"Well, Philip, going to make any pretties today?" 

Charlie himself made two square rigged models, shrouds 
and all, with a lookout at the masthead and a man at the 
wheel, but they were slower than Goodwin's yacht and did 
not come about as neatly. 

This was Goodwin's second visit to Lake McDonald. 
He had been there the year Charlie built the big new hearth 
and chimney, and the two of them had decorated the fire- 
place by scratching the wet cement with drawings of moose, 
deer and so forth. 

Outside the cabin, under the bottom log, Apgar put a 
wide strip of concrete to run off the drip from the eaves it's 
always the bottom log that rots first-and Charlie marked it 
with big bear tracks which he knew how to make with the 
heel and ball of his hand, his thumb and the tip of his 
fingers. This was years before Hollywood started the fad 
of recording the stars* footprints; in fact, it was years before 

Beside these memorials Nancy had made a set of white 
cotton screens intended primarily for dressing rooms when 
the whole bunch bunked in one cabin and every guest who 
stayed overnight had to write his or her name in india ink, 
one leaf of the screen for each summer. 

The chimney of brick and stone and cement caused a 
catastrophe. Apgar had built it around a wooden form, and 
when it had set and Charlie and Goodwin took over, some 
bright person suggested that the quickest way to get the 
form out was to bum it. It was quick all right. 

This has a faintly medieval flavor. When Perceval, God's 
fool, came from the forest where his mother had brought 



him up in ignorance of the world, and saw his first knight, 
and killed him, he wanted the armor but didn't know how 
to take it off, so he built a fire to bum the dead man out. 

When Sir Gawain, horrified, protested at such a barbarous 
proceeding, Perceval explained himself: 

"My own modir telled me, 
When the dart should broken be, 
Out of the iron, burn the tree/* 

In other words, burn the broken wooden shaft out of the 
iron spearhead, which was indeed the only way to get it 
out in an age when there were no corks and therefore no 
corkscrews. So Perceval was going to burn the dead knight 
out of his armor. 

But when Charlie and Goodwin started to bum out the 
chimney they almost burnt out Montana. Within three min- 
utes it was roaring like a blast furnace with a flame forty feet 
high shooting out the top. They were scared sick, afraid of 
starting a forest fire. When they tried to cut off the draft 
with a wet tarpy across the fireplace the suction pulled it 
right up the chimney. They stayed up almost all night before 
the damn thing burned out. The chimney was cracked from 
bottom to top and had to be pointed up. The moral is before 
you start something you can't stop, consult an engineer. But 
you can't expect an artist to know everything. 

Forest fire is an ever present danger in the mountains. 
Even the ground, the floor of pine needles, will burn. Started 
by vandals, by careless campers, by locomotives, by light- 
ning, it goes with the wind; it burns uphill quickly and down- 
hill slowly; it will jump fire-guards and rivers and even 
lakes. More than once we went up to Belton with fire 
burning on either side of the right of way and railroad guards 
every few hundred feet. 


A Summer At Lake McDonald 

The summer Goodwin was out there, the sky was hid- 
den for weeks. You could look straight at the weird red sun; 
soot fell in a black snow storm day and night; the lake was 
covered with scum, 

The wind was blowing our way and one evening, just at 
sunset, the fire came up over the crest of the foothills across 
the lake. We went down to the shore to watch. It was a 
solemn, terrifying business. We'd see the flame reach a pine 
tree a hundred feet high and run right up it to the top. We 
thought the whole country was going to be ruined and 
Charlie talked about breaking camp and getting out before 
the fire reached Apgar and cut us off from Belton. But that 
night the wind changed. The fire went back over the hill 
and the lake was saved. Finally it rained; the lake and the 
river cleaned themselves and danger was gone for that 

The pine woods are a great place to fall in love, and 
Goodwin, as was inevitable, went suddenly soft at the top 
about kid sister. Big brother was dum, as big brothers are, 
and it wasn't till I was out in the canoe with Aunt Nancy 
and remarked on Goodwin's queer clumsiness as if he was 
mentally slipping off the perch that she explained what was 
happening. I began to laugh in a nasty way and would cer- 
tainly have made trouble, but the steerslady forestalled me, 
"One snicker out of you just one and you go back to town 
on the evening train!" 

I knew my Aunt Nancy and there were no snickers. 

Kid sister was too young and Goodwin too unenterprising 
for anything to come of it, but no doubt it enchanted the 
whole summer for both of them. El Encantado the enchanted 
man and the enchanting maiden. 

Goodwin was bashful; he couldn't sing in the daylight, 
but one night, just after Nancy blew out the light, he sur- 
prised us all by suddenly piping up in a high-pitched, un- 



natural, embarassed but resolute voice, and sang an ancient 
ditty from his childhood. I remember it now: I was lying on 
my back looking up at a star through a crack in the shakes, 
and suddenly out of the dark, like a thin fountain of light- 
thin but with a crystal clearness to it that jet of song. 

Not a very romantic song, you will say, but artists in 
love express themselves in queer ways, 

"My father had an old black horse 
With a pain down in his thorax, 
So he took a great long rubber tube 
And filled it full of borax. 
He put one end in the horse's mouth, 
In his he took the other; 
When he blew in that horse blew out 
And the blow almost killed father/* 

I suppose it stemmed from New England; we had none 
of us heard it before and it made a great impression. Es- 
pecially on Nancy, who sang it next day and not knowing 
what thorax means she transposed the syllables so that it 
came out with a pain down in his throw-ax. Depth-psychol- 
ogy being then unheard of, we just thought it funny. 

Nancy often did transpositions with words. In New York 
she and Charlie had seen a play about Beau Brummel and 
one day in camp when I looked particularly disreputable she 
told me to go shave and called me Bro Bummel. Kid sister 
pounced on that with a shriek and for the rest of the summer 
addressed me as Bro. Warmed with Goodwin's approval, she 
was getting quite cocky and beginning to show off. Which 
was hard on me but the rest didn't seem to object. Charlie 
even encouraged her. 

Here is her picture in squaw dress and Charlie in the 
black wig Nancy bought him. The picture is poorly posed 


A Summer At Lake McDonald 

as it makes Charlie look much shorter than he was. I don't 
know what the jagged, surrealist-looking thing is in the 
foreground something out of the Unconscious of the forest? 
Speaking of shaving, Charlie had an unfair advantage: 
his whiskers were so light that he shaved only every other 
day, and in a pinch he could always cheat rub talcum 
powder on his chin and look as if he had just come from the 

Late in September, with the geese going south, the 
tourists already gone, and the muskrats building their win- 
ter homes, we broke camp. Nancy, Josephine Trigg, the cook, 
and I returned to Great Falls, but Charlie and Goodwin 
went up to Con Price's ranch in the Sweet Grass Hills at 
the head of Kicking Horse Creek. 

Charlie had known Con ever since they punched cows 
on Milk River and in the Basin, and they were partners. 
Charlie put up most of the money but Con ran the ranch 
and did the work. According to Charlie's biographers, Adams 
and Britzman, the partnership lasted five years I had sup- 
posed it lasted longer beginning January 1, 1906, and Con 
sold the ranch, brands and all, in 1911. They had three 
registered brands: their cattle brand was the Lazy K Y 
( ^ ), and two horse brands, the 3, and the 3 and T. 

Nee-nah, his Indian pony, was getting old and sway 
backed, so Charlie picked two young range horses, Dave 
and Sun-Dance; and he and Goodwin rode them back to 
Great Falls, stopping overnight at ranch houses a five days' 
ride, every inch of it in a lane between wire fences. 

Sun-Dance was a beauty, a yellow horse with white 
stockings and a cream-colored mane and tail. Dave was a 
red bay with a black, very thick double mane which hung 
down on both sides his neck. He, though hard-mouthed 
you had to be always reining him in was reliable; Sun- 



Dance was not. But this didn't appear till they got to town 
and had to stand all day in the corral. 

Born on the range, neither horse had ever seen an auto- 
mobile or a train, and when they drew near the Great North- 
ern tracks, Charlie warned Goodwin to keep his horse's head 
up and be ready to pull leather and hang onto the horn. 
A drag of empties was going by, rattling over the joints of the 
rails, and the two horses, pricking their ears and sniffing with 
curiosity, walked right up and almost put their noses on the 
moving box cars. They showed no fear at all. (And yet 
Nee-nah, who had lived in town for years, almost threw me 
when a piece of newspaper blew across the street.) 

Dave loved to run and he lathered up like a barber. 
When you ran him, his chest and your thighs would be 
covered with long slathers of yellow foam, and every so 
often he tossed his head and threw more foam back across 
your face. He was rough riding you could feel every pound 
of his hoofs but he wasn't ugly or vicious. 

Sun-Dance, the picture horse, was meant for Nancy- 
she had an expensive saddle and a headstall with silver 
conchos but after a few days of standing in corral, he de- 
veloped an ugly trick of raring up on his hind legs as soon 
as you forked him. Raring up is the most dangerous thing 
a horse can do much more dangerous than bucking because 
he is liable to over-balance and fall backwards and drive the 
steel saddle horn right through you. When I took him out 
to exercise him we had to run both of them every day or 
they got too wild Charlie would hold Sun-Dance's head till 
I got on and then walk him down the alley. After he had 
walked a few yards he was safe but Charlie was afraid to let 
Nancy ride him and got rid of him. He got rid of Dave too: 
he said he wasn't running a racing stable and it wasn't fair 
to a young horse to keep him cooped up in a corral in town. 


A Summer At Lake McDonald 

These were Charlie's last horses, though Nee-nah, sway- 
backed and with a big belly, was still alive and active when 
I left Montana. That would be 1917, just before the First 
World War, and Nee-nah died not long after. 



Charlie And The Indians 

A dog cannot see color: his world is like a photograph, 
all blacks and grays. He lives largely in terms of smell. Scent 
takes the place of color; the air brings him a forever flowing, 
forever changing harmony of scents and smells and savours 
and stinks and stenches. He seems to find very few flavors 

As the tourists sits and shades his eyes and admires the 
view, just so the dog sits and twitches his nostrils and reads 
the wind. It may be much better reading than a newspaper. 

As the dog sees everything in terms of smell, Charlie 
saw everything in terms of form and color. Their harmonies 
took the place of music. 

They also, apparently, took the place of morals. For 
Charlie professed no morals, and yet, when I knew him, he 
led a highly moral life. But perhaps what worked him was 
not morality but just kindness. 

Charlie was forty-six in 1910: high time to take stock 
and find out whether he was really going anywhere or just 
getting older. 

As far as I know he never did take stock, so we'll do 
it for him. 

Had he changed at all except to put on weight and get 
heavy heavy, not fat and middleaged looking? 

Outwardly, yes. He had stopped gambling. He had 
stopped drinking. He began life as a professional hunter; he 
had now stopped killing. Though he still went deer hunting 


Charlie And The Indians 

with Frank Linderman and Bill Kreighoff and other people, 
he did not carry a gun he had reached the point where he 
didn't like to kill. 

For the same reason he had stopped fishing. 

Fishermen laughed at this, citing the well-known fact 
that the fish is cold-blooded and has no nerves and can't 
feel pain. 

"Sure/' said Charlie, "that's why he jumps six feet out 
of the water when he gets the barb in his eye. And the live- 
bait minnow, wiggling on the hook, wiggles because it tick- 
les him. And the caught fish, slowly drowning with a rope 
through his gills, really enjoys it." 

All which is sissified stuff and completely contemptible 
to any red-blooded he-person. Also to lots of ladies. Charlie 
cocked a cold and cynical eye at the church-going, Jesus- 
loving ladies who wear fur and feathers. 

"Oh, women don't think about things like that!" But 
Charlie was foolish enough to believe that a woman who 
really loved Jesus would think about it. 

Differing from our hair-on-the-tummy writers, both 
male and female, he was horrified by his only Mexican bull- 
fight. Once was <2-nough he never went again. When they 
first tortured the bull with banderillas and then crowded 
the poor old bag-of -bones horse up on the horns to have his 
guts torn out, Charlie didn't like it. He very much didn't like 
it and said so. 

His hosts urged him to go to the next fighta very spe- 
cial one, the biggest of the whole year. All the government 
people would be there, and the church dignitaries, both male 
and female, and the English and American colonies, and 
the Europeans. Everybody would be there. 

"Everybody but me and Mameso," said Charlie. This 
was a big disappointment to Nancy, but she knew better 
than to overstep the line. She wept but she stayed away. 



It is convincing proof of Charlie's strength of character 
and his grim look that he was able to get by with all this 
mollycoddle stuff no gambling, no drinking, no killing and 
torturing just for sport. Lots of people, big important people, 
were offended by his attitude, but nobody dared look under 
his brows and say so. 

Yet Charlie was no reformer. He never interfered with 
people's drinking. He divided every afternoon between the 
Silver Dollar and the Mint and the cigar stores which at that 
time were just fronts for gambling. He kept all his drinking 
and gambling friends and the others with more highly 
scented vices, and the smell didn't seem to bother him. 

A bad smell doesn't bother a dog, you know, he sniffs 
and appraises each and all impartially. He likes to go out 
in the street and roll on dead fish and other things which you 
and I don't care for. Evidently to the dog any smell is a 
good smell and the stronger the better. 

Artists are that way too. To them everything is form 
and color; and morals, if any, have nothing to do with it. 
I think Charlie's only moral was not to cause pain. 

Yes, Charlie had changed in both his work and his mind. 
As was shown by the change in emphasis of his later pictures. 
He still painted violent action gun fights, bear hunts, buck- 
ing broncos and so forth; but these were painted to sell. The 
ones he really liked were more contemplative: the tribe- 
women, children, old people on the trail of the buffalo 
runners: riders in the snow or at a waterhole: Indians sing- 
ing the sun down. The sweep is wider; the country, though 
less detailed, and the sky, play more part in the picture. 

Charlie had not changed his mind about the Indians. 
He knew their faults and how stubborn they are, but he 
also knew how badly we have treated them. 

Said he, "If you ever went out on a frozen river and 
sawed ice all day with the wind screaming over the edge 


Charlie And The Indians 

of the bank, you'd know why that's one job the white man 
is willing to give the Indian. 

"He won't give him any other. The white man kills off 
the buffalo, takes the Indians' land, deprives him of his only 
means of livelihood, refuses to hire him as a ranch hand, 
and then tells you that all Indians are lazy a bunch of 
stinking gypsies!" 

They have become exiles in their own country. 

The Cree tribe were even worse off than the rest be- 
cause they were legal exiles. They used to live in Canada 
but got mixed up with the French halfbreed rebellion led 
by Louie Riel ? and for fear of the Red Coats, the Northwest 
Mounted Police, they fled south across the Line and hid in 
Montana. The Great White Father in Washington let them 
stay but wouldn't put them on a reservation because they 
were officially Canadian. And the Canucks wouldn't let them 
go back. 

When I was in Great Falls a dying remnant of the tribe 
led by Chief Little Bear wintered across the river and made 
a few dollars peddling moccasins, beadwork pouches, and 
hideous monstrosities called hatracks made of Buffalo horns" 
(really cow horns picked up on the range) set in a profusion 
of cheap red plush and brass tacks. You can't imagine any- 
thing less Indian-looking: as far as art is concerned they 
really have become gypsies. 

Knowing by experience that kids do better at peddling 
such stuff than grown-ups, the bucks stayed out of sight, with 
the result that a little Cree girl, ten years old, was lured into 
a saloon and ganged, and the white gentlemen went around 
telling what they did to her. They regarded it as a joke, and 
so, apparently, did the authorities. Nobody was arrested. 
When three or four people talked as if they might make 
trouble the gentlemen involved hauled tail and left town. 
Nothing was ever done about it. 



The Crees knew better than to do anything they had 
been getting that sort of treatment ever since the Star of 
Empire started west. 

That winter the church ladies got together and staged 
a big charity bazaar not for the benefit of the Indians and 
the chief attraction was an amateur opera called Little Al- 
mond Eyes, the name of the heroine. The scene was laid in 
China and the whole thing was a sort of Chinese Mikado. 

Charlie's wife was the mainspring. She worked, as she 
always did, like seventeen tigers to make it a cyclone success. 
She was determined to take in twice as much money as they 
ever did before. 

She always rang Charlie in on anything like that, and 
one of her publicity stunts was to hornswoggle the local 
printer into stamping out, gratis, hundreds of little yellow 
cardboard figures about three inches high with a string 
through them to hang on your lapel. She had everybody in 
Great Falls wearing them, and the conductors, brakies and 
so forth on the Great Northern. 

These figures were blank, no printing on them, and 
Charlie's part was to ink in Little Almond Eye's face and 
clothes. He drew tihe first few quite carefully, but when 
he saw boxes and boxes of the damn things, he rung me 
in doubling the output but diminishing the artand we 
put in our evenings for a week drawing Little Almond Eyes. 
One result being that Charlie, who had often remarked my 
enthusiasm at table, called me Little Gormondize. 

The show we$ a cyclonic success, the take being four 
times as big as before; and when they had attended to the 
local poor, Nancystill by virtue of sheer driving force the 
executive spent the surplus on blankets and food for the 
Crees, starving, freezing, and dying of pneumonia across the 
river. The church ladies objected but failed to make their 
objection stick and one, a very pious sister, said indignantly, 


Charlie And The Indians 

"I wouldn't have worked half so hard if I'd known we were 
going to waste the money on a lot of dirty old Indians!" 

When Nancy repeated this at supper, Charlie went on 
the warpath, declaring he'd like to see her the pious lady 
in a tent out on the flat with not enough food to keep 
warm, but presently he calmed down and philosophized it, 
"I suppose she's never in her life been really cold, or really 
hungry, and she hasn't enough imagination to guess what 
a tent's like in winter." 

He excused all sorts of things in other people on the 
ground that they just lacked imagination. They didn't see 
everything in images as he or any other artist did. 


<* 19 

Genealogical Research 

Along about this time a maiden lady distantly related 
to us inherited six hundred dollars and decided to look up 
her ancestors. Investing it in Chicago can't imagine why 
Chicago but she certainly got plenty for her money she 
discovered that she, and by assumption we (I did most of 
the assuming), descended by way of sundry bastardies from 
the Plantagenet kings of England. 

The first Plantagenet, you remember, was Henry Short- 
Shanks but Charlie called him Duck-legsfather of Richard 
the Lion-hearted, the lion part deriving from the way he 
roared for help whenever somebody chased him up a tree. 
Richard went around Europe insulting people, and the in- 
sulted ones always defeated him in battle and chased him 
up a tree. He spent a considerable part of his reign in jail. 

Later there was a second Richard, who died in jail 
impaled on a red hot poker. (There's one for the whodunit 
writers a red hot poker, internally applied, leaves no exter- 
nal scar. ) But the third was Crooked Neck Dick, who, after 
strangling both his nephews in the Tower, fell sword in hand 
at Bosworth Field, the last of a fighting family. 

"Fighting?" said Charlie. "It seems to be mostly mur- 
dering! I'd just as soon descend from Jack the Ripper." 

Descent from the Plantagenets implies descent from 
most of the other dynasties, but my favorite ancestor was 
the Emperor Isaac Angelos of Constantinople, one of the 
Byzantine rulers. He is unique. Plenty of monarchs have 


Genealogical Research 

waded through blood to royalty but Isaac is the only em- 
peror who ever cried himself onto a throne. 

Because he was related to the royal family, the reigning 
tyrant, Andronikos., condemned Isaac to death. Ike, the most 
unwilling of martyrs, fled for sanctuary to the great cathedral 
of Satnt Sophia, where he stayed safe all afternoon, holding 
onto the horns of the altar and weeping. A crowd collected, 
staring at first, then weeping in sympathy Andronikos hav- 
ing made himself odious to everybody and on toward even- 
ing the crowd grew into a mob and suddenly boiled over 
and went roaring up the street to the palace and dragged 
the tyrant from his throne and lynched him. 

In the confusion some nimble-witted Greek caught up 
the crown and put it on Isaac's head. Our ancestor, still in 
a pea-green panic, suddenly found himself emperor. 

This would make a good end to the story but Isaac, 
crowned, turned out to be as objectionable as Andronikos; 
the Crusaders came thundering down on their way to the 
Holy Land and laid siege to Constantinople; and Isaac, hav- 
ing made a mess of everything, was cast into prison and 
strangled by one of his cousins, a gentleman called Eyebrows 
Fm not inventing, look it up in Gibbon who succeeded him 
on the throne, and came, in turn, to a smash finish by being 
thrown off a tower. 

The Crusaders did the throwing. Nice people, all of 
them, especially the Crusaders, who claimed to be working 
for Jesus. They had set out to liberate Jerusalem from the 
heathen and ended up by looting Christian Constantinople. 

All of which I retailed to Charlie with embellishments. 

Charlie, knowing me, took it with considerable salt and 
was not unduly elated; but his wife, having no ancestors to 
speak of, was much annoyed by our imperial descent. 

"But, Mameso/* Charlie soothed her, "just think how 
fast we've descended. And anyhow, if we met them on the 



street, I don't suppose that Richard the Runt, and Louie the 
Lump, and Henry the Hippopotamus would speak to us 
they'd pass us up like a couple of bad smells. And as for 
Crying Ike of Constantinople, I think the kid invented him." 

Charlie took the flat-footed stand that no emperor had 
ever been named Isaac. Ever had been or ever would be. 
Ike the Kike he called him and refused to believe in his 

So Nancy forgave Charlie but not me. She developed 
a habit of remarking in my presence, "After all I'm only 
common clay," 

Which was indeed fairly evident. 

I regret to add in the interests of veracity that this 
royal and imperial descent proved to be a mistake. It ap- 
plied, if at all, to an entirely different branch of the family 
and Charlie had no tainted blood. But it was nice to talk 
about while it lasted. 

Charlie, of course, would not have talked about it even 
had it been true. He did singularly little boasting of any 
kind. I never heard him tell a story or incident in which he 
figured in a heroic way, nor did he ever claim to have fought 
Indians, prevented a lynching or anything like that. He was 
modest even about his many years on the range, saying, 
"I was just a common rider. Most of the time I was night 
wrangling. I was never a champion roper or a bronco buster 
when I rode a bad horse it was because I couldn't get a 
good one." 

According to Tommy Tucker's book, CharMe was not 
always just a common rider. When he went as a "Rep" 
(representative) of the Judith Basin outfits he was paid 
an extra ten dollars a month. And in those days ten dollars 
was a lot more money than it is now. 

Tommy is inclined to high romance (he has Charlie 
rescuing maidens, killing Indians, hanging halfbreeds and 


Genealogical Research 

Chinamen I hope the movies have not got hold of Tommy) 
but the Adams and Britzman biography confirms the "Rep" 
part, saying Charlie and Kay Lowry were sent as "Reps" to 
the Moccasin roundup by the Judith Basin outfits. "Reps" 
could read all brands, and they worked with the regular 
crew, cutting out and holding in a separate herd the calves 
of the outfits they "repped" for. 

Charlie never told about this in my hearing but then 
he was that way too about his art; he never bragged. Com- 
monly he called himself an illustrator. However, he offset 
this by saying that a good illustrator was just as good as 
any other artist. And an illustrator has to be able to draw- 
some artists can't. 



Horses Of Humiliation 

You must not suppose that Charlie associated only with 
old-timers and localites. His home was a place of pilgrim- 
age for any actors, writers, people of that kind who passed 
through Great Falls, and especially for the new generation 
of western painters of whom I remember only GoUings, Ed 
Borein, Maynard Dixon, Olaf Seltzer, and much later Joe 

Once the Chicago sculptor Lorado Taft, who was mak- 
ing a cross-country lecture tour, carne to dinner and sur- 
prised us by looking and talking exactly like an artist in 
an English novel. I had seen his Solitude of Soul at the 
St. Louis World's Fair if I keep mentioning the Fair you 
must remember that it was the cultural event of the Middle 
West though not quite as devastating in its effect as the 
earlier Chicago Fair, which, so they say, put European hand- 
cuffs on a whole generation of American architects and I 
prompted Nancy to speak of it, and she made an even bigger 
hit with Taf t than Charlie did. When she was fixed up she 
was so pretty that she didn't need to say anything very 
original to make a hit with artists. This last sentence sounds 
faintly disparaging. As a matter of fact, Nancy was not only 
pretty; she had quite apart from her good looks just as 
much personal charm as Charlie. It wasn't only artists who 
fell for her. 

Taft's companion, an eastern university man chock fall 
of culture, stayed overnight the sculptor being booked else- 


Horses Of Humiliation 

where and talked, very interestingly too, about modern art, 
till Charlie, suddenly bored with the rarefied conversation, 
announced, "Well, you people can sit up as late as you like 
but this is Saturday night and Tm going to take a bath if 
it chokes the sewer." 

Which naturally annoyed Nancy. 

Charlie often said things like that just to shock people. 
He also, out of mere perversity, often put on an act and 
made himself look much more ignorant than he was. 

Once up in the Rockies, Charlie, Nancy, little Mary 
(the cook), and I were alone in camp I don't remember 
why there were no guests and quite late at night just as 
the girls were going to bed, we heard a voice high up on the 
hill, hollering for help. It was a hoofer, i.e., a tourist who 
walked through Glacier Park instead of hiring a horse, and 
he had got benighted on the trail and lost his way and was 
badly frightened the night woods are frightening, dead 
silent by day but full of mysterious sneaking-up-on-you 
noises as soon as it gets dark and just as he was getting 
really panic-struck, he saw the lights of the cabin far below, 
but didn't, for fear of cliffs, dare climb down. 

Charlie and I took the lantern and rescued him. 

He saw Charlie's sash and boots; Charlie and I needed 
haircuts; the girls in braids and barefoot with slickers in- 
stead of bathrobes over their nightgowns no pyjamas then- 
all these circumstances, combined with Charlie's vocabulary 
to mislead him. He thought we were backwoodsmen, Mon- 
tana equivalents of Ozark hillbillies. Charlie and Nancy 
played up to him. He never suspected that they went every 
winter to New York and had sold pictures in London; and 
when at last I rowed him across the foot of the Lake to 
Apgar's he promised to send us all the illustrated Sunday 



But this was at Lake McDonald and we were talking 
about Great Falls. 

The guests who most impressed me were the eastern 
artists, Marchand, Krieghoff, Goodwin, Joe Schuerlie, Jack 
Young-Hunter and others who came, one or two at a time, 
to spend the summer with Charlie. 

First of them was Marchand. When the Russells had 
met him in New York he had been an aggressive, loud-talk- 
ing fellow; but now, when I saw him, he was slowly dying- 
he didn't know it but his wife did. The Reaper's shadow was 
already over him and had changed his whole nature. He had 
become the gentlest, friendliest, most appealing person you 
ever saw. 

His wife, a Hungarian, was a beauty. She had been 
a chorus girl, and Marsh, dubious about marrying what he 
called a broiler, had taken her and the Russells out to dinner 
and asked Charlie afterwards what he thought about her. 
Charlie's answer was sententious: "Pretty as a painted wag- 
on and sound as a hound's tooth." 

Which Marsh told the girl when they were married and 
evidently she had never forgotten, for now, years later, she 
repeated it to me, laughing a little as if it was foolish of her 
to remember such a thing but you could see she thought it 

"Then said Tua, Turak's daughter, 'Short words to him, 
he spoke without thought: long words, life-lasting, to me.' " 

Perhaps they had helped keep her as sound as a hound's 

Marsh had an interesting experience with one of Char- 
lie's friends, a big ranch owner from Montana who was in 
New York and Charlie introduced them. They hit it off very 
well together and several days later the rancher went down 
to Marsh's pkce on Broadway and Fortieth, a studio build- 
ing full of artists, and found Marsh, who was illustrating 


Horses Of Humiliation 

some magazine story, painting from a model, not nude. 
Marsh introduced the girl and they talked a while and then 
Marsh was called downstairs to the phone. He was gone 
some time and when he came up again he heard a terrific 
row inside the studio. 

The rancher, assuming all models were tarts, had propo- 
sitioned the girl; when she said no, he grabbed her and 
started to undress her by force. Marsh had to get help from 
next door and actually pry the gentleman off. He told 
Charlie, "If you've got any more friends like this, don't 
bring 'em around/' 

Then there was another New York artist, Bill Krieghoff 
and his wife Julie. Bill had a perverted sense of humor. He 
was quite shortCharlie called him Duck-legs and wore a 
derby hat and he would pull it down till his ears stuck out flat 
and hump up his shoulders and walk along Fifth Avenue, 
mumbling to himself, busy as all hell counting on his fingers. 
Julie, a dressy little person, couldn't stand this; she'd hurry 
on ahead and act like she didn't know him, and Bill would 
trot along right behind her, still busy counting. He'd have 
everybody watching them. More than once a cop asked 
Julie if that man was annoying her. As she didn't want to 
bail him out, she had to explain, "It's my husband, dammit!" 

And the cop would look sympathetic and back off. 

The Russells had been quite fond of Julie in New York, 
but when she came to Great Falls, what a difference! She 
never got as far as the mountains; life in a prairie village 
bored her sick. Her one idea was to go downtown and have 
a happy thought the then New York expression for a drink. 
It was a real relief to everybody when at the week's end 
she had a real happy thought and went back to New York. 
Bill stayed and went up to the mountains. 

He wanted to paint portraits but was then making a 
living, quite a good one, as a commercial artist for Dick 



Outcault, the Buster Brown man, who was the first to have 
a whole office full of artists and sign their stuff and syndicate 

On Outcault's staff there was a foreign artist whom Bill 
greatly admired and he told how this foreigner and his son 
went chippy-chasing together. Charlie didn't like the idea. 
Said he, "If I ever started into a whorehouse and met my 
father coming out I'd feel so uncomfortable that I'd go home 
I wouldn't want to do anything that evening." 

Bill was disgusted. "You're not a cowboy, you're a puri- 
tan. I'm ashamed of you!" 

"That's the way I feel about it," said Charlie. "When 
I'm getting my ashes hauled I don't want the family along." 

Dne of the old-timers who used to come to the studio 
and argue with the "foreign," i.e., New York artists, had a 
wife, a big fat lady with a large family, a sense of humor, 
and a laugh that was really worth hearing. The other ladies, 
not having a sense of humor, objected to her laugh, with 
the natural result that when her name came up at table, 
Charlie would remark, "I believe I could learn to love her." 

Which, no matter how often he said it, always annoyed 
Nancy, and Charlie would have to smooth her down, "Now, 
Mameso " 

The fat lady had been a widow when she married the 
old-timer and he a widower; both of them had children 
before and after. One of the stock jokes of Great Falls was 
that the old-timer came home and asked, "What's all that 
noise out in the yard?" 

"It's been that way all afternoon," said his wife. "Your 
children and my children are picking on our children." 

"Well, I'm going to take a plank to 'em!" said the old- 
timer and he went out and planked the bunch. You could 
hear them all over town; it sounded like Custer at the Little 
Big Horn. 


Horses Of Humiliation 

This same old-timer told Bill Krieghoff and me the 
story of Charlie's saloon. 

Charlie was lavish with his money, an easy victim for 
a hard luck story, but he would not stake anybody who 
wanted to gamblehe had been trimmed too often himself 
when he was young at Faro and Stud and Three Card Monte. 

One year at the end of the season when they had just 
been paid off, a puncher turned up with a pitiful tale of his 
brother's family on the point of starvation, and Charlie came 
across generously. The puncher, who had no starving brother, 
went straight to the nearest gambling emporium and rang 
all the bells, he almost cleaned up the place. Whereupon, 
being an honorable person, he proposed to divide, Even- 
Steven, but Charlie would take only what he had given. 
"Have it your way," said the lucky man, "but from now on 
me and you are partners/' 

"Sure/* said Charlie, having heard that kind of talk for 
years, and he thought nothing more of it; but late that night, 
when he was slightly drunk, he suddenly learned that he 
and his partner, the lucky man, were now proprietors of a 
small saloon, a plank shack, at the edge of town. His partner 
had bought it out of winnings, lock, stock and barrel. 

Charlie sober might have shied off but Charlie drunk 
was quite willing to go into business. They decided on a big 
opening with the first round of drinks upon the house, but 
their friends, and friends's friends, and friends' friends* 
friends came from miles around and drank the place dry 
before midnight. When they counted up the cash they found 
they had taken in about twelve dollars, all the rest had been 
on the house. There was nothing to salvage so they shook 
hands on it and nailed up the door and never went back. 
This was Charlie's only business venture. 

I have heard other versions of this story but they all 
ended up the same way. 



That summer the Russeiis had an exhibition at the 
Calgary Rodeo and when they closed the house to go to 
Canada, Bill Krieghoff and I went up to Lake McDonald to 
open camp. With just the two of us we found it extremely 
lonely. As always after nine months' absence, needles and 
twigs and so forth the winter's windfall had drifted over 
everything; all outlines were blurred. You could see that it 
woifld need only a few years' emptiness for the cabin itself 
to bog down and become again part of the woods. 

"Now if we just had a couple of girls!" said Bill who 
had a weakness for ladies. 

I would have wasted the morning exploring the trails 
but Bill was more conscientious, so we turned to and put in 
a hard days' work, dug out the spring of ice water it always 
filled up with cedar fronds and a queer black oozy muck as 
rich as velvet got up on top of the cabin and cleaned the 
needles out from between the shakes (if you don't, the roof 
will leak) and swept out the living room and got lunch and 

Somebody had given Aunt Nancy a gilded cow-bell with 
a red ribbon which she used as a dinner bell you could hear 
it a long way through the woods, much further than a voice 
and when we finished the roof and began to clean the 
living room, I hung the bell outside the back door in the open 
dog-run between the cabin and the kitchen. In Missouri the 
dog-run is a roofed-over porch between two cabins. 

That night when we were turning in Bill already in 
bed and I standing by the table about to blow out the lamp 
the bell gave a sudden and startling clang. Just one it 
didn't keep on jingling as a cow-bell does after you give it 
a shake. It rang that once, then stopped entirely, exactly as 
it would if you rang it and then put your hand on it to kill 
the vibration. (I had a very vivid picture of a grizzly stand- 
ing up on his hindlegs, trying to look in over the top of the 


Horses Of Humiliation 

door, accidentally striking the bell and then immediately 
putting his paw on it to stop it. In fact, I have that picture 
yet, it startled me so, that sudden clang in the silence of 
the forest.) 

Bffl, equally startled, said: "Who did that?" 

Me, whispering: "I guess a trade-rat must have jumped 
against it." 

"I haven't heard any rats/' said Bill (they're noisy pests 
you can hear their every move up on the roof) "and any- 
how no rat would put his paw on the bell to silence it. His 
paws aren't big enough." So Bill had the same mental picture 
a bear or something tall enough to reach the bell and intel- 
ligent enough to muffle it. 

"Maybe it's some joker trying to scare us." We were a 
mile from the nearest camp and I never knew any joker to 
go prowling around in the pine woods at night where you 
can't walk a yard without stumbling over a root or a down 

By then Bill was out of bed and shouted in a big voice 
as if he were seven feet tall, "Who is It?" 

No answer, not a sound; the whole forest held its breath. 
So did we. 

"Well, we better find out!" said Bill: so he took the 
poker and the lanternthe double-bitted ax was outside, 
stuck in the wood block and I got the .22 automatic we 
used on rats; and we opened the door, very cautiously, and 
looked out and saw nothing except the leaping shadows and 
the empty dog-run; and finally we went out and poked 
around getting braver every minute but never discovered 
who or what rang the bell, rang it and then silenced it so 

"It's silly," said Bill, "but just the same I'm glad Tm not 
here alone," 



So was I fear shared is fear cut in half but fear alone 
is fear doubled. 

Such fears vanished before the morning sun and I didn't 
hear a cow-bell again till I went to get the mail. There was 
an old beaver meadow back in the woods which Apgar used 
as a pasture, and as I went by on the road I heard the beU 
clanging fast, and here, at a clumsy gallop, came a milk cow 
with bag swinging, and face down across her back and kick- 
ing her ribs was a small boy in knee britches. 

He knew I came from the Charlie Russell camp and slid 
down and let the cow walk and informed me that his family 
were staying in one of Apgar's cabins and especially that 
his cousin, the delectable Polly which isn't her namewas 
staying with them. I had seen Polly in Great Falls and ad- 
mired her from a distance she couldn't see me, being too 
surrounded by boys but here at the Lake where there was 
no competition she could and did behold me. Behold and 
waylay. Every morning when I went to get the mail Polly 
was there, giggling. Being Charlie's nephew had something 
to do with this and also the aforesaid lack of competition. 
There seemed to be no other young men around. I was, as 
always, not very enterprising: I never went near her in the 
afternoon and never thought of inviting her to camp. 

This continued after the Russells came down from 
Canada where they met the Duke and Duchess of Con- 
naught. Connaught, mind you, an Irish title, and he was so 
Teutonic and spoke such thick and gutteral English that 
Charlie could hardly understand him, while his wife was 
just plain hausfrau. Very plain. Charlie also met the famous 
Princess Pat and either then or later her royal cousin the 
Prince of Wales now Duke of Windsor and sold him a 
painting of the Northwest Mounted. 

"You know," said Charlie, summing it up, "Bill Ranee 
with his yellow mustache especially when he's had a couple 


Horses Of Humiliation 

o drinkslooks more like a duke in five minutes than these 
English royalties would in twenty years. His Grace of Con- 
naught ought to be selling sausages God gave him just the 
figger to fill an apron," 

But Nancy was, as always, much more American: she 
thought Princess Pat really lovely, while as for Wales well, 
as we would say nowadays, he was just out of this world. 
Thus Nancy, her very soul kowtowing. 

She, of course, was the one who sold the picture. Swoon- 
ing with admiration for your victims is a sure way to sell 

But let's get back to Polly. As I did every morning. 

Except when we were out in the canoe her family were 
always around, grinning and goggling; and they shrieked 
with laughter when Polly announced that she had made a 
"poem" about me, which she recited, sparkling: 

"Green leaves Russell in the morning/' 

(Rustle and Russell, get the subtlety of it?) 

That's all there was just that one line. In those days 
I had a notion that girls were not very bright but this seemed 
a singularly pointless joke even for a girl. 

But it had point all right, my trouble being that I didn't 
know the context. For there was a Green, a tall, skinny, 
amorous and irascible Mr. Green who drove the afternoon 
stage. Mornings he clerked in the store at Belton; it was only 
after noon that he saw Polly; and I, fetching the mail, saw 
her only ante-meridian. Now Green knew about me but I 
didn't know about Green. 

Then came the noon when we met. Low noon for me. 
It was just my luck to have Charlie and Bill row over with 
me that day. The stage was in; everybody saw us coming in 
the rowboat. And there on the beach, on the jingling, jang- 
ling pebbles, Green was waiting. He asked what I meant by 



poaching on Ms preserves or words to that effect. Though 
taken by surprise I made a witty answer. The rest of the 
plot is too painful why resurrect a lot of bloody knuckles 
and black eyes? The knuckles were mostly his'n, the eyes 
mine. I never met anyone so overstocked with knuckles. 

Charlie's brutal side came out: he seemed to think it 
funny. He displayed no trace of tribal solidarity; it never 
even occurred to him to avenge me. 

Bill, of course, was in raptures. 

The next day was even worse. Somebody I don't re- 
member who had a couple of horses at Apgar's and offered 
to let Bill and Charlie ride them up the old Oil Road to a big 
beaver meadow back in the hills. As it fell out, Charlie and 
Nancy had to go to the head of the Lake to see a prospective 
picture-buyer, so I rode with Bill instead. Polly, her lad 
cousin and several others accompanied us when we went 
to get the horses. We discovered that they were bridled but 
not saddled the saddles were at the Post Office. 

I had never ridden bareback and when I laid my hand 
on the horse's withers, that convenient hump at the top of 
the shoulder, and vaulted into place astride his back, I, so 
to say, over-vaulted. I couldn't stop there. His back was 
slick, there were no handles or anything to catch hold of, 
and I slid right off the other side and fell flat on my stomach. 
I was slim then and had practically no stomach but I con- 
trived somehow to light on it and it knocked the wind out 
of me. 

Alarmed by my thunderous fall, Polly and the others all 
asked, "Are you hurt? Are you hurt?" 

Of course, I was hurt but I couldn't say so, couldn't say 
anything but Awk! run around in a circle, hold on to my 
stomach and say, "Awk! Awk!" 

Bill, as unsympathetic as he had been at the massacre 
on the beach, called me the Great Auk. The Auk-if you don't 


Horses Of Humiliation 

happen to know is an arctic bird; he traverses the frozen 
wastes of the pole on tireless wing and no matter what won- 
derS he may see white rainbows, triple suns, the flaming 
splendors of the aurora borealis all he says is "Auk!" 

Which perhaps offended Providence and explains his 
now being extinct. 

But it was Polly who hurt me most. As soon as she saw 
I wasn't actually broken in two, she went back to Apgar's 
and told everybody, "He got on the horse: the horse started 
to walk, he fell off." 

Surely those were horses of humiliation. I led them 
no more vaulting to the Post Office and saddled up and 
we mounted, Bill still being funny about the Great Auk. 
I was cautious, he was not; the horses had not been exercised 
for a week. At the first touch of the spur Bill's charger bolted 
and started at a dead run not across the bridge and up to the 
beaver meadow but straight down the road to Belton. It 
was a snaffle, not a spade-bit, and Bill had no more control 
over his mount than if he were riding an avalanche. He 
"pulled leather," got a death grip on the saddle horn, and 
even so it was all he could do to stay on. 

I followed at a gallop I knew enough to keep my 
horse's head up and not let him run but didn't overtake 
him till we got to the very bottom of Belton Hill. By that 
time I was scared afraid his horse would miss the sharp 
turn at the bridge and hurl over the bank into the Flathead 

However, the horse stopped of its own accord and we 
turned back toward Apgar's. Bill complained that his BVDs 
had rolled up his leg and chafed him but he didn't dare get 
down and investigate he was afraid the horse wouldn't let 
him mount again so we rode all the way to the Beaver 
Meadow, a lonely, haunted-looking place, knee-deep in 
rustling yellow grass and walled all around the edge with 



solemn pine trees. Over their tops, as if craning up on tiptoe 
to stare at us, we saw the snow mountains* 

It was noon by then and we dismounted and drank at 
the creelc and ate our sandwiches and let the horses graze; 
but when we came to mount again Bill let out a yell as soon 
as he touched the saddle. This time he did investigate and 
discovered that five inches of hide had been removed from 
the inner side of his thighs; the BVDs, rolled up in a ridge, 
had rasped him like a file. He couldn't ride; he walked all 
the way back to camp; I led his horse, and it was nearly a 
week before he healed. 

By way of consoling him, Charlie wrote on the screen 
which served as the camp register: 

Hark to the saga of Duck-leg Bill 

Who ran Ms horse down Belton Hill: 

He kept his seat to all's surprise 

Tho skinned from his knees plumb up to his thighs, 

At Apgar's they pointed us out to tourists as the Twin 
Horsemen of Buffs Head Lodge. "The funny looking one 

fell off when his horse started to walk. The other stayed on 
but he rode himself raw behind/' 



Anecdotes Of Lake McDonald 

Charlie's summer camp was built in a clearing a hundred 
yards up the hill and in front the ground sloped steeply down 
to the lake, a slope carpeted, every inch of it, not with grass 
but with glossy and slippery pine needles the color of bronze. 
Rising like columns from that shining floor, and as straight 
as if drawn with a ruler, the trees stood up in their ranks 
all around the clearing. There was no underbrush the slope 
looked as if it had been swept that morning. 

In front of the main cabin was a porch of hewed logs 
so wide it was really a terrace. There, on warm days, Charlie 
worked at his easel. A monumental stair, also of hewed logs, 
led up to the porch. There was nothing flimsy or rickety, 
no Southern shanty look to cabin or porch or stair; all were 
solid and massive as stonework. And they were not bleached 
or whitewashed like a Missouri cabin these logs were a 
dark cedar red. The roof, of course, was cedar and shone 
in the sun. 

The trees rising tier on tier, a hundred feet above the 
top of the chimney, concentrated the sunlight and funneled 
it down; on a bright day the whole clearing glowed. Ap- 
proaching through the timber you would see the glowing 
open, all gold and amber, and up the slope and watching 
you and mysterious looking the cabin, dark and secretive 
under its eaves. The brighter the day the darker the eyes, 
which is to say the windows, of a log cabin. It may be as bare 
as a bam inside; it always seems to hide secrets. 



Charlie's cabin had secrets too, but I didn't know them. 

Behind the main cabin, at right angles to it, and joined 
to it by a "dog-ran/' was the kitchen cabin, and behind that 
a long shed, just roof and uprights, for firewood. 

Apgar built the cabins and the porch, but Charlie sup- 
plied the two figures that guarded the stair. They were 
eighteen inches high, an Indian and a Gnome, not carved 
but pieced together out of twisted roots and odd-shaped 
twigs and branches. The Gnome had hair of green moss, the 
Indian of black. The pine woods are full of greenish-gray 
moss but the black is hard to find. On our walks through 
the timber Charlie was always on the lookout for black moss 
and for queer and suggestive bits of roots and branches. 
Several times every summer the trade-rats stole the black 
moss from the Indian; they wouldn't touch the green. 

Both these figures were lean and angular, neither had 
a white beard, neither wore a red coat or boots, and yet 
visitors almost invariably exclaimed, "Oh look, Santa Glaus!" 

Apparently Santa Glaus is America's only mythology. 

Beside the guardians of the stair, Charlie made smaller 
figures down by the spring, both Indian and white, a lodge 
or teepee, and a miniature log cabin. But these, not being 
nailed down, had to be taken in whenever we left camp be- 
cause tourists stole them. However, there weren't many tour- 
ists; there were no cabins beyond ours on that side of the 
Lake and weeks would go by without anyone coming near 

And without people there is peace, especially in the 
pine forests of the Rockies, so much more silent than the 
Missouri woods. That is the first impression the mountains 
make on you Here Is Peace. 

Too peaceful for Charlie who was beginning to get mid- 
dle-aged and restless. After a few days in camp with only 
the family around he wanted to "see people.** Except right 


Anecdotes Of Lake McDonald 

at summer's end they always had three or four guests; one 
summer they had eighteen at one time. Which was like run- 
ning a hotel; it was also very expensive. Every ounce of food 
had to be brought in from Kalispell and Columbia Falls, and 
in the mountains people who at home live on salad and 
crullers eat like lumberjacks three times a day. 

That summer there were real lumberjacks in the forest. 
Of course, they couldn't fell trees in the Forest Reserve but 
Apgar had sold part of his timber and if you went to the foot 
of the Lake you could hear the axes all day, and the saw, and 
the cry of warning, and the unmistakable sound of the falling 
tree, which hurt Charlie so that he wouldn't go there. But 
the rest of us did, and watched them at work, and crossed 
over the crest to the steep hill above the Flathead River 
and the deep groove in the slope where they snaked the 
logs down to the water. They didn't need to build a flume. 

The groove was black and polished like the slot worn by 
Fafnir between the Rhinegold and the Rhine down which at 
dawn each day he went to drink. Fafnir, you know, had been 
a man until the gold he hoarded turned torn into a snake, the 
Long-Worm of the swamp. 

And lo, amid the ruin, 

a monstrous serpent rolled: 
And I knew that that worm was Fafnir, 

the waUower on the gold. 

The American Fafnir, Big Business, was now wallowing 
and making a ruin of the woods right at the edge of our 
National Park, and Charlie was the only one in camp with 
sense enough to resent it. The rest of us, being good Ameri- 
cans, just watched the worm at work, awestruck by his glit- 
tering efficiency. 



For ceremonial and magical reasons the plains Indian 
sometimes carried a Coup-Stick, decorated with feathers and 
as long as a lance but usually curved at the top like a shep- 
herd's crook. Charlie didn't carry a Coup-Stick but he carved 
several canes for use on the trail. You need a cane in the 
morning because the big gray spiders of the country spin 
their webs, head-high, right across the trail and the best 
way to keep from getting a face-full is to hold a cane in 
front of you as you go along. 

What monkey sees, monkey does. I also tried my hand 
at canes and carved a gaudy toucan, red, green, yellow and 
black, with a beak so big you could hook it over your arm. 
Charlie's own cane was headed with an OwL The Gray 
Owl was the medicine man of the Little People, dwarfish 
creatures the Indians saw at dusk. They stood knee-high 
to a man, just about the size of the two guardians of Charlie's 
stair, and dressed like full-sized Indians but it wasn't safe to 
see them because they were wizards and didn't like to be 
spied on. In both name and in nature they corresponded very 
closely to the Little People of the Irish peasants. In Hiawatha 
it was these Little People who lay in wait for Kwasind the 
Strong Man and caught him asleep in his canoe and killed 
him with pine cones. I remember writing a "theme" on that 
in school. 

Charlie was always experimenting. The forest is full of 
fungi of different kinds, and one kind which forms in a sort 
of shelf at the foot of trees is black and ugly underneath but 
on top a beautiful creamy white or a soft pearl-gray or fawn- 
color, and you can write or draw on it with a pin. Charlie 
drew little figures, deer and so forth, but you never could 
tell what that particular piece of fungus would do some- 
times the whole top turned black and leathery, sometimes 
the picture just faded away like ghost-writing, but sometimes 
it stayed gray or fawn-color with the drawing etched on it 


Anecdotes Of Lake McDonald 

in a deep rich brown. Often, in a mysterious fashion, just 
part of the picture would fade. 

Here's an improbable happening: 

Back of the cabins and at the up-edge of the clearing 
was a hole and in it a pile of tin cans. One morning when 
Krieghoff and I were alone he saw a weasel run into the pile. 
He called me and I got the .22 automatic and we beat on the 
pile and poked around in it with a stick but the weasel sat 
tight and said nothing. Finally, on the off chance that the 
reverberation would scare him out, I shoved the muzzle into 
an opening between the cans and fired. A .22 doesn't rever- 
berate very convincingly, not even in a pile of tin cans, and 
the weasel still lay low. 

An hour later Bill went that way again, and there, six 
feet from the pile and stretched out flat, his nose yearning 
toward the woods, was a dead weasel with a bullet hole in 
his neck. 

I don't expect you to believe this. I hardly believe it 
myself and yet it happened. 

When Charlie came back from the head of the Lake 
he sat down on his heels and skinned the weasel and 
stretched it on a little frame to dry a bent twig made the 
frame and the bend, trying to straighten itself, kept the skin 
stretched taut and he took it back to Great Falls, where it 
hung for years in his studio. He also at various times skinned 
and dried several trade-rat pelts. They have a nice gray fur, 
white underneath, but as soon as you dry it the hair comes 
out in patches and makes it look mangy and motheaten. 

It always surprised and frequently offended practical 
people to see Charlie devote just as much effort and care 
and skill to this sort of thing as to his most important picture. 
Whatever he did it was a pleasure to watch him, he was so 
deft with his hands; with slightly different brain convolu- 



tions he would have made a great surgeon. As an eastern 
highbrow remarked, to see Charlie throw a one-man dia- 
mond hitch was an esthetic experience. I looked the word 
up in Nancy's high school dictionary and thenceforth spoke 
with authority on the subject. Which Charlie endured quite 
patiently but Nancy sometimes rebelled and remarked that 
after all Charlie was the artist, not me. 

But to get back to the weasel. The reason Bill and I were 
so anxious to kill him was that Nancy had brought up to 
camp a crate full of chickens. They were not fenced in, 
they never left the clearing, I never saw one venture into the 
woods; but they did so well in the open, scratching up bugs 
and things, and their combs were so red which, according 
to Charlie, is a sign of health and happinessand kept up 
such a contented clucking al day that it was a pleasure 
to hear them. There wasn't a rooster within a hundred miles 
but the hens didn't seem to care. 

"What?" asked Charlie, straightening up from the two- 
man saw to contemplate the chickens we were always 
straightening up from the two-man saw, willing to con- 
template anything except the saw "what does a rooster win 
by his fine feathers and all his strutting and bragging? The 
hens never look at him. The only time they know he's around 
is when he gives them the works and that lasts less than 
a minute." 

Whereupon Bill, who was quite a rooster himself and 
wore his hair en brosse like yellow feathers and strutted 
and stuck out his chest, told an early modem joke about 
a hen crossing the highway and being run over by a Ford. 
When it had gone on she got up and shook her feathers and 
said, "My goodness, what a rough rooster!" 

"She was as flattered," quoth Bill, "as a middle-aged 
woman who gets her tail slapped by a drunk." 


Anecdotes Of Lake McDonald 

Now these hens of Charlie's were strictly an urban 
product, born and bred in the city-Great Falls calls itself a 
city-since issuing from the egg they had never seen a 
chicken hawk or an eagle or any bird of prey. Yet when 
at noon a big fish-hawk flew over the clearing he didn't 
scream or circle or descend, just swooped overhead, high 
up, on his wide wings-the hens were so terrified that they 
hid all the rest of the day. How did they know? At sundown 
Charlie and I, rounding them up, found two wedged in 
behind a big trunk in the dog-run. 

Did you ever hear the coffin-bird back in the woods 
making his coffinyou never see himand the hollow sound 
as he drops the lid and hops around on it to make sure it 
is soul-tight? 

Even the woodpecker, the wise little peckerwood, of 
no importance whatever in the bird-full woodlands of Mis- 
souri, becomes quite an impressive person in the empty and 
silent pine forest of the Rockies. He's bigger and black with 
just one streak of red feathers on his crest. You go alone 
along the trail and off to the right and so close that you 
feel sure you can see him by stooping under the branches 
you hear a lumberjack at work, chop! chop! chop! It sounds 
exactly like an axe. Suddenly it stops as if he heard you 
coming a black bird flies across the trail, and in a minute 
you hear the axe again, off to the left. 

Back in the woods, away from the lake, there was an- 
other woodcutter, in human form, whom I never heard but 
saw several times from a distance. 

If you went up the old abandoned trail back of the 
cabin, up over the hill, you came to the old abandoned "oil 
road," and if you went up the road a couple of miles, past 
one of my landmarks, a broken, split-open tree which the 
ants or termites or something had tunneled into a delicate 
brown lacework of arcades and galleries and balconies, you 



came at last to a side trail not made by man the woods 
are full of them a long natural alley-way leading off into 

the timber, and if it was the right hour of the evening, and 
if the light was just so, there, at the far end of that alley-way, 
you saw and it startled you, having thought yourself en- 
tirely alone a woodsman standing there quite still with one 
hand on his axe. He made no sound, he didn't do anything, 
just stood there. It was too far to see his face but his pose 
showed he was watching you. He looked intensely real. And 
very tall. 

I knew it was illusion, an effect of the light through the 
branches; I knew that if I went down that alley-way he 
would vanish; but I was a cowardly pup, I never went there, 
just watched him from the road as he watched me. 

I went back several evenings and saw him. He always 
gave the effect of having stopped whatever he was up to 
just when he heard me coining, 

I told Charlie but it was a long walk and nobody in camp 
would go that far to look at an illusion, which, were there 
two of us, might not be there. 

Here is the only white man's ghost story I ever heard 
Charlie tell. He told it in an appropriate setting. It was 
after supper, the sun had gone but there was still light in the 
sky, we had just returned from a packtrip up over Gunsight 
Pass and there must have been a dozen of us sitting around 
a fire on the beach, before us the lake, as still and as smooth 
as a mirror, and at our backs the pine forest as black as ink. 
I went to get more firewood and missed the first part of the 
story and so didn't learn until later where Charlie got it. I 
supposed he heard it from one of the hunters he met when 
he was with Jake Hoover. 

The story concerned two trappers who followed a 
branch of the river up a likely looking valley and saw plenty 


Anecdotes Of Lake McDonald 

of old beaver signs. This was in early days when the moun- 
tains were still unexplored, when there wasn't a clearing 
anywhere except those made by the beavers. 

The farther they went up the valley the thicker the tim- 
ber got too thick for packs so when they came to an old 
beaver meadow with good grass they unsaddled and turned 
loose the horses and made camp. There were still a couple 
hours of daylight so they went afoot up along the river to 
where it forked, and they agreed that next morning Bill 
would go up the north fork and Jim up the south and 
string their traps a very lonely business. 

When they got back to the meadow, the horses weren't 
grazing but hiding in the edge of the timber and a bear or 
something had messed up their camp, broken down the 
windbreak they made and knocked things around. Jim be- 
gan to rebuild the windbreak but Bill said, "You notice any- 
thing funny about those tracks?" 

Jim looked: "Well, they're very big. It's a grizzly not 
a black bear." 

"Notice anything else?" 

"No, what do you mean?" 

"That bear's walking on his hind feet." 

Sure enough, they couldn't find any place where he 
had got down on all fours. 

Of course, a bear does rare up on his hind legs to look 
around or to claw a tree, and sometimes he walks a few 
paces that way but never very far. 

That night they were woke up by something big smash- 
ing around in the timber and moaning and carrying on, and 
it made Bill so uneasy-especially the moaning, which was 
terrible that he built up a bright fire and lay awake with 
his rifle until almost daybreak, but Jim went back to sleep. 

Next morning early they set out to string their traps, 
and Bill hadn't been alone an hour before he began to get 



scary. There didn't seem to be any game at all, not even pine 
squirrels or chipmunks; no birds nothing and yet he got 
the notion he was being followed. He backtracked a couple 
of times but didn't see anything. 

As soon as he had set his traps he hurried home to the 
meadow and was surprised to see smoke going up and his 
partner already starting to get supper. Jim seemed glad to 
see him, and they ate and smoked and started to roll out the 
blankets, and then Jim surprised him again by saying, "I 
got plenty wood let's keep the fire going and take turns 
to watch." 

They did and nothing happened. Along in the night 
they thought they heard that moaning up the valley, but 
it was far off. Later, on towards morning, in Bill's watch, 
he heard it coming back again, but it stopped at the edge 
of the timber. Evidently the bear was afraid of the fire. 

Although they hadn't really seen anything except those 
tracks Bill was more uneasy than ever, but ashamed to say 
so; and he was glad when Jim spoke up at breakfast and 
said, "I don't like this place let's get out of here," and they 
agreed to pick up their traps and pull out that afternoon 
as soon as they could and get outside the valley before 
sundown. They didn't say so but they had a strong notion, 
both of them, that it wouldn't do to stay another night. 

Bill collected his traps on a high lope and hurried back 
to the meadow, expecting to be first; but when he got to 
the edge of the trees he saw smoke going up and one horse 
already packed, and there was Jim sitting by the fire and 
taking it easy, leaning back against an old down tree. 

"Thank God!" said Bill, who didn't usually do much 
praying, and he looked at the sun and thought, "We got 
lots of time/' and it seemed kind of foolish to haul tail just 
because they saw a few bear tracks. And they were both 
old mountain men who had been trapping for years. 


Anecdotes Of Lake McDonald 

He called, but Jim didn't answer or even look around, 
and Bill went toward him, and all of a sudden it struck him 
that Jim was sitting with his head bent back in a queer 
way as if he was looking straight up. And there wasn't any- 
thing to look at but the sky no eagles, no fish-hawks, noth- 

Before he got to the fire, Bill knew his partner was 
deadhis neck was broken. Tracks back of the log showed 
what happened. The bear or whatever it was still walking 
on its hindlegs and taking long strides like a man had crept 
upon Jim from behind and grabbed his head with its fore- 
paws and bent it back and snapped his neck. 

Bill didn't stop for any funeral. He dropped his traps 
and got out of there right away. 

This story, told by the campfire, so impressed me of 
course, Charlie didn't tell it quite this baldly and briefly 
that next morning I urged him to write it and get it printed. 

"No," said Charlie, "other things being equal Yd rather 
not go to jail." 

"What's jail got to do with it?" 

"Well, in the first place, it's not my story. In the second 
place, it's already been printed and read all over the world. 
And in the third place if I tried to steal it, Teddy Roosevelt 
wouldn't just break my neck he'd tear my head off." 

When we went back to town I verified and found it in 
Roosevelt's book, and noted especially his remark that he 
suspected it was really a piece of European folklore, the 
old trapper who told it, though born in this country, being 
of German stock. 

It doesn't sound western. The Indians, of course, told 
ghost stories the plains tribes were always afraid of the 
timber and they had plenty of were-animals, bear-men, 
wolf -men, bird-men and so forth; but we have wiped out 



the Indians' culture, the white man despises this sort of 
foolishness and in all Montana there isn't even a second- or 
third-rate ghost. 

If you want to compare Charlie's version he had for- 
gotten some details and put in others of his own you will 
find the original on page 441 of Roosevelt's The Wilderness 

There was another bit of folklore current out West 
which I heard when I first went to Montana the joke about 
the tenderfoot who asked for a job at a sheep ranch. They 
said No, but he was so insistent that they finally told him 
to separate the lambs from the sheep and drive them into 
the corral. He was gone for hours and when at last he came 
in, long after supper, he said he had the most trouble with 
the little one with long ears. 

They didn't know what he meant by a lamb with long 
ears, so they went out to see and found he had run down a 
jack rabbit. And if you ever saw a jack take off across the 
prairie you know that calls for speed. 

This is a very ancient story not only in Europe but in 
Asia and told in particular of Perceval the Grail Hero, the 
innocent fool, who was so ignorant, and so agile, that when 
they sent him out to catch the goats he also caught a doe; 
and he described her as the big one who had lost her horns 
through running wild in the wood. They too didn't know 
what he meant by a goat without horns, and they too went 
out to see. 

When we broke camp, Bill Krieghoff returned with us 
to Great Falls, stayed there for months, painted an excellent 
portrait of old Mr. Trigg, a full length one, not so good, of 
Nancy, and others of Charlie, Albertine Raban, and Ben 
MacNair's daughter-this last, I think, his first professional, 
i.e., ordered-and-paid-for, portrait. When he finally went 
back to New York he found he had been away from home 


Anecdotes Of Lake McDonald 

too long Julie had grown used to doing without him, and 
the next we knew they were divorced. 

Bill married again, was devoted, so we heard, to his 
new wife, and set himself up in earnest as a portrait painter. 
He was successful and began to make a name for himself; 
but his wife died, and then Bill died, still comparatively 

A generation later, after World War II, I went through 
the card index in the art room at the New York Library. 
No mention of either Krieghoff or Philip Goodwin two good 
artists, both New Yorkers, and nothing to show they ever 



The Give-Away Dance 

Charlie had written and illustrated several short stories 
and got good pay for them and the editors asked for more, 
but it was like pulling teeth to get him to write. Drawing, he 
said, was natural like breathing; but writing was hard work 
like carving a stone. And he didn't think much of his carving. 

"You write it," he said when I kept urging him, and 
he told a story to me in detail but I was never able to write 
it. If I tried to put it in his words, it sounded stiff and un- 
natural; if I put it in mine there was no story. 

Here, as nearly as I can recall, is how it went: 

The Ky-yuse Indians often came over the mountains 
to trade for horses with the prairie tribes and sometimes 
they saw a girl they liked and traded women. Which is how 
Buffalo Horn, a Crow warrior, got him a Ky-yuse wife 
named Red Belt. She was a big, tall, fine-looking girl and 
the Crow women eyed her over and didn't like her; they 
looked at her sideways and thought her too proud for a 

Buffalo Horn didn't care what the women thought: 
she was good lovin' and he kept her several years, but they 
had no babies and in the end he got tired of her. He showed 
it and her pride came out and she began quarreling with 
him and spoke words that bit into his heart and made him 
hate her. Which is easy to do for people of different tribes. 

This time he didn't show it and she was too proud and 
too sure of herself to guess what he intended, 


The Give-Away Dance 

Some say the Indians were socialists. They were not, but 
they didn't have the strong property sense of the white man. 
The Indian owned the weapons he made and the horses he 
stole or captured in war, but the whole tribe hunted the 
buffalo in common followed the herd like a pack of wolves 
and everybody gorged or starved at the same time. There 
was no extreme wealth or abject poverty, and especially 
there was nothing to compare with the vast difference in 
outlook and interest which separates the modern workers 
from the rich man. (Of course, Charlie didn't go into all 
these details.) Among the prairie tribes everybody worked 
a little, and everybody loafed a lot. Hence the ancient joke, 
"the Indians do nothing except hunt, fish and frig, and in 
winter there is no hunting or fishing" 

Not only did the Indian lack property sense; if he acci- 
dentally got a lot of possessions he was apt some day when 
he was feeling good to call the camp to a feast, a Give-Away 

That's what Buffalo Horn did. He called the whole tribe 
to a feast and when they had eaten he stood up and made 
his talk and gave away all his possessions till he had nothing 
left except his lodge, his horses, his gun and his wife. 

"Stand up," said he to Red Belt, and he took her by 
the upper arm and turned her around, this way, that way, 
in the firelight, and showed her to the people, saying, "Here 
is a woman from over the mountains, a big, tall, healthy 
girl; but I wouldn't give her to a friend I wouldn't want 
to hurt him. I wouldn't give her even to an enemy; I'm not 
going to give her to anybody I'm going to throw her away! 
Anybody who wants her can have her." And he gripped her 
arm and swung her with all his strength and sent her spin- 
ning clear across the circle. 

You can imagine how the women laughed. 



Red Belt had not known what he intended but she knew 
better than to stay there by the fire. She ran right through 
the people down to the creek and hid in the brush till dark. 
She was ashamed and her heart was on the ground; but also 
she was full of hate and the longer she crouched there among 
the willows the harder her hate got. She wanted to kill Buf- 
falo Horn who threw her away and do it in such a fashion 
that it would shame the whole tribe, yes, the whole Crow 
Nation. But it wouldn't shame them if they caught her doing 
it, caught her and killed her. 

At first she didn't know what to do. 

The plains Indians had no discipline and almost no 
organization: except in war time they kept no watchthey 
trusted that to the dogs. 

But the dogs knew Red Belt's smell; they recognized 
her farther than they could see her and they didn't even 
snarl when just before moomise she crept into the lodge. She 
could hear Buffalo Horn breathing and knew right where he 
lay but it took her a long time to crawl up to him and roll 
down the blanket and count his ribs and find the place to put 
the knife pointwanning it first in her armpit so that the cold 
of the white man's steel wouldn't wake himand hold it 
steady, just barely touching, and raise her other hand with 
clenched fist and hit the handle with all her strength. She 
hit it, and the knife went in like that right into his heart. 

He jerked all over and she grabbed the blanket and held 
it to his mouth but he didn't even groan. 

She got down the white man's gun where it hung in 
its sheath from the lodge poles, and flint and steel, and 
hatchet, and ball and powder, and a skin of dried meat; 
and then she put a final shame on the dead man. She slipped 
off her breech-clout from between her legs and laid it flat 
across Buffalo Horn's face ("Of course,'" said Charlie, "you 
couldn't put that in") and she laughed at him in the dark, 


The Give-Away Dance 

being careful not to laugh aloud; and she raised the door-flap 
and crept out of the lodge, and out of the camp, and crossed 
the creek, and caught the best horse-an Apaloos-and by 
the time she got into the timber up the valley, one of the 
dogs had smelled the blood and put back its head and 
howled. He kept on howling till the others came over and 
sniffed around the lodge, and they too put up their heads 
and howled. They made the whole hollow ring. 

( Here Charlie put back his head and howled; but you 
can't do that in print. ) 

Haven't thought of it for years, but now, writing it, I 
can see Charlie standing in the near-dusk of the evening 
cabin would have been dusk except for the big skylight 
overhead-with paint on his palette thumb and in his other 
hand a cigaret and he gesticulating as he always did when- 
ever he told a story. He was as intent as if, almost, he iden- 
tified himself with Red Belt on her Apaloos horse up in the 
fringe of the timber looking down at the camp which had 
been her home and listening to the dogs howling. He made 
her seem not a bit less tragic than Argive Klytemnestra. 

"Now don't overwrite it," said Charlie, describing her 
flight to the mountains and up over them with the Crows 
hot on her heels, "and don't put in any poetry! Don't quote 
Homer or Omer or Corner ." (For Charlie knew that both 
Homer and Omar were poets but wasn't sure which was 
which.) "J ust te ^ & short and plain like an Indian would." 

But we never profit by advice; despite his warning, 
Klytemnestra got in. 

I couldn't write the stories Charlie told me, but he 
could and did put in pictures what I told him. I have a 
large unfinished watercolor which is unique the only Aztec 
picture Charlie ever painted. It illustrates a story I told him 



and it doesn't look like Charlie's work at all; the change of 
subject has somehow changed his style. 

Unless you have tried it, you cannot imagine what a 
seductive pleasure it is to have in the house an important 
but uneducated artist to whom you can impart all sorts of 
miscellaneous information. And Charlie was wonderfully 
patient; though he seldom believed what I told him he 
never refused to let me tell it. 

It was my habit to search with the eye of an eagle 
or of a buzzard for cultural items with which to enlighten 
his ignorance, and somewhere, probably at the public library, 
I came across one of the choicest gems in the treasury of 
modern art: how the Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh went 
with his tough boy friend ( Gauguin ) to a bawdy house where 
one of the girls, unable to admire anything else about him, 
professed to admire his ears; she said they were "jolie." 
Poor Van, unused to female admiration, was so overwhelmed 
that he went home and cut off the ear and sent it to her in 
a box. 

"I bet that's a damn lie," said Charlie. "Some other 
artist invented it, somebody who was jealous of his painting." 

Charlie himself was the least jealous of men, and it was 
funny or rather it was revealing how many visitors thought 
to win his favor by attacking other artists. I remember a 
writer of two-gun westerns who cut loose with a diatribe 
against Frederick Remington, then, saying that he was a 
newspaper man, not an artist; that he could draw only one 
kind of horse and one kind of man; that the only way to tell a 
Remington cowboy from a Remington Indian was that the 
cowboy wore a flop hat and a big yellow mustache; that 
Remington himself got so grossly fat that he couldn't ride 
horseback but had to be hauled around in a cart like a 
prize pig; and, finally, that he died of overeating. 


The Give-Away Dance 

"You suppose it's true?" I asked when the writer had 

"Well, he did get fat/' said Charlie, "and he died com- 
paratively young, but that, as Bill Krieghoff would say, is 
not a Valid' criticism of his art." When Charlie used a word 
like "valid" or other bits of critical jargon, he always put it 
in quotation marks to show it wasn't his. He couldn't help 
picking up some of the talk he heard in New York studios 
but he always regarded it as artificial imported stuff, appro- 
priate, perhaps, to Europe but not to us. 

Til bet," said Charlie, "that years from now when some 
critic compares our pictures," (for as the result of hearing 
it so often he had accepted the idea, at first unthought of, 
that his work was historically important) "what he'll notice 
is that Russell and Remington saw the same country but 
not the same colors, and that's all a difference of light." 

As he got older, Charlie laid less and less stress on draw- 
ing and composition and more and more on light. I suppose 
he got this at second or third or fourth hand from the French 
Impressionists who were, they say, the first to realize the 
part played by light and how it breaks up color. Got it, of 
course, not by reading or study but from the people he 
met in New York. 

Not that Charlie was an admirer of French art. Years 
later when my sister was married and had a family and a 
home of her own, Charlie and Nancy visited her in Mil- 
waukee and she took them to the Art Museum. The director 
showed them around and pointed out a Corot. Charlie looked 
at it and said, "I wouldn't hang that in my chicken house." 

Nancy started to smooth this over but their guide 
admitted it was not a very good Corot. In plain words it 
was a "name picture," bought not because it was worth 
keeping but because Corot signed it. Most museums are 
full of name pictures. 



Charlie And Nancy As Partners 

Probably it's a good thing Charlie lived so far from the 
city and went there only once a year often every other year 
and had long months between to chew over what he saw 
and heard. Chew it over and reject a lot of it. Of course, in 
those days New York was only an outpost of Europe. Ameri- 
can artists of the traditional kind still wanted to go to Paris 
or Rome or London or even Berlin. 

In one way Charlie was lucky. Although he lived long 
enough to see the end of the old West, he died before the 
famous "American Dream" so unaccountably developed into 
something with all the earmarks of delirium tremens. This 
doesn't mean that Europe gave us D.T.s. We Americans did 
it ourselves; some Mammon-poison in us, a hardening of the 
arteries of the soul, a spiritual elephantiasis. 

Yes, Charlie was lucky luckier, for instance, than Joe 
DeYong who was born a long generation late. We first 
heard of Joe when he was about fourteen and sent Charlie 
a comical little wax horse and rider. Charlie wrote back a 
very nice letter but he didn't think the little figure showed 
any particular aptitude. There may have been other letters 
which I have forgotten but when, two or three years later, 
Joe appeared in the flesh, he had by dint of plain hard work 
and pertinacity become an unmistakable artist. 

Both Charlie and Nancy fell for him at the first meeting. 
So did the Triggs. 


Charlie And Nancy As Partners 

Joe was black-haired and of what he called "fox-terrier 
build," small, slim, alert, always up on his toes. Bom in Mis- 
souri St. Louis County but bred in the west, he had 
worked, quite young, as a rider in the movies. On location, 
shooting some western picture, they were caught in a sud- 
den snow storm and they in their shirts and all sweated up 
with hard riding and kept out in the wet snow for hours 
by a stubborn director, with the result that many of them 
got sick and Joe caught a chill which developed into pneu- 

Out of evil good and so forth it was during his long 
convalescence that he began to work seriously as an artist. 
Without that spell of sickness he might have gone on as a 
movie extra, developing logically into an actor and perhaps, 
with good luck, a star. But things didn't work out that way. 

Staying with the Russells a week or ten days at a time 
and working out in the studio he soon learned the Indian 
Sign Talk. 

Joe was a reader and already knew, theoretically, more 
about modern trends than Charlie, but as a western product 
his ideas of art were quite different from those expressed 
by Krieghoff and Marchand and Young-Hunter and the 
other painters I had heard hold forth. His interests were 
entirely western and the danger was that admiring Charlie 
so intensely he would become just a lesser C.M.R. But, as 
time showed, he was strong enough to keep his individuality. 

That summer, 1915 Charlie was fifty-oneJoe went up 
with us to Lake McDonald, and inspired by The-Thing-in- 
the-Forest, the suggestion so much stronger than on the 
prairie of presences other than human, he began almost at 
once to write a fantasy story not meant for print of the 
creatures he saw or imagined in the shadows. Charlie got 
interested and joined in with suggestions of his own good 
perhaps but different and then came something which im- 



pressed me greatly. Joe and It took no particular insight to 
see tow lie hated to do it spunked up and did what I could 
never have done, came out and said, flat and plain, what 
was in his heart. Namely, that Charlie's imaginings clashed 
with his and that he, Joe, must write the story his own way. 

This called for real moral courage. 

Charlie took it well he would and was not offended, 
and they got along together as nicely as before, but Joe 
wrote his own stories. 

Now Joe worshiped Charlie's tracks and I concluded 
that if he could do this he was in no danger of being diluted 
and subverted, as many an apprentice is by the overwhelm- 
ing presence of the master. 

When I met Joe again, many years later, he was on 
intimate terms with Will Rogers who called him Jodee 
Bill Hart and other notables, and was again working for 
the movies (Paramount), not as an actor but as an artist 
and an authority on Indian dress and Indian ways. 

I still have a rhyme, a western Rubaiyat, he wrote as a 

A fire, 

A can, 

An Irish stew: 

The moon, 

The stars, 

And me and you. 

and a line drawing of two tramps cooking supper in the 
lee of a railroad embankment. 

Charlie and Nancy would both have liked to adopt 
Joe but he was too big and had besides a couple of practic- 
ing parents of his own who seemed to be quite fond of him. 

When I first went to Montana they had wanted to 
adopt Skookum, as Charlie called him (meaning "good," 


Charlie And Nancy As Partners 

compare hyu-skookum-man in the artificial lingua franca 
invented by the Kootnai Indians), a little blond kid about 
five years old, the son of their cook; but his mother, a 
widow, was not willing to give him up; and when, later on, 
she married again and was willing, Nancy said No. Ever 
since then they had talked at intervals of having Doc Longe- 
way find them a baby; and now, perhaps with some pre- 
monition that his own life was not as safe as it had always 
seemed, Charlie began agitating the subject again. This 
would be 1916 with Charlie fifty-two. 

He wanted a girl, his argument being, *Tm older than 
you and I'll die first. If we adopt a boy he'll light out across 
country as soon as he grows up, or go to jail or something; 
but a girl stays home till she's married, and sheTl be com- 
pany for you." 

But Nancy wanted a boy. Nothing happened for months 
perhaps a whole year or more and then, quite suddenly, 
they adopted a: baby only a few weeks old and christened 
him Jack. 

Later, when they first went to California, my mother 
visited the Russells in Pasadena. By then Jack was three or 
four years old and stood no nonsense from Charlie who, 
of course, spoiled him but was abeady sufficiently wise in 
the ways of the world to hop around very lively when Nancy 
indicated that was the thing to do. We all of us hopped 
around very lively when Nancy was pacing the quarterdeck. 

That last sentence sounds faintly disparaging. What I 
meant was that Nancy got action out of everyone around her. 
Nobody could accuse her of driving Charlie, but without 
her he would have amounted to very little. He might have 
become as good an artist, but he would never have got any- 
where, certainly never have got as far as New York. 

But this is unfair to Charlie. He might have been a bet- 
ter artist without Nancy. All we can be sure of is that if 



left to himself he would never have competed with com- 
mercial artists and his development would have been quite 
different. Not necessarily better or worse but certainly dif- 

In this book Nancy is at a disadvantage; she appears 
as just a foil for Charlie. Actually she was very much a per- 
son in her own right. She was not only pretty but had great 
personal charm; all men fell for her, and most women. It 
was the masterful, overbearing, bossy women who disliked 

Nancy had one great defect her blind worship of the 
Bitch Goddess Success. And by success she didn't mean just 

All the time I was in Montana the Russells drew a steady 
income from contracts with either Brown & Bigelow or the 
Osborne Company, then the two biggest calendar outfits 
in the world. 

These contracts paid two thousand later four thousand 
dollars a year and required Charlie to submit four oil 
paintings of which the company had the right to reject two. 
They often did reject one or two and always for the same 
reason color. The mountains, or the sky, or the haze, or 
the distance, had too much purple, or the distance was too 
delicate and wouldn't reproduce. (Color reproduction was 
not nearly as good then as it is now. ) Did this worry, con- 
tinuing for years and it was a very real and serious worry- 
affect Charlie's use of color? 

The paintings themselves did not belong to the calendar 
company; all they bought was the right to reproduce. They 
returned the originals and Charlie could and did sell them. 
Their being used as calendars did not seem to affect the 
sales. These contracts ran for three years each, and Nancy 
was always able to renew them. 


Charlie And Nancy As Partners 

Many successful New York artists envied Charlie the 
security and peace of mind these contracts gave him. 

But the biggest credit mark against Nancy s name is 
that she had Charlie's models cast in bronze. He would 
have been content with wax and plasterboth impermanent 
but she insisted on the expense, the worry, and, for a long 
time, the disappointment, of casting in bronze. Charlie loved 
to model but was never satisfied with the castings he 
wanted more detail. 

Critics do not agree with him. Some of them set his 
bronze much higher than his paintings. 

I roused Nancy's ire by remarking that sculpture in 
the round should be in repose, not violent action. I had 
read that somewhere. 

Said Charlie, "What the kid wants is a wooden cigar- 
store Indian with lots of red and green and gold, and eye- 
balls painted chalk white and the eyes glaring/' 

Charlie himself was a little inclined that way: most 
of his plaster figures were polychrome. He did however 
model Nancy a nymph and a frog and paint it bronze green; 
and they had, up on the stair landing, a big plaque in low 
relief, colored the same way, which I prefered to most of 
the real bronzes. 

If left to himself, Charlie was not very practical; he 
would devote just as much care to things not meant to sell. 
For instance, he took an old-fashioned boys' book of mine, 
Frank on the Prairie, and extra-illustrated, or rather illu- 
minated it, with chapter headings and tail pieces in ink 
and watercolor. Most of the figures are quite small, Indians, 
trappers, animals, less than half an inch high. 

He also made me a full sized water color of Attila the 
Hun I had been expatiating on how he kept the white men 
jumping sideways and on his spectacular death by spontan- 
eous combustion after a five days' drunk and another of 



Parthian Gotarzes with horn-bow and scale armor. Also a 
crusader in oil. All are mounted and none of them look like 
Charlie's other work. Then too but this is a mere sketch 
I have a drunken Nero, complete with olive wreath and a 
brutal grin. Also another sketch a Mandrill monkey with 
livid blue and vermilion at both ends. 

But to get back to Nancy. You could see her effect on 
Charlie all the time, and not merely in his work. When she 
made him dress for dance or reception and put on his dark 
blue double-breasted coat and starched white shirt and black 
silk sash with spreaders in it to keep it from rolling up in 
a rope as ordinary sashes do the sash was wide enough to 
take the place of a vest Charlie suddenly became a very 
distinguished personage. Clothes didn't make him he al- 
ways had a fine-looking head and a good figure but they 
certainly improved him. And when he was wearing that 
sash he stood up straight; he didn't, as he expressed it, go 
around with a hump like a buffalo. Nobody who knew him 
could imagine Charlie dressing up like that of his own ac- 
cord, and nobody could have made him except Nancy. 

Whether or not her activities interfered with his devel- 
opment as an artist, you can certainly say this much for 
Nancy she made Charlie a material success. 

When one of the ladies of the family had read the 
proof this far she objected, "You harp continually on Nancy's 
success but never mention her devotion to Charlie. She was 
devoted: to her he was the perfect man. After his death" 
for Nancy was the younger and long outlived him "she 
tried to keep herself busy by selling pictures, but it was 
no good. She could sell only pictures she believed in, and 
the only pictures she really believed in were Charlie's." 



The Twilight Wolf 

Kveld-ulf our Norse ancestors called it, the Twilight 
Wolf, and their last prophecy ends with the ominous sen- 
tence, "When the Wolf comes to Asgard." 

Asgard, you know, means God-guard, the place where 
the Gods are safe. When the Wolf comes to Asgard, the 
Gods fall and that age, the age of innocence, comes to an 
end. Gotterdammerung the Germans called it but the Norse 
called it Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Godstwilight before 
the night which will have no end. 

1916 was my last summer at Lake McDonald and full 
of omens had I had the wit to recognize them that it was 
the last. 

But I was young then and had no philosophy and didn't 
know an omen when I saw it, not even when it turned on 
me and glared, green-eyed, in the twilight and popped its 

Instead of saying, "Here, embodied in beast form and 
quick and agile and more than a little terrifying, is a pre- 
sentiment of the years which now will run beside me to 
the end, yea, run away with me," all I said was, "My gosh, 
it's a wolf!" 

A wolf in a cage is not very impressive; a police dog or 
a mastiff look more dangerous; even a wolf on the prairie, 
though exciting, does not awe you; but a timber wolf in 



the timber is quite different. He is where he belongs, you 
are where you don't, and the stage is set in his favor. With 
one bound he can disappear in the wings, you can t; all you 
can do is walk you'd better not run and wonder on which 
side he is following you; being a wolf he certainly will 

The trail along the lake ran right in front of Charlie's 
cabin as straight as the string of a bow. Joining it at both 
ends and bent like a bow, a second trail curved up over the 
hill, an old abandoned trail no longer used by anyone but 
me. Full of supper and energy, it was my habit in the long 
northern evening to hurry, rejoicing, up over the hill and 
along the crest and beat twilight back to the lake. An exult- 
ant hurry which, though I didn't know it then, was really 
a sort of hymn to youth and health. A hymn without words, 
beaten out by my blood and my feet on the trail, my own 
feet running away with me. 

As summer deepened down into autumn and the even- 
ings shortened, I had to go faster and faster, almost run, to 
get down again to the water before dark. Even after it was 
pit-black in the timber, there was still a faint glow of light 
along the lake. 

That particular evening I had climbed the hiU and gone 
along the crest to where the trail joined the Oil Road so 
called because it once led up to oil fields in Canada and 
there, in the road, I walked right up on a wolf, the first 
time I ever saw one in the timber. In that light he looked 
almost black. He also looked very big. 

I saw him but he didn't see me. He was standing alert, 
side toward me but with his head turned away, watching 
the road intently as if expecting something to come up 
around the bend. The wind was from him to me, my moc- 
casins made no noise and he didn't hear me. 


The Twilight Wolf 

Before I could decide what to do he suddenly turned 
without looking back-and trotted quickly down the road 
and around the hend. As soon as he was out of sight I hur- 
ried after him, running on my toes. I was tremendously 
excitedwhat they call buck-fever. 

The oil road, zig-zagging steeply down the hill, this 
way, that way, bends every few yards, and when I reached 
the second bend there he was, still trotting ahead of me 
and just about to disappear around the third. 

As soon as he did I ran after him. 

I followed him like that around four bends but at the 
fifth I pulled up with a jerk he had stopped and was stand- 
ing not ten feet ahead, still intent on the road below. 

But this time either I made a noise or the wind had 
changed. He suddenly turned his head and looked back 
over his shoulder and saw me. He made a startling mask, 
his prick ears, his laughing jaws, his lolling tongue; in that 
light, or lack of it for it was getting darker every minute 
his eyes were not yellow as they should be, but as green as 
glass, and perfectly round and apparently without pupil. 

For a long moment we stared at each other, startled; 
and then, without warning, not even snarling, he suddenly 
popped his jaws it made a surprising noise and turned like 
a flash and jumped over a big down tree alongside the road, 
and instantly and utterly vanished. This without any noise 
whatever except those popping jaws. 

He had jumped over that high log as lightly as a deer, 
just bounced, and the blackness beyond it swallowed him. 

Then I got worried. I couldn't see him and I couldn't 
hear a thing. He might be right on the other side of the log, 
or he might have already made off through the timber. But 
I had a notion he had not gone far and that though I couldn't 
see him he could still see me. And that his eyes were still 
green, and his jaws still laughing. 



1 hated to turn my back on him, but it was the only 
thing to do. 

I went all the way down the road, bend after bend the 
deeper down I went the darker it got but I was afraid to 
hurrysure all the time that he was trotting silently along- 
side, and though I knew that wolves do not jump grown 
people I was not a bit easy. It made my heart bound when 
at last through a sudden gap in the feathery black branches 
I saw the pale gleam of the lake. 

This was the second time that I had seen the water 
through the branches, and both times it meant safety, as 
if it said, "This way out of the wood/* 

That was my only encounter with the wolf; I never 
saw him again in his beast shape. Not much of an adventure, 
you will say, but it excited me. 

When the wolf came to Charlie it took a different form. 
Perhaps he had met it before in a wolfs shape this time 
it came as a spider. 

Again it was evening, though not quite twilight. We 
were coming in single file through the timber back of the 
cabin with Nancy as always ahead (like Joseph of Arimathea 
"Joseph who algates went tofore") and suddenly, in the 
shadowy brown silence I remember distinctly that the light 
was brown the woods, the light, the leaves, everything 
brown suddenly, in that shadowy peace and silence we 
were tired, nobody was talking the slope as slippery as 
glass and as steep as a roof, and Charlie's high heels be- 
trayed him. He slipped on the pine needles and wrenched 
his back badly and got a heavy fall he went down with 
a crash of broken twigs. It startled all of us. 

Nancy was frightened. She thought nothing of it when 
she keeled over in a faint, but Charlie was different. 


The Twilight Wolf 

We got him up, first sitting, then up on his feet, but he 
was too shaken to walk alone perhaps he suspected he 
hadn't slipped, that something else struck him downand 
Nancy and I half led him, half supported him the rest of 
the way to the cabin, the others trailing along behind, ex- 

We had supper and though Charlie handled himself 
very gingerly he seemed to be all right but unnaturally silent, 
as if listening to himself listening to the machinery running 
down? and we turned in hours earlier than usual. Along 
in the night, about two o'clock Nancy shook me out of a 
sound sleep and I heard the most horrible moaning. It filled 
the whole house. 

For a moment I didn't know what it was a painful, 
struggling gasp for breath and then a long groan of agony. 
It made your blood flow back. 

I got up, quaking, and in the circle of lamplight saw 
what there was to see Charlie lying sideways in bed, 
twisted up in a knot. He couldn't unbend, he couldn't talk; 
every breath was an agony. He wouldn't answer questions 
just that horrible moaning, which filled the whole room. 
You imagined it streaming out the window like a stream of 
mist and winding away through the woods; flowing, waist- 
high, through the woods, a white river of pain. 

We all thought him dying. 

Under Nancy's fierce direction I pulled on pants and 
sweater and moccasins, and went down and slid out the 
canoe and paddled across the lake flat, waveless, utterly 
still imagining that moaning long after I had stopped hear- 
ing it and landed at the Post Office and pounded on the 
door made the whole clearing echo till Apgar raised a 
window and threw down the key; and I opened and went in, 
striking matches, and found the phone and wound it up 
you had to wind it like a coffee-grinder and called Columbia 



Falls and the nearest doctor. The nearest doctor, but he was 
miles away and would have to come by train to Belton, and 
then by stage to Apgar, and then by boat across the lake. 

When at last I got him I wish I could remember his 
name he was very nice about it and promised to catch the 
earliest train and be at the lake by eight. 

There was no more to do. I left the key inside and the 
door unlocked and went down to the beach. 

Paddling over, I had been in too much hurry to notice 
things, but going back and afraid to get there, expecting to 
find Charlie dead I had time to take in the utter and ab- 
solute silence of the whole country, not a breath of air, not 
a ripple on the lake, not a single stir in the timber. 

The only sign of life was when half way over I saw some 
small creature a muskrat maybe swimming straight for 
the other shore, three miles away. 

As I drew near camp I saw first a pale speck the 
buffalo skull up on its pole to mark the landing and then 
the cabin, or at least its light through the branches; and 
as soon as I landed and pulled up the canoe and stepped 
off the noisy pebbles onto the needles, I heard Charlie moan- 
ing. A ghastly sound, and now it filled the whole country; it 
didn't seem to come from the house, it seemed to come out 
of the woods. 

Nancy heard the clatter of the pebbles and came down 
to meet me with a swinging lantern. I told her about the 
doctor and we went in. 

Charlie was lying there more twisted up than ever. We 
were quite sure he was dying and we didn't know what to 
do. At intervals Nancy tried to give him whiskey but he 
couldn't drink; his jaws were set like lockjaw. 

"Rigor mortis!'' I thought, and after that I couldn't 
think anything else Rigor mortis, Rigor mortis, it was like 
a tune in time to Charlie's moaning. 


The Twilight Wolf 

It came morning at last and time for the first stage, and 
I went over in the rowboat-Nancy wouldn't let me use the 
canoe-and got the doctor; and the very first thing he did 
was to take out his needle and give Charlie a shot. Even 
after all these years I remember the blissful fashion in which 
the moaning slowed down and died away. You could hear 
and see him floating off into that heavenly state, release 
from pain. His bent back straightened a little, his twisted 
arms and legs relaxed, and he sighed and began to breathe 
even with ease. 

I don't recall what else the doctor did, if anything, and 
we began talking about it. At first we blamed it on the fall, 
then somebody remembered that the day before something 
had bitten Charlie, he supposed a spider. There are plenty 
of spiders in the pine forests and once in a while you see 
a monster. But the doctor called it erysipelas and wouldn't 
commit himself as to what caused it and whether or not it 
could come from a spider's bite. 

He said however that Charlie could travel and would 
be better off at home, so we broke camp that same dayan 
exhausting business without Charlie's help and caught the 
night train to Great Falls. Although I didn't know it, that 
was my last sight of Lake McDonald. 

Charlie got over the bite or whatever it was and told 
me with an air of profound discovery, "You know, till that 
night, I never knew what a headache was. I supposed women 
had them women have all sorts of things but when a man 
complained of headache I thought it was just a sympathy 
play, that he wanted somebody to cry over him. But that 
night I found out!" 

He had lived more than half a century and never had 
a headache until then. 



The Big Mural At Helena 

Charlie had made colored illustrations for Indian Why 
Stones by the poet Frank Lindennan. Frank, somewhat 
younger than Charlie, a quick, energetic, impatient fellow, 
had led an active life, steamboating on the Great Lakes in 
early days, then hunting, trapping and prospecting out west, 
and, as the country settled up, graduating into politics, liter- 
ature and insurance. In which last he did so well that he 
was able to retire at forty-five and build himself a place on 
Swan Lake. Now, when I knew him, middle-aged, he had 
become a dapper, alert-looking person in nose-pincher 
glasses, still quick, still energetic and still impatient. His 
impatience was not diminished when he ran for election 
and was defeated by Jeanette Rankin, the first woman in 

He was greatly interested in the Indians and went at 
his own expense to Washington to try and do something 
for the landless and starving Crees. 

Frank was not the sort of person you could ignore; he 
had plenty of political connections and stirred up quite a 
commotion, but, as one of the Senators told him, "Mr. Lin- 
derman, these people talk about helping the Indian but 
they're not going to do anything because the Indian has 
no vote." 

And they didn't do anything. 

Frank returned, embittered, to Montana and solaced 
himself by persuading Charlie to go on a flat-boat trip down 


The Big Mural At Helena 

the Missouri from the Lower Falls to Fort Benton, a part 
of the river on which there are now no steamers nor any 
traffic at all. There were four of them, Charlie, Frank, Doc 
Murgatroyd of Helena, and a fourth person whom I never 
saw and whose name I do not remember. 

They had a small outboard motor which sometimes 
worked and sometimes didn'tmotors were new then and 
not very dependable-but the main idea was to drift with 
the current all day and camp ashore at night. 

Frank did the organizing and provided the boat but 
the Doctor supervised the provisions and along with the 
food he brought plenty of soap. When it came to stowing 
the cargo they discovered that either it was more bulky 
than they had figured or the scow was less roomy; and about 
every third item they handled seemed to be soap. 

"I didn't know this was a business trip/' said Charlie. 
"Doc must be starting a laundry/* 

"Hell!" said Frank at his most impatient, "that's too 
much soap!" and threw it overboard. 

It turned out to be like Kipling's Just-so Tiger All-the- 
Soap-There-Was, and they went the rest of the way without 

Then there was Dr. Murgatroyd's pillow. He brought 
it for his sole use, being a luxury-loving cuss, but in the 
confusion of embarking somebody ignited it with a cigarette. 
Instead of blazing up in one bright flame, as you would 
expect a pillow to do the living coal sank into it like seed- 
like spiritual seed into the soul and it began to burn intern- 
ally, smoking, smouldering, and stinking; and the four of 
them proved quite unable to quench it. They sat on it and 
smothered it and poured cupfulls of water into the burning 
part and finally dunked the whole thing in the river and 
then hung it up on twigs in the bow to dry. It never dried 
enough to use as a pillow, but, like the ever-burning lamp 



in a magician's tomb, it never went out. Days later they 
would suddenly notice a thin plume of smoke streaming up 
from the pillow's heart. Frank, an unbeliever, called it the 
Burning Heart of Jesus. 

Thus with a smoking pillow to guide them and no soap 
they descended the lonely reaches of the Missouri with its 
winding bed, its undercut mud bluffs they saw two of them 
fall and on the banks no sign of civilization except an oc- 
casional deserted shack, the abandoned home of some 
starved-out dryland fanner. They didn't see any cattle, or 
even sheep. 

"You'd almost think," said Charlie on his return, "that 
the country is really going back to the Indians. It looks 
exactly as empty as when I came here a generation ago. 
Emptier even, because then there weren't any deserted 

In other words, what the white man's celebrated energy 
has done is kill off the Indians, the antelope and the buf- 
falo; slash the forests, gut the mines, break the prairie sod, 
destroy the grazing (thousands of miles of good grassland 
destroyed forever) and turn natural pasture land into a 
dustbowL Which accomplished, the white man moved on, 
triumphant, to other things. 

Perhaps that's what the dinosaurs did with their world, 
and you know what happened to them. 

A cantankerous Briton who had lived in America must 
have had us in mind when he wrote: 

By the rubbish in our wake 

And the noble noise we make, 

Oh be sure we're going to do some wondrous things. 

Ostensibly he was describing the Banderlog, the Mon- 
key People, but really he meant us whom else could he 


The Big Mural At Helena 

"However/' said Charlie, who wasn't thinking about the 
Banderlog, "we saw what I haven't seen for years-dawn 
over the prairie, and not a house or a factory or a fence in 
sight. And gorgeous sunsets on the river." That's one ad- 
vantage of traveling in a scow; you can't help seeing the 
dawn it wakes you up. 

This trip, less than a week long, had a lasting effect on 
Charlie's art. All the years since he married he had been 
living in town, and in a town, no matter how small, you 
never see the whole circle of the horizon, never get the full 
splendor of the sky and dawn and sunset which are horizon 
mattersyou get only the blaze of noon. But now-as if in 
his youth when he lived on the range, he had not been able 
to appreciate what he saw, or not able to communicate it 
now he began to paint those ruddy glowing sunsets with 
Indians figures, not white men, which, to me at least with 
my barbarous taste for color, have more magic in them 
than all his previous pictures. Especially one where the 
Medicine Man on horseback, with arms outstretched, Sings 
the Sun Down. Charlie nowhere tells what song he sang 
but looking at the picture you can imagine that gutteral 
chant, repeated over and over until the sun is gone. 

Some years earlier (1909) Charlie had been invited to 
the Coeur d'Alaine country to help round up the last big 
herd of buffalo on what was then die Flathead Indian Res- 
ervation. The Reservation promised to the Indians and their 
children for "as long as the sun shines and the grass grows'* 
was about to be opened to the whites. 

Peblo, the half breed who owned the buffalo eight 
hundred head asked Uncle Sam to leave him a strip of range 
or else buy the herd. The U. S. Government vividly inter- 
ested in free land was not interested in buffalo. The Ca- 
nadian Government was interested, and grabbed them at 
two hundred and fifty dollars a head. (Afterward the U. S. 



set aside a pasture not thirty miles from Peblo's range and 
began a new herd with four buffalo, two of them given by 
Conrad of Great Falls.) Charlie camped with the Canucks 
who came to get the herd and was delighted to see wild 
horses still running loose. 

Peblo's riders were all either breeds or full bloods-a 
wild looking bunch-and with much hard riding they drove 
three hundred buffalo into a big timber trap; but when they 
saw they were cornered most of them broke back and got 
across the river. Said Charlie in a letter to Philip Goodwin, 
"I wish you could have seen them take the river they hit 
the water on a ded run that river was a tapyoker for them 
an they left her at the same gate " 

The riders went to bed that night with one hundred 
and twenty in the trap, but they woke up with only one 
cow: the rest had climbed the cliff and got away. Next day 
they caught only six, and then the first big autumn snow- 
storm made them call off the round up till next summer. 

In the end, of course, the Canadians got the herd and 
shipped them up across the Line, where they soon paid 
for themselves and began paying dividends. 

At Coeur d'Alainebut they pronounce it Coordaleen 
there were many French Canuck halfbreeds, the children 
and grandchildren of the original buffalo runners; and Char- 
lie told one of the oldest that he ought to write his memories. 
"Oh couldn't do thatr said the oldster, "they might hang me, 
you know." 

Lots of good stories must go untold for that reason. 

The oldster's son had two daughters, Marie and Isabel, 
who had been to school. Marie played the piano, Isabel sang. 
Her father, who, in his Franco-American English always 
put an H on her name, was very proud of her singing, 
"Hisabel, what song you goin* to sung now?" 

It made Charlie wish he had a couple of daughters. 


The Big Mural At Helena 

One of the riders on this round-up was a full-blood, a 
big, tall, fine-looking Indian called Almost-a-woman. When 
they had been camping together a few days, Charlie felt 
well enough acquainted to ask how he got such an odd 
name, he being one of the least effeminate looking men 
around there. 

"When I was bom/' said the buck, "the old women 
who were helping my mother came out of the lodge and 
told the tribe that it was a girl baby, and it was two or three 
days before my manhood came out; so they called me 

Charlie came home from this, his last round-up, with 
a lost feeling that another part of the world he knew had 
gone over the Line with the herd. 

In these, his middle-aged years, Charlie went on an 
expedition of some kind every autumn after he got back 
from his summer camp on Lake McDonald. Once he and 
Emerson Hough went up north, way up the Canadian rivers 
almost to the Barren Grounds, with a wealthy Englishman. 
And once, but this was much earlier either 1905 or 1907 
Caspar Whitney, editor of Outing, sent him to Mexico to 
illustrate an article in that magazine, and while there he 
stayed for several days at the immense Don Liuz Terrazo 
ranch which was said to be the largest in the Americas, but I 
have since heard that there are several even larger in Argen- 
tina. It was when he stopped at our house in St. Louis on his 
way home that I first saw, in a water color of a narrow 
Mexican street, the new word Cafeteria (but Charlie called 
it Cafetereeafy, which is how he had heard it in Mexico). 
Charlie claimed he learned to talk Mexican. When he went 
into a restaurant he always ordered, real loud and firm, "Dos 
wave-os boilcs!" and they always understood. But he got 
awfully tired of boiled eggs. 



Except illustrations, Charlie painted very few Mexican 
subjects. He felt lie hadn't been there long enough to know 
the land or the peopleand he didn't like to paint what he 
didn't know. 

(I have twothe only Aztec pictures Charlie ever 
painted. One, unfinished and unsigned, shows Ahuitzotl in 
sandals, breechclout, green cloak and a gorgeous Quetzal 
headdress, sitting on the edge of a stone thronenot a very 
good throne either, he couldn't sit back, there's no room for 
his feathers and before him Milton, very proud and vil- 
lainous, who has just stabbed Chaltzantzin. This picture has 
never been exhibited, and never will be. 

The other started by meshows the chiefs meeting be- 
fore the gate of Tenochtitlan, and I had the city wall drawn 
right across the paper from edge to edge. "Don't do that!" 
said Charlie. "Don't divide a picture in layers like a cake. 
And don't show Aztecs in white nightshirts like Greeks and 
Romans. An Indian any Indian, even if he was an Emperor 
or a High Priest would certainly paint something on his 
shirt." And he got so interested that he finished it himself. 
This picture, too, is not for hoi polloi. (You know what the 
Scots say on that subject, "Never show unfinished work to 
fools and children.") 

Speaking of pictures not in his usual line, while I was in 
Great Falls, Charlie painted Brother Van (Van Orsdel, the 
Methodist missionary) in long coat and big hat, on horse- 
back, shooting buffalo. It's not a large picture but Charlie 
worked harder on it than most, trying to make it look as 
Brother Van must have looked when he was young. Brother 
Van was delighted but Charlie was not. "It's off my range," 
said he, c Tm no portrait painter." 

Of course, it was not a portrait; and Charlie had painted 
many Indian heads including Chief Medicine Whip of 
Counting Coup but he seldom painted white men. His pen 


The Big Mural At Helena 

sketches of himself rolling a cigarette are excellent and so 
is his oil of the night-wrangler in a slicker (himself) coming 
back to camp for coffee in When Laugh Cures Lonesome. 
The Adams-Britzinan biography says that Charlie painted 
portraits of Jim Bridger, Will Rogers, and Douglas Fairbanks 
(as d'Artigan) but I have never seen them. 

Another thing out of his usual line was to paint a whole 
set of lunch plates for Nancy, on each a girl in costume- 
Indian, Mex, Chinese, Italian, etc. It was the fashion right 
then for women to paint china, so Josephine Trigg "pounced" 
a background in shell-blue and put a gilt edge on the plates 
and had them fired. I also painted a plate for my Aunt Sue 
with an Egyptian scarabbut in Missouri they call it a 
tumble-bug. You see them in the dust of the country roads 
tumbling over a neat little ball of dung which contains their 
eggs. A nice subject, but some people don't like bugs on 
plates. If Charlie's set has survived the smash and breakage 
of half a century they must have gone to Josephine on 
Nancy's death. I don't think Charlie signed them. 

All this amused Charlie and wasted his time, and paid 
no bills but now, suddenly, like smoke on the horizon- 
signal smoke, at first a few puffs, then a tall column, an 
exclamation mark! here came the chance to paint a really 
big picture, the biggest picture of his life. To wit, a proposed 
mural, a wall-painting, for the State Capitol at Helena, 

As the wind blew the exclamation became a question 
mark. It was to be competitive, artists from all over would be 
eligible, especially those who had already painted murals- 
could Charlie get it? 

Nancy thought so but Charlie had his doubts, though 
the subject was right up his alley Lewis and Clark meeting 
the Blackfoot Indians. The first historic event white man's 
history^-in Montana. 



Charlie had read the famous Journals and knew where 
they had met "Ross* Hole up in the Bitter Root Valley , w 

Charlie knew the country but it wasn't enough; he and 
Nancy went there. 

It was fall of the year. It rained and misted while they 
were there, and that's how Charlie decided to paint it with 
the rain clearing. He made sketches of the country and of 
the mountains which form the natural background. 

"What does mural mean anyhow?" asked Charlie. 

But I knew all the answers, "A mural painting, you 
know, like a like a like a mural crown P 

Well, what else is mural? 

"Now that helps a lot," said Charlie. "It makes every- 
thing just as clear as mud." 

He was worried. He had never painted any murals and 
this would be twenty-six feet long by twelve high many 
times bigger than anything he had ever attempted, and the 
foreground figures the Indians on horseback would be al- 
most lifesize. But Nancy was sure he could do it. 

I put in my two bit's worth by informing them that 
he would have to paint it right on the plaster; that the 
plaster had to be fresh and just enough of it spread for what 
he could cover in one day; then if at evening any plaster 
was left unpainted it would have to be chipped off the 
wall and a new coat put on next morning; and, finally, that 
instead of oil he would have to mix his paints with egg. 

I had gone down to the Library and read how they 
used to do it. 

"Egg!" said Charlie. "Squeeze it out of the hen, I sup- 
pose, instead of out of a tube. Well, you can come along 
and hold the hen. When I holler, 'Egg!' you squeeze her/ 

It looked for a while as if he might not get the con- 
tract. Some Montana senators wanted to import a New Yorl 
artist. John Alexander is the only name I remember: he 


The Big Mural At Helena 

specialized in murals and had a number already in different 
cities. Much as he disliked it, Charlie had to go to Helena 
and appear in person before the Senate and fight to get 
the contract. His argument ran, "If you want cupids and 
angels and Greek goddesses, give this New Yorker the job. 
If you want a western picture, give it to me." 

This was a real ordeal for Charlie, who hated to brag 
about his work or disparage another painter. 

In the end he got the contract ten thousand dollars. 
(Years later Ed Doheney, the oil millionaire of the Teapot 
Dome scandal, paid him forty thousand for a mural, a frieze 
around the walls of his breakfast room. ) 

After all the State Capitol mural was not painted directly 
on the plaster but on a specially made canvas so large that 
the roof of the log cabin studio had to be raised, and Charlie 
worked on the upper half of the picture from movable steps 
with a railed platform five feet square at the top. He had 
to use special colors and a brush as big as a house painter's. 
An expert came from Chicago to stretch the canvas, and, 
when it was finished, take it down and roll it and hang 
it in the Capitol building. An anxious business for everybody. 

Montana was proud of the mural; other states were 
envious but praised it, and it wasn't until years later long 
after Charlie's death that anyone disparaged it in my 

Then a New York woman, interested in modern art 
and acquainted with Charlie's work, asked in what style it 
was painted. 

I described it from memory: in the foreground the In- 
dians pulling up their horses; in the middle distance the 
two exporers and their men and Sacajaweeah, the Sho-sho- 
nee girl who acted as guide and interpreter, and York, the 
first Negro the plains Indians had ever seen or heard of 
he attracted much more attention than the two leaders. 



("Ho-ho-hay-eeee! Hy-u skookum man blackl" They nibbed 
him and looked at their thumbs to see if the black would 
come off. Several tribes offered him women. Naturally York 
refused. Then again, maybe he didn't. The two leaders got 
very jealous York was collecting all the sample fornication. ) 
I told all this, omitting the sample part, and as far as I could 
remember, I described the background. 

"But the style?" the New York woman insisted. 

I answered as best I could: no, it was not painted flat; 
no, it wasn't just a frieze; no, it was not symbolical no 
allegorical goddesses of liberty and progress, no westward 
stars of empire, no balances and scales of justice, no cornu- 
copias and horns of plenty: no crowded jumble in the one 
picture of Indians, explorers, missionaries, cowboys, miners, 
wagon-trains, railroads, automobiles and thrashing ma- 
chines; no allegory of any kind, no symbolism; just a plain 
picture, as real as Charlie could make it, of the Blackfoot 
Indians getting their first look at Lewis and Clark. 

"In other words," said the New Yorker, summing up, ^it 
was just a regular Russell canvas writ large." 

"What's wrong with that?" I asked. 

Apparently everything was wrong with it: it was just 
everything a mural shouldn't be. 

"But," I pointed out, "it's what the Montana people 
wanted. They would neither have liked nor understood any- 
thing symbolic, and had he painted it flat they would have 
thought they were cheated." 

In my ignorance I supposed she objected to Charlie and 
would have preferred some other painter. 

"Oh it isn't that!" she explained. "Any other American 
would have been just as hopeless look at the public building 
atrocities the New Deal produced and called them murals! 
And as for Alexander--!" 


The Big Mural At Helena 

I didn't get it and I don't yet, but I was shaken. 

And now we come to the crux of the matter, the question 
which plagues all western paintersindeed all American 
painters was Charlie a real artist or just a story-teller? 

What makes Americans always doubt their own artists? 
Whence this queer modesty? Why do we let the Europeans 
lay down the law in Art? 

Is there one definite test to which you can put the 



Injun- Jo Galoopie 

"Korzouf, they said, had neither father nor mother: he 
was born of the desert and to the desert he would return. 
He with El the son of O and Chang the Wilful came on 
shaggy northern camels out of the waste and rode across the 
grasslands. Eight days they rode and on the ninth they 
came in the afternoon to that crest called Seeing, and went 
thereon and saw the golden city and the golden river under 
the golden sky. But they did not see Alodai in the reeds." 

Alodai was the Lewdworm. 

If you read further in the epic fragment you learn that 
Chang had been there before and knew the city was built 
of mud, and, like the river and the sky, looked golden only 
because the sun was shining. 

The artist should be like Korzouf, without father or 
mother, and well aware that in the end he will return to 
the desert from which he came, but none the less crossing 
the grasslands with a high heart and seeing which is to say 
creating the golden city. For you must see before you can 
create; the Kosmocrators saw before they built. And the 
true Artist is a Kosmocrator. 

But he must not only see; he must also select. Blake, for 
instance, who saw but would not, or could not, select, created 
not a Kosmos but a Chaos. 

In the unfinished epos of the Grail, Messire Gawain, 
Arthur's best nephew, came to the Grail Castle and sat at 


Injun-Jo Galoopie 

the ritual feast and saw the procession of the weeping women 
but did not see the Cup. Why? Wearied with this world's 
work he fell asleep; and so, when he woke, was unable to 
ask the healing and revealing question. How could he 
ask of what he had not seen? 

The true artist must not be too busy with this world's 
work, he must keep awake to the Cup, he must solder the 
Broken Sword, he must see the City. 

Was Charlie Russell a true artist, had he seen the Gold- 
en City? Did he ask the healing question? 

To which the ancient critics, as old as Egypt, the Ac- 
cusers of the Dead, to whom every man must show his work 
at last, answer with a laugh. 

If they condemn him, then let us arise and slay Charlie 
Russell, the false artist; dismember him as he deserves. And 
having slain him on the altar of his own incompetence, burn 
him to ashes. And from the ashes do as the alchemists did 
or tried to do and, as sundry Eastern artists have actually 
done-the enduring Sons of Han, the People of Yamoto 
extract Essence. 

But was there any real essence to Charlie's art? Here 
the Accusers laugh twice. 

But to leave the Assesors in the Court of Osiris the 
real proof of the painter is what effect his painting has upon 
the Artist Everyman. 

If Everyman looks at the picture and praises it and 
passes on and nothing happens, it may be a good picture 
or it may not; it isn't magic. But if whole months or years 
or decades later the memory of that picture unites with 
something else which Everyman has seen or felt or heard, 
and comes forth in a new form not just that picture, not 
just the something else, but both combined which is to 
say if the sleeping artist in Everyman awakes, why then the 



painter has not painted in vain. What comes in a new shape 
could not have come in just that shape had he not sowed 
the seed. 

Charlie, the most unmystical of men, at least in aH out- 
ward seeming (but how do I know what that stern mask 
concealed, for Charlie's face in repose was both stern and 
grim), Charlie who never indulged in high-flown talk and 
who had, I think, no sense of the supernatural which seems 
odd in an artist would read this over and grunt, and read it 
again and say, "But what does this stuff mean does it mean 

Not long ago I showed some Russell reproductions to a 
modem girl, a New Yorker born and bred, who has never 
been as far west as Niagara Falls. 

She leafed through them with rapidly waning interest 
and floored me flat by announcing, "But they have no social 

A criticism that had never occurred to me. 

"And was he a woman hater? Not one picture has a 
woman in it!" 

"They're historically important/' I protested. "Charlie 
painted what he had seen and taken part in. And they're 
authentic the dress, the horse-furniture, the look of the 
country before the nesters came every detail is right." 

"Oh, I suppose it's real Americana," she conceded. "And 
he doesn't seem to romanticize the Indiansthey look savage 
and brutal enough. And a lot of the white men look dirty!" 

"They were not a tidy bunch. They hadn't heard about 
B.O. and that a gentleman changes his linen every day. 
They started the round-up with the clothes they had on 
and a slicker and a couple of blankets, and came back, 
months later, in the same shirt. When they struck a river 
they took a bath if it happened to be hot weather." 


Injun- Jo Galoopie 

"I suppose you could call it John Ree," said the girl 
"Who?" Evidently John was some painter I hadn't heard 

But she had already gone back to her social implications. 
"How can an artist claim any real significance, any last- 
ing importance, unless his art contains some criticism, overt 
or implied, of the world he lives in?" 

"But Charlie was not a critical sort of person. He took 
things as they came and painted them that way." 

"Photographic!" said the girl, and shut me up Hke a 
book. "A camera doesn't criticize either it just records." 
I repeated this conversation to a mutual acquaintance. 
"Oh herr he said, "that social implication stuff dates 
her just as much as Charlie Russell's pictures date him. And 
now that the Republicans are in, she and her land are as 
out of date as Charlie. Moreover get this the front-rank 
artists, Homer, Shakespeare and so forth, have always re- 
corded, not criticized. It's only the second-raters, like Dick- 
ens, who set up as reformers and preach crusades. Christ 
and St. Paul started a new religion; Peter founded the 
Church: would you lower them to a level with the men, 
centuries later, who preached the first crusade? Of course, 
the real artist prepares the way for the second- and third- 
rank people by boiling down what he records. His final prod- 
uctthough he may not intend it deals not with individuals 
but with types: the gist of the matter." 
"You mean he Extracts Essence?" 
"Exactly, though I wouldn't put it that way." 
"But that's just what I was afraid Charlie didn't do!" 
"You're not an artist and so not qualified to judge. Wait 
till a full generation has passed and then let the current 
artists decide about Charlie. You'll find he ranks up with 
the best." 



He smoked for a minute and then left off defending 
Charlie to attack me, "Did you ever hear Charlie Russell 
use that catchword about extracting essence?" 

"No, I doubt if he'd ever heard it" 

"You'd be a better judge if you'd never heard it. Come 
to my place tomorrow and I'll give you proof that Charlie 
Russell was not only an artist but a catalyst. A catalyst, you 
know," he added improvingly I suppose I looked kind of 
blank, "is an agent which without being changed itself pre- 
cipitates changes in others; it clarifies the saturated solution, 
precipitates it in crystals crystal clear. Charlie, or one of 
Charlie's pictures, did just that for a man who was not an 
artist. What resulted was a very queer crystal indeed." 

I didn't know what he meant so we met as arranged 
and he showed me the following fragment, explaining, "The 
man who wrote this not a professional writer had seen, 
and entirely forgotten, Charlie's picture Big Sickness; he had 
also read, and forgotten, Mark Twain's account of the half- 
breed Injun Joe. Now, years later, the two suddenly com- 
bined and produced a third figure, a piece of private myth- 
ology, which, whatever it meant to the writer, would cer- 
tainly have surprised both Mark Twain and Charlie Russell." 

He wouldn't say who the writer was, so I was at liberty 
to draw my own conclusions. 

"If this is meant for Missouri dialect," I objected, "I 
don't think much of it." 

"Neither does the writer, but that's the way it caine." 


"Yes, it just came to him like an inspiration. Now here's 
the queer part: the writer isn't interested in Daniel Boone 
and hadn't thought about Mark Twain or Charlie Russell 
for months, but one night, apropos of nothing he was wor- 
rying about something else this occurred to him and so 
impressed him that he wrote it down. It came piecemeal, a 


Injun-Jo Galoopie 

part at a time, and took three days. Read it and see what 
you think." 

It was headed Injun-Jo Galoopie. 

When Dan! Boone came here from Kaintuk he was 
goin' thru woods in the swamp-east part of the State, an' he 
heard a noise, way off, first like fightin' an' then like com- 
plainin'; so he went that a-way, cautious-like an* saw a big 
tall feller in buckskin, leanin' up against a tree, ankle-deep 
in the swamp. An' he was busy as a bear at a ant-heap pullin' 
injun arrers out of himself, an 3 complainin' all the time, 
"Misery! Misery!" 

Dan'l asked who he was an' what he called this part 
of the country but Jo jus' kept sayin' "Misery! Misery!" 

That's how Missouri got its name. An' it's been a good 
place to come from but a miserable place to live in ever since. 

Well, Danl pulled a couple more arrers out of him an' 
took him back to camp an' give him his first drink of likker. 

It put Jo out like a light. He took one big drink an' fell 
over back'ards, an' tho they poured water on him an' 
dragged him around they couldn't bring him to. They 
thought he was a croppy, so they drag him out on the dump. 
The buzzards weren't havift' any, an' the first bird to take 
a pick at him was a red-headed woodpecker, who must a 
been pretty desperate. 

But he was a wise little peckerwood. One bite was 
enough. As soon as he could fly again he flew up on a tree 
an' shook the fleas off an' said: 

"Oh Oh tastes like crow, 
smells like skunk 
it's Injun-jo." 

An' he was the first Missourian. 



Them days the Injuns lived here in Missouri, an' havin' 
no wife to cook for him Jo took up with one of their gals 
what the missionaries had christened Anna. She come from 
down south, an' after Jo disappeared, so sudden an' tragic- 
like, she an' her folks went flatboat down river to New Or- 
leens, an" that's how Lousyanna got its name. 

Jo, like I tell you, was a squaw-man, an' he an' Lousy- 
Ann had a bunch of no-good kids. They wouldn't work. They 
wouldn't do nothin' 'cept eat an' sleep an' fight an' gamble 
an' go huntin' an' drink corn likker. 

Jo used to lick 'em a lot 'cept when they ganged up an' 
licked him. They'd tree the old man like a possum an' then 
shy rocks at him. That's how he got so good at dodgin'. 

But they'd nick him, sooner or later, an' make him holler, 
an' his wife would come, a-cussin', an' tear into 'em with a 
wash-pole an' there wouldn't be ary hog-waller in the hull 
county without one of Jo's lads in it. 

That's how all Missouri people got to takin' a bath every 
Satady night, 'cept, of course, in fly-time an' durin' the win- 
ter. In winter it's too cold, an fly-specks show up worse on 
you when you're clean than when you ain't. 

Speakin' of specks, Jo was a gamblin' man whenever he 
had any money. Them days dice was marked any old way, 
but Jo had his private set fixed so that the top an' bottom 
numbers always come out seven. That's the ony way he'd 
bet top an' bottom she adds up seven. 

Danl Boone had a balky mare an' one day when he 
was feelin' mean an' she was actin' cusseder than ever, he 
got mad an' bred her to a dunkey. When the colt came it 
was all ears an' feet an' Danl didn't like the looks of it. 
He says, "It ain't no horse, an' it ain't no dunkey, an' it ain't 
no good give it to Injun-jo." 


Injun- Jo Galoopie 

Jo says thank you kindly, an called the critter Jack, 
an' he was the first Missouri mule. 

Soon as he could shamble-an' that was right off-Jo 
tried to ride him. He thought it would save a lot of foot- 
wear but Jack thought different. 

They had quite a argument about it, an after Jo had 
been bit all over-an' kicked in between the bites-so that 
you couldn't tell whether he looked more like a stompin -lot 
or fresh chopped hawg-meat, he concluded walkin' was 
cheaper anyhow an' a heap healthier so he give Jack to 

When Jo had been flooded out a dozen times, he 'clared 
that hereafter he was goin' to live on a hill. But they ain't no 
hills in the bottomlands, so he planted seed-gravel an' cut 
sprouts careful with a hoe an grew him a mound. Then he 
built him a house with a high-pitched roof to shed the rain, 
an' he says to the river, "Come on, Swirly, les see what 
you can do." 

Well, high water come an' everybody got drowned out 
"cept Jo. He set up on his mound, takin' life easy, an' pretty 
soon water she crep' up thru the gravel an' washed his house 
away. Jo straddled up on top with his squaw-lady an' the 
kids in between. 

"Hell!" says Jo, sailin' thru the woods, duckin' branches 
an' harvestin' up the neighbors' chickens an' houn-dogs, "this 
here's the sharpest ridgepole I ever rode an' she rides the 
roughest. Nex' time I'm goin* to build me a house with a 
nice dry root-cellar up on top to sleep in." 

Injun-jo's woman, Lousy-ann, was kind of a ontidy 
housekeeper, an' one day out in the dog-run she was makin' 
lye-hominey an' boilin soap, an' between fightin' flys an' 
quietin' the kids an' drivin' off the wildcats that et the kids, 
she somehow got the mess mixed up with the mash. 



Jo was feelin' mean that momin' an' jus' for cussedness 
lie spat a jawful of chawin' juice into it to give it a bead; an' 
that was the first com lildcer. 

Jo took one drink an' went out, barehanded, an' licked 
a hull fambly of wildcats what had been eatin' his kids. 

After that Jo came back an' took another snort to quiet 
his nerves which was standin' up endways all over him like 
quills on a porky an' it laid him out so cold that he didn't 
wake up till civil war days. 

Jo looked awful when he woke up, an' he felt worse, an' 
he couldn't find his fambly, an' the house was jes' a heap 
of logs with the chimley tumbled down an' the roof caved 
in; so not havin' nothin' to eat he joined up with Quantrell's 
gorillas. They was the first gangsters. 

The goin' with them was too ruff, even for Jo, so one 
day when they was squanderin' off thru the woods with 
Yanks shootin' at 'em from up on the hill an gunboats bangin' 
an* bombin' away from the river, Jo decided that here was 
a good chance to sort of un-volunteer himself an' make his 

But he was a big feller an' easy to see stood seven foot 
high with his toes out an' Quantrell caught him sneakin' 
off thru the woods an' he says, "Look here, Lousy, you joined 
up an' you can't quit us like that." 

"Can't I?" says Jo, innocent-like, "well, then I'll quit you 
like this!" an' he jumpt in the river. That's how the Mis- 
sissippi got so yeller like coffee with milk in it 'stead of 

Well, Jo went down river with his nostrils out, like a 
'gator down south, an' that's how that point there got its 
name, Snout-out. 

Quantrell an' his gorillas kep* shooting at it, first up 
one hole, then the other, but the bullets jes' went into Jo's 
brain an' didn't do no hurt *cept to make him top-heavy, 


Injun- Jo Galoopie 

like he's been ever since. Pretty soon his big toes was stickin' 
up higher than his snout. The gorillas shot holes in 'em, an' 
that's what makes him easy to track, an' that's how he got 
his other name Ring-toe Jo. 

Here, as suddenly as it began, the "inspiration" ended. 
Having emitted this much entirely unrelated to anything 
in which the writer was interested that door closed. And, 
as far as I know, never opened again. 

Months later the writer chanced on a magazine article 
about Mark Twain and in it a casual reference to Injun Jo. 
Until then he had supposed that he or his subconscious- 
invented the name. 

"But Charlie has nothing to do with this," I said. c l 
don't see why you should blame it on him." 

"Well, it was his painting started it." 

In other words, he had waked the Artist Everyman. 
Everyman, you know, is not a great artist; mostly he just 
carves grotesques at the temple door and never gets inside. 



The Last Christmas Card And The 
Other Rider 

Charlie's end was tragic, not because he diedall men 
must die but because he died whole years ahead of time 
and just as he was approaching the peak of his powers. 

He killed himself. Not that he committed suicide; he 
had no inclination that way. He had not tired of life. He was 
not a modem and had no itch to be out of it all. He had 
never felt like my Aunt Mildred when she wrote her sister, 
"I don't think I want to die but it would be nice to be safely 
dead." Charlie had never felt that way. He loved life; he 
wanted to go on living. 

Nonetheless he killed himself. As in all real tragedy a 
weakness in his own character destroyed him. Like most 
very healthy people he feared pain and when they told him, 
years before the end, that he ought to have an operation, 
he put it off. Put it off and put it off until it was too late. 
Thousands of people must do that every year, and always 
live to regret it. The pity was in Charlie's case that it was 
quite a simple operation, and, taken in time, not dangerous. 
Had he taken it he might easily have lived another twenty 
years. He might be alive today. 

And again as in all real tragedythe setting, the en- 
vironment, helped destroy him. His home, his own country 
which he loved, Montana, so high and so far inland, so 
far from the life-giving sea, betrayed him. The life-giving, 
seaweed-growing, iodine-oozing sea. The high prairie and 


The Last Christmas Card And The Other Rider 

the even higher Rockies did to Charlie what the Tibetan 
plateau does to the Tibetans and what the Alps and the 
Andes do to their peoplegave him goiter. 

When he began to have trouble with his breathing and 
his heart, the doctors told him what was wrong and what 
he ought to do, and to do it right away. Charlie refused. 
Nancy, who ruled him in almost everything, could not rule 
him in this. Charlie said No. 

Perhaps he had already begun to feel the pressure when 
I left Montana. He had developed what he called a dewlap 
such as cattle have, you know but many people have that 
and it never occurred to me that it was goiter. All I noticed 
was that his face had begun to get grim and that he did 
not seem happy. He was still as amusing as ever and as good 
a story teller, but he had spells when he didn't want to talk. 
And once in a while there began to creep into his words 
a new hardness, almost bitterness, and a new note of cyni- 
cismnot about people but about the world. I thought he 
was just getting older. It never occurred to ine that he was 

After I left Montana I never saw Charlie again. He 
wrote only to send Christmas cards, and Nancy wrote only 
when she wanted me to do something about Charlie's stock 
in the Parker-Russell M. & M. Co. 

She seldom answered questions, and her letters, few 
and far between, gave such fragmentary information that 
we in St. Louis knew only that Charlie's reputation was 
growing steadily and that his pictures sold better and better. 
For instance, the mural he painted for Edward Doheny, the 
Teapot Dome oil millionaire, for which, according to rumor, 
Charlie got forty thousand dollars. 

By then my sister was living in New York, and she saw 
Charlie twice. On their last trip east he and Nancy visited 
her at Ossining, and she was startled to see him so old 



and frail and unhappy. Tliis was after a bad attack caused 
by Ms heart condition. 

In her letters to ns in St. Louis, Nancy seldom men- 
tioned Charlie's health, was always optimistic about his re- 
covery; and it was a profound shock to us when we heard 
that he had been to Rochester to be operated on by the 

The operation relieved him right away, and Charlie told 
his stepmother, Mrs. C. S. Russell, "If I had known how 
easy it was I would have had it years ago." 

If only he had known. And if only he had acted in time. 

He didn't know at least I hope he didn'tthat though 
the operation was a success it came too late; that his heart 
had been under too long a strain; that the doctors gave 
him only six months to live. They told this to Nancy; they 
didn't tell Charlie. 

Except for goiter there was nothing wrong with him. 
Had he let them operate just a few years sooner he might 
be alive today. He didn't and now it was too late. 

He went home to Montana to die. 

His last Christmas card, which Nancy sent us after 
his death, is unfinished. It shows Charlie on horseback in 
the snow, shaking hands with another rider, and the rhyme 
that accompanies it deals with health and his wish to live. 
His hope that the worst part of the road was past. 

We knew by then who that other rider was. 

On Sunday October 24, 1926, Charlie felt well enough 
to go on quite a long ride. Perhaps it overtired him; perhaps 
he had just come to the end of the trail. At eleven-forty that 
evening he had a heart attack and died just before midnight. 
Nancy and the doctor were with him. He was sixty-four 
years old. 

His father and his brother lived to eighty-four and 


The Last Christmas Card And The Other Rider 

The funeral was held the following Wednesday at the 
Episcopal Church of the Incarnation. Young Boy, tie Cree 
Indian whom Charlie had known so long, came from the 
Reservation. The Elks, the only fraternal order to which 
Charlie belonged, acted as pall-bearers, and, as he had 
wished, his body was drawn by horses to Highland Cemetary. 

Horace Brewster, the round-up foreman who had been 
Charlie's boss in the Judith Basin, and Charles Biel, an artist 
of a new generation, rode behind the hearse and led a 
riderless horse with Charlie's saddle and spurs. 

The city park at Black Eagle Falls was renamed in his 
honor. His home at 1219 Fourth Avenue North and the four 
city lots deeded by Nancy now house a small ($75,000) 

Nancy moved to Pasadena and built the house TraiTs 
End which she had planned while Charlie was still alive. 
She died there May 1940 of heart trouble. 

After Charlie's death his pictures began to turn up in 
all sorts of places. (Also all sorts of forgeries, some of them 
very crude, turned up. A recent copy of the Montana His- 
torical Society's magazine gives a number of examples. ) An 
"Antelope Hunt" was found painted on the vault doors of 
a long closed bank in Lewistown, and another, dated 1892, 
on a safe in a garage which, when Charlie painted it, was 
a stable. 

Charlie's short stories are now beginning to appear in 
anthologies; the book of his illustrated letters, has been 
selling ever since he died; reproductions of his work run 
into hundreds of thousands. 

Charlie Russell made his mark, and now there is no 
one to take his place. 

And he was just beginning "The life so short: the 
craft so long to learn," 




This book should be called What I Remember of Char- 
lie Russell but that would be a clumsy title. 

When I began to write it I thought I did not have 
enough material to make a book, that I would have to pad 
it, and I intended to tell more about Charlie's home, and, 
especially, quote his rhymes. Particularly I would include 
a comic and highly objectionable poem about Friar Tuck 
to accompany a little figure of a monk he made for Mr. 
Trigg. But the more I wrote the more I remembered, items 
came in from outside sources, and in the end, instead of 
padding, I had to cut. 

Here are four stanzas, the first two and the last two, 
of a poem he sent his friend Bob Vaughan. 

Here's to all old timers, Bob, 
They weren't all square it's true, 
Some cashed in with their boots on 
Good old friends I knew. 

Here's to the first ones here, Bob, 
Men who broke the trail 
For the tenderfoot and booster 
Who come to the country by rail. 

So here's to my old-time friends, Bob, 
I drink to them one and all, 
I've known the roughest of them, Bob, 
But none that I knew were small. 



Here's to hell with the booster, 
The land is no longer free, 
The worst old timer I ever knew 
Looks dam good to me. 

Also here is a card he sent W. M. Armstrong; 

Here's hoping health's the hoss under you 
Ahead a long easy ride 
Good water and grass 
To the top of the pass 
Where the trails cross 
The Big Divide 

To you and yours 
From me and mine 

Your Friend, 

C. M. Russell 




The Bent Family. Allen H. Bent. 

Family papers of the Russell, Bent, Parker, Eliot, Kerr, 
Carr, and Cleiidenin families. 


New Mexico Historical Review. Vol. 8, article by Paul A. F. 

The Colorado Magazine. Vol. 12, article by H. L. Lubers. 

Harpers Magazine. 1869. (quoted in Bent's Fort.) 

St. Louis Globe Democrat. May 6, 1838. (Texas attempt to 
rob Moses Austin's grave.) 

Bent's Fort. David Lavender. (This supplied many dates 
and most details in chapter re the Bents.) 

Genealogy of John Eliot descendants. Re C. M. R.'s sister- 
in-law. ) 

The Old Gravois Coal Diggins. Mary Joan Boyer. 


Good Medicine. Garden City Pub. Co. (C. M. R. illustrated 
letters. ) Nancy's introduction is quoted re her meeting 
with C. M. R.> his first sight of Helena, and his cooking, 
"Who is Kid Russell?" etc. 

Trails Ploughed Under. Pen & Ink. Doubleday, Page & Co. 




Riding the High Country. 1933. Pat T. Tucker, Caxton 

Printers, Caldwell, Idaho. 
Piano Jim and the Impotent Vine. By Irvin Cobb. Postscript 

by Will Rogers, a letter from Mrs. Russell, and a preface 

by John W. Townsend, Bluegrass Bookshop, Lexington, 

Ky., 1950. 


The Wilderness Hunter. Theodore Roosevelt. Charlie's ver- 
sion of ghost-bear story. 

Pen Sketches or Western Studies. No date, very early. Win. 
T. Ridgley Co., Falls, Mont. 

Studies of Western Life by C M. R. Copyright, 1890, by Ben 
Roberts, Cascade, Mont, 


Charles M. Russell, the Cowboy Artist, a biography by 
Ramon F. Adams and Homer E. Britzman. 1948. Trail's 
End Press, Pasadena, Calif. 



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