For the first time ever, I failed to last the full week of the Pendleton Roundup. I arrived Tuesday morning for slack but by Thursday afternoon I had ruined my health and was headed for home. While there I ran into John Miller, now living in Arizona, who I hadn’t seen since college days. We were having a good visit and I asked him about George Carter who had gone to college with us. John replied that George, who lives in Oklahoma, was at the Roundup to watch his son in the team roping. So we called him to find out where he was sitting. We located George who was sitting with Pake MacIntyre, Reba’s brother, and we had quite a reunion.
In 1960 John and George and Charlie Whitehorn abandoned life in Pawhuska Oklahoma and headed west to Oakdale California. John’s uncle, Ben Johnson the movie star, owned a ranch there and told the trio they could stay there while they went to college. We referred to the ranch as the reservation, George and Charlie were purebred Osage, John was half Cherokee and Ace Berry, whose Dad ran the ranch, was half Delaware. They arrived driving a 1941 buick that looked more like a tuna boat than a car. George referred to it as the beast that wouldn’t die. They had pooled their money and paid $75 for it and over the years it carried them back and forth to Oklahoma seven times. I recalled that it was like the latter day Grapes of Wrath. While in college we became friends and I remember the boys doctoring yearlings for five bucks a day which kept them alive through the school year. The following spring John and Ace Berry scraped together enough money to enter the team roping at the Salinas Rodeo. John was 18 and Ace was 13 and they won a go round that paid $1300 a man. This was a fortune in 1960. John went on to become a world champion like his uncle Ben and Ace is one of two people who have won the average at both ends of the arena at the NFR.
George Carter returned to Oklahoma, became successful and served on the Osage tribal council for years. I mentioned to George I had recently read a book , Killers of the Flower Moon, about the Osage. It appears that when the government gave the Osage their reservation they slipped up and let them have the mineral rights. About 1920 the Osage hit oil and for a while the Osage were the richest people in the world per capita. It didn’t take long for a number of them to be killed in order for others to acquire those rights. George and John recalled working on the ranch of one of the killers. They found out years later that the old guy that used to turn out calves for them when they practiced had spent 30 years in prison for some of the killings. I recommend the book.
I want to congratulate the parents in this county for doing such a great job in raising some of the greatest kids and young people. I know a lot of these young guys and there isn’t a cull among them. They are polite, will look you in the eye, have a sense of humor and you could let them play in your money vault and not have to count it afterwards. Not only that, but they are a good looking bunch, girls and boys. Tragically we recently lost one and another was severely injured. The whole county has been in shock and mourning. To the rest of you young people, please be careful. You have no idea how dear you are to all of us, even people you don’t know well.
I found a poem that I think applies to this time of year here in Wallowa County.
Autumn is an old brave, loping along
In beaded moccasins.
The mischievous winds
are tearing down his painted teepee;
but he is headed south,
long braids flying
and the sun glinting on his gaudy