As we continue the Ink Harris series we find in a letter from him to Harry Ballard of England, sent from Green River Utah and dated March 13th, 1921, the following exciting account of the rough life stockmen out on this old desert lived in those days.
Dear Old Friend,
I received your letter in December and should have answered it long ago but have bin buisey and neglected to do it. We have had an awful time with the Alian sheep this winter. I got my horse shot out from under me by a Frog eater about 6 weeks ago, and one of Oscar’s men killed one of them about two weeks ago. Both trials will come up at the April term of court. We have had a fine winter here and the grass is starting good. Cattle wintered in good shape and it looks like a big calf crop, but cattle is,nt worth any thing at present. However I am hoping they will get better latter on but it is sure hard sledding at present.
Well Harry it looks like there is another big boom on at Green River. The Standard Oil Co. is going to put in rigs and test the San Rafael country for oil and from all indacations will make G.R. its headquarters. There is also a lot of talk of starting some big Irrigations projects. It looks like a bigger boom than the one we had 12 or 15 years ago. Of course it is only talk as yet but I am going to watch the thing close and unload my land holdings when the time is right, also my Elgin town site property. I will also try to handle your Elgin property with mine if you want me two. It may be a year before things shape up but I believe it will come. There is still some local rigs drilling around Moab and Crescent but as yet they have not struck any thing.
The Moab State Bank closed its doors about two months ago and I happened to be unlucky enough to be one of the stockholders, also a Director in the institution. I think the bank will open up later on if cattle prices pick up. The big per ct of its paper was live stock paper and when the market went to peases we could not realize on our securities. There has bin lots of little bank closed through the west in the last two months. It seams funny not to see steer buyers around. I haven’t seen or herd of one this spring. It don’t make any difference to me as I am going to hold my steers another year and see if things wont pick up.
Old Mase is still with Jim. I haven’t seen him for a long time but Jim tells me he is getting along fine. Old Bud has got him a farm in Green R. and has turned out to be quite a farmer. I see him quite often.
The children are all well, Ballard is just doing fine at school, Larry runes every where and is sure a fine boy. We are expecting Goldie home in April. She will finish her school work at that time. We will sure be glad to have her home again. Well Harry I guess I have told you all my trubbles and I expect you are tired reading about them, so I will close for this time with best reagardes to Mrs. Ballard and Bruce I am as ever, Your Old Friend G.A. Harris.
Many of you folks have probably put two and two together on some of the above, and other things in previous writings. For those who have not connected some of this to the old Book Cliffs and Grand County history, let me fill you in a bit. Oh, and by the way, I did hear back from Ballard Harris’s son Dale who tells me that what Ink called Saleratis ranch was most likely Floy Canyon ranch as we know it today. There is no doubt that Ink farmed and ranched there for several years. Dale says the nickname “Ink” was probably tagged on by his sister Florence, but no one remembers why. My father-in-law, Ken Curtis, who was raised in Green River, wonders if maybe an ink well got tipped over and made a mess, giving him the nickname Ink. Ken also thinks Ink may have been farming on the south side of Green river in the Silliman area. I take it that Ink farmed in Green River and at Saleratus. Probably at the same time during some years.
In this most recent letter copied above, Ink mentions having his horse shot out from under him by a Frog Eater. That, it seems, is what he and Harry called the Basque sheep men who came from the area between France and Spain, but mostly resembled the French to the locals’ way of thinking. He then says one of Oscar’s men killed one of them. That would be Oscar Turner who headquartered at what is now Cottonwood ranch north east of Cisco, and his man was the one and only Charlie Glass, famous black cowboy who was admired and highly respected by folks from eastern Utah and western Colorado. Charlie won a gunfight with a Basque sheepherder over grazing range and was later acquitted. Old Mase is mentioned in most all the letters and Bud is occasionally. I am sure they were cowhands or sheepherders who worked under Ink when he was foreman for Harry Ballard early in the century. And finally, it is too bad that the letters Harry wrote in reply to these from Ink didn’t survive as did the ones from Ink to Harry. Harry’s family was very good at keeping hold of all these wonderful old day-to-day histories. What a treasure, eh?
ByBy AJ Rogers