Houston, Fred - Buckeroo Foreman

Houston, Fred - Buckaroo Foreman

Fred Houston is shown to the right celebrating his 87th birthday. The photograph is reprinted from the November 1987 issue of the Higdon Family Newsletter. Fred Houston was born August 8, 1900 in Crook County, Oregon; he died April 9, 1988. He is a son of Tom and Sallie Houston. He married Blanche Gibson on December 31, 1932. Fred worked for the United States Forest Service from 1933 until 1965; then he served as a mail carrier in the Upper Country area for five years. However, it is Fred’s career years from 1922 until 1933 that are described below.

Fred Houston was a buckaroo foreman. His daughter Sallie Fisher provides us with a vivid description of the tasks involved. 

The title "buckaroo" refers to someone who works with and trains horses. My father worked for an eccentric gentleman named Bill Brown who was at one time called the "horse king of Oregon." He held extensive property on the Oregon high desert, and he grazed animals on government owned land. Bill Brown probably had some cattle, but mostly he dealt with horses and sheep. My father worked with both.

There were an amazingly large number of wild horses running on the high desert. The government still rounds some up occasionally, but they use helicopters now instead of buckaroos. The buckaroos would scout out a herd of horses, then try to herd them into a predetermined corral or a box canyon. Sometimes it simply turned into a race to see which could run faster--the trained horses with riders or the wild horses. When wild horses were captured, the horses with brands (escapees from some ranch) had to be returned to their owners. The rest had to be assessed for their most likely success.

Some horses were "broken" to ride and others were "broken" to harnesses for draft horses. Some horses almost broke the riders instead. Horses that were not in good shape were often sold for dog food or glue or whatever. Horses that could be trained for riding were sold to the highest bidder. I believe Bill Brown sold horses to the government during World War I for use in France. He also sold some draft (horses for pulling) to orchards in the Hood River area of Oregon. Horses used to pull the spraying equipment for orchards did not live long. Pesticides are hard on horses, and early in the last century the pesticides were dreadful.

Buckaroos often lived between bunk houses at the ranch headquarters and camps in the open depending on where night found them. If they planned to be out on the desert, there was always a "chuck wagon" to supply food for them somewhere in the general area they were to be in.

I know my father was in the middle of a range war involving a water source owned by Bill Brown. He had some very interesting experiences then, including having to talk an angry man out of shooting him!

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