Our Youth And Cowboys In World War IFrank D. “Sandbar” Brown, President of the Montana Society of Pioneers, was appointed the official Governors Representative, to visit Montana youth training at Camp Lewis and report back to Governor Stewart. Excerpts of the report written for the Philipsburg Mail published May 24, 1918 follows: “Conditions at Camp Lewis astounded me. I found there a vast multitude of perfect young men, physically and mentally the flower of the youth of the country. And I found them spontaneously patriotic and ambitious to serve the country. The very atmosphere of the camp breathed democracy. ..It is my candid belief that every high school and university should, as part of their curriculum, teach the young men in them to be proficient in the duties of a soldier. Not only will the students health and manly bearing be the primary elements of its development the most noticeable, but neatness, freedom from intemperate habits, courteous language, respectful demeanor, and an avoidance of the profane and vulgar, its equally as beneficial effects… They will find the slouchy, awkward boy that left them in tears, erect, graceful in his movements, and wearing his well-fitting uniform with the aplomb of a West Point graduate…signed Frank D. Brown Governor’s Visitor to Camp Lewis”.
The May 31, 1918, Philipsburg Mail, announced Fort Keogh, was to be made into “one of two National Calvary Training Depots. The Fort is currently a remount station near Miles City where range horses are broken and sent to Eastern stations for finishing.”The article continued on to say several hundred bronco busters have been employed on the Fort Keogh reservation.
A reference regarding horse training, June 28, Philipsburg Mail, stated “Montana Cowboys training horses for the army at Camp Lewis: let her buck”. “The muster rolls of the companies of busters read like a program of one of Guy Wedick’s stampedes, and all the old champions are there, except Fanny Sperry, who is barred from being a horse soldier by reason of her sex, but who could do the work as well as any man in the service. Tom Three Persons, the Canadian half-breed champion of the world is there, riding better than he has ever ridden before in his life, and among the other busters are many who won fame at Calgary, Pendleton, Cheyenne, Missoula, Billings and Havre in the Wild West shows and rodeos. The description of cowboys attempting to be foot soldiers is colorful: “Most of the cowboys came into Camp Lewis in the draft and were transferred to the remount depot after having done some training service in the infantry. They couldn’t all be transferred immediately, of course, and those obliged to drill afoot for a time were in a hard way….You see, a cowboy is not built for purposes of pedestrianism. Years of riding get his legs properly squeegeed to fit the curves of the horses back; but the slant is wrong for walking. During the unfortunate moments of his life when it is necessary for him to walk, he teeters around precariously in boots with heels high enough to satisfy a broadway flapper on parade. The result is that in his maturity, while he has more legs and feet than a whale, they’re not much more use to him if you peel him away from a horse and call upon him to circulate around on his own. So a cowboy in the infantry has this in common with a fish in the Sahara desert: he’s manifestly out of place…They drilled around in flat heels for a few days, and the first free hour they got they stampeded for the remount and begged Captain Jackson for transfer to the remount depot. ‘Cap’n, I’d rather be shot at sunrise than walk on these feet o’ mine another day’ ‘If I knowed they’d shoot me for sitting, I’d do something to deserve it; but I’m afraid they’d make me stand up; and it’s too much for my brain to think of, standing on my feet and getting shot at the same time. They gimme shoes ‘thout no heels to ‘em, that set a man back on his spine so’s every time you step your back bone rattles like a box full of dice, an’ then they make me walk... No, sir. I walked my legs off clean down to the knees, an’ I’m working on the thigh bones now… Please, you get me transferred up here where I can pour myself into a saddle and be human again! “
The cowboy was busy at the work he understood and when a fieldpiece rumbled by in the clatterous wake of a sturdy well-trained line of obedient horses, you knew that the work of the American cowboy counted.