Cowboy ropes adventures with fox, bear, cattle

Friday, April 6, 2012 8:35 PM

The following is the third and final part of the Chancy Snyder story provided by the Montezuma County Historical Society.

Dove Creek Press — Thursday, Feb. 9, 1984

Going back to about the time Chan lived at the Pines or down on the river, he was out riding one day checking on the cattle when he came upon a wash which had a cut bank along one side. Near the top of this bank, next to a brush pile was a den where he saw a number of young foxes. These foxes were of different colors — one was white, one black and one a brownish red. There were also two gray ones — all of the same litter. The young foxes were playing outside of the entrance of their den. As Chan rode closer, the foxes ran into the den, and as Chan watched, he could see that the den wasn’t very deep. He decided to see if he could catch one of them since they were young and might possibly make a pet. Chan dismounted from his horse, reached back into the den and caught the white fox. He removed his coat, tied one of the coat sleeves shut, and put the fox into the coat sleeve and transported him back to camp. After a few weeks, the fox became a regular pet and behaved much like a dog. When strangers would come around camp, the fox would bark like a dog. It would also feed on table scraps. After about three years, it seems the fox got into a fight with a dog and it became injured. Although Chan did what he could to save the fox, it died the next day. So ended the companionship of Chan and the white fox. Chan and the family enjoyed their pet and took him with them when they went to Rico in the summer.

On another occasion when Chan was out riding in the canyon of the horseshoe bend area, he came upon a bear, which was playing around a deep hole in the river. As Chan and the dogs (one dog was named Coon and the other Jerry, which were used for working cattle) approached, the bear, seeing them, jumped into the deep water and began swimming across the hole to the opposite bank of the river. Chan, seeing what was happening, sent the dogs after the bear. As the bear began swimming they jumped onto his back and rode him across the deep water. Not far away, on the opposite bank of the river, was a large yellow pine tree (the tree is still standing at this writing, February 1970). The bear, after climbing out on the bank and with the dogs in hot pursuit, made for this large yellow pine tree. This tree which was quite big at the base, had a large branch growing out not far above the ground. As the dogs were biting at the bear, he would whirl, slap at the dogs — all the time grunting and growling. The bear would then turn back and start climbing the tree. As the bear would turn to the tree, the dogs would jump in again for another bite. This went on for quite some time with the bear slapping at the dogs and also trying to climb the tree. Finally the bear made a lumbering jump at the tree and caught the large branch which protruded outward. Between hanging onto the limb and scratching with the other feet, the bear managed to pull himself up onto the limb out of reach of the dogs. About this time, Chan came riding up, dismounted and pulled his rifle from its boot. As he moved near the tree, he circled part way around the tree to get in the best position for a good shot. The bear was quite large compared to most bears, and Chan tells us he had to shoot the bear six times in the neck and head before he tumbled out of the tree.

After the bear tumbled down, the dogs jumped in biting at the bear and growling as they worried him around. After making sure the bear was dead, Chan proceeded to skin him out. The bear was quite large and heavy and after skinning one side, Chan tried to turn him over, but found he could not do so. He tied his saddle horse onto the bear and pulled the bear over on his other side. After finishing the job of skinning, Chan trimmed off two long strips of fat. The next day Chan returned with a pack horse to carry the hide and fat. He stretched the hide over a wagon box and was surprised to find the hide hung down over the sides of the wagon box on all four sides. As for the fat, after rendering out, they found they had two five gallon cans of grease. In talking of the bear, Chan had referred to it as a Cinnamon, however, it is very possible he had meant grizzly.

On another occasion when Chan was working and chasing wild cows around the top of Slick Rock country, he came upon a bunch of unbranded wild cattle on the rim of Joe Bush Canyon. These unbranded cattle could belong to anyone who could catch and brand them. Chan started chasing a particular cow through the pinyon and cedar trees and as his horse was on a dead run ducking and dodging through and around the trees, a piece of limb about 1/2 inch in diameter and about 3 or 4 inches long hit him in the eye just under the eyeball. As the limb broke from the tree, Chan didn’t know how badly he was hurt, but he knew that if he stopped and gave up the chase he would lose the cow. Without giving his injury much thought, he continued after the cow until he caught her. After roping, throwing and tieing her, he then proceeded to pull the stick out from under the eyeball. From what we can learn, Chan had no after effects from this accident, however it was a long time in healing.

Another time Chan was chasing wild cows in the company of Bill Snyder and a friend by the name of Arthur Ewing. They came upon a bunch of eight or ten head and as soon as the cattle saw them, they broke and ran like wild deer. The three riders took after, outran them and each caught one on the start. As soon as Chan had his first one tied, he took after another, caught the second and tied it also. He then decided to try for the third, so jumped on his horse and took in again after the next one. After considerable chase, he caught the third and tied that one also. Chan decided to go back and see how the others were doing; so mounting up he came near to where they had started. As he came upon Arthur and Bill, he found them all tangled up in their ropes where they had tried to rope their second cow. Chan had a good laugh on his friends as they were trying to untangle themselves from their ropes and get lined out again.

On another occasion when Chan was trying to find the roundup camp in the early days after he had the run-in with Chief Wash and his band, he had camped one night near a spring close to a pile of rocks. In the middle of the night, the horse, which was staked close by, began to act up by snorting and acting nervous. Chan, who was suddenly awakened by the action of the horse, quietly slipped out of his blankets, picked up his rifle and silently moved up into the rocks where he waited quietly to see what was disturbing the horse. Chan thought perhaps a small band of Indians were sneaking up to the spring, or even an Indian might be hanging around somewhere. As Chan waited and watched, he suddenly saw a shadow or some movement off to the right. Suddenly an old wild cow moved out from behind a rock heading for the water at the spring. As soon as Chan saw this, he relaxed and after the cow had finished her drink, Chan headed back to his blankets and finished his sleep — much relaxed after learning what his midnight visitor was, thanks to the watchfulness of the horse. This proved out well, as Chan had made it practice to ride a “snorty” horse, which would give warning on occasion such as this.

In about 1890, Chan was bringing up some cattle from the lower country where they had wintered. Usually when bringing the cattle to the summer range around Rico, the Dolores River was sometimes too high for trying to bring livestock up the canyon, so quite often they would bring the stock from Disappointment country over the top and down Cottonwood Creek to West Fork, down West Fork to the junction of the east fork of the Dolores and on up to Rico. On this occasion, the river was very high in the springtime (May) when Chan arrived with his cattle on the west fork bridge (in earlier days there was no bridge and the cattle had to swim across). Chan was moving his cattle across the bridge and things were going well until near the end of the herd, a fellow with a team and wagon arrived at the bridge coming from the opposite direction. Instead of the man waiting until the cattle were all across before him going on the bridge, he proceeded to push his team and wagon through the last of the cowherd onto the bridge. This made an extra amount of weight and movement on the bridge. As the cattle began to mill around, disturbed by the team and wagon, the bridge collapsed, broke in the middle and went down into the swift high muddy water. Chan, seeing what was happening, leaped from his horse, ran over the backs of the cattle and grabbed the bridle of the team and pushed the team and the wagon backwards off the bridge. The cows went into the water as well as his horse. The cattle were able to swim out, but the horse got the saddle horn caught on a part of the underwater bridge and Chan had to crawl out on the swaying timbers which were awash and pry the horn loose so the horse could swim out. This was in one of the highest spring runoffs with the river up over its banks.

The horse Chan had at this time was called Frank and every time after this, when he started into the water at any place, the horse would start to buck. It finally got so bad that when Chan had a chance to trade the horse off, he decided to let him go. Some months later, an outfit from Dove Creek country had the horse, when the need arose to ride to Cortez for the doctor on an emergency. The man rode the horse at a dead run from Dove Creek to Cortez, and as the horse made Cortez, it fell over dead.

We hope you have enjoyed this series. Our Historical Society is still looking for a home for a museum and we encourage all interested persons to join the Society. We can be reached through June Head, 565-3880, Virginia Graham, 565-7767 or Vivienne Kenyon, 565-7714.

This story appeared in Volume III of “Great Sage Plain to Timberline: Our Pioneer History,” published by the Montezuma County Historical Society. Currently the Historical Society has published four volumes, all of which are for sale at “Books” or “Let It Grow” stores in Cortez. All proceeds go to the Historical Society. Virginia Graham of the Montezuma Valley Historical Society is the co-editor of “Great Sage Plain to Timberline.”