Beyond the first, there is the second most memorable character I’ve knownThe second most unforgettable person that I have ever known was Thomas Eaton. Tom had a ranch on the Stillwater River, which bordered on the Absaroka Range about ten miles east of Red Lodge, Mont.
By: Bernie Hughes, Superior Telegram
The second most unforgettable person that I have ever known was Thomas Eaton. Tom had a ranch on the Stillwater River, which bordered on the Absaroka Range about ten miles east of Red Lodge, Mont.
Tom had many talents, which included inventing hospital rehabilitation equipment that was easily adjustable for a variety of patient exercises, secondary school teaching, coaching and school administration. As a school superintendent, I hired him to complete a school year in one district and later in another district as high school principal. We became friends as well as colleagues, which continued after retirements.
He returned to his ranch on the Stillwater River in retirement and always answered his telephone with, “Eaton on the Stillwater.”
He had a string of horses and provided a couple weeks of riding and camping experience for city boys several summers.
I had come to Montana as a young man barely 23-years-old with three years of military service and college. Coming from the hill country in western Wisconsin, the wide-open spaces of Montana were eye openers, and the large, open, distance was kind of scary.
Tom was a great storyteller and knew many unforgettable characters. The one that most impressed me was Boastful Bill. He had been a western legend for years. He was the best bronco buster in the West; no, he was the best in the whole wide world. Much has been written about Boastful Bill so I am limiting to his last earthly bronco busting role in Idaho.
Ten bronco busters had been quickly dispatched by a seemingly unbreakable horse named “Northern Fury” when Boastful took over. He was doing his usual superb job in the saddle that day when:
One caper of repulsion broke that horse’s back in two.
Cinches snapped in the convulsion; skyward man and saddle flew.
Up he mounted never laggin’ while we watched him through our tears.
Until a thin bit of braggin’ came a droppin’ to our ears.
“If you’d ever watched my habits very close.
You’d know I’ve broke such rabbits by the gross.
But I’ve kept my talents hidin’; I’m too good for earthly ridin’
I’m off to break the lightnin’, Adios.”
Years have passed since that ascension, Boastful Bill ain’t never lit.
So we reckon that he’s wrenchin’ some celestal outlaw’s bit.
When the night rain beats our slickers, and the wind is swift and stout
And the lightnin’ flares and flickers, we kin sometimes hear him shout
I’m a bronco-bustin’ wonder on the fly, I’m the ridin’ son-of-thunder of the sky. Hi! You earthlin’s shut yur’ winders while I’m rippin’ clouds to flinders. For, if this blue-eyed darlin’ kicks at you, you die!”
Sawdust on his chaps and saddle, scornful still of jar and jolt
He’ll come back some day, a straddle of a bald-faced thunder-bolt
And the thin skinned generation of that dim and distant day
Sure will stare with admiration when they hear old Boastful say:
“I was first, as rawhiders all confessed. Now I’m last of all rough riders and the best. Huh!! You soft and dainty floaters with you’re a’roplanes and motors. Huh!! Are you the great-grandchildren of the West?”
Bernie Hughes, Ed.D, is a retired educator who resides in Superior. He can be reached at email@example.com.