The Llano Estacado in the early days was a wonderful place for small boys. The grown-ups were busy with their chores and didn’t have a lot of time to spend worrying about the young’uns. Consequently, little boys could spend their time exploring, chasing rabbits, following the cowboys and very often, getting into mischief.
When my father, Eddie, and his brother Bill White came with their mother Ora to the H-Bar Ranch in 1897, they were 6 and 4 years old respectively, just old enough to be curious about everything.
Strangers often came by the ranch, and one morning when all the adults were gone, a man who was pretty drunk rode up. He said he wanted to borrow a shotgun and shoot some of the ducks that were on the tank.
Eddie told this story: “Neither Pa nor Ma were at home, but we said me and Bill would lend him a gun. We got down the shotgun, and said we would be glad to load it for him. Well, we really did load it — tamped down the powder, poured in the shot and then tamped it down hard with wet newspaper. That way, it will really kick.
“The man went reeling off to the tank, and Bill and I followed, about to bust with trying not to laugh.
“Well, when he fired the darn gun, it knocked him flat, so that he fell right under his horse. He picked himself up, climbed on the horse and rode away, cussing a blue streak. He just left the gun laying on the ground where it fell. Bill and I laughed over that for weeks, but we never told it to Ma and Pa ‘til after we were grown.”
Ora always told the children not to dare to try any bronco riding when they were little fellows. Eddie told that, “When we was 10 or 11, she was still saying, ‘Don’t you dare to try to ride them broncs. If one was to throw you, you might get killed.’
“Finally, when she was saying this one day, she turned to a cowboy who was setting at the table drinking coffee, and says, ‘What are you grinning for?’
“‘Why,’ says he, ‘Them boys has been riding broncs over in the sand hills for more’n three years. They ride a lot better than some of us do.’
“We had been throwed heaps of times, but the sand was softer than the hard ground, and it never hurt us much.”
Eddie told of one time when the boys nearly caused trouble with the neighbors: “Ma and Pa were gone to court in Roswell once when about six or seven colts came wandering up to the H-Bar Headquarters, and Bill and I got them into the adobe corral.
“We snubbed them down and clipped all the long hair off their manes and tails, and stuffed it in a tow sack and hid it back of some feed in the barn. Then we turned them loose.
“The next morning, a bunch of nesters came up, mad as hell. They all had guns, and they came to see what the H-Bar men meant by ruining their colts. Somebody was going to get hurt, sure, it looked like.
“Pa says, ‘Why, we don’t know nothing about it. We’ve all been to Roswell to court — got home late last night. There wasn’t nobody here but these little boys.’
“The men all went grumbling off, and we didn’t get punished. Nobody thought we were big enough to handle those colts. One of the cowboys helped us make a rope out of the hair and never did tell on us.”