Reminiscences of J. Walter Taber

Donnie and Ronnie Lappe
Donnie and Ronnie Lappe

Deer hunt

“I borrowed a Winchester Rifle from Mr. Dowdy to shoot deer. The ranch boss (Frank Collinson) there was an old buffalo hunter. He said ‘You just as well to go hunting with a pop gun as that thing out here. I’ll get you my gun I used to kill buffalo with. I’ve got to go to Marathon in the morning to get Mr. (Samuel L.) Coggin, and Mr. (Henry) Ford. You take this gun and go to that round mountain yonder and you are sure to see a deer before you get around it.’ There were no game laws then.

“A buck and a doe ran off about 150 yards and stopped and looked at me. Uncle Modie Coggin had said, ‘The first deer you shoot at you’ll take the buck ague (shivering) and you couldn’t hit a barn.’ I leveled the gun at one of them and killed it with the first shot and the other one ran up the steep mountain about 100 yards further, stopped and looked at me. I drew a bead between his shoulder blades and didn’t miss where I’d aimed a half an inch. I put one in my saddle and the other behind my saddle and started for the ranch. I had to let the entrails out before I started and the knife is laying there yet (on the ranch) — I was so excited.

“The boss’ brother was visiting there at the time. He was a lawyer from Hull, England. He was very much disgusted and said, ‘What did you bring them things in for? We cut the hams out and throw the rest away.’ He went off and didn’t offer to help me dress the deer The boss’ wife came out and was very much pleased that I had killed the deer. She said, ‘What did Anthony say?’ (She saw him talking to me.) Her mother came out later and was very much pleased, too. She asked the same question. They both laughed heartily when I told them what Anthony (the lawyer) had said.

“About 9 o’clock that night, I heard the ranch boss coming back with Uncle Sam Coggin, and Mr. Ford. He had driven the team 100 miles that day to Marathon, leaving way before daybreak, and got back about 9 o’clock that night. I opened the gate and the boss asked ‘Any luck?’ and I said I have two hanging in the barn. He said ‘That’s fine. What did Anthony say?’ After I replied, he began to laugh and said ‘That fellow has been here three years He can’t kill one to save his soul, and gets fighting mad every time someone else kills anything. He wants some trophies to take back to England, and he only wants things that he kills himself.”

Bear hunt 

“A man rode up here one day and he said ‘Mr. Collinson (Frank Collinson, foreman of the Coggin Brothers Ranch), I saw a big black bear on the south side of that round mountain.’ Anthony and I grabbed our guns. I said, ‘Anthony, you take the choice of which side you want to go on and I’ll take the other and we’ll go till we meet.’ Anthony chose the south side. I hadn’t gone halfway around on my side (the north side) till I met the bear, face to face, and my brother sat here at my table for one week, and wouldn’t speak to me because I killed the bear.” Mr. Collinson gave the bearskin to Uncle Sam Coggin.

“Collinson was an old buffalo hunter and did nothing but kill buffalo. His record for one winter was 5,000 buffalo. It was a big outfit and the skinners followed him. He did nothing but kill. He didn’t have to help skin. He was a crack shot. Twenty men followed him to skin the buffalo and cut off a few slices of meat to eat. Mr. Collinson would get buffalo to running in a circle following their leader, and kill every one of them. He had a ‘pearl’ sight on his gun, and put it on himself (the one I had used to kill the deer). I have seen strings of wagons a half mile long, stacked up with buffalo hides, stacked up like hay, coming though Brownwood. If the buffalo hadn’t been killed, then cattle could not have survived as the buffalo would come down in the fall and eat all the grass and ruin all the water.

I heard old timers say that the buffalo started north too late one spring and the ice on the river had gotten too soft. The buffalo broke through the ice and couldn’t get out, and the others ran over them. They made a dam of dead buffalo across the river.

Little Brooks Lee said he saw a bunch of buffalo that were on the north side of the Colorado River get scared and they went down a steep trail that was very boggy at the bottom. Some of the buffalo began to bog down and couldn’t get out until the others ran over them. This left at least 50 dead buffalo in the river bed.