Ranches and cowboys played a prominent role
in this area during Louie's boyhood days. It was a big day for the boys when
the cowboys (that they didn't see on TV) came to town, especially when they
bought marbles from the boys, then played a game with them - played for keeps.
The boys, of course, were in their element, but the cowboys, well,
their skill in shooting usually was not with marbles so when the game was
over, the boys would have most of their marbles back, the money they had
received when they sold the marbles, and the thrill of a game with the cowboy
besides. No wonder it was a big day for them when the big cow outfits came to
Unfortunately, not all diversion sought by the punchers was
that innocent. Frequently the bars got a good share of the hard-earned wages,
and the fellows, when drunk, would sometimes shoot up the signs - "Great habit
of theirs," Louie explained. He recalls that one time a W Bar cowboy
(if you want to know his name, check with Louie) tried to ride his horse into
a saloon. He was so persistent they had to send for the sheriff to dissuade
him - which he finally accomplished by pulling him from his horse.
Lee B. stirred up some excitement in the little frontier town when he got the
drop on a fellow and marched him up Front Street at the point of a revolver.
Just as they got to the end of the street the fellow broke away and ducked
into a house.
Lee started in after him, but he was met by the
landlady with a business-like six-shooter, and she told him not to come in.
And he didn't. When Lee had left Belle Fourche, he had taken the other man's
wife with him. When the deserted husband showed up in the Gate City, Lee
figured it was to kill him so he reasoned that the fellow who got to his gun
first had the best chance.
Boys nowadays may find excitement reading
about cattle rustlers or watching them on the screen, but how would it feel to
suddenly find yourself alone on a ferry boat with two real live rustlers?
He did a lot of swimming and fishing when he was a boy,
and since there was no bridge across the Yellowstone then, he had to cross the
river on the ferry. One day when Louie had finished his fishing and boarded
the ferry to return home, he had to wait for Kinney, the operator, to get back
to the boat. Kinney had just brought an elderly lady across from town and had
carried her purchases to her home, not far away, for her.
he wouldn't be gone long so he just waited on the ferry for Kinney to return.
But while he waited with his fishing rod, he was suddenly joined by two other
customers - customers he quickly recognized as two cattle rustlers that the
law officers were pursuing even then.
Mr. Elliot frankly confesses
that he was just about scared to death. He was strongly considering jumping
off the boat and swimming to the island when one of the rustlers causally
asked him, "Haven' any luck, Kid?"
That eased the tension and Louie
decided not to jump overboard after all. When Kinney returned he ferried the
trio across the river (if he was scared the little boy aboard couldn't detect
it), and the two bandits headed on toward Wibaux. Billy Smith, the stock
detective, caught up with them on a ranch near Wibaux, and the leader of the
pair was killed.
Elliot spent some time working for the
Reclamation Service during the building of the Lower Yellowstone Canal. While
he was on this job he became acquainted with Captain Marsh, pilot of the
steamboat Expansion. Captain Marsh had a steamboat line up the Missouri River
During the building of the Canal the government
contracted with Marsh to haul the cement, which had been brought to Glendive
by train, from Glendive to the dam by boat. As Louie unloaded cement he became
well acquainted with the captain, and listened with fascination to his stories
- stories of his experiences with the steamer, the Far West which he was
piloting at the time of Custer's Massacre.
It was Captain Marsh who
brought out the wounded in the battles with the Indians that followed Custer's
defeat. Mr. Elliot regrets that he didn't realize at the time he listened to
those tales how significant they were historically. Elliot was also acquainted
with Charley Scerlie, under Reno's command, and with Morrie Caine (for whom
Caine's Coulee is named), who was under Captain Benteen. Reno and Benteen were
both under Custer, and all three were under General Alfred Terry. Terry had
split them at the mouth of the Powder River and sent Custer up Rosebud Creek.
Just over on the Little Big Horn Custer was killed.