Benton County Pioneer Life

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Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area

Round-up Time in Kennewick, From Plymouth to Rattlesnake

Tri-City Pioneer
Tri-City Herald, Sunday, March 12, 1961

About the first of March preparations were started in the Kennewick area for the Spring Round-up. Saddle horses were brought in from the local range. They were fed hay and ridden to condition them for the hard riding they would receive in the next few months.

The big, spring horse round-up started from Paterson's Ranch on the Columbia. It was eleven miles down stream from the Jade Switzler Corrals and Horse Spread, that were located opposite Umatilla. The present day Plymouth was known as Switzler before the railroad was built. The horse owners had built a series of large corrals spaced about 10 miles apart, along the Washington side of the Columbia. These corrals extended from Paterson's Ranch to Kennewick from which point they followed the Yakima River and its tributaries.

The corral at Barrel Springs, in the Mount Rattlesnake district, marked the end of the round-up for the Tri-City area. The length of the round-up from its beginning at Patersons Ranch to its conclusion at Barrel Springs, was considerably over 100 miles. It covered a strip of country from 15 to 20 miles in width.

The corrals were built from driftwood logs from the Columbia and Yakima rivers. The large main corral was generally octagonal in design. The ends of the logs were slightly notched to fit into each other to form the panels of the side walls and were pinned together with large wooden dowels or iron drift bolts. Double posts were set at all gate openings. The corrals were about 11 feet high. The space between logs was large enough for a man to crawl through. Smaller connecting corrals of similar construction and design led off the main corral. These smaller corrals were branding corrals and cut-out corrals to hold certain herds of stock, roping corrals with a snubbing-post and riding or breaking corrals.

The branding and searing irons were heated in an open fire outside the corral and were passed through the cracks between the log walls, as were the casterating clamps and docking shears.

The tails of all castrated animals were docked to show that the operation had been performed. The hair from the docked tails was tied-in bundles to be used to make hair ropes, saddle pads, bridles and other equipment made from horse hair. The processed horses were immediately turned out to range unless the owner wished to bring them to another location.

It took over a week's time to bring in the horses and process them that were tributary to each corral. The unprocessed stock was herded, grazed, and watered each night and corraled again in the morning until all the horses had been processed. The saddle horses of the buckaroos were herded each night separately.

When all the stock on the range tributary to the corral had been processed, the buckaroos would then spread out in twos and collect all the unprocessed stock tributary to the next corral, where the operation would be repeated.

The boss of the round-up was like the captain of a ship, his will was supreme. He was usually an old-time buckaroo with a world of experience. He was physically and mentally able to enforce his orders. He planned each day's operation, he dispatched his men and gave instructions on what they were to do. He rotated his men so that everyone did his share of riding, and branding. He gave orders when bed time came and also called the cook and all the crew in the morning, except those who had done night herding. He settled all disagreements between the buckaroos. He taught the ever present "tenderfoot" what it was all about and took his part when the buckaroos became too tough on him in their hazing.

My pick of all the early day round-up "bosses" would be tall, quiet, good natured, Ren Farrel. He could out-ride, out-rope, outshoot, and out-fight any man on the round-up and was liked and respected by everyone.


OH! "The Tenderfoot" grew most ghastly sick
As buckaroos ate, hot horse fries on a stick
No marshmallows again his palate will whet
For he has just heaved up every bit he has et'

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