Kirkpatrick and Bowe history – wild football game at Alkali Lake
I am preparing a family history binder for the Kirkpatrick Family Reunion this weekend and was reading some of Great Uncle Sam’s writings last night. Uncle Sam was a prolific writer and his stories are a boon to anyone trying to put together local family history. He was born and raised in the interior of British Columbia. His father, Thomas Gilham Kirkpatrick, is considered the “patriarch” of our branch of the clan.
I thought I’d pass along this passage, as it shows a bit about both the Kirkpatrick sense of fun and their pioneer spirit. I tidied up the spelling and grammar to make it a bit smoother to read. By the way, the “Jim” in this story is James Douglas Kirkpatrick. Enjoy!
On Sunday I went with John Sr. and his cowboys. We coralled a buch of wild horses and brought in a half dozen to be broke to the saddle. Every night after supper the Indians gathered around and their best buckaroos rode those wild horses. They put on a miniature rodeo.
There was a big crowd on hand and they all enjoyed the fun. Those riders were game and very seldom thrown. Of course, they did not comply with the rules of our modern stampedes, but they put on a good show. There were no shutes; the horse was brought out to the center of the yard with just a neck rope and a hackamor. He was snubbed to the saddle of another rider and a blindfold tied over his eyes. Then a cowboy grabbed the horse’s ears and pulled his head down between his elbows and held him while the saddle was cinched on. The rider stepped up, pulled his hat good and tight, then mounted. He grabbed the horn with both hands and shouted, “Let ‘er go, Gallagher!” The blind was pulled free and they were in action.
The rider usually lost his hat on about the second jump, as when a rider pulls leather his head is bound to flop.
By this time I was thinking about heading for home but Jim said wait another week. I want to take you on a grizzly bear hunt next Sunday. This appealed to me, as I had a rifle that I was proud of, so I remained another week.
Jim, John [Bowe] and I went out Saturday evening to what was known as the Milk Ranch, about 12 miles east. An Indian reported to Jim that a steer had been killed out there by a grizzly bear. We stayed overnight. There was a cabin, a barn and a fenced pasture.
We were up before daybreak and went on foot to where the steer had been killed, but there was nothing left but bones. The bears would not be back, so after breakfast we saddled up and Jim took us out to where he had killed a huge grizzly a month or so before. The coyotes had done a good job on that carcass.
Then we separated and roamed the back country, hoping we would spot a bear, or perhaps another kill, but found nothing. It was easy going through open timber with small meadows and pools of water where we saw bear tracks, but no bears. After lunch at the cabin, we headed for the Home Ranch. Again we separated to see what we could find. There were plenty of live cattle but no dead ones. We had no luck, but had a fine trip and I saw a lot of ideal cattle country.
I expressed my intention of leaving soon. The folks wanted a day or so to make orders for things needed that could be sent out from Clinton by the weekly stage. They gave everyone a chance to add to the list, so it was agreed that I would pull out Wednesday.
On the last evening we had a football game. Jim had got in some balls the year before and taught the Indians the rules of the game. They were eager and soon became experts in maneuvering a ball with their feet.
The playing field was from near the ranch house north. Jim said, “Okay, we will have a short game; 30 minutes without changing ends.” Sides were chosen; I was among them. The rules called for 11 men a side, but I’ll swear there were 20 a side in this game. Jim did not play; he was to be the referee.
We took the field. Jim tooted his whistle and the game was away to a flying start. Within minutes, positions were ignored and rules were forgotten. Everybody chased the ball. There were so many players on the field you couldn’t drive the ball without hitting someone. The old chief sat on a post near the barn, shouting at the top of his voice in his own language. It seemed everybody was shouting orders to their partners and no one was listening. One minute the whole gang was rushing towards the north pole and the next minute they were like a flock of geese heading south. One man got a black eye when hit by the ball. Very often one man kicked another instead of the ball, but the Indians all wore moccasins so there was never anyone hurt. I was kicked twice on the shins, once on the rear end, but I rushed madly on.
I wanted to get a kick at that ball. Sad to say I only got one chance, then I missed as the ball was breaking all speed limits at the time, heading towards the enemy fullback, who sent the ball high over the gang near our goal and resulted in a goal being scored a short time later. Time was running out on us. The game went on and it seemed to me our team was tiring. We lost ground and it was our goaltender that turned the tables, making a long pass down the field, where a couple of our boys took posession of the ball. Then, after a brilliant display of the Highland Fling, a bit of hopscotch and a final twist, a goal was scored and the game tied and one and all, everyone was satisfied. The Indians went up the road, all talking and laughing. The old chief with his cap in his hand was still shouting at the top of his voice. So the knowledge and pleasure that was brought to those people by brother Jim will never be forgotten.
Well, that ended my visit at Alkali Lake and, believe it or not, this happened 65 years ago [ca. 1900].