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Robert Henry Wilkinson

Robert Henry Wilkinson (1874-1929)

Robert Henry Wilkinson was born October 19, 1874 in the town of Hancock, Delaware County, New York. His parents were Alfred Shotten Wilkinson born in Hafferton, York County, England, and his mother Harriett Ann Malkinson, born in Ulceby, Lincoln County, England. He was raised in a family of eight children on the Ten Mile ranch north of McDermitt, Nevada, which was homesteaded by his parents.

Bob Wilkinson married Philbma Minor on April 24, 1899 and upon her death, he married her sister, Sara Aletha Minor, on March 20, 1905. There were no children born to these unions.

The Little Meadow was the ranch Bob homesteaded, which is three miles east of McDermitt, Nevada, where he raised a few hereford-durham cross cattle but spent most of his time running mustangs on the Owyhee Desert.

He employed some good Buckaroos from McDermitt, Winnemucca, and Fort McDermitt. Among these hands were Harry Dick, Harry Lossing, Frank Hinkie, Gardner Shinns, Pete and Tom Pedroli and a cook named Peanuts.

Along with his own business Bob would contract hay for Pete Nouque and helped run Pete’s cattle. Whenever Bob would visit Pete he’d sample some of Pete’s homemade wine, made from the grapes brought in from California by the Peraldo’s of Paradise Valley, Nevada. Bob never drank a glass of wine without first adding a teaspoon of sugar.

Bob didn’t leave the McDermitt area often: He did, however, enjoy a good meal, and had a real hankerin' for gambling which brought him into town on occasion. It was not uncommon to see up to fifteen thousand dollars on a poker table at one time. His hobby dictated when he would go mustanging to pad his pocket book for a wild night in McDermitt.

When the Buckaroos left for the desert they would go to Jackson Creek, then on to Steep Trails, Rattlesnake, Twin Springs, Cannon Ball and Waloupe gathering horses as they went, penning up at Hansen Flat then on home. This took from ten to twelve days.

Bob knew how horses ran, and which trails they would take. There wasn’t a horse or bunch of horses that Bob didn’t know where and how they would go and when and where they would end up. Some of the good traps for horses were Box Canyon, Chipmunk and Horse Flat.

One memorable roundup for Tom Pedroli, then a boy of fifteen, took place at Rattlesnake. It was midnight when Tom woke up to hear Bob shouting, “Get up, the horses are getting away!” Tom went about putting on his clothes but Bob jumped on his horse in his “drawers” and went after the runaways. Then Tom looked up to see a ghost coming down the hill on a horse. He soon knew it was Bob, in his long-johns when he said, “It was just a couple of 'em."

Running mustangs was much like running cattle, in that they were rounded up, branded and castrated. The younger ones were broke to sell as saddle horse, and the older heavier ones went for chicken feed.

Archie Myers moved into the area about this time and convinced Bob to sell his best horses to a sheriff’s posse in Los Angeles, California. They were driven to Winnemucca and shipped by rail to their new destination.

In 1928 two horse gatherings consisting of 400 to 500 horses each, and were made to Winnemucca. These went to the slaughter house. On one occasion the buyers would not take the colts so Bob turned them loose on the streets of Winnemucca and every kid in town had a pony.

Prices for the horses ranged from three to five cents a pound on chicken feed horses and two hundred to two hundred fifty dollars on broke horses. Steers went for twenty-five dollars a head or three cents a pound. Many of the steers weighed in at fifteen hundred pounds at the end of the 75-mile drive. Bob was always good about taking care of other ranchers' livestock. If he came upon a neighbor’s horse running with the mustangs he’d make an effort to return him to the owner.

When it came to roping and riding there were none better. Bob could ride into 50 saddle horses reach out and rope the right one every time. On one of the mustang runs above Washburn Creek, Bill Minor recalls how Bob, in the process of roping one mustang caught two in the same loop. The rope was dropped but both horses went over the edge of Washburn canyon and were killed.

Pete Pedroli said, “He was the best rider he had ever seen.” For a sporting event Bob Wilkinson, Jim and Tom Minor would take turns riding each other’s horses. They were all excellent riders and generally rode “cranky horses.”

Some other events Bob participated in were horse races and rodeos. The races were held on a dirt road west of McDermitt. People from surrounding areas including Indians from Fort McDermitt brought horses in for the event. The rodeos were held in the street in front of the White Horse Inn. Bob furnished bucking stock for McDermitt and Winnemucca rodeos and was always the best “pickup man” around.

He always had a good pair of long-shanked spurs, a spade bit and a reata. The saddle he rode came from San Francisco and was a 3 B tree, high cantle, two-inch horn that stood straight up.

Bob died November 21, 1929. The Little Meadow Ranch is still owned and operated by the Wilkinson Family.

Robert Henry Wilkinson was inducted into the Buckaroo Hall of Fame in September 1991.