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Jack Frusetta

Jack Frusetta

Jack Frusetta (1878-1937)


Jack Frusetta was born April 1, 1878 in New York to Charles and Margarette (Cullen) Frusetta. Charles was a native of Prugiasco, Switzerland. Margarette was a native of Kilkenny Ireland. At a young age Jack’s family moved to San Benito County in California and ranched in that area. He attended the Platea School riding five miles to and from school every day.

He ranched with his family on the San Benito Ranch and the Syncline Ranches. At one time he also worked as a cowboy in “Butcher town” outside of San Francisco where hundreds of cattle were processed. His family believes this is where he became an expert with the bullwhip he always kept with him tied behind his cantle when not in use.

It is unknown just when Jack first came to Nevada but once he did, the desert lured him away from a successful family ranch to the life of a buckaroo in the high desert. Nevada was home to him. He was a tall wiry, red headed man, happy go lucky with a grin from ear to ear. His family remembers him as a real prankster. Always pulling jokes on his nieces and nephews. The cowboys who buckarooed with him recall him as being a quiet well-liked cowboy.

It is uncertain which outfits Jack worked for. Tom Pedroli seen him and visited with him at Tom’s brother Pete’s some 15 years before working with him in May of 1937 on the Circle A wagon. It is presumed he had at one time worked for Able and Curtner for he knew the Circle A country well. He worked for the CS Ranch in 1934. Frank Petronvich recalls a team running away with Jack, the tongue broke but Jack kept hold of the reins, the horses drug him but he held on until they stopped. In Frank’s words “Jack was fearless and tough. This was a man that was 56 years old then.”

Jack took great pride in his outfit and was well known for always having a good outfit. He rode a black D.E. Walker Visalia Stock Saddle with a rose stamp, Spanish style riggin. He had beautiful silver mounted bridles. One was a black flat leather headstall with silver conchos in the shape of a heart, spade, diamond, clover with a horseshoe shaped buckle and silver mounted spade bit. Another was a round rolled leather headstall with silver conchos every inch. His spade had silver or copper ferrules rather than the copper wire. He always used a bosal and mecate. Tex Bonnet recalls when Jack would run low on cash while in between jobs he would hawk his bridle to Pete Pedroli for $25.00, Pete would always keep it and Jack would get it back next time he was in town.

Jack was a reata man using a 70 foot reata, first 30 feet being 5/8 for the throwing and the last 40 feet being 3/8 in making it easier to dally. He always carried his reata with a day herder’s loop. (Meaning he had a half built loop with his coils) He was a beautiful roper. Tom Pedroli remembers he took long coulee shots, always in the right position. Good head set on his horses with a nice mouth. He was a good hand.

In May of 1937 Jack was working for the IL Ranch, semi-retired staying at the winter ranch. Mark Scott asked Jack to be the IL rep in the Circle A wagon. Jack didn’t want to go. Jay Fowler remembers him arguing with Scott and wondered why he didn’t send one of the younger cowboys, but Jack knew the desert better than any of the other hands. Jack agreed to go.

That night he told Lawrence Jackson he had a strange feeling about going out on the desert again. The next morning Jackson helped him get started. Jack took 5 saddle horses and a packhorse though he was an experienced packer that morning he seemed to stall and fumble with the packing. Jackson told him he’d see him when he got back. Jack shook his head and said “I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Jack helped the Circle A buckaroos for a couple of weeks or so, gathering cattle, branding calves and parting out strays. Jack had about 17 head of IL cattle in a holding field at the Willow Springs. June 3rd he trailed them cattle to the Little Owyhee field; Frank Sellers and possibly Tom Bodie helped him. He left the Little Owyhee the morning of June 4th with his cattle and his cavvy.

Late in the evening of June 17th Fred Bunting, boss of the CS went to the North Fork Ranch. Joe Bob the Indian that was irrigating told him he had found a horse up by the fence with the saddle turned and a rope that had been cut around his neck. Fred walked into the barn and there was Jack’s saddle. He immediately went to Winnemucca and notified the IL. Coincidently at about the same time Jay Fowler and some of the other IL buckaroos had picked up the rest of Jacks cavvy at the Winters Ranch. They notified the IL headquarters and they had recently heard from Bunting.

June 19, two groups of searchers set out, one group of cowboys came south from the Little Owyhee and another group went North from the Little Humboldt. About the time they met half way to Evans Lake Buck Tipton recalls they started finding articles from the pack, a dress boot and other articles of clothing. The one party had found the packhorse tangled in the brush a mile or so up from the Little Humboldt. About 3 miles from the guard corral they found a stack of brush, a cut rope and the remains of a fire, and what was left of Jack’s bullwhip.

They surmised that Jack must have been hurt there, used his bullwhip to gather the sagebrush and to try and mount his horse, when that failed he cut his horse loose. They were never sure what had happened to Jack whether he was kicked by the packhorse as he was redoing his pack that had apparently came undone. Whether his packhorse blew up jerking him from his saddle, or causing his horse to blow, no one knows to this day.

The cowboys continued to follow Jacks trail as he drug himself along, finding fires along the way, a dozen or so. At the guard corral they found his final fire but even after running out of matches he kept dragging himself along the trail. It had stormed on him giving some relief to the thirst. But the desert cold that can change to desert heat in a matter of minutes had to quickly dry things out. The cowboys trailed him another mile or so to find his body in the protection of some tall brush; they could see where he had drug himself around the brush, possible seeking shade. At the very end he still had his pride and his dignity as he laid his spurs neatly beside him on his gloves and tilted his hat over his face.

Dr. Seymour J. Kranson, physician at the CCC camp in Paradise Valley, Nevada, gave the report the right hip seemed to have been dislocated and in his opinion death came from pain, dehydration and exposure to the elements.

Jack lived a Buckaroo life and died as a Buckaroo, in the rugged Nevada Desert he loved.

Jack Frusetta was inducted into the Buckaroo Hall of Fame in September 1996.

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