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Benjamin Earl "Bennie" Jordan

Benjamin Earl "Bennie" Jordan (1908-1999)

Bennie Jordan was born October 2, 1908 to Ben F. Jordan and Bessie Flo Miller Jordan on a ranch in Warm Springs Valley, Oregon. The family lived at the Warm Springs Ranch until 1912 when the waters of the Warm Springs Dam covered the ranch site. From there they moved to the “Hand Place” at Westfall, Oregon.

The Jordan family were cattle and sheep ranchers with places at Cow Valley and Westfall. Bennie attended school at Bonita, Oregon, Westfall and a school near “Becker” Ranch.

While attending school in Westfall, Bennie remembers one momentous fall when he was about eight years old. He saw coming towards him, from the west, a band of about one hundred Indians heading for the Snake River to winter there. Bennie ran and hid in the sagebrush thinking the Indians didn’t see him. After they had passed, he ran on to school.

This was the old Indian trail that these Indians had been using for centuries. It ran from Burns, Oregon to the Snake River. It was the same trail that Miller and Lux started using for their beef trail.

Bennie thinks this was the last year these Indians made this migration. (About 1915 or 1916). He said the men rode horseback and the women had ponies pulling little buckboards (or hacks). They had many dogs with them.

Bennie went to work for Miller and Lux (PLS) at the Harper Division when he was 13 years old. Louie Deal was the boss. He had Bennie take some horses from the Harper Ranch to the Clover Ranch. There he was to break and ride snaffle bit colts, horses and mules. The mules had to be chained at night or they would be gone by morning. He had to saddle them up the night before so he could get up before daylight to get started. He would pull the cinch up real tight and get on.

After that, he went to the Harper Ranch under Robie Copeland. From there, he went out with the buckaroo wagon on the Owyhee side

The PLS Co. owned the Rhinehart Ranch and from there they took four thousand head, in two bunches, from the Island Ranch to Willow Creek and shipped at El Dorado to the Miller and Lux ranches in California.

One time they drove fifteen hundred head from Harper Ranch right through the town of Vale to the “Mallet” ranch near the Malhuer Butte. The cattle were shipped from there and then Bennie and the Buckaroos rode back to Harper.

When Bennie was 16 years old, he went on a Miller and Lux beef drive to Winnemucca under Charley Riley as boss. They left Harper with three horses each and gathered the cattle at the Red -S Field and started the drive, picking up additional horses at the PLS ranches on the way. They stopped at Windy Point, Juniper, Mann lake, Alvord, Serrano Point, Quinn River Ranch and while camped at “Davey Town,” a bad storm came up and scattered the cattle. They had to gather them all night in the cold storm.

Just about all the PLS horses would buck and Bennie remembers one that would run backwards when he got on and then fall over backwards with him!

He stated that on a long drive like that, they worked the cattle very quiet, letting them string out for up to four or five miles. It took them tree weeks to trail to Winnemucca from the Island Ranch where they started.

When they finally reached Winnemucca, the boss there had to quarantine the bunkhouse due to small pox. So the buckaroo’s had to sleep in the barn. Then they went to the “Humboldt Hotel” and had a bath and a haircut. They stayed in Winnemucca about four or five days. Then they shipped the cattle to California and headed home. It was cold and miserable and Bennie was sick with the flu.

Bennie had never known anything but a hard life working cattle and horses. He had learned from his Dad and other old time Vaqueros like “Jumper” Jones, who was his brother-in-law.

All through his life, Bennie had a reputation for being able to ride anything. Jumper had taught him how to get on colts, how to put his knee in their shoulder and ease up real slow. He could take horses that others couldn’t handle; nasty, rank horses that would buck a man high and then try to kick him when he came down. But Bennie could take a horse like this and get him to do anything; even use him at brandings and never have him out of control. People would bring him horses that no one wanted to go near; horses that would kick a man’s foot in the stirrup and then drop his head and start to buck. But Bennie was always ready for him, using his quirt or romal to distract him, or pull his head at the right moment. He would take mean horses and ride them when he didn’t have too. It was like a challenge to him. Throughout his entire life, Bennie could handle horses like these, even riding snaffle bit horses when he was in his sixties.

After Miller and Lux went out of business in the late twenties, Bennie married a young lady who worked in the bank at Vale, Oregon. But, unfortunately, she became sick and died not long after they were married.

Then he married Iris Shunn and they had 14 children. As of this writing (1999), there are 44 grandchildren, 69 great-grandchildren and 9 great great-grandchildren.

Bennie and Iris raised their family mostly in the Vale, Oregon area while Bennie worked for ranchers like Fred Walters, who had owned the “Agency Ranch”, Walt McCuen at Swamp Creek and Tom Davis at Westfall, Alvord and Cascade, Idaho. The family also had their own place where they raised horses and cattle. His daughters remember their Dad using teams of horses whenever there was any work to be done.

Bennie also made his own reatas and worked with his son, Bob making bits and spurs when Bennie was ninety years old. He truly was an all-around Buckaroo all of his life.

Bennie passed away on May 12, 1999... another old-time Vaquero gone to rest after many rough rides on “cranky” horses.

Bennie Jordan was inducted into the Buckaroo Hall of Fame in September 1999

~ Dennis Nelson wrote this biography, June 4, 1999