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William Wright Hudspeth
Bill on Jimmie
Bill on Jimmie

William Wright Hudspeth ("Uncle Bill") (1871-1949)

William Wright Hudspeth was born September 9, 1871, to William David Hudspeth and Amanda Green Hudspeth. Bill was one of ten children, 7 boys and 3 girls. His parents were from old pioneer families in the Surprise Valley area of northern California.

The Hudspeth ranch was located on Milk Creek, known as the Milk Ranch, near the Deep Creek settlement, now know as Cedarville, California.

History tells us that Surprise Valley was becoming a large settlement due to a severe drought in central California. Many cattlemen in that area, were offering one half of their herd increase to anyone who would drive or help drive their cattle to drought free areas. Surprise Valley was one of those areas. Small homesteads and little cattle ranches were becoming large outfits. There were no boundary fences at that time, so buckaroos were in demand.

Bill learned to ride, rope and break horses at a very young age, riding when he was old enough to straddle a horse. He worked for his family and surrounding outfits. William and Ida Herron, Bill’s Uncle and Aunt, homesteaded the Rock Creek Ranch located on the southeast side of Hart Mountain and extending almost to the Roaring Springs Ranch in Harney County. He rode for Peter French at the Famous “P” Ranch, and other outfits in that part of Oregon.

Bill’s father died in 1892 and his mother died in 1909. In 1910, Bill’s brother, A.D. Hudspeth, acted as “Attorney in Fact” for his brothers and sisters. Earnest money was paid to the Surprise Valley Bank, papers were drawn, the balance paid and the Hudspeth holdings (Milk Ranch) of some fifteen hundred acres were sold to James Heryford of Lakeview, Oregon. Bill had a falling out with his brother and left the area. He went to work for the Miller and Lux interests in the boom days at their Arizona properties. Bill also had been connected with the Wilson Packing Co., in Omaha Nebraska. It was rumored that he spent some of the time he was gone in Old Mexico. According to his great-nephew, Jerry Grove, he was gone for 20 years. Jerry’s mother, Bill’s niece and husband Davey Grove Sr. went to see Bill when he was buckarooing in Arizona. The Grove family kept in touch with Bill during the time he was gone.

In 1925, Walter Johnstone, purchased the Piute Meadow Ranches from Miller and Lux. Bill went to work for Walter and his son Sam at that time and worked for them until the ranch sold in 1945. Sam Johnstone and Bill stayed and worked for the new owners for about a year. And then they both moved to Winnemucca. Bill stayed at the Hotel Humboldt. He was associated with the Johnstone family in the automobile business, until he died, January 22, 1949. His remains were shipped to Cedarville, California where he is buried.

Bill Hudspeth was an exceptional hand with a horse. A very good stockman. Walter and Sam Johnstone relied on his judgment when buying bulls and culling cattle. Bill broke the ranch horses. When Bill was getting up in years, generally there was a broncobuster hired to put a few rides on those fours and five year old geldings. The long winter nights provided Bill with some time to braid rawhide ropes, reins and bosals, and necessary repairs to his gear. Bill shod horses used on the ranch. If a special shoe was required, Sam would work one up on his forge.

Bill used a 60 to 70 foot riata and would catch whatever he was aiming for. Bill always rode good gentle bridle horses. When the stud bunch was brought into the big round willow corral, the buckaroos would leave the corral. Bill would dismount and grab his long riata, rope the stud out of the bunch and lead him to another corral. The colts would be branded and the younger horses worked out to be broke and cull the ones to be sold.

“Uncle Bill” had a tremendous amount of patience, especially with children, helping anyone who was willing to learn. Sammye Johnstone, (Sam’s daughter) rode with him from a very young age, big open spaces and very few water holes, making the days pretty long. The three ranches owned by the Johnstone’s, were about eight miles apart. The buckaroos would ride to the job and do what cow work had to be done and then ride home. There were no horse trailers or stock trucks in those days.

In 1936, riding a big sorrel horse called “Boulder”, Bill won a belt buckle at the 11th annual Nevada Rodeo, in Winnemucca, Nevada. According to the Humboldt Star, September 8, 1936: “In the best reined horse competition, a feature of the final day of each year’s rodeo, William Hudspeth, riding a horse owned by S.K. Johnstone (Sam) of Piute Meadows captured first money, while Tom Griswold of Elko was second.” The buckle was made and donated for this event by, Garcia Saddlery Co, Elko, Nevada-Salinas California.

Jerry Grove remembers “Uncle Bill”, his fondest memory, seeing Bill drive up in the old Chevy coupe at Christmas time. Bill was their Santa Claus. Bill never married, and he surely enjoyed his nieces and nephews, and the four Johnstone kids.

Bill Hudspeth was truly an old time buckaroo, “if he couldn’t do it on a horse, it wasn’t done”. He didn’t do chores, and only helped with the haying when he used his saddlehorse to pull back the net. A slide was used to stack hay. Bill was the only full time buckaroo that worked at the ranch and (he and Sammye Johnstone) rode most of the time. Sam helped when there were cattle to work and on some of the long days over the mountain. In the fall when there was a lot of riding usually an extra buckaroo was hired. Riding with the neighbors in the fall sometimes spending several days at Soldier Meadows (Sweeney’s) or Stanley Camp by Summit Lake, (Geo Schadler’s) working out the Johnstone cattle and then pushing them back over the mountain to Piute Meadows. Several cowmen in our country remember Bill Hepseth as one of the best buckaroos they had ever know. Louie and Frank Bidart rode many miles with Bill and are two fellows that truly believed Bill to be the best.

His tack has ended up very scattered. The Grove family has some. He left his saddle to Walt Johnstone, Sam’s son. Later it was sold to Jim Angus. Jim’s son, Casey had a new tree put in it and is still riding it. The saddle was made by Capiola, Elko, Nevada.

Bill Hudspeth was inducted into the Buckaroo Hall of fame 2001.

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