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Richard (Walter) Bowden

Richard "Walter" Bowden (1905 -1975)

Walter was born August 30, 1905 to Jim and Minnie Esther Smart Bowden about 4 miles west of Jordan Valley on Jordan Creek. Walter had three brothers and two sisters. When he was going to school, when the creek was frozen over he would ice skate on Jordan Creek to school during the winter months. When he was growing up he would do any job, anything that he could do to make a dollar.

Walter Bowden was at the Horse Camp, went to the Owyhee River on a young colt. He left his horse hobbled on top and walked down to the river. He was jumping from rock to rock, caught his foot, fell and broke his leg. He put willow splints on it, tied them with his belt and a bandana. Then he cut a big willow for a crutch, crawled and hopped up to the top where his horse was. He piled rocks up until he could get on the horse and rode back to camp. Someone must have taken him from the camp to a doctor to get the leg taken care of.

I first met Walter Bowden in the spring of 1949 and he was a friend of mine from the first day that I met him.

Walter and Agnes M. Shea were married September 11,1929, they lived at the Owyhee Springs, they went to McDermitt to the old Lucky Seven Ranch, which was run by McCulley at that time and bought 50 head of old cows and their calves for $50.00 a pair. They brought them back and that is how Walter got started in the Crown cattle business. He branded the cows with the Crown on the left ribs. Later they started a ranch at Arock, he cleared sage brush and grease wood with teams, he got these horses from neighbors or anyone that he could get them from--they were all bronco horses but, Walt was teamster enough that he could work these horses with what few gentle horses he had and he built that ranch, which was later known as the Black place.

In 1941 he bought The Old Bowden Ranch, on Rattle Snake Creek, located south of Rome, Oregon, which years before had belonged to Walt's Grandfather. He had built his cattle herd up there and his horse herd. He had built up quite a horse herd, by putting a remount stallion in with his horses, this horse was named Cap, his breeding was thoroughbred with Cap blood line. He bred him to his mares and the mustang mares that he could get into his horse herd. The Cap bloodline was a very cranky horse.

Walt Bowden did and could ride a very, very cranky horse. Throughout the years that I had known him I never did see Walt bucked off, he would take every precaution that he possibly could to ride the horse that he had caught up that morning to do whatever job there was to do that day. Precautions were anything that might be necessary to ride that horse, in which he would later say, "to steal a ride off that horse." These different precautions were using a blind, hobbling his stirrups, tying down the reata, and locking the spur rowels, and tying a front foot up to the saddle horn and having someone take the mecate and take him for a short gallop then put him back in the corral to get on him. I never did see Walt ever force a horse to buck; he always did everything that he could to keep a horse from bucking.

The Cap bloodline of Walt Bowden's horses were widely known in south eastern Oregon among the younger buckaroo's that Walt would hire to start some of his horses. When Walt went out to ride to do a day’s work, it didn't make any difference whether it was roping in a rodear, or parting out beef, whenever he was there, he was a horseback. He would finish these horses out eventually in the bridle, and made some real good bridle horses, they might not be the gentlest horses to ride, but you were a horseback.

Walt and Agnes built up a nice herd of cattle out at the Bowden, at that time he was running yearling and two year old steers. There were times when he would hold back one set of steers a year rather than to have to pay income tax on them. He could pretty well do what he wanted to do. I also remember of him saying that his horse herd was like money in the bank, if things got tough, and if he needed some money, he could always run some horses and come up with some money.

In 1952 Walt and Agnes sold the Bowden ranch to the Echave Bros. and they bought the Vance Ranch north of McDermitt. Then in 1957 they sold the Vance Ranch to Ray and LaVern Easterday.

Walter was really a good teamster; he could handle teams real well. I remember seeing Walt with a six mule hitch at the Centennial in Jordan Valley. I couldn't tell which was the proudest, whether it was Walt Bowden up on the driver’s seat or whether it was the black mules leading the hitch, coming through town in that parade. It was a great sight.

Walt Bowden could make spurs and bridles with very limited tools. He used acetylene, a hammer, file, saw, punch and a forge; he could make a beautiful set of spurs and bridles. Walter also braided reata's and other rawhide work, including buttons.

Walter always had time to show anyone how to do something that he knew how to do and he never got in a hurry, he would help anyone that would watch and listen. It didn't make any difference whether it was branding, marking a calf or a colt, braiding a reata, or making buttons he would show you.

After Walt and Agnes sold the Vance Ranch, he rode for Echave's, worked and rode at the Little Humboldt in northern Nevada; he then later bought a little place at Arock and built up a little sheep ranch there. He also was ditch rider for the Antelope canal company.

Walt Bowden liked his whiskey, I remember one time he and I (Ray Easterday) rode into Coyote Springs up on the desert. This was a Lucky Seven Camp, there was a crew working out of there, but they hadn't come in yet. There was beans and a roast on the stove that was still warm. We went ahead and fixed us some lunch, we were just finishing up when the crew rode in. The buckaroo boss was an old Texan, by the name of Slim. He walked over to his bed, pulled out a whiskey bottle from under his pillow, he took a big drink but he didn't offer Walt or me a drink. So we visited for a little while, while they were eating, then we got ready to leave Walt walked over to Slim's bed and reached in to pull out the bottle, but when he reached in to get the bottle there was a big hog leg laying right beside that bottle. Walt looked at it for just an instant then grabbed that bottle and took a big drink then offered me one and put it back, turned around and told Slim ‘Thanks’, then we left. If glares would have killed, Walt would have been dead right there.

Walter Bowden was a self-made man, but he would help anyone that would help themselves.

Walter passed away October 18, 1975 at 70 years of age and was laid to rest in the Jordan Valley Cemetery.

This information is from Ruby Staples, Hazel Johnson and Ray Easterday.

Walter Bowden was inducted into the Buckaroo Hall of Fame in September 2003.