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Copyright 2013 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Bucking Into the Breakfast Fire…

 Excerpted from Charlie Russell—The Cowboy Years

By Jane Lambert, Stevensville , MT

 

October 2013 issue  

     During the summer of 1887, the incident happened that led to the popular painting, “Bronc to Breakfast.” Every morning, horses were caught and saddled near the chuck wagon, and a common problem for the cowboys was to keep their fresh and humpy horses out of the “kitchen.” There were many mini-rodeos every morning, and Charlie painted several different versions (1887, 1897, and 1908), based on separate incidents.

     The first one he titled, Bronc in Cow Camp, and he gave it to Robert “Corduroy Bob” Thoroughman, as it was based on a story Bob had told him. It happened in the Big Hole in 1879, and the bronc rider was Corduroy Bob, who was captain on the roundup that year and was working for Sands and Taylor (their initials are on the tent). The cook in this picture is Mike Bryer, wearing the XXXX flour sack apron and threatening Bob and his horse with a shovel. The painting was done in 1897.

 

Bronc to Breakfast, 1887 version. Charlie Russell painted himself sitting on the ground to the right.

     Frank “Doc” Nelson is the cowboy on the horse in the 1887 version. The story goes that Doc’s older brother, Beaver, owned the snuffy horse. Beaver was a top hand and roundup foreman for George “Two Dot” Wilson . That morning, Beaver was out of camp, and Doc wanted to prove his own prowess as a bronc stomper by riding the horse, so he saddled him up. Cowboy Bert Jackson, who was there, said:

     … Charlie was sitting on the wagon tongue that morning, sketching, so he had a really good view. The horse bucked into the breakfast fire, knocked the top off the Dutch oven where the biscuits were baking, spilled the five-gallon can of hot water into the fire, kicked the frying pan of food into the air, and knocked down the rod holding the big pot of coffee over the fire. Scattered everything!”

     Cook Frank Graham was so mad he grabbed a butcher knife and threatened to cut up the cowboy. The horse bucked right toward two unidentified cowboys, seated and having breakfast. The man in the background wearing white angora chaps is Sim Roberts, a top hand, who ended up with a splendidly checkered past and notches on his gun. To his left is Bert Jackson, holding the black horse. He worked the range for many years and then retired to Pony, Montana . His memory of the incident was very clear when he was interviewed on his 96th birthday. Russell painted Kid Amby Cheney on the wagon wheel, even though he had not quite got to the range at that point, and you can see Charlie painted himself sitting on the ground to the right side. This scene was painted in 1908.

     Later, Doc Nelson was painted riding the same horse, after he was well trained, in The Bunch Quitter.

 

     “Charlie Russell–The Cowboy Years” is a meticulously-researched book which features stories of Russell’s cronies, horses, old photos, and art from the eleven years he spent on the range. To purchase a copy for $24 (includes shipping), contact the author at: 677 Pine Hollow Rd. , Stevensville , MT 59870 ; 406-777-5988.

 

 

Copyright 2013 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

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