First ‘dude Ranch’ Trip To The Untamed West


The Snakes loved nothing better than horse racing and, moving downstream to a level plain, Field wrote, “We had three days’ racing sport. … A straight mile had been laid off and marked upon a beautiful level meadow between Willow Creek and Green River, about half a mile from our encampment, and the stripes and stars floating upon an Indian lodge pole at one end marked the judges’ stand.” A tin pan, used as a drum by the Indians, served as starting signal, and during the races, the Snakes in the audience galloped around wildly, rolling about on their horses in mad tricks, yelling and screeching and Hinging their arms in the air.

On August 17, after two weeks of holiday merriment, the time came to start back east. Sir William, for whom this U.S. visit was to be the last, and Bill Sublette, destined to die in two years, bade farewell to their old acquaintances of the mountains, and the dudes, no longer dudes, but hardened sportsmen of the West, made final trades for leather shirts and moccasins. The two parties streamed down the Plains along Green River and took their separate ways for home, the trappers and Snake Indians to Fort Bridger, the others retracing their steps toward the settlements of civilization 1,100 miles away.

Two months later, as the emigrant covered wagon trains, now well up in the Northwest, straggled on their last lap to the Columbia River, the sporting excursion, bursting with tales of adventures they had had in a playground where only trappers and Indians had previously ventured, reached the first outposts of Missouri’s frontier. Giving voice to the proud feelings of the young bloods, Matt Field wrote as dudes ever since have tel t as they returned to civilization and their homes trom a holiday in the Rockies: “We are the fattest, greasiest set of truant rogues your liveliest imagination can call up to view. VVe are the merriest, raggedest—perhaps you would add, the ugliest—set of Buffalo butchers that ever cracked a rifle among the big hills of Wind River.”