Story by Gerri Wager
The K-T Ranch had been homesteaded by the Bruce family. Their wood chinked two room log cabin on Lake Mountain still stood, and remains usable today. In the 1950s, a new cabin and barn were built. Sometime after that the K-T was acquired by Nina and Kenny Wingfield.
Joe and I purchased the headquarters from the Wingfields in 1975. They retained a number of adjoining acres because, from time to time, they wanted to camp on the mountain come summers.
It was mid July 1992 on an typical star studded evening as we sat around a campfire with Nina and Kenny. It would prove to be a unique storytelling session. Kenny was the master teller of tales. So, when he reached a point, he said he had a very special historical event to relate. It was, indeed.
The Tale Never Before Told by Arizona Cowboys
It was the end of the summer season, October 1932. The Apache Maid Ranch was hosting a roundup dinner. As it was closing, Kenny’s father, David A. Wingfield, stood to thank all those who had worked the summer roundup.
David Wingfield then said, “I’ve got another drive to make off the mountain, and anyone who wants to help will be welcomed.” The cowboys all looked around to each other, knowing all the cattle were back in the valley. What could this be?
“The Bruce family has rounded up over 100 pigs and we are going to drive them to the railroad in Clarkdale.” The silence was deafening! Wingfield had not told his boys about the pig drive. It was startling news to them. It didn’t take long to learn that not a single cowboy from the other ranches was going to volunteer for this assignment. The Wingfield cowboys looked at one another. They knew the code. When you “rode for the brand” you did whatever the job was. If you left, you would not get another local rancher to take you on.
True to their word, the Bruce family had gathered the 142 head of now ear-tagged critters. They were out on the road facing downhill. The cook’s wagon was packed. Corn had been bagged and stored along with the regular food supply.
Well, the pigs were ready. The cowboys were ready. It was time to start. K-T Ranch to the Clarkdale Railhead . . . 40 miles.
How long would it take?
How many miles a day?
Did anyone know?
The cowboys had to figure this out. They were not totally unfamiliar with pigs, as the pigs roamed the mountain among the cows. But, they had never pushed large numbers of pigs in any direction, for any distance. The Stoneman Lake Road was the natural way down the mountain. Perhaps the pigs had travelled the road over the years. They hoped.
It took no time at all to realize they could” not ‘drive” the pigs. After some experimenting, they learned that to move the pigs forward, they would have to get in front of the pack and ride into and through it. The pigs would then run forward around the horses. It was teamwork. It was slow going. It was determined that if they could make four miles a day, that would be a success. Then, add in a day of rest, almost two weeks to reach Clarkdale. Cookie assured the boys that there was food enough to make the trip.
There were cattle trails to use as they moved off the mountain. The trick was to keep the critters from straying. It was tedious, but by the third day the pigs seemed to know where they were heading. They were making progress. The Clarkdale railroad station was the final destination. When they finally arrived, the stock car was ready. They used the bagged corn to lure some of the pigs to the upper level by sprinkling the corn up the runway. The pig market was in Kansas City. Two of the cowboys were selected to accompany the pigs to KC. Their reward was a two-day stay over before their train trip back to Arizona. The two cowboys had just enough time to shake off the trail dust. Then it was onto the cattle car and off to the big city.
When they got back to Cornville, everyone who was a part of or who knew of the pig drive were gathered together. After much conversation, Mr. Wingfield assured everyone there would never again be another pig drive. They vowed to never again speak of the pig drive.
And here the tale ended. “Oh, Kenny,” I said. “Seventeen years of storytelling. You really got us with that tall tale!” Without missing a beat, he replied, “It’s true! I have been reading my father’s old Tally Books. When he wrote details in his book, it was the truth! I remember.”
What a marvelous night around the campfire. The next weekend, we were at the Prescott Livestock Auction barn when I spotted Don Goddard. I knew his family were of pioneer stock so I approached him and asked if he had ever head about a pig drive. He laughed and said he had heard a lot of stories about the old days, but not this one. He mentioned that he had an uncle who was 70 who had cowboyed in his youth. Maybe he would know if anyone ever told about a pig drive.
A few days later I got a call. Don was excited. He told me that he finally got his uncle talking about his youth. Don asked about a pig drive and his uncle assured him that it could not be a true story. Don told his uncle that Kenny Wingfield had told a friend. His uncle could not believe it. “A Wingfield told about a pig drive?” “Yes, Kenny told my friend and she told me.” “Well,” he said. “If a Wingfield told, I guess I can tell you. IT’S TRUE. I know because I was the cook’s helper – I was ten years old. My mom said I could go. I went the whole way. It was quite an adventure.”