All About Al Vaughn

BACKTRACKIN'

Advertisement

A. T. "Al" Vaughn married Luella Moores in Corona Del Mar, Calif. in 1921. The couple came to the Rim country to live and ranch and made their home at Cold Springs. They had two children, Mary Vaughn Rodgers who still lives in Payson and Jack Vaughn, deceased. From Cold Springs, Al and Luella moved into Payson and Al built the house where Anna Mae Deming still lives. They later moved to Star Valley, but Luella became ill and Al took her back to California where she could have better care. Luella never recovered and died there in 1934. Al raised his family in Starr Valley, Ariz.

I got to know Al well in the spring of 1954. I was 9 years old and my dad, Gene Pyle, and uncle, Malcolm Pyle, had just bought the Cross V Ranch from Al. Al Vaughn was one of the real characters of the Rim country when I was a boy. He rode with us that spring and I enjoyed his company immensely. Al was getting along in years and I suppose the word "crusty" would describe him as good as any.

photo

Wayne Colcord and Alva Taylor "Al" Vaughn oversee roundup work in an old Rim corral.

I recall a day when Al, my cousin, Jack Warter, and I were riding between the Flack Cabin and the Hendershot Ranch (now Whispering Pines). Jack's lips were chapped and he was wishing he had some salve to put on them.

"Cobwebs and soot," Al recommended.

"What?" I questioned wondering if I had heard him right.

"Cobwebs and soot," Al repeated with final conviction. "Best thing for chapped lips. If you don't have that, you can smear horse manure on them."

"Will that heal them up?" Jack inquired between chuckles.

"Nope, but it'll keep yuh from lickin' 'em till yuh can get some cobwebs and soot."

Al rode an old horse that he called Jersey Joe Walcott. Dad told me that Jersey Joe Walcott was an old-time boxer and that Al must have admired him. Jersey Joe got around in the rocks pretty well and seemed to be a good enough cow-horse, but he had a fault that aggravated Al. He would walk along and for no apparent reason, would stumble. Al figured this was because Jersey Joe was not paying attention to business, so when Jersey Joe would stumble, Al would deliver the business end of his gut hooks (spurs) to the old pony. Of course, Jersey Joe would break into a run, but this was not what Al wanted him to do. Al just wanted Jersey Joe to wake up, so he would set back on the reins which would cause Jersey Joe to stop. But after Jersey Joe stopped, Al would continue to pull back on the reins until the old horse backed up to the place where he originally stumbled. This event occurred about four or five times a day for two weeks.

While trying to head a cow, I rode my horse into some downed barbed wire. My horse wasn't cut too badly, but needed a little time to mend. Al said that he needed to stay home for a couple of days and that I should ride Jersey Joe.

The next morning I saddled up old Jersey Joe Walcott and we got along fine until about noon. My dad, Granddad Floyd Pyle, and I had ridden what we called the Bean Patch country up under the Diamond and back to Sunflower Mesa. We had about 30 head of cows, calves and a couple of bulls and were taking them up the Houston Mesa Road to the Shoofly Corral. I was driving drags (behind the cattle) in the road when old Jersey Joe stumbled. He lit up through the middle of the herd like he'd been fired from a pistol, scattering cattle hell, west, and crooked. Then he threw his head up and ran backwards to the point where he had stumbled. All this he did without me having moved a muscle. Al had taught old Jersey Joe well. Several more times over the next few days he would stumble, run, and back up without me having given him a cue, but that was okay. I didn't want to drive drags anyway.

The following spring, Al rode through roundup with us again and again he rode Jersey Joe. He also rode another horse he called Badger and he would ride the two horses on alternate days. Both horses, when left to their own resolve, would turn toward home. When Jersey Joe would turn his nose toward home Al would grin and comment, "You can't fool ol' Jersey; he knows where home is."

Badger's seemingly identical fault -- for reasons known to Al -- was not received with the same measure of good humor. Heh! Badger, get

your head back around here. Al would then put three or four additives in front of "barn lovin'" followed by several more various parts of speech in which he questioned both the horse's ancestry and legitimacy. I got a big kick out of Al's different reactions to Badger and Jersey Joe and later wondered if he might have been putting on a bit of a show for me. With Al, you never were sure when he was serious, or when he was in fun.

During the fall of that same year though, an incident took place during which I am pretty sure that Al was serious as a she bear with cubs.

Dad sent me with Al to the Cornelius Livestock Auction in Phoenix. We had an old flat-bed truck that had been turned into a cattle truck by some cowboy welding of angle iron and a lot of two-by lumber. We had a load of sale cattle and Al knew how to drive (sort of) and I knew the way to the auction, so it seemed things would work out well. And they did go well for most of the drive. We made it down to Phoenix over what we were still calling the Bush Highway. We were driving on pavement about half the time and made it to McDowell road in fine style.

We rolled on down McDowell until we came to 42nd Street where we were supposed to turn and that's where the feces hit the oscillator! I didn't know any other way to get to the auction and there had been a bad automobile wreck at the junction of the two streets.

The police were there in numbers. Some of the victims were being loaded into ambulances, while others that I figured were dead, were covered with blankets among the wreckage. Policemen were directing traffic away from the area.

Al though, was not about to be thrown off the trail by a situation such as this. Undaunted by the pandemonium, Al stuck his arm out the window indicating that he intended to turn left down 42nd in the face of any and all opposition.

"No, no!" one infuriated policeman was yelling at Al and waving his arms in righteous anger. "You can't come through here!"

"Yup, yup," retorted Al, with a disregarding wave at the exasperated officer, "I believe I ken make it," and he weaved his way through the carnage of bodies and wreckage like a coyote slipping through a bull pasture. I stole several anxious looks into the rear-view mirror thinking that if they didn't throw us in jail, they would surely lock us up at 24th Street and Van Buren. The police must have had plenty of distractions at the accident site, because we saw no more of them and managed to pull into the auction where we unloaded our cattle.

Al continued to ride with us for a day or two through most spring roundups for the next several years. My family always enjoyed his company, his dry wit and his old hard-line cowboy ways. Al died in 1961, the same year as my granddad Floyd Pyle. He was riding his horse down to the shipping corrals at Bud Jones's S A Outfit just east of Payson. Al got off his horse and opened the gate, then just laid down and died. Al was for sure a tough, honest and hard-working, old scar-breasted cattleman, a fast declining breed.

Town Historians Jayne Peace and Jinx Pyle, owners of Git A Rope! Publishing, Inc. have written the following: Looking Through the Smoke, Blue Fox, History of Gisela, Mountain Cowboys, Rodeo 101 History of the Payson Rodeo, and Calf Fries and Cow Pies. Look for them at Art and Antique Corral, Payson Chamber of Commerce, Rim Country Museum, Mountain Air Gifts in Payson, and Lorraine Cline in Tonto Basin.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.