Wagons, Ho


On November 8, 1889, Montana was admitted to statehood.  One hundred years later, Montanans across the state celebrated with “pioneer” events, one of which was the Great Montana Centennial Cattle Drive, more commonly known as The Big Drive of ’89.


With a large herd of cattle, many drovers, 250 wagons of various types, numerous outriders and a horde of horseback riders, the wagon train wound from just east of Roundup, Montana, south through the Bull Mountains into Billings, Montana. 


I was privileged to participate in the Big Drive.  I was an outrider for a friend and his three daughters with their covered wagon and team of Belgian horses.  Now folks who only see wagons on tv, may not understand that a wagon driver is not alone in the performance of his driving duties.  He has a group of people to help him get where he is going safely. 


Of course, the leader is the wagon driver.  The people around him are there to ensure that the driver, horses and wagon get where they are headed and do it safely.  A “swamper” rides the wagon with the driver, taking the lines if he needs to get a drink or just to rest his hands, and maybe working the brake through a winding downhill area. 


Outriders are the horseback riders who hover around the wagon, close by should the team bolt and run or lose a headstall, balk or just need to be settled down.  When the wagon stops to rest the horses, the outrider on his horse, stands at the head of a team horse to ensure they do not rub their bridles off or get twisted in the lines by rubbing on the other teammate.  If a team does bolt and run, it is the job of the outrider to stop the team by grabbing a bridle strap or pushing them into a circle or aiming them for a fence.  


I attended many wagon trains that year.  On one such, we stopped to open a gate and the lead team rubbed one bridle off.  The team took off running, the wagon was bouncing on the brush and rock of the prairie, people and then “things” started flying off that wagon, dust was flying.  The outriders got the team stopped.  Finally, on the McCone County (Montana) Diamond Jubilee, I drove my own wagon: a half platform spring wagon I had built myself from old wagon parts left to rot on the prairie, driving a team of mares I had bred, helped birth, and trained.  I had a swamper and an outrider and we had a blast.


Two hundred fifty wagons participated in The Big Drive; two hundred fifty groups of people all getting one wagon safely to its destination.  No one person should drive his wagon alone.  Too many things can go wrong which one person cannot prevent or control.  Everyone should have a group to help them get through the tough times and ensure they get to their destination safely.  Your team should consist of your family and friends, your financial advisor, accountant and an attorney.


A lawyer, like an estate planning lawyer in Belgrade, MT from Silverman Law Office, is changing the way law is practiced. Whatever your wagon is today, whether a business transaction, a real estate matter, a tax dispute or estate planning a lawyer will ensure you get where you are going in a safe manner.