Trapper's Tales

During visits to his cabin in the Adirondack Mountains, Johnny recounts a few episodes from his trove of tales; locating gold and silver mines in the Mojave Desert, throwing bad horses as a young wrangler, bar fights with cowboys, and more!

Episode One

Adirondack Cowboys and Dude Ranches

J Thorpe


Lee Ormsby was a giant of a man, a former ex-marine heavyweight boxing champion. Someone you really didn’t want to mess with! Lee had helped Baxter get the rodeo put together the first year, and was a damn good man to have around when you needed to tie up a bad horse.

Lee was a master leather carver, best I have ever seen. He had a small leather shop in the garage up on the other side of the Cabin in the Pines (also known as Carol and Bob's) and hand carved rodeo belts for several years. Belt carving was a real moneymaker back at that time. Every cowboy and dude alike that came into the country had to have a hand carved built with their name carved in the middle of it! (It is interesting to note that 15 years later you couldn't give the damn things away!)

Lee Ormsby liked to drink a bit. He could get a little loud at times and only a stupid man would mess with him if you were drinking! I remember Tex Jenner and I were having a cup of coffee at the Chuckwagon one night and Lee was sitting next to us feeling no pain, so to speak.

In came three really rough looking dudes, who sat down at the other side of Lee. These guys were minding their own business - an’ Lee started in with the Italian jokes. They just looked over at him several times without comment. Lee’s “jokes” were getting a bit louder. Tex and I looked over at each other and figured it might be wise to pay our bill and get out of Dodge before all hell broke loose.

We had just paid our bill and were heading for the door when the biggest of the three walked over to Lee and asked, “you really don't like city folks much do you?" Lee was sitting on a stool and came back with some smartass remark, when this guy brought a uppercut from down near the floor somewhere that took Lee right under the chin and damn near raised him a foot in the air! This guy was good and he sure knew what he was about!

Lee shook his head and stood up, all 6 foot six of him, and damned if he didn't have a smile on his face! And says, “there’s two things I love to do - one of them is to... But all three of them were out of the door before he could finish his statement!

The next morning Tex and I had to go back up to the ranch where Lee was hacking horses and do some horseshoeing. Lee had his jaw bandaged up; the guy had broke his damn jaw!

One of the horses we had to shoe that morning was Lee's lead horse "Ghost". He was one bad horse that didn't need to be in any hack line! We would have to tie him and sideline him to the fence every morning just to get the saddle on him! I guess Lee just liked the horse around for "local color" - and maybe it was one of best ways to impress the girls?

Anyway, I was tying up the front foot on Ghost - and that's all I remember - until I woke up in the hospital two days later with my wife and the priest by the bed, ready to give me my last rites!

Tex and Lee said it was the damnedest thing they’d ever seen - they said the horse came up with his hind foot and kicked me along the side of the head and drove me as straight as an arrow about 20 foot headfirst into a fence post! It took about a month to get over the headaches! I never did shoe that horse again.