I can't remember if we started calling LeRoy "Buzz" before or after his dad bought him the Piper Cub airplane, but the nickname stuck and he was known as Buzz. He came to live with our family when he started Miller High School and we became fast friends. Buzz lost his mother at a young age and was raised on a cattle ranch thirty-five miles from town by his dad and older sister. His dad put extensions on the tractor pedals and put Buzz to work at a very young age. I was a year ahead of Buzz in school and it was up to me to show him the ropes. My mother offered him advice and guidance hoping to override some of things I thought he should know.
Buzz received a new Studebaker car every year he was in high school. After working with him from time to time on his dad's ranch, I felt that he earned them. Buzz was a Sophomore in high school when his dad bought him the Piper Cub airplane so he could get back and forth to the ranch faster if his dad needed help, and it seemed like Joe, his dad, needed lots of help. I liked to go out to the ranch because Joe treated me good and paid me well. I told him I didn't know too much about ranching and he said, "You don't have to be real smart to fix fence and feed cattle."
Joe had a lot of cattle to feed and every night we loaded three hay wagons with bales and started the tractor across the field and then let it go on its own. There was one tree out in that big pastures so the chances of hitting it were mighty slim. This feeding took care of the registered stock and the range cattle in the winter. My work in town cut into my cowboy life and "Buzz" could handle any thing on the ranch with ease, but we liked each others company and I went with him as often as I could.
Buzz took care of his cars, but he liked to drive fast . We were on our way back from a trip and were dining on bread and bologna sandwiches when we spotted a hitchhiker ahead along side the road. When Buzz said, "Give him the bread." I threw the loaf of bread out the window. It hit the hitchhiker and bread slices flew everywhere. I said, "I might have killed him!" Buzz said, "You probably did. You just hit him with a 90 mile an hour loaf of bread." Buzz and I didn't always think before we acted.
One awful Dakota winter the snow was so deep the cattle could not get to the haystacks to eat, so Buzz and I got bales of hay from the sale barn, loaded one on each wing of the Piper Cub. He was the pilot and I was the bomber. We made trip after trip until the cattle were fed and they could get a path plowed to the stacks. We thought it was fun and Joe said we saved the day. He wasn't always that happy with us.
We liked to go to the local dances and usually got home early in the morning. One morning Joe met us when we pulled in and said, "Glad to see you boys. This morning we're going to sort the pigs and fix them so they can't reproduce." Buzz and I were hung over, and after handling those squealing, stinking pigs for a few hours, we were so sick and tired that we swore off booze and promised ourselves we would never have anything to do with pigs again.
One night at a dance, in a town quite a distance from home, Buzz got into a fight with one of the locals, and a rent-a-cop put him in a little makeshift jail with one cell and deteriorating walls. While the would-be- cop was policing the dance, I and another fool hooked tire chains to the cell bars, fastened them to the bumper of the car and broke Buzz out of jail . We laughed all the way home and read the newspaper every day for a week to make sure Joe didn't find out about it.
Buzz was a Junior in high school when his dad decided to marry the lady who owned the restaurant in town, however she would not consent until he put a bathroom in the ranch house. "No outdoor toilet for Nettie!" she said. Joe liked her a lot, and so did Buzz, so her wish was their command. The wedding took place and they threw a big party at the ranch with kegs of beer in the granary and a lot of beef on the grill. Someone asked Joe what he thought of married life and he said, "I'm not sure -- she has me eating outside and pooping in the house." They were very happy.
I lost track of Buzz when I joined the Navy, but I heard through a mutual friend that he was dealing in hogs in Nebraska. I was disappointed to hear he broke his promise about the pigs.
© 2002 Maurice D. Karst
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