Ralph Morrow

Ralph Morrow

Ralph Morrow was a legend of the early days of the Portal area. He was for many years the representative of game law enforcement in the area.


In His own words---

"I was around four years of age when the family left Roswell area and ended up on Eagle Creek north of Clifton, where my father established a ranch. My dad sold out and we moved to Douglas where we stayed until November of 1903, when we came to the Chiricahuas - Paradise.

"We loaded up everything in a covered wagon (leaving Eagle Creek, and later Douglas), and startpd toward Douglas. We reached the Frisco River by Clifton, and it was in high flood stage. There were several camps of people traveling the same direction as us, that had to camp; they couldn't cross the river. There was one thing they were doing-I always will remember: The river water was all we had to use and they would get a bucket of water and cut prickly pear leaves and drop in the water to settle the mud, and some way or another, it did. That's one of the things that stand out in a small boy's memory that ordinarily wouldn't be remembered by even older people.

"The trek we made after we left Duncan, here we were alone that time, generally there would be a half dozen wagons, one behind the other, you know. Usually you started early, and stopped for awhile mid-day, then along about 1:00 or 2:00 pm you would drive along until it began to get sundown. But, no travel was done after sundown. There was a big campfire and we'd eat, and hy the time it began to get dark, we'd h~ve our beds rolled out on the ground and we'd go to bed. The last thing though, before bedding down, we'd look after the horses and see that everything was straight. One of the things you had to keep in mind all the time was the good health of those horses. Darned sure not cripple any. Water was always one you had to remember. If you didn't make it to water, you had a wagon, you carry barrels of water so you could water those horses, because if there wasn't water for anything else, you had to water those horses.

"People today wouldn't enjoy that because they would be in a hurry and want to get on their way. But, really we enjoyed ourselves. We knew that we were not going to get there any quicker than we'd planned on; we could figure how many ~ays it was going to take us, and so help me it would take that many days; sometimes a little more. When we hit a rainstorm, we pulled up and stopped. If it was near time to camp, we went ahead and camped for the night, and stayed in the wagon, which was waterproof. We always pulled out on high ground. If you stopped on low ground, you were liable to find your wagon bogged down when the ground got wet.

"Train travel, it was here at the time that we showed up. It was built right after the turn of the century through here, built by the Phelps-Dodge Corporation through this part. A different railroad, Southern Pacific, went through San Simon." (The Southern Pacific's engine No. 31 crossed the Colorado River bridge at Yuma, Arizona the morning of September 30, 1877. Not until March 20, 1880, did the rails reach Tucson. 8y the end of July, the rails had reached the Dragoon Summit, with two miles of track completed each day. Willcox was reached on August 26, 1880, and finally on September 22, 1880, the Southern Pacific line crossed into New Mexico at Stein's Pass. A line from near Bowie to Globe constructed by the Arizona Eastern Railroad, reached Globe in Oecember 1898. In late 1900, Phelps-Dodge formed the Southwestern Railroad of Arizona to link Bisbee with the Douglas Smelter. By the summer of 1902 this line and others, became a part of the El Paso and South~estern Railroad, whose tracks then reached from Douglas to Deming, New Mexico).

"Horses - they certainly were the means of transportation at the time. I remember one time, and this would be typical of the times, that I rode with my father from here in the Chiricahua Mountains to Roosevelt Dam on horseback. I had an uncle up near Roosevelt Lake, and I stayed to work for this uncle. My father went on back, so a few months or so later, I went home by myself. I was around fifteen or so at the time. It was getting pretty cold, I remember that, and I had one of these old Navajo Blankets and they all hump up like a cow hide and I'd get cold at night and have to build a fire and hobble my horse where he could graze. Coming round down there by the Coolidge Dam, wasn't any dam there then, why, a bunch of Indians overtook me. There was five or six of these indians and one old Indian had his nose cut off I remember. I could speak Spanish, and he found that out, and got to talking and he told me he was born in the Chiricahuas. He was one of the little children when they moved the Chiricahua Apaches from here. So, he asked me if I didn't get cold at night, and I told him, yeah, I got cold at night, darned near froze. He said:'Well, I'll tell you what to do. Tonight when you camp, and you camp where there is sand, and better where a little wash is. You dig out two to three inches of that sand and you build fire with sticks allover it, build a good fire. Let that burn an hour or two and then cover it over with sand. Then you lay down there and put your blanket over you, never get cold.'

"So, that night I did that, and it was about daylight before I began to get cold, and it was time to get up and go anyway. That was the way we traveled. You ride along; you see a mountain way ahead of you. Today it's blue over there, after two or three days, the mountain gets blue on the other side, you've gone past it. That trip took seven days. Of course, my dad was a real horseman and he travelled all over and he drove cattle, he was on the great trail drives from Texas to the Dakotas, you know, delivering those Texas steers. He knew how to ride a horse and get a lot out of a horse. I learned from him. He said: 'If you are going to ride a horse hard, always wait till the last day you're gonna go on that trip, don't do it first.' The last day I rode from north of Bowie plumb into the Chiricahua here right below Paradise that day, right across rough country, no road. And, that horse just went through with his ears sticking up; course he knew he was going home like I did.

"Speaking of things that impressed me most, one of them was the automobile. When we lived in Douglas in 1903, there was one automobile showed up there. It looked pretty much like a bunch of boxes nailed together; didn't look much like an automobile, but anyway, there were two fellows drove this automobile; wore derby hats, and they were quite something. Another little boy and I were over near what is now called Pirtleville one day, and all the roads wound around through the mesquites the way the wagons traveled. This thing came chugging along about like a good buggy team could trot. It had a sort of rack on the back, so we just ran and jumped on this rack. These fellows told us to get off and we wouldn't do it. We just hung on froze, and they had to stop this thing and pull us off to get rid of us. That was my first automobile ride.

"About 1905, the first automobile showed up in Paradise. It was a Cadillac owned by Doctor Adamson from Douglas. I don't think another car showed up in that town until 1909, then it wasn't much of an automobile. It was what you call a 'push car'. Three fellows were in it; when you came to a hill, two got out and pushed while the other one drove. Later on, I remember the first time I ever drove an automobile, and it was an old Model T and this fellow was drunk and he wanted me to drive him home, which was about a mile away. It was pretty good country or the car and me would have been badly wrecked by the time we got there, but I finally made it. It being an old Ford, every time I'd step down on the pedal that put it into low gear, I'd step too hard and kill the engine. Then I'd have to crank it.

By the time we'd gone a mile or so, I'd done more work than if I'd been walking a long ways. By 1917 I even had a car, a Studebaker, and hired it out for trips from Hilltop to Rodeo and sometimes to Douglas or Silver City. We thought it was a pretty good automobile. It certainly wouldn't be now. In those days, if you had a car that ran 5,000 miles, we made history. Most would run maybe 1,000 -1,500 miles and blow all to pieces. Early 1920's, wagons and teams began to disappear. You seldom saw a man riding a horse any more than rounding up cattle or some such. The Automobile changed our mode of travel to where it was nothing like it used to be. I know there's lots of things about the 'good old days' that were good, all right, and there were a lot of things about the 'good old days' that were bad. Just like today."

(Courtesy of Wayne Morrow, son of Ralph Morrow)



When the Fort Huachuca Military Reservation was turned over to the State of Arizona in the late 1940's, buffalo were brought in - an initial herd of some hundred fourteen buffalo cows, heifers, and young bulls. There was over 45,000 acres in the military reservation at that time and no cross fences. The buffalo had a pretty open range in those days. The initial idea was to build the herd to six hundred and then begin controlled hunts or killing of the surplus, however, in the early fifties the government reclaimed the Fort and all of the buffalo were slaughtered. 

When I went to work at the Fort the middle of July of 1949, the winters I was staying with Carson Morrow in Tucson and supposedly learning something at the University. Of course Carson Morrow was a source of learning also. He would come up with some real gems of advice, such as: While he was yet a patrolman with the Immigration Border Patrol, before becoming Chief Patrol Inspector for the Tucson Sector, he and a fellow officer were along the Mexican line. Carson apprehended a couple of wetbacks; fired a shot to alert his partner; holstered his revolver and reach around one of the bandidos to search him. This thug grabbed his hands and the other stabbed Carson, with the wound cutting the outer layer of his heart. He fell back, drew his forty-four and shot his assailant who was advancing to finish the job. Carson Morrow said, "the bullet hit him square in the belly button, but it didn't kill him right away." Morrow finished off the would be killer by hitting him on the head with the butt of his pistol, which was one of his favorites. This did the job, but bent the frame of the revolver. He gave this advice: "If you are going to hit someone with a revolver, hit them with the barrel. Otherwise you may bend the frame." 

Back to the Fort and the buffalo: The first introduction I had to roping buffalo was the next day after I started work. Ralph Morrow, a fellow by the name of Long who was at the Fort, and I went off toward the east end of the reservation to doctor buffalo for screw worms. The herd had been skinned up transporting them, and screw worms were a real problem. At that time there were no good corrals available and we had to rope buffalo on the range. I sort of hung back observing activities this first go around. Ralph Morrow headed a buffalo, probably a long yearling heifer, and this Long heeled the anima1. After doctoring the critter, Morrow removed the head rope, mounted up, and Long just sort of jumped his horse up giving the heifer some slack to kick off his heel rope. The heifer did just that, and promptly charged Long's horse. Right then it seemed roping buffalo might just be a different story than roping domestic cattle. 

Now, there a plenty of people that have worked buffalo, roped buffalo, and know a great deal about buffalo, but we began to learn right quick about this buffalo business. Having roped quite a few myself, I offer this advice: Be sure to be well mounted on a good, strong, fast horse, as buffalo can run a great deal faster than any domestic critter. Be sure you are in the company of some reasonably good cowboys. Carry a long rope - at least thirty-five feet. Be a bit cautious of any large bulls that are on the edge of the herd, and most particularly if one is by himself, and I'll tell you a bit more about that in awhile. Cows with calves are the most prone to charging and they don't usually make just one pass. On one expedition there was a man by the name of Lutz, Nig Lutz everyone called him, I suppose because he was a bit dusky complected. Nig was riding a big paint horse and a cow charged him. This horse, Fred, Nig called him, had more sense than Nig, and Fred began to make tracks. It was quite a sight. This cow for a bit was hooking old Fred's tail, but he, being properly motivated, put some distance between him and this buffalo cow. The cow ran Fred and Nig for about a quarter mile before she gave it up. That was in the summer of 1950. Back to 1949, Clell Lee was helping out that summer at the Fort, and he and I did most of the buffalo doctoring, and riding from one end of the reservation to the other. Sometimes Ralph Morrow helped us out. Our usual mode of running a buffalo was pony express style. One person rode around a herd until a buffalo that needed doctoring was edged out and a run would begin. We tried to have another rider out maybe a couple hundred yards and we would run the buffalo in his direction. If the first man could get a throw, he took it. By the time the buffalo got to the second or third man, it was a little winded, and they could rope it. Buffalo can run at a steady rate for a long time. Later, when we had corrals, we would round up some buffalo, and head them toward the corrals. There was one old buffalo cow that had a big calf, and she had one horn broken off and the other grew straight up. Ralph Morrow got to calling her Peg. When she was with a bunch of buffalo that you started moving, she just left at a run, and we would see her way off in the distance still going. I don't think we ever had her a corral. If they didn't kill her when they slaughtered the herd, maybe she and her calf ran off to Mexico. 

Ralph Morrow determined that we needed some bigger bulls, so he, Clell, and I set out for House Rock Valley that summer of '49 to bring some back to the Fort. Ralph had contracted with a trucking outfit in Flagstaff to haul back some bulls, but when we got to House Rock, the director of the game department, a fellow named Kimble, decided that all we needed was a bob-tailed truck, probably owned by a relative? We were ready to load out. Three big bulls in the crowding pen, and in with them was a monster of a bull. We are all standing around trying to figure out how we are going to get these bull up the ramp and into this truck when this monster takes to the other three bulls and ran them into the truck. We left the monster right there and closed up the other three bulls, and they were sure into a fight with what room they had. This truck driver says he sure hopes they don't hook the racks off his truck as he doesn't have them fastened down. Ralph Morrow in rather strong terms tells him to get on the road. 

Down through Arizona we come, R. Morrow, Clell, and I following along behind this truck, and this outfit goes forty-five miles an hour - cross country, through town, it don't matter. Forty-five an hour, and that takes considerable time to get clear across Arizona at that rate. The highway went right through downtown Phoenix in those days, and Clell got to laughing about what a wreck that is going to be if these bulls can break out in the middle of downtown Phoenix in the middle of the night. He and I had got so fed up with this trucker, we sort of hoped it wou1d happen. We finally got to the Fort, doctored up these bulls as best we could and turned out. 

One of the bulls got screw worms and left the herd. We didn't have any corrals, but there was a fenced area of sorts that had been the dairy for the Fort. My Dad, Ralph Morrow, and I headed out horseback for what is called Garden Canyon on the Fort C1ell hadn't shown up that morning  so we went on without him. We found this bull, and our experience was that you couldn't drive a buffalo bull by himself. When we rode up to the bull he charged us. We simply ran our horses in the direction we wanted him to travel. After a bit he would give up trying to hook our horses, and we would ride back toward him and get him to run us again. Finally we got him into a small herd of maybe twenty or so buffalo and headed for the Dairy. Clell showed up about then. He was riding a young horse that had got to bucking with him and fell down and got away back to his corral. 

We pushed these buffalo up in a corner where a long shed met the fence, and here they wouldn't go through the gate. It was pretty wild there for a bit with the three of us doing all we could to hold these buffalo which were running around and around in a circle. Finally they went in the gate, and Clell says that is the wildest bit of cowboying he has ever been in on. Ralph Morrow cinched up and heeled this bull; I roped him by the head, and Clel1 roped his front feet; and, we got him down, doctored him, and he recovered to be slaughtered when the government took over the Fort in the early fifties. 

Clell used to come up to the Old Fort where the Morrows had taken up residence in the evenings and my Dad would play the fiddle and Clell the guitar. He sometimes got to telling about hunting jaguars , and some of the tales se t down in Dale's book, LIFE OF THE GREATEST GUlDE, he told first hand. There was a movie theater on the post that had three different films each week, and Clell and I hit that pretty regular. One evening when my folks and I and some neighbors were walking down the street to the theatre, lightning  hit a tree about thirty feet across the street and knocked a limb maybe six or eight inches out of this tree. If you ever hear a sizzling sound like something frying, that's the sound right before the big bang and it is done too late, you either been just barely missed, or hit dead center. 

The next summer Clell was gone, and my doctoring partner was this Nig Lutz. Before the summer was out we had some really good corrals and quit range roping the bison. Just about the last time I remember going out with Lutz, we were off on the southeast part of the reservation, and this was sort of Nig's undoing, because people would sometimes drive out and watch us running the buffalo. Anyway we had doctored a couple of buffalo, and Lutz always was very polite about allowing someone else to head the buffalo, then he would come in and heel them. He was a fairly good roper at that. I'd run down and roped two head and my horse was getting tired. We came upon a cow that had worms and I set after her. My horse was too tired and he was just plain getting  outrun. In desperation I threw my loop, and I had a thirty - eight  foot rope . The loop just went clear to the end and closed down, and darned if it didn't barely settle on this cows horns, and I had her. 

After a bit, my horse got his wind back, and we went on, and here is where old Nig got himself into trouble. One of the Game Commissioners was visiting the Fort, and he and Ralph Morrow and a few other people had driven out maybe to see some buffalo work first hand. Nig now has an audience, and we found another buffalo in need of doctoring. Thinking Nig is going to be his usual considerate self and allow me to rope this critter, I give it a run. Well, as I  said, my horse was getting tired and to my surprise, here comes Nig right along side giving out with some real wild west yipping and hollering and swinging his loop. So, I think, have at it, Nig. This horse of Nig's, Fred, the one the cow ran so far one time, was a star gazer, and just when Nig's big moment is at hand and he is going to rope this buffalo in front of this distinguished audience, Fred trips up and goes end over end. When Fred got. up, I roped him, thinking maybe old wild west Nig might be hung up. He wasn't, and he didn't get hurt much. After that Nig quit and went to work drilling blast holes in the Lavender Pit over at Bisbee.· 

That was about the last range roping that summer that I remember, and we began using the corrals. 

When school let out in the spring of 1951, I went back to the Fort. Ralph Morrow was already on the way out after arresting the Governor of Arizona's cronies , and after a short time he and my Mother, Juanita Morrow, moved back to the Chiricahuas. I stayed on for awhile, working for a kind of dude wrangler type by the name of Andersen. There was another man working there at the time name of Farrell. 

Andersen wanted to tell everyone how he roped buffalo, and during the time I worked after he arrived, I don't remember him roping any other than by the heels. What follows is the story of my last day at Fort Huachuca: 

Andersen insisting on roping a buffalo, kept refusing to use the corrals, and he being the boss: well... That morning, the morning of my last day, I remember roping three buffalo. Andersen and Farrel would take to these bison and run the heck out of them and pretty soon the buffalo would get away from them and come back to the herd, and all I had to do was make a short run and rope them. I'd done that twice when we came upon two small bunches of buffalo. One bunch was up on a hill and I loped up there to see if any needed doctoring. None did, and I was sitting there on my horse and I see this Andersen take to a buffalo down below. He was riding a big sorrel horse that was a pretty fair horse, but this Andersen who was pretty big, was afraid of his horse on account the horse would buck. Andersen disappears in some trees, and when his horse came out he is sans rider. Andersen is. running along behind the horse holding onto his rope, or rather as it turns out, his rope is holding onto him. 

What happened was: there are fox holes left over from the military days, and his horse saw one and jumped it and came down smack in another one and fell down. Andersen manages to get his rope around under his arms, and he is all set for a Nantucket Sleigh Ride Ariz. style. I loped on down and roped Andersens horse, and he lays there on the ground for awhile groaning and moaning and saying please don't let his horse get away. Turns out he wasn't too bad hurt, and I sort of in reflection wished lid let his horse drag him further as I did not particularly like this Andersen character. But, spur of the moment decisions and all that. 

What was sort of odd was that Farrell was a lot closer to Andersen and he made no move to do anything. Later he said he had seen one man dragged to death and he thought here was another. 

Andersen pulled himself together and dusted himself off, and just to show us how tough he was I suppose, we went on looking for buffalo, and pretty soon we found a wormy cow. I had played my usual gambit and let these other two run the wind out of this cow, and I roped her. No one arrived to heel her. I didn't want to lose my rope or have a critter running around with a rope tied to it , so I finally dragged this cow over to a tree and got her round that. and Farrell showed up and supposedly Farrel's horse had fallen down and Andersen was administering first aid. Well, thinks I, to heck with these so and so and when I got back to the housing area, I packed up and left.

That was the end of the buffalo days as I knew them . It seems a shame that they were wiped out, but then that seems to be the nature of the human animal to do such. 

(Courtesy of Wayne Morrow, son of Ralph Morrow - November, 1998)



There is always some cattle rustling going on, even these modern days. Just a few years past (Circa 1950), I noticed some buzzards circling in the head of the North Fork of Cave Creek, here in the Chiricahuas. It turned out someone had butchered one of Jack Maloneyls yearlings. Jack first came to the area as a cowboy for the San Simon Cattle Company. He had a little ranch, ran about a hundred head. He later sold the outfit and cattle to me when he got too old to run cattle in the mountains. 

There was dried blood on beer cans, with good finger prints around where this beef had been killed, but what really put me onto the rustlers was a handkerchief they had left. This had a laundry mark, this handkerchief, and through that we were able to round up everyone involved in the cow stealing. 

The only time l ever came under anything that was really what I considered dangerous, was when I was patrolling one day in the Huachuca Mountains around Montezuma Pass, and I happened to see three men apparently hunting out of season. I settled down in one of these bear grasses, they are called. But, nevertheless, if you sit down in one of those large grass bunches, it is pretty hard for anyone to see you at a distance. So, I got to watching these fellows, and after a little while, they went down the mountain there and killed a big, fat yearling that belong to the rancher there, a man name of D'Albini. Why, I, had to take action some way, and they were about half a mile from me on the face of the mountain. (Any number of people used to wonder how Ralph Morrow saw so much. One reason was: Some of the Riggs, and anyone living around Willcox has surely heard of them, gave Morrow some brand new Bausch and Lomb binoculars that were 10x50's, and as they say now-a-days, state of the art). I figured that these men must have come up the road from the lower Montezuma Canyon, on the south end of the Huachuca Mountains, and that all I had to do was get down below their automobile and wait and catch them on a roadblock, because the road on the west side had a locked gate, and they couldn't go that way. 

Nevertheless, I finally decided to go over the hill, get my car, and race down the mountain, which would indicate that I wasn't concerned with them or hadn't seen them at all. They would stand pat. After they killed this yearling, two of them started butchering it and one of them took a rifle and sat down on a little mine dump in the edge of some brush there, watching. He was the guard against people picking them up - arresting them. Anyway, I raced down the other side, and got out of sight of these men, and they didnlt know but what I had gone on, for sure. I left the car and walked back up the mountain and went in on top of a ridge and down through the brush. When I got to where the guard had been sitting, why, he wasn’t sitting there. However, I was close enough that I could hear these men chopping on the beef with a hatchet. They weren't too far from me. I worked my way down into where I could see the two men operating, and they were real close to me, but I wasn't afraid of them. But I was afraid of the man with the gun, because I realized if he saw me, he was going to take a shot at me. 

I was really uneasy. I decided on a plan of action, there, which I thought was probably best at the time. On one side of this canyon there was a cliff parallel to the bottom where they were working and it wasn't too far from them. I went in behind this cliff; worked my way around to the end of it; and, I was going to throw down on him (the guard) with a shotgun I had. That morning I had set out a .401 automatic rifle to carry along, this was a gun made specially for shooting bank robbers, but had picked up a shotgun loaded with bird shot instead. Just as I came to the end of the cliff, I saw this fellow sitting there close to me with the gun over his lap, but he hadn't heard me or anything. So, when I gave them the command to throw up their hands, and for the men butchering the beef to come up there, why, this fella pushed the gun off into the dirt and just turned around with his hands up and started walking up slowly towards me. 

The other two fellows got so excited, they were just jumping up and down - I've never seen men quite as excited as they were. They left the hatchet, butcher knives, all that, and one of them left his glasses there at this beef they were butchering. In coming up, this head outlaw in the bunch, he was right behind the man who had dropped the gun, and he just reached down and grabbed that gun. He started trying to get a shot at me, and I was holding my fire because at a distance a shotgun loaded with bird shot wouldn’t do much damage. I was figuring to shoot this outlaw in the head. Anyway, he dodged back and forth there for a few passes, and then. he jumped towards some bushes. But, just as he jumped, I let this gun go off and it did hit him in the side of the head and one hand which he had thrown up. He let out a big yell, and threw his gun back over his head and ran on all fours into the brush, and got away, for the time. 

I got the guard, and got everything shaped up, and we caught the other two men. The ring leader got five years in the penitentiary for cow stealing. That was, I consider, one of the more dangerous things I have ever done, no question about it, because that man was going to take a shot at me certain. Maybe I simply was lucky, and he got too excited and scared to fire as he was jumping around. 

(The happenings here related must have taken place around 1936. The tapes are short on dates. The Rustlers at Montezuma Pass occurred a year or so after Morrow broke a leg while riding a big Harley Davidson motorcycle that he sometimes used when he wasn't on horseback or otherwise mobile). 

Courtesy Of Wayne Morrow, Son Of Ralph Morrow      

© Howard Topoff 2011