Cussin’ Oxen

Part 4 of 14: Memories of Long Ago

by Hiram Ellsworth Pearsall

About 50 years ago [1894], all logging in the Puget Sound country was done with oxen. There were no logging donkeys to haul the logs out of the woods. There were no railroads, or great trucks to haul the logs to market. Ox teams from four to six yokes would haul the logs to market. They would haul the logs out of the woods on a skid road. The logs were rolled into the water to be floated to market.

It was often said successful punchers knew how to swear. In one of the camps they had a man from Missouri for a teamster. They called him Ike. Well, Ike knew how to swear and he sure could get the logs out of the woods. He would cuss the oxen from morning ’til night. He would cuss the skid road, skid greaser, and he had a special brand of cuss words for the stable boy, whose duty was to help take care of the oxen. Well, the stable boy got tired of Ike’s cussing and quit the job. That night, when Ike came in and went to the stable with his oxen, there was no stable boy to cuss.

The camp boss had employed another young man as stable boy. The new stable boy was an amateur ventriloquist and had been told why the other stable boy had quit. When Ike came in, he hid in the hay in front of the oxen. Ike unyoked the oxen and turned them into the manger, swearing all the time because the stable boy wasn’t there to help. He got a bag of feed for the oxen. The ox in front of the new stable boy was anxiously watching for his feed and turned his head to watch. Ike heard him say, “D______ it; hurry up with that feed.” Ike stopped and looked. The ox was looking and running his tongue over his nose. “What are you looking at me for, d__________ you, give me something to eat.”

Ike dropped the feed and ran out of the stable to the boss saying, “When the oxen begin to swear at me, it is time to quit punching bulls.”

–transcribed from the 1944 Monroe Monitor by Nellie Robertson

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