My old neighbor was born in 1887, probably the first black baby in what was then Montana
Territory. His father who had come up from Texas with a herd of Longhorn steers
worked on a large ranch. Walter's father died a few months before he was
born, his mother stayed on at the ranch with her little boy until her death when
he was 13 years old.
He was raised by the ranch hands who taught him all the ropes, including some bad
ones. He told me he almost ended up in an outlaw gang who were robbing
trains. Something just told him not to. That probably changed the
entire way his life turned out.
He did a lot of cowboying and could tell stories about that for hours.
In 1913 he was told about the a girl who lived in New Jersey, she was
the sister of a friend. All the cowboys dared him and teased him
into going back east to meet her. Finally he did, he was terrified, he said. But they
loved him there, a black cowboy! What a novelty.
He proposed marriage to Helen. He always told me that they didn't have time
to fall in love, that would come later, he had to be back for the fall roundup.
They did fall in love and had a wonderful life together. Walter soon
gave up cowboying and started working on the railroad
which he did until he retired.
They never had any children but raised some of Helen's nieces and nephews.
They were very active in the church, Helen loved to cook and sing. Someone
once told me, "Oh, my how that woman could sing!).
Helen died before I knew them. I did have an encounter with her though, I'll write
about that later.
With all the experiences he had and the rough life as well
as I'm sure prejudice, he was a wise, thoughtful, kind, God loving man. He talked slow
and thought things out.
I was so honored to know him and have him for a friend, my girls all feel
that he was a wonderful influence in their lives.