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Gila County Legend - Henry Farrell

Henry Farrell was an old-time cowboy and a true pioneer whose company I was privileged to experience. Henry was a small boy when his mother, Elizabeth Dugan Farrell died in Magdalena, New Mexico. He came to Arizona by wagon in the early 1900s with his grandparents, James and Elizabeth Farrell.

Henry attended school in Gisela from 1903 to 1909. Henry married Myra Odis Collins of Tonto Basin on February 5, 1920. They set up housekeeping in Payson, but just nine days after their first daughter, Vivian Dora, was born their house burned to the ground. The couple escaped with the clothes on their back and their new baby girl.

Some nine months later Henry took his family to the JF ranch in the heart of the Superstition Mountains. There were no roads. Everything had to be packed in on horses and it was many miles to the nearest neighbor on the Revis Ranch. Henry spent the next three years working for the JFs and the Revis Ranch before moving back to Payson in the late summer of 1923. On October 14 of that year, the couple was again blessed with a baby girl, Lena Hazel.

Henry operated a road grader for Gila County in the Payson country for several years, then worked on the Wilbank’s Ranch in Gisela. In 1937, he had an accident while using a circle saw to cut wood. He credited Clarence “Coony” Hale with saving him from bleeding to death. He moved his family to Globe to be near a doctor. Even so, he almost lost an arm and spent months fighting infection and enduring surgeries before he was able to use his hand again. The accident cost him his job as a cowboy and his wife. Then in 1944, he lost his youngest daughter, Hazel, to strept-throat.

A lesser man might have crawled into a bottle or sought some other form of phony relief. Not Henry! He went back to work, this time for the State of Arizona working on East Highway 60. After a few years he took a job with Harry Hagen on Harry’s ranch in the Pinal Mountains. Henry remarried and later bought a ranch on Cherry Creek where he lived with his wife, Eleanor. The couple lived in Payson during the mid 1950s on the Beeline Highway, just north of where the Post Office is now located. They retired to Globe, Arizona, but Henry never missed a chance to ride with some of his many friends come roundup time.

It was during several fall roundups of the SA and KS cattle that I got to know Henry. Henry was a good friend of my great uncle, Bud Jones, and my dad, Gene Pyle He had a great sense of humor, played a good hand of pitch, and was a good hand with cattle ’though his wild cowboyin’ days were long over when I knew him.

One day in the early1960s, Bud and I were to meet Henry down Limestone Canyon a few miles below the Buck Pasture. Henry had tied his mount up to a little jack-pine and dug in under a big white fir to snooze until we got there. As we approached Henry’s resting place, Bud signaled me to silence, then made motions that I should dismount, slip up afoot, untie Henry’s horse and lead him back out of sight. This I did; then we rode noisily up to Henry who woke to find himself afoot.

Bud and I frazzled Henry for a bit until finally he said that he was too old and stove up to walk home and offered me twenty dollars to let him ride my horse. I accepted his offer, turned my horse over to him, then went and climbed on his horse and rode back to where he and Bud were waiting. “Well, let’s head for camp,” I told them. “I’m pretty anxious to get my mitts on that twenty bucks.” Henry knew he had been had but, of course, we swapped horses again and I never did see my twenty dollars.

On another day, Henry and I had made a circle and were waiting for some of the others to join us where Lockwood Canyon joins the Buck Springs Ridge Road. Henry told me the following story.

“If it hadn’t been for your Grandad Walter, you never would have met this ol’ roustabout,” he told me. I knew that my Grandad Walter Lovelady had dragged someone out of Tonto Creek during a cattle drive, but had no idea that Henry was the main participant. Neither did I know the details before Henry provided this account. Henry didn’t give me a great deal of information the first time he told me, but I kept after him for details, then used his own words to write it down. This I did that same fall, while it was still fresh in my mind.

I gave Henry one of those please tell me about it looks and he continued. “Your Grandad was workin’ for Jess Chilson when he had that place down on Wild Rye Creek. I just showed up t’ help, kinda like here, ’though I was a good hand then ’n Jess made it right with me later.

“We had t’ cross Tonto with the main herd t’ get them back t’ the ranch. It had rained all mighty hard all that spring on top of a big snow pack and Tonto was roarin’ like she does down there when she gets riled.

“We had waited a week ’n more, maybe ten days for ’er t’ go down. Finally, she dropped enough that Jess thought we could cross the cows that didn’t have baby calves. Walter and some o’ the boys cut out a little bunch ’n pushed ’em across. They made it all right so we started the main herd.

I was on the left flank below the herd. That ol’ creek was a rollin.’ I mean big rocks was rollin’ along the bottom, even though it wasn’t quite deep enough where I was t’ swim a horse. Maybe it was one o’ those rocks that hit my horse’s legs, or maybe he just stepped off into a hole, but next thing I know, I was in the water.” Henry paused here and I knew that he was remembering strongly, if not reliving the event.

“It had been cold,” he continued, “and we were all dressed for it. I had on a big quilted coat and chaps with a pistol in my chap pocket. Soon as the water hit me, those wet clothes was like a rock tied onto me. I had gone clear under and come up again, I don’t know how many times. I could sometimes touch the bottom, but I couldn’t stand. That river just kept pullin’ me down and rollin’ me over. I touched the bottom and pushed my head up t’ get some air when I felt a rope settle down over one arm and around my neck. Next thing I knew I was cuttin’ through the water, then Walter was there draggin’ me up onto the bank.”

Henry added that Jess Chilson told him, “Walter ran his horse all out, down the rocky bank, jumpin’ log jams and debris, weavin’ in and out between trees, duckin’ and bustin’ limbs.” When he caught up to Henry, Walter jumped his horse into the flooded creek and spurred out to where he could reach Henry with a long throw of his loop. He only had one chance, one throw. Had he missed . . .

I can’t imagine how many stories like this have been lost and forgotten. Henry only told me this because it was my Grandad Walter who as Henry put it: “saved me from bein’ fish food.” Henry had a heart attack and died in Globe in 1966. He was truly a pioneer ­– honorable, hard working and a friend to his neighbors ­– one of a declining breed.

*Story written and told by Jynx Pyle

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