Horseback in the Bighorns: A Life
By Rebecca Hein
One fine summer day in 1925, Floyd Bard was riding to his camp in the Bighorn Mountains when he saw “ten young ladies standing there on the edge of the East Fork of Big Goose Creek. All they had on was their bathing suits that Mother Nature had given them, probably eighteen or twenty years back.” These young women could have been part of a group Bard guided during his 22 years as an outfitter in the Bighorns, but they were actually staying at a nearby dude ranch.
Bard, born in 1879, spent much of his life on horseback. When he was 3 years old, his parents settled on a homestead south of Sheridan, Wyo., and at age 10 he took his first of many horse wrangler jobs. In late fall 1891, three Bard family neighbors were murdered just a few months before the invasion of Johnson County in April 1892, when Bard was 13.
For many roundup seasons, Bard herded and grazed cowboys’ horses, fencing or hobbling them and in other ways managing and looking after them. In 1900, he began breaking horses for use in the Boer War and, starting in 1915, was breaking and also purchasing more horses for World War I. In both cases, the Malcolm and William Moncreiffe ranch had contracted to supply horses to the British government.
When Bard was 40, his pollen allergies and asthma became so severe that he had to escape the lowlands and seek work in the mountains. He soon began escorting parties on day trips from dude ranches in the Bighorns. Often he was contracted for longer trips, guiding groups that included, at different times, Jim Colt of Colt Firearms, nine Vassar College students and six from Ohio State University for a 45-day geology field camp, the police commissioner of New York City and members of assassinated President James A. Garfield’s family.
Sometimes Bard was camp cook as well as horse wrangler and guide. Once he had to pack 15 dozen eggs in sawdust for just four people for 18 days. Often the parties he escorted also ate fish they caught in the many lakes and streams in the Bighorns.
Bard spent the off-season trapping coyotes for the government, guiding hunters and doing whatever livestock and horse-associated work he could find. His two books, Horse Wrangler and Dude Wrangler, are filled with interesting anecdotes and memorable characters. (Both are out of print, but may be found at many Wyoming libraries.) Thomas Hill, the geology instructor, announced one year that he was “getting a little too old” for camping in the mountains. Bard added, “Two years later he was back with another party for a forty-day trip. Then two years later I took him and a party of eighteen out on a twenty-day pack trip.”
Summing up his years of dude wrangling, Bard wrote, “I’ll never forget these kind-hearted eastern people who came west as dudes, making it possible for me to live up in the Big Horns where I was free from hay fever and asthma, and making a decent living for my family, during six months of the year.”