We’ve been writing about a 600-mile horse race run from Evanston, Wyoming, to Denver in 1908.
The race was sponsored by the Rocky Mountain News. Various kinds of horses were entered, including ordinary ranch horses identified as broncos and an assortment of thoroughbreds, standardbreds, and mixtures. Entered in the race and the cause of our interest was Old Man Kern, formerly a pioneer in Pagosa Springs.
The race started at 6 a.m. on May 30 in Evanston, Wyoming. At the end of last week’s column, on May 31, a big brute of a bronco named Teddy, ridden by a man named Workman, was 50 miles ahead of the pack. At 4:30 in the afternoon, the pair were leaving Bitter Creek climbing the Continental Divide in a long, swinging trot. On the steeper parts of the trail, Workman walked or jogged while leading Teddy. They made it into Warmwater by 10:30 that night. After 36 hours, the pair were about 182 miles beyond the Evanston starting line.
Meanwhile, limping along in second place was a thoroughbred named Archie and his rider, Trew. They stopped in Bitter Creek for the second night.
Meanwhile, another man was coming up. Old Man Kern, on his raw-boned, dark bay Bronc, Dex, moved into second place. He had passed through Bitter Creek at about nine o’clock and pushed on, adding more miles before a night-time nap.
An old-time Westerner, he ran the race his way at a fast jog most of the time, but stopping whenever and wherever Dex showed strain. He’d unsaddle, give Dex a quick rubdown and a snack of oats, then picket Dex while taking a short nap himself using the saddle for a pillow.
Most of the remaining riders were far back, spending the night at Point in the Rocks.
Four more were out of the race: another sick horse and three lamed, one of them Shorty V. Shorty V stepped in a gopher hole and fell back.
On the third day, Charlie Workman and “that Cody horse” continued to lead. They left Warmwater early in the morning on the last lap to the top of the Continental Divide. Somewhere on that lap they were engulfed in a stinging sleet storm and lost their way. Several hours later, after covering several miles, they found the trail again. It was well after noon when they trotted into Rawlins, the next checking station. There were rumors that Old Man Kern and Dex were coming along at a smart pace.
Sure enough, Kern and Dex padded into Rawlins a few minutes before five.
Kern allowed as how he would spend the night in Rawlins. Workman saddled Teddy and hit the road again. They knocked off another bunch of miles before stopping, now 270 miles out of Evanston. He had been averaging about 90 miles a day.
The field as a whole was strung out over more than one hundred miles of Wyoming road. Some of those had been deliberately going slow at first, hoping to close with a rush. They were convinced that Teddy, strong as he was, would wear out. Still, most of the stronger contenders were moving toward the front. Workman was still in the lead at Fort Steele with Kern second at Rawlins.