The race continues over the Continental Divide


We’ve been writing about a 600-mile horse race from Evanston in the southwest corner of Wyoming to the Colorado capital city of Denver that took place in May and June of 1908. The race was sponsored by the Denver Post.

At the end of last week’s column, a big brute of a bronco named Teddy and 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 for a bitter climb up the west side of the Continental Divide.

Teddy normally covered ground at a long, swinging trot. On the steeper parts of the trail, Workman walked or jogged while leading Teddy. They made it to Warmwater by 10:30 that night. After 36 hours, the pair were 182 miles beyond the Evanston starting line.

Meanwhile, limping along in second place was a thoroughbred named Archie and his rider named Trew. They stopped in Bitter Creek for the second night. Surprisingly, another man was moving in on the leaders. He was known as Old Man Kern and he grasped the reins of a dark, rawboned bronc he affectionately referred to as Dex. Old Man Kern moved into second place after passing through Bitter Creek at about 9 and added more miles before stopping for a nighttime nap.

An old time Westerner, Kern was an early pioneer of Pagosa Country, but by 1908 his bronc was pulling a milk delivery wagon in Pueblo. He ran his race his way at a fast jog most of the time, but stopping whenever and wherever Dex showed a 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 top the Continental Divide. Workman was the only rider in the race to call Wyoming home. Somewhere on that lap they were wrapped up by 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 in Rawlins 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 5.

Kern 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 was strung out over more than 100 miles of dusty Wyoming road. Some of those who had deliberately been going slow at first hoped 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.

Day four of the race next week.