National Geographic : 1976 Nov
HARH WINTERS IN ARD LAND "Our losses in cattle are simply immense," reported the River Press of Fort Benton, Montana, on March 9, 1887, after one of the worst blizzard-swept winters in the history of the West. They called it the "big die-up." The wind blew so hard, said another news paper account, that "cattle had to tie their tails to their hind legs...." During the win ter, famed western artist Charles M. Russell was working on the O-H Ranch, tending cattle that belonged to ranchers in Helena. When one of them wrote asking for a report on the condition of his cattle, a friend of Rus sell's tried to write a reply but couldn't find the words. So Russell got an idea. "Send 'em that," he said, tossing a watercolor (left) to his buddy. Eloquently, it told what had hap pened to 5,000 head of cattle. Today snow, ice, and winter winds remain some of the rancher's biggest nightmares. A light snow fall, just six inches, nestles over the Robbers Roost ranch at dawn (below), as a cowboy drives trail horses back to a corral after watering them.