2019 Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Inductee
Trailblazer, Belknap “Ballie” Buck was born at Fort Belknap in Montana Territory on August 6, 1872. At age three, Ballie left the reservation and grew up with his father, step-mother, and four half siblings. As a Metis (a mix of Indian and European descent), Ballie learned to straddle the race barrier as easily as he did a saddle when taming the wildest broncs. He embraced his heritage, rode tall and proud, and was known as a well-mannered gentleman, an artist, and a writer. His father had told him when he was young, “You’re going to be big and strong, but unless you’re a gentleman, you’ll just be big.”
Ballie was an outstanding horseman and a thorough and practical range cow-man. For years, he was known as the best roper on the Canadian range and later described as having few equals on any range as a heeler in dragging calves to a branding fire. As a wagon boss, he held the respect and loyalty of his men, as well as the confidence and support of his employers. Campfire stories were often shared about him and how well he knew cattle. Ballie’s greatest honor was earning the trust and respect of all who knew him. He belonged to the intimate circle of genuine old-time range cowboys, including cowboy artist, Charles M. Russell.
During the devastating winter of 1906, range stockmen found their herds diminished by half. A conglomerate of cow outfits met in the spring of 1907 and organized the last of the big open-range roundups. Ballie, who was running the Circle wagon, was unanimously selected by the other wagon bosses as captain of this historic event. It was the largest and final assembly of that magnitude working together. One hundred and thirty thousand head of cattle were rounded up.
Ballie retired from the cattle business in 1930. His final job as foreman was with the J. B. Long – LF Ranch, spanning a decade. In 1934, Ballie was appointed as the Deputy Law Officer of Augusta. He lived out his final days in Helena where he died on March 31, 1943. He was buried at the Masonic Cemetery, and a special solo of “Home on the Range” was sung at his funeral for those in attendance.
As Ballie Buck used to say, “Old cowpunchers never die. They just punch out.”