On January 8, 1916, at age six, John W. “Johnny” Moore arrived with his parents and three brothers in Miles City. The temperature was forty below zero when the family stepped off the train.
After finishing the fifth grade, Johnny left school to work as a horse wrangler for Smokey Nichols, who ran a rough crew. When Nichols’ Rafter T Ranch folded due to drought and the horse market collapse, Johnny worked various jobs until joining the CBC (Chappel Brothers Cannery) operation about 1928. The CBC became
a famous horse operation that ran up to 63,000 horses, mainly in eastern Montana and Wyoming, and South Dakota. Moore’s long-time friend, Bob Pauley, believed Johnny was maybe one of two cowboys who rode every year of the CBC’s existence. His adventures riding for the CBC included swimming the Yellowstone with a day herd of nine hundred horses, riding sixty miles in the dark to turn a stampede, waking one morning to find a rattlesnake curled on his chest, and often riding one hundred miles a day gathering wild horses.
When the Chappel Brothers operation left eastern Montana, thousands of loose horses remained. Johnny would jump a saddle horse into the back of a pickup truck, unload at Cohagen at daybreak, and gather loose horses and corral them on Sunday Creek by dark. Along with Vollin and the Lockie Brothers, he sold hundreds of range horses to rodeo companies. Moore developed a strong bond with rodeo producer Everett Colborn, and several horses Moore sold Colborn bucked at the Madison Square Garden Rodeo in New York City. These horses included Little Tyhee, Little Indian, Wasp, and Singing Canary.
In the 1940s, Johnny went into the ranch business with his parents and seven brothers, eventually forming Moore’s Sunday Creek Ranch. Johnny became known for breeding good horses and was one of the early breeders of registered Quarter Horses on the Yellowstone’s North Side. When Shetland ponies became popular, he traded Quarter Horse foals for Shetlands with the Miner Brothers of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Moore also raised Pony of the Americas and Appaloosas but always had a good bunch of Quarter Horses. Many of those horses went to Canada, where they helped start the fledgling cutting horse industry there.
Johnny Moore passed away from a sudden heart attack on November 11, 1978, after digging a deep hole and setting a large gate post that day. He was an iconic North Side cowboy who rode almost every inch of ground between the Redwater and the Musselshell and the Yellowstone and the Missouri Rivers.
Bobby Kramer, a member of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, once remarked she couldn’t remember when she first met Johnny because it seemed like “he was always there.”