My Forty Years Scribblin's
Interviews
This is What He Told Me

Written in 1997 from the 1967 interview and submitted to The Montana Journal, D.A. Pritchett recalls his life in the West.


D.A. (Doris) Pritchett related events that occurred at Missoula and other locations in Montana at an interview in 1967. Born at Silver Bow in 1883, he moved to Missoula with his parents at the age of two. He was old enough to remember standing on the porch with his father and mother to watch Charlo's band file past when the Indians were forced from their homes in the Bitterroot in the move to the Flathead reservation. He saw the town when Missoula's south side consisted of the Milwaukee depot, one saloon, and many square miles of weeds. The family supplied their own needs, keeping a milk cow, raising chickens and a big truck garden, trading and selling the surplus for necessities and a cash crop. He watched while a couple of rustlers tried to steal their cow while the calf was locked in the corral and no men folks were at home. Shaking with laughter he said, "My mother and a neighbor woman, Mrs. Van Dorn, were out there in their mother hubbard dresses and sun bonnets with some old Civil War needle guns, running the cow thieves off!"

As a youngster of "twelve or so" he accompanied his father into town to deliver fresh eggs and vegetables. Mr. Pritchett dropped the lines and left the rig standing in front of the grocery store at the corner of Higgins and Front street while he went inside to inquire if the store keeper wanted his produce. The boy sat waiting, dangling his feet out the end of the wagon box, a basket of eggs on his lap. A man came around the corner rolling a barrel of whiskey with his foot. The rumbling of the barrel on the board walk was too much for the lead horse. He looked around to eye the formidable contraption—and bolted, taking his team mate with him. The sudden lurch dumped the boy out on top of the basket of eggs. The horses headed for home across the old Higgins Avenue bridge but the wagon caught on the bridge and broke in two. Doris gave a mournful look toward the departing wagon and dumped what was left of the eggs on the ground. When he and his father arrived home—on foot—the still skittish horses were standing with the front wheels of the wagon at the corral.

"I watched the taming of western Montana," he said. He was a civilian teamster for Fort Missoula, remembering that pay day at the fort brought $12-13 most of which was spent at the Four Mile House, situated near the present day Miller Creek turn off, where anything could happen "and often did." He also remembered that the black soldiers "hacked out the first road north of Bonner over them rocks!"

Doris' father bought large tracts of land on Missoula's south side and the Cold Springs area at fifty cents an acre, and the golf course, the Country Club, was "Billy Boyle's homestead."

Doris took part in cattle drives when upwards of thirty riders were required to graze the herd of 1,400 head of Cowan and Mitchell's cattle from the Bitterroot through the Blackfoot valley to Marias Pass, about one month.

Pritchett worked on the Van Buren bridge, "and all the machinery was steam powered." At fifteen he started operating a threshing machine, later getting his engineer's license and acquiring his own machine which he had shipped to Corrine, Utah, and freighted to the point of operations. He threshed for grain farmers from the Dakotas, throughout western Montana and eastern Washington. He claimed to have seen a tree at the Big Hole battlefield where an Indian woman had stationed herself to shoot soldiers.

Doris and his brothers spent many years in the Arlee area before he retired to Missoula to live on the land that his father had owned so many years before. He died in Missoula at approximately eighty-five years of age.