One-time rodeo promoter Dr. Dan C. Trigg was not a man anyone wanted for a neighbor
CASTRO VALLEY, California; TUCUMCARI, New Mexico––The Rowell Ranch Rodeo in Castro Valley, California, scheduled for May 20-22 , 2022, is “likely planning again to feature the brutal, sometimes fatal, and blatantly sexist ‘wild cow milking contest,’” Action for Animals president Eric Mills on March 19, 2022 emailed to San Francisco Bay area animal advocates, seeking, Mills admitted, “a lot more help than I’m getting” to try to stop it.
Wild cow milking, Mills explained, since most people never heard of it, is “a non-sanctioned event, done mostly for the entertainment of the local yahoos.
“I’m pretty sure Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association cowboys do not take part in this nonsense,” Mills said.
Two “wild cows” killed in east San Francisco Bay area milking contests
The alleged “wild cows,” Mills continued, “are still-lactating beef cows, not dairy cows. As such, they are unused to being handled at all, much less this roughly,” in a distinctly different manner from dairy cattle, who are handled as gently as possible these days, often with calming music in the background, because calm cattle have long been known to give more milk.
The so-called wild cows, Mills added, “are further stressed by being separated from their still-nursing calves. At the 2008 Rowell Ranch Rodeo,” Mills recounted, “one of these frantic cows jumped the arena fence and landed on her head. She suffered a broken neck and prolapsed eyeball, requiring euthanasia, leaving an orphaned calf.
“Another of these cows suffered a broken leg at the 2004 Livermore Rodeo. She was also euthanized,” Mills said.
Appealed Mills, “Back in 2019 the Alameda County Board of Supervisors banned the cruel children’s ‘mutton busting’ event,” in which small children ride sheep. “They should have banned ‘wild cow milking’ at the same time, for that had been our main focus.
“It’s important that we get a ban in place before the May 20-22 Rowell Ranch Rodeo, hence this alert,” Mills concluded.
Contact Mills at firstname.lastname@example.org for further campaign information.
“Not a common everyday occurrence on the ranch”
Meanwhile, take it from Working Ranch Cowboys Association blogger Bob Welch, who favors “wild cow milking” contests, that “Wild cow milking is not a common, everyday occurrence on the ranch. While every other sanctioned event in the WRCA has strong roots in ranch work,” Welch claimed on August 5, 2020, “the idea that cowboys rope and milk wild range cows is wrong.”
“Wild cow milking,” Welch alleged, is “ranch rodeo’s version of a NASCAR: the fans are just waiting for the wreck. When a 1,200-pound wet cow hits the end of the rope, the battle begins. The nerve, strength and confidence it takes for that first man to run to the head of a cow slinging snot is certainly uncommon. And when he gets there, those cows treat them as so many pounds of horn flies, tossing their heads with impunity.
“Flying hooves and exploding excrement”
“Grabbing her tail is not for the weak-hearted, either,” Welch said. “That man has to dodge flying hooves and exploding excrement. And the milker? Trying to get a stream of lactose into a beer bottle as a cow drags three other cowboys around might be on par with getting a camel through the eye of a needle!
“Cowboys get hooked, kicked, drug through the mud, stepped on, and flung through the air. Then, the run back to the judge with the milk bottle is sometimes the best watching—especially when, shall we say, a more husky cowboy ends up doing the running. The faceplants in the deep arena sand are nothing short of slapstick comedy. Sometimes, they simply run out of air before reaching the judge.”
Welch was of course hoping to entice more thrill-seekers to pay to watch this mayhem, but was fighting a losing battle.
NewspaperArchive.com documents that an average of more than 200 “wild cow milking contests” per year were held in the U.S. and Canada from the mid-1920s to the end of the 20th century.
By 2012, though, the number of “wild cow milking” contests advertised in newspapers had declined to 36, falling year by year to just four in 2020 and none in 2021.
To some extent this parallels the decline in newspaper circulation over the same time. But Newslibrary.com, which includes electronic media but not advertising, shows a parallel drop in news coverage.
Today’s media audience would apparently be just as interested in a wild coconut, soy bean, or oat stalk milking contest.
Meet Dan C. Trigg II
So who invented “wild cow milking” in the first place, and how did such a violent, sadistic, pointless event ever become a staple of “traditional” rodeo, as it long was?
That dubious distinction appears to belong to quarrelsome philandering pederast and multi-millionaire medical doctor turned rancher Dan C. Trigg II (1888-1963), of Tucumcari, New Mexico.
His family history suggested both the aptitudes and the attitudes that he demonstrated throughout his 75-year lifespan, none of which appears to have included personally milking cows, wild or otherwise.
The Trigg family, among the first European immigrant settlers of Virginia, had already been in the U.S. for at least six generations, and were established slave-holding plantation owners by the U.S. Civil War, when Dan C. Trigg’s grandfather, also named Dan C. Trigg, became a Confederate naval officer.
Dan C. Trigg II’s father, called DC Trigg, was born in Bedford County, Tennessee in 1850.
Killed in the Civil War but died in 1918?
After the Civil War, according to DC Trigg’s 1934 funeral announcement, DC Trigg “came to Texas with his widowed mother and seven brothers and sisters in 1867. His first ranch was in Carson County. Later he and John Shelton were associated in the operation of the XIT Ranch north of Amarillo, where they owned 32,000 head of cattle.
“Still later,” the funeral announcement said, “DC Trigg purchased 238,000 acres of the noted Bell Ranch. This ranch, near Tucumcari, New Mexico, is now operated by two sons,” Steve L. Trigg, born in 1878, and Dan C. Trigg, ten years younger.
DC Trigg by 1892 was no longer actively involved in ranching, spending the last 42 years of his life selling and developing real estate in Fort Worth
The report that DC Trigg’s mother had been widowed, apparently during the Civil War, may have been “greatly exaggerated,” in Mark Twain’s words, as his father, the first Dan C. Trigg, also in the real estate business, reportedly died at DC Trigg’s home in 1918.
Brother Steve L. Trigg founded the Trigg Ranch
Steve L. Trigg, according to Associated Press after his death from a fall in 1937, as a 19-year-old working cowboy, “bought horses in the [Texas] Panhandle for the British government during the Boer War in 1897.”
Steve L. Trigg leased the XIT Ranch with John Shelton for four years beginning in 1912, with financial backing from his father, DC Trigg, then invested the proceeds and his inheritance from his grandfather, the first Dan C. Trigg, in acquiring what became the Trigg Ranch in 1918.
The Trigg Ranch, still operated by descendants of Steve L. Trigg, lies north of Tucumcari and west of Logan, New Mexico, near the Texas border, spanning the Canadian River and including the remnants of Fort Bascom (1863-1870).
Fort Bascom was headquarters for Kit Carson during the Kiowa Wars, fought on the then-U.S. western frontier parallel to the Civil War.
Dr. Dan C. Trigg turned to ranching at age 30
“Wild cow milking contest” founder Dan C. Trigg II, as he was formally named, and another brother, Ross, four years his elder, meanwhile pursued somewhat checkered careers in Texas as medical doctors.
Ross Trigg appears to have often been a probable witness-for-hire in lawsuits, testifying mostly on the side that had the greater wealth.
Dan C. Trigg II, tired of doctoring, at age 30 left full-time medical practice to join Steve L. Trigg on the newly purchased Trigg Ranch, though he kept a part-time practice in three west Texas counties for the next 20 years.
Dan C. Trigg II abandoned medical practice entirely only after Steve L. Trigg died, leaving him the managing heir to the Trigg ranch until son Stephen Trigg Jr. came of age.
Took over Tucumcari Round-Up rodeo
In 1921, three years after arriving at the Trigg Ranch, Dan C. Trigg, who had by then lost the “II” from his name, took over management of the annual Tucumcari Round-Up rodeo, initiated by local merchants in 1915.
According to announcements published as far away as Liberal, Kansas, “Professional runaway horses will not be used for the bronc contests. All of the wild horses will be wild and just off the range,” apparently captured by Steve L. Trigg as in the “old days” of 1897.
“Mature cattle from Old Mexico will be used for the bulldogging and riding, and yearling Black Angus cattle,” a breed featured on the Trigg Ranch, “will be used for roping.
“Wild cow milking claimed to be a side-splitter”
“One of the unusual events,” the publicity continued, “will be a wild cow milking. This particular sport has never been shown at a rodeo in the southwest,” or anywhere, according to repeated searches of NewspaperArchive.com, “and is claimed to be a side-splitter.
“Dan Trigg, who is managing the show,” the flack concluded, “is an old-timer at the business, and as he is a real western character, he knows what the people want and he knows how to give it to them.”
Though Dan C. Trigg had barely been on the Trigg Ranch long enough to fully break in his first pair of cowboy boots, “wild cow milking” by 1924 caught on, as had rodeo itself, previously an obscure regional practice seldom seen even in small western cities.
Eloise McFarland Trigg
But Dan C. Trigg does not appear to have followed up his early success as a rodeo promoter. He next made news in connection with the messy divorce of Eloise McFarland Trigg from his brother Dr. Ross Trigg, who according to court documents had admittedly engaged in “disgraceful conduct.”
Eloise McFarland Trigg was in 1930 awarded “$2,000 and the household and kitchen furniture as her interest in the community estate,” according to appeals which remained before the courts until 1935, but she claimed “a one-half interest in community property of the value of $250,000,” including “14,412 acres of land, situated in San Miguel county, New Mexico,” site of the Trigg Ranch.
Fur coat case
Dan C. Trigg told Associated Press, as the case went on, that the Trigg family had actually purchased only 70,000 acres of the 238,000-acre Bell Ranch, not the whole thing.
A 1938 Amarillo News Globe report, however, stated that the Triggs had acquired 200,000 acres of the Bell Ranch, of which Dan C. Trigg owned 80,000 acres.
Whatever the case, the Trigg brothers prevailed over the former Eloise McFarland. Ross Trigg also prevailed in a lawsuit brought against him by Neiman-Marcus for the $850 cost of a fur coat that Eloise McFarland bought early in the divorce proceedings and charged to him.
Fired shot into a garage
Of Dan C. Trigg’s marital relations, little made news beyond the facts that he was married to the former Gussie Savage of Amarillo, Texas, who fell so seriously ill that she was expected to die in September 1932, but survived, possibly in remission from cancer, until October 1939.
But quite a lot appears to have been happening out of public view, while Dan C. Trigg developed five oil wells on his ranch, engaged in a variety of lawsuits, complained about his taxes, ran unsuccessfully for New Mexico state senate on an anti-tax platform in 1944, owned racehorses, was successfully sued by the state of New Mexico for improperly collecting hay subsidies, and was charged in 1941 with assault with a deadly weapon for “firing a shot through the window of a Logan garage when Andy Anderson was inside,” the Amarillo Daily News reported.
ANIMALS 24-7 was unable to discover further information about that incident.
“Housekeeper” shot Dan C. Trigg
On May 6, 1950, however, “housekeeper” Faye Mason, 33, drove 14 miles from the Dan C. Trigg ranch house to Tucumcari, where she told police she had shot Dan C. Trigg, who was still in the house and in urgent need of assistance.
Police found the weapon, a .45 caliber pistol, in Mason’s car, and hospitalized Mason for “shock and hysteria,” the Amarillo Daily News reported.
The bullet reportedly “entered the lower stomach and passed out through a hip,” but “did not go through any part of the intestine.”
Flown to Fort Worth for treatment under the supervision of brother Ross Trigg, who was still a practicing physician, Dan C. Trigg appears to have recovered sooner than Mason, who was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and assault with intent to kill.
There was no further reportage about the shooting.
“Housekeeper” sued the Dan C. Trigg estate
Mason married Brooks Henry Arries (1921-2008) in January 1953, apparently divorced him in 1968, and lived quietly until her own death in 2005, except for the two years 1963-1965 when she sued the Dan C. Trigg estate.
Dan C. Trigg left a stipend of $250 a month to 22 named beneficiaries, including Faye Mason Arries, with the Tucumcari hospital as residual beneficiary of an estate worth as much as $4 million, on condition that the hospital trustees rename it the “Dr. Dan C. Trigg Memorial Hospital” in his honor.
This the trustees of the 25-bed hospital promptly did.
“Mrs. Faye Mason Arries, who worked with Trigg in his various businesses for 23 years, filed suit contending Trigg had told her she would get the estate when he died,” reported United Press International. “The oral contract, according to the suit, was made by Trigg to have Mrs. Arries work with him as a housekeeper and in his businesses.”
Had son with Dan C. Trigg
Faye Mason Arries did not appear to have strong evidence for her allegation about an “oral contract,” but in May 1965 the estate paid her $29,149 in cash, paid her legal expenses of $35,850, and deeded over to her Rancho La Bamba in Chihuahua state, Mexico, apparently among Dan C. Trigg’s many real estate holdings beyond his part of the Trigg Ranch itself.
Sold off in pieces, Rancho La Bamba eventually became the unincorporated town of La Bamba, with just three human residents as of 2020, almost entirely swallowed by the rapidly expanding city of Chihuahua.
The location, between the Chihuahua airport and the baseball stadium, appears to be pricy undeveloped real estate.
After Donald Lee Mason, 78, died in Las Cruces, New Mexico in June 2015, his obituary identified him as son of “his parents Daniel C. Trigg and Faye Arries,” and mentioned that he had been a cowboy on the Trigg Ranch both before “and after serving in the Air Force, followed by a long career in law enforcement.”
Relationship may have begun when Faye was 10
That meant Donald Lee Mason would have been born in 1937, when Faye Mason was 20, two years before Dan C. Trigg’s wife died.
Further, assuming Faye Mason did not work again for Dan C. Trigg after shooting him, and almost certainly not after marrying Brooks Henry Arries, but was employed by Dan C. Trigg for 23 years, as her lawsuit alleged, she appears to have become Dan C. Trigg’s “housekeeper” as early as age 10, beginning two years before his wife was reported gravely ill.
What sort of man was “wild cow milking” contest inventor Dan C. Trigg?
Steve T. Trigg testifies
Steve T. Trigg, grandson of Steve L. Trigg, offered family testimony in two installments on the Trigg Ranch website, posted in 2021 and 2022.
“Dan Trigg was my father’s uncle,” Steve T. Trigg began. “They were close until a ranch venture in the 1950s turned bad. After that they were always prepared for confrontation.
“I never met my great uncle, Dan C. Trigg,” Steve T. Trigg clarified. “Although he was our closest neighbor, Dad and my grandmother Nana never spoke of him except in short generally negative terms.”
But Dan C. Trigg lived “a short distance from the main road to Logan and the outside world,” Steve T. Trigg recalled. “It was at a sharp turn we called Dan’s turn-off.
“Always armed when Dan was alive”
“As far as I knew, that was about as close as anyone ever got to Dan, except one time, when I was probably seven or so.
“I was with Dad on our way back from a trip to Logan and Tucumcari. Coming around a bend, we could see several men working on a cattle guard at the top of a rise. Dan was standing to the right, leaning on his shovel handle, as two of his hands shoveled out sand from below the grate.
“Dad slowed to a crawl and carefully nudged his 30-30 forward from under the seat. As we drove through the gate next to the cattle guard, Dan did not shift at all, and Dad kept his eyes focused ahead. Neither men’s eyes met.
“I think Dad was always armed when he drove to Logan when Dan was alive,” Steve T. Trigg wrote.
This was the inventor of the “wild cow milking” contest, not someone you’d want for a neighbor even with thousands of empty acres and miles of road between you.
Please donate to support our work: