Cowboys Lose One Of Their Own: Dusty

Colorful is the word for Dusty.

Arguments can be made, but that is the most conclusive description of Dustin S. Anderson, who passed away at his home in Skiddy, May 17, 2008, not far from where he was born, March 1, 1922.

That depiction might be for the vibrant scarves always around Dusty’s neck, the waxy handlebar mustache he sported or the shiny spurs forever on his tall-topped boots.

The portrayal could be for Dusty’s Appaloosa, Paint, buckskin, blue roan or gray horses; he always rode those with color.

Some might claim the uniqueness comes from Dusty’s jargon. Certainly, his tone of voice, language, and lingo were unique, recognizable and memorable after one meeting.

Perhaps, Dusty’s characterization is from his beautiful, statuesque wife.

A few would even tribute Dusty’s flare to the mottled herd of Watusi cattle in his pasture

More than likely most would acclaim his intriguing style to Dusty’s heart-in-soul-pride for his country and the red, white and blue flag representing it.

From his funeral program: “Dustin Anderson (Horse Trainer), Professional Killer, World Traveler, Gourmet, Singer of Sentimental Ballads, Soft Shoe Dancer, International Lover of Beautiful Women, Sportsman, Aviator Extraordinaire, ‘V.H.P.’, New Orleans Gambler, Soldier of Fortune, Last of the Big Spenders, Road Agent.”

The piece further ascribed Dusty as “Specialist in: Revolutions, Gun Running, Boot Legging, Civil Wars, Smuggling, Orgies, Prayer Meetings and Church Socials.”

It verifies he’s been “known to take an occasional sip of sherry.” Yet, Dusty was best recognized for sipping a bottle of Dr. Pepper, or earlier it was a bottle of Mountain Dew.

Whatever, Dustin, identified over a very wide area as Dusty, Dud, DA and other monikers, was “The Skiddy Cowboy.”

Originally with railroad cattle shipping pens, Skiddy is an unincorporated community northwest of White City in Morris County. Population has always been small, but its claim-to-fame is home of Dusty. His mother, Mabel (Stilwell) Anderson, died while giving birth to her only child, and Dusty spent his childhood with his maternal grandparents.

Dusty’s dad, Harry Anderson, remarried and moved from the area. A half-sister, Jean (Anderson) Allen, was born to that union. “Dusty came to live with us for awhile, but he missed his horses, and soon moved back to Skiddy,” Mrs. Allen noted at the memorial in a Manhattan funeral home.

“Our dad was in World War I, and our grandfather and great grandfather fought in the Civil War and the Revolutionary War, so military service certainly was in the Anderson blood. I had the opportunity to dance with Dusty a couple of times, so I can verify his dancing ability. We didn’t have a whole lot of time together, but he was a good brother,” Mrs. Allen summarized.

Dusty ran away from home to join the Army and soon was the most skilled rifleman in his company. He was made a gun schooling instructor, but that was not what he intended to do. Dusty demanded war action, and finally persuaded commanding officers to send him to World War II.

Dusty was one of the initial soldiers Col. Mucci selected to become a member of the infamous 6th Ranger Battalion, which later became the Special Forces. They were the earliest American force to return to the Philippines on the island of Dinegat and Suluan offshore of Leyte. Dusty was one of the first four men to set foot on the Philippines and helped raise the U.S. flag.

The 6th Battalion Rangers liberated over 500 survivors of the Bataan Death March, who were POWs in a prison camp on Luzon, in what universally became known as the greatest and most daring raid in American military history. Dusty never forgot details of his service and frequently reiterated them. His dramatic memories were increasingly recited in recent years.

When the war was over, Dusty returned to the Flint Hills, his home community of Skiddy and his calling as a cowboy. He loved his country, but he loved Skiddy more. “I’ve seen lots of the world, but the Flint Hills and its clear running water is the best and most beautiful place there is,” Dusty often remarked.

Dusty was “A Cowboy’s Cowboy” as Rev. Kenneth Cable defined at his funeral. But, it wasn’t “just cowboys” who were acquaintances, as many slick-dressed businessmen joined blue-jean friends from throughout the Midwest at the standing-room-only services.

Initially, Dusty pursued the rodeo profession, and there wasn’t a horse the “bronc stomper” couldn’t ride. In the  beginning, day work as a cowboy paid his bills, and Dusty was often in the saddle hours before sunrise riding every direction from home, with cattle driven back to load on rail cars at Skiddy.

Soon in demand over 100-mile radius, Dusty was one of the first Flint Hills grassland managers, looking after cattle for absentee owners on a custom basis. Dusty was annually responsible for as many as 20,000 acres with over 5,000 cattle.

While some cowboys (“brush hoppers” or “rock hoppers” as he referred to others of his profession) would complain about heavy downpours (“gully washers” or “frog stranglers”), Dusty loved rain because the grass grew and cattle gained weight.

One of Dusty’s greatest prides was “I never lost a critter.” Sickness or lightning might kill cattle on grass he looked after, but Dusty said, “I always had my count when the season ended.”

On January 22, 1948, Dusty received his pilot’s license and was one of the first cowboys to use an airplane to check pastures.

Always eager to buy a horse, Dusty often stopped when he admired one in a pasture to find out about the horse, and he would usually try to purchase it. There was barter involved, with Dusty seeking the best buy.

Horses were always in the pens around Dusty’s home, and they were all for sale, at a price. Come spring, he was extra busy, fixing fence, burning pasture and riding all of the horses, so they were merchantable.

Dusty trained more horses than anybody in the country. While a few went successfully into the show pen, thousands sold to cowboys and other satisfied customers throughout the Midwest.

Likewise, Dusty was a horse breeder. He always had some registered Paint and colored Quarter Horse mares and previously had been in the Appaloosa business. Exact bloodlines could be traced from memory for every one of them.

On March 7, 1969, Dusty married Dolly (Hubbard) Moore, and became stepfather to Kelly and Michael Moore, Dolly’s children. Dusty was proud of his wife and kids, and their accomplishments always entered conversation. His family had horse interests and succeeded in show competition the world over. Grandson Connor’s desire to be horseback put a gleam in Dusty’s eyes.

Dusty gave Dolly a number of horses as gifts during their marriage, and he was most pleased when she showed them to rate international titles, which she did on several occasions.

Moreover, Dolly met Dusty’s requirements as a dance partner. She emphasized, “Dustin always enjoyed music of the Big Band era and was a wonderful ballroom dancer.” Appropriately, Big Band music played as part of Dusty’s funeral.

Palomino horses attracted Dusty’s fondness not only for their merchantability, but because only Palominos were ridden at the Rock Springs 4-H Camp, not far from Skiddy. He was called frequently to assist with the Rock Springs riding program and donated many Palomino horses to the camp and was named an Honorary 4-H Member for those contributions.

His love of all children was apparent because wherever Dusty was, a young crowd gathered. He’d reach into his Levi’s pockets, always filled with loose change, and give every bit of it to those “crumb hustlers,” whether one or several.

Among Dusty’s livestock duties was care of the buffalo herd at Fort Riley. He liked to tell about those adventures and was named an Honorary Trooper at the fort for his work with the buffalo.

Dusty’s colored-pencil sketches were proof of his diversity. Sitting in his living room, Dusty drew what he knew best: horses, cowboys, cattle, buffalo and grassland. A few art pieces were sold, but most were given to friends, and hang in homes and offices throughout the Midwest. Several were displayed at the funeral.

Our dealings with Dusty were limited, but each of them stuck in our memory. We had a gray gelding called Quicksand we decided to sell. Dolly brought Dusty over in her Cadillac about 10 o’clock at night, and he pulled those long, chapped legs out and watched us ride. After Dusty bartered and wrote the check, Quicksand’s merits and value instantly multiplied.

Another time, Dolly was showing us a tract of pasture she was trying to sell in her profession as a realtor, and Dusty rode along to push merits of the land. First thing he saw when he got out of the Cadillac was wild strawberries. Most people would never see that fruit in the prairie, but berries had often been his only food when looking after cattle far from home. Dusty could name all of the grasses, wild flowers and trees in the prairie.

When we decided we needed a dun stallion, we knew who to ask about one. Dusty directed us to a top-bred older horse we were privileged to purchase and use progressively for several years.

One year we bred a mare to a stallion Dusty had leased for use with his mares. When that foal was offered at auction, Dusty jumped up from the back of the crowd, made the opening bid and started action which most likely lead to a higher sale price than if he had not done that.

We didn’t hear from him often, but Dusty called occasionally to tell us about happenings of mutual cowboy friends. One of those was the death of Quarter Horse breeder Russell Klotz, who had a number of horse dealings with Dusty, often “over a nip of bourbon.”

Although many were buried in unmarked prairie graves in the 1800s, Dusty was laid to final rest in “his favorite pasture” in a most memorable setting. A herd of his colorful horses came within feet of the gravesite and circled several times before start of the services, and his speckled cow herd grazed nearby throughout the entire military affair. White-painted corrals contrasted against the bright green grass as the DA brand had been stenciled on a metal buffalo skull replica swinging over the gate.

No generation has seen more changes in their lifetime than Dusty, from horse power to space power. Spring was Dusty’s favorite season as the dry prairie was burned to ashes and then turned emerald green within days. A most appropriate time for Dusty’s passing from this life to the great pastures of the sky.

Dustin S. Anderson lived a life so many would like. He was his own boss, doing exactly what he loved being horseback looking after cattle in the beautiful Flint Hills.

Dusty’s influence was felt on every life he touched.