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Frosty Potter, 100 Year Old Cowboy


Edgar “Frosty” Potter died at the age of 100, his longevity due in part to a rusty pitch fork. He could have died 87 years earlier.

Born in 1895, Frosty came west to North Dakota with his family in 1901. They settled on a Ranch just north of the Cannonball River near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Every fall the Potters herded steers to the stockyards in Mandan to ship them to market in Illinois.

In 1909 Frosty turned 13 and was finally able to go along with his Pa, Henry, to ship the cattle out east. Frosty was excited, but in July, while running through the door in the barn, he slashed his ankle on a pitch fork. The injury did not seem that bad, but in several days, Frosty developed a case of blood poisoning. He recovered, but when shipping time came in September, a very disappointed Frosty was still too lame to go along. Frosty’s Pa said not to worry, he could go along the next year. Frosty watched as his dad and the rest of the crew herded the steers over the hills toward Mandan. This would be the last time Frosty would see his Pa alive.

A few days later a railroad employee from Mandan came riding in with the bad news. He said the stock train had reached Chicago in the middle of the night and had pulled off onto a side track near the stockyards to await unloading that morning.

A careless brakeman had left the main track switch open and when a passenger train came along it crashed into the end of the stock train. Two trainmen and eight ranchers were in the caboose when the engine sliced through the flimsy wooden car. All ten men, including Henry, were killed, along with over 100 head of cattle.

After this, the Potter Ranch was dissolved and Frosty moved with his mother to the little town of Breien, ND. He later ended up with a career working for the phone company.

After he retired, Frosty became an author and wrote several books, including one about his early days on a North Dakota cattle ranch.

He passed away on this date in 1996.

Dakota Datebook by Scott Nelson

Sources: Personal visit with Frosty, Excerpts from Frosty’s book, “Whoa…Yuh Sonsabitches”