“Little Moses” of Texas


Pictured here is my grandfather on the left and his friend Hymie Rothstein with his horse Miss Golda. Hymie was, or possibly is, the only Jewish cowboy in Texas.

Hymie left the “old country” (New York) in 1910 with a burning determination to become a cattle rancher. With a grubstake from his uncle, he bought 500 acres of prime ranchland between Weatherford and Mineral Wells and stocked the spread with 500 head of Hereford cattle. He named the ranch “The Flying Menorah,” his mothers idea.

His mothers’ cousin in New York owned several restaurants and made a deal with Hymie to furnish him with Kosher meat for his patrons. Hymie, a bit of a slacker in his faith, had no idea how to raise Kosher cattle.

He required his ranch hands to wear Yamakas and grow a long beard. Then, on Friday’s before sundown, he would drive a wagon through the herd with a Rabi from the synagogue in Fort Worth, standing in the bed, blessed the cattle and the land. He assumed that if the cattle were somewhat converted, all would be Kosher. The Rabi was paid twenty-five dollars for the blessing, so he kept his opinion on the cow’s religious transformation to himself.

Hymie purchased a 3500 lb Hereford bull from a neighboring ranch to keep the cows happy and grow the herd. The bull, a massive beast with Hyde-like steel, would walk through any barb wire fence and wander off for days at a time. He named the bull “Little Moses” because of the bovines’ wanderlust.

In early December, a blue norther blew in and dropped eight inches of snow on the ranch. It was two days before the ranch hands could tend to the cattle, and when they didn’t find the herd, they checked the fencelines. At the back of the 500 acres was a section of broken fence. Thousands of cattle tracks led through the opening and onto the vast prairie. ” Little Moses” had escaped again, and the herd was following his lead.

The cowboys tracked the cattle for miles but lost their trail in the rocky hills. Hymie was frantic and called his local Sherriff, JD Ramses, for help. The Weatherford police put out a “missing cattle” alert. A poster showing a group of smiling cows was tacked on telephone poles in town. Calls from West Texas reported a large contingent of cattle crossing Route 66 a few days ago.

Hymie and the boys found the crossing and followed the herd. The cattle had been missing for 39 days and nights without hay or feed, surviving on clumps of prairie grasses and creek water.

On the 40th day, the cowboys located the herd resting at the edge of Palo Duro Canyon. All 500 cows were accounted for, but “Little Moses” was missing.

One of the cowboys spotted a snow-white bull lumbering and stumbling out of the canyon at sundown. It was “Little Moses.” His cow fur had turned completely white. His eyes were bright blue and glowed like fiery coals.

The bull lay down near the campfire. The herd moved in and surrounded the cowboys and the bull. The cows seemed to be saying goodbye to their leader. Hymie fed him some bread and a few sips of Kosher wine, and then ” Little Moses” expired. It was a good way to go. Laying by the warm campfire and surrounded by his minions.

A crack of thunder and lightning bolts hit a grove of trees nearby. Usually, that would spook the cattle, but not a one moved. Instead, there was a sound of trumpets from somewhere above. The herd looked skyward as if they were being summoned.

Two “Heavenly Holstein” cows with angel wings descended from the sky into the camp. They each carried a golden trumpet in their left hooves. The angel cows stood on either side of “Little Moses,” and together, the trio ascended into the clouds, starting their journey to Bovine Heaven.

Hymie and the cowboys were gobsmacked by what they had witnessed. They tempered their shock with a bottle of red-eye whiskey and roll-your-own cigarettes. The conversation around the campfire was sparse.

The herd dispersed into the grove of trees next to the camp. Hymie and the other hands hobbled their horses and bedded down next to the fire.

When dawn broke, the cowboys found a snow-white bull calf with fiery blue eyes standing with the cows. The calf led his herd and the cowboys back to the Flying Menorah.

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