Scratch and Pokey circa 1957, copywrited National Prarie Dog Herding Museum
Linus "Scratch" McGee (1929-1971)
Widely considered to be the greatest PD herder and guide of all time.
Reliable sources report that nearly 1 million PD's were eliminated by hunters under Scratches charge.
Linus McGee was born Jan 24, 1929 in Brooklyn, NY to Lester M. and Mildred McGee. His parents were circus performers by trade, but young Linus longed for the open spaces of the west. At the age of 16, Linus stole a horse from the circus that employed his parents and headed west.
After nearly two months of roaming, Linus settled in the sleepy town of Snake Bite, WY.
He was quickly befriended by the local folks who gave him his familiar handle "Scratch" for his constant digging at the "saddle rash" that he had acquired from his journey.
He was hired on as a hand for a local PD herding operation. That is where Scratch found his life's calling. He was soon the ranch's top herder. In 1949, he went out on his own and started Scratches Pairie Dog Herding and Guide Service.
Soon Scratch's talent was known nation wide. He booked hunts for many of the barons of industry from the east and even once guided for the Arch Duke of Slovenia
A long time friend of Scatch's recalls;
"Scratch didn't invent PD hearding, but he made it into an art form. I can remember it like it was yesterday. Scatch on his favorite mount "Pokey", charging thru a PD town, six gun a blazing, his yellow teeth shining in the mid day sun. It was a sight to behold."
On June 12 1971, Scratch succumbed to the sport he loved so much, when he was fatally gnawed by a wounded PD bull.
Eye witness reports recall that one of Scatch's clients had made a bad shot on a particularly large bull and that the wounded animal had made it into a sage brush gully nearby. Scratch dismounted, reloaded his 45 colt and headed into the thick cover.
The man who wounded the PD offered to go along with Scratch, but the herder would not allow it.
"This is something that I had best do alone." Scratch said.
After Scratch headed into the gully, there was complete silence for nearly twenty minutes. The assembled crowd strained to get a glimpse or hear a sound from the sage brush. Suddenly there was a blood curdling scream and several shots rang out. Then there was silence.
It took several minutes for the shooters to gather the courage to head into the gully and try and find what had happened. After about 5 minutes of searching, they found Scratch, mortally wounded with the largest PD bull that had ever been see in those parts, lying dead beside him.
With his last breath, Scratch smiled and whispered, "at least I kilt the bull that kilt me." With that, Scatch's head slumped sideways and he was gone.
After Mr. McGee's tragic death PD hearding was outlaw in most states (the lone exception being New Jersey), but it remains an integral part of our hunting tradition.
Scratch's battered black stetson and his chrome plated Colt 45 can be seen today in the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, WY