Harry Arthur Gant

Harry Arthur Gant was born in Iowa in 1881. His father owned a livery stable in Denver in the 1890s, and an uncle had a ranch near Fort Collins. Growing up with horses and spending summers at the ranch, he soon became a cowboy. His education at school ended about eighth grade; however, like many cowboys, he was a voracious reader.

By the early years of the Twentieth Century, being a cowboy in Colorado and Wyoming brought exposure to show business in the form of Wild West Shows, rodeos, and horse races. Harry Gant was involved as a participant, especially steer-roping and horse-racing, and even organized some shows.

When the early motion picture companies wanted to make movies with an American flavor, they sent film units to Colorado and Wyoming. In need of someone who could coordinate the local men, materials and animals, they soon found Harry Gant to be indispensable.

He moved to California in 1912 and soon became a cameraman, actor, and director. Though he had little respect for the kind of stories the writers passed off as “westerns”, he kept his mouth shut (mostly) and learned the craft.

In the 1920s, as cameramen became a glut on the market, it became harder to find work. He turned a dormant interest in geology into a brief career as an oil wildcatter, and tried to interest investors in drilling on the now-famous Signal Hill. He was unable to get all the details arranged in time, and soon others were making millions where he wanted to drill.

In 1922 he left California. He spent several years in Colorado, Wyoming, Arkansas, and even one winter in Chicago. Eventually, however, he returned to Hollywood, where he continued to work as cast and crew on films.

In 1931, he established “an organization to perpetuate the spirit of days gone by” and arranged a “reunion of old time cowpunchers who worked on the open range in the Nineteenth Century.” This organization came to be called the Chuck Wagon Trailers.

In 1946, he retired to his ranch in the San Fernando Valley, where he often hosted four-generation reunions.

In 1957 he began writing his memoir, which he titled I Saw Them Ride Away. He finished it in 1959, but had no success in getting it published. He died in 1967, aged 86.

In 2009, his grand-daughter and great-grandson published his memoir, in essentially the form he originally wrote it, adding photographs from his collection. The memoir describes in great detail the life sketched above. However, one significant chapter of his life was only rediscovered during preparation of the manuscript for publication, thanks to the amazing resources available through the Internet.