"Meaning he'd throw you in the dirt if you didn't keep one leg on each side and your mind in the middle," says Mack. "He'd take advantage."
At 47, Mack still lives in Charles Russell country, a few miles from where he first encountered Abell. But "cowboys are pretty scarce in this part of the country now," he says. "All the big ranches are in Nevada, Oregon, Northern California."
Has he hung up his spurs?
"I was cowboying until 1999, working here and there," Mack says, "I still do a little, but not much." He owns a saddlery near Hobson, Montana, where he makes bridles, chaps, quirts and hobbles for out-of-state cowboys. "Everything except for the saddles. I do a lot of braiding, working mostly with rawhide," he says. "Most of my business is through the Internet." His Web site is www.mackcustomleather.com.
Robert M. Poole is a writer and contributing editor at Smithsonian.