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Herb Recalls Shorty Yarberry & the Grand Canyon…

One of the great characters of the Grand Canyon was Shorty Yarberry. His whole name was George Armstrong Custer ‘Shorty’ Yarberry. He was born on the day of the Battle of the Little Big Horn when Custer was killed. He is buried at the Grand Canyon, right next to the Kolb Brothers, who ran the photographic studio there.

Shorty had been in Texas and he was incarcerated for stealing cattle and then horse stealing. So he spent some time in a steel and concrete apartment, if you know what I mean. He came out to the South Rim and the Fred Harvey people gave him a job, down in the canyon, to erect a fence to lay some rip wrap on Bright Angel Creek. He worked with a pair of big, grey horses, and a Fresno Scraper, which is sort of a glorified wheel barrel without a wheel. Anyway he hauled all these rocks and built up the creek sides. He also planted all the cottonwood trees at Phantom Ranch.

Phantom Ranch in the early 1950s

But the years passed and he started getting old and putting on weight. So they brought him out of the canyon…that was a task for a mule…and put him in a semi-retirement building near the corrals.  I saw Shorty sitting in front of the corral many times. He was a nice fellow to talk with but he had the smallest feet on a man you can ever imagine. They say he wore a size 4. In addition he always wore Mexican rowels on his boots, so he always jingled when he walked.

He finally died, I guess in his eighties by then, and was laid to rest in the Grand Canyon cemetery.


Herb Ringer and his parents, Joseph & Sadie. About 1952.

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