Richard Harding Davis.

The West from a car-window online

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Copyright, 1892, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

All rights reserved.

u. c.



M. K. J.















A Sucking Broncho . Frontispiece

Head-piece 3

Rangers in Camp 9

" Remember the Alamo /" 19

Trumpeter Tyler 29

Captain Francis H. Hardie, G Troop, Third United States Cavalry 37

Water 43

The Mexican Guide 49

Third Cavalry Troopers Searching a Suspected Revolutionist . . 53

Mining Camp on the Range Above Creede 60

Creede 63

How Land is Claimed for Building Planks Nailed Together and

Resting on Four Stumps 66

The " Holy Moses" Mine 69

Debatable Ground A Warning to Trespassers 73

A Mining Camp Court-house 75

Shaft of a Mine 79

Valuable Real Estate 83

Upper Creede 87

Oklahoma City on the Day of the Opening 94

Five Days After the Opening 97

Four Weeks After the Opening 101

Captain D. F. Stiles 105

Post-office, April 22, 1889 108

List of Illustrations


Post-office, July 4, 1890 . . Ill

Oklahoma City To-day Main Broadway 115

The Ranch-house on the King Ranch, the Largest Range Owned by

One Individual in the United States 123

A Shattered Idol 127

Snapping a Rope on a Horse's Foot 130

Hillingdon Ranch 133

Fixing a Break in the Wire Fence 137

Gathering the Rope 141

Reaction Equals Action . 145

Tail-piece 148

The Cheyenne Type 152

Big Bull 155

One of Williamson' 1 s Stages 159

The Beef Issue at Anadarko 163

Indian Boy and Pinto Pony 169

A Kiowa Maiden 175

A One-company Post at Oklahoma City .187

The Omnipotent Bugler ,..191

United States Military Post at San Antonio 195

United States Cavalryman in Full Dress 199

United States Military Post Infantry Parade ...... 203

fort Houston, at San Antonio Officers' Quarters 207

The Barracks, Fort Houston 210

Gateway of the Garden of the God*, and Pike's Peak . . , .217

Within the Gates, Garden of the Gods 223

Polo Above the Snow-line at Colorado Springs 227

Mount of the Holy Cross 233

Pike's Peak from Colorado Springs 239


Hexrding Dzxvis.


T is somewhat disturbing to one who visits the
West for the first time with the purpose of
writing of it, to read on the back of a rail-
road map, before he reaches Harrisburg, that
Texas "is one hundred thousand square miles larger
than all the Eastern and Middle States, including Maryland
and Delaware." It gives him a sharp sensation of loneli-
ness, a wish to apologize to some one, and he is moved with
a sudden desire to get out at the first station and take the
next train back, before his presumption is discovered. He
might possibly feel equal to the fact that Texas is " larger
than all of the Eastern and Middle States," but this easy
addition of one hundred thousand square miles, and the
casual throwing in of Maryland and Delaware like potatoes
on a basket for good measure, and just as though one or
two States more or less did not matter, make him wish he
had sensibly confined his observations to that part of the
world bounded by Harlem and the Battery.

If I could travel over the West for three years, I might
write of it with authority ; but when my time is limited to


The West from a Car - Window

three months, I can only give impressions from a car-window
point of view, and cannot dare to draw conclusions. I know
that this is an evident and cowardly attempt to " hedge "
at the very setting forth. But it is well to understand what
is to follow. All that I may hope to do is to tell what
impressed an Eastern man in a hurried trip through the
Western States. I will try to describe what I saw in such
a way that those who read may see as much as I saw with
the eyes of one who had lived in the cities of the Eastern
States, but the moral they draw must be their own, and can
differ from mine as widely as they please.

An Eastern man is apt to cross the continent for the first
time with mixed sensations of pride at the size of his coun-
try, and shame at his ignorance concerning it. He remem-
bers guiltily how he has told that story of the Englishman
who asks the American in London, on hearing he is from
New York, if he knows his brother in Omaha, Nebraska.
And as the Eastern man finds from the map of his own
country that the letters of introduction he has accepted
from intelligent friends are addressed to places one and two
thousand miles apart, he determines to drop that story about
the Englishman, and tell it hereafter at the expense of him-
self and others nearer home.

His first practical surprise perhaps will be when he dis-
covers the speed and ease with which numerous States are
passing under him, and that smooth road-beds and parlor-
cars remain with him to the very borders of the West. The
change of time will trouble him at first, until he gets nearer
to Mexico, when he will have his choice of three separate
standards, at which point he will cease winding his watch
altogether, and devote his " twenty minutes for refresh-
ments " to watching the conductor. But this minor and


From San Antonio to Corpus Christi

merely nominal change will not distress him half so seri-
ously as will the sadden and actual disarrangement of his
dinner hour from seven at night to two in the afternoon,
though even this will become possible after he finds people
in south-western Texas eating duck for breakfast.

He will take his first lesson in the politics of Texas and
of the rest of the West when he first offers a ten-dollar bill
for a dollar's worth of something, and is given nine large
round silver dollars in change. When he has twenty or
more of these on his person, and finds that his protests are
met with polite . surprise, he understands that silver is a
large and vital issue, and that the West is ready to suffer .
its minor disadvantages for the possible good to come.

He will get his first wrong impression of the West
through reading the head-lines of some of the papers, and
from the class of books offered for sale on the cars and
in the hotels and book -stores from St. Louis to Corpus^
Christi. These head -lines shock even a hardened news-
paper man. But they do not represent the feeling of their
readers, and in that they give a wrong and unfortunate im-
pression to the visiting stranger. They told while I was in
St. Louis of a sleighing party of twenty, of whom nine were
instantly killed by a locomotive, and told it as flippantly as
though it were a picnic ; but the accident itself was the one
and serious comment of the day, and the horror of it seemed
to have reached every class of citizen.

It is rather more difficult to explain away the books.
They are too obvious and too much in evidence to be acci-
dental. To judge from them, one would imagine that Boc-
caccio, Rabelais, Zola, and such things as Velvet Vice and
Old Sleuth, are all that is known to the South-west of lit-
erature. It may be that the booksellers only keep them for

The West from a Car - Window

their own perusal, but they might have something better
for their customers.

The ideas which the stay-at-home Eastern man obtains
of the extreme borderland of Texas are gathered from vari-
ous sources, principally from those who, as will all travellers,
make as much of what they have seen as is possible, this
much being generally to show the differences which exist
between the places they have visited and their own home.
Of the similarities they say nothing. Or he has read of the
bandits and outlaws of the Garza revolution, and he has seen
the Wild West show of the Hon. William F. Cody. The
latter, no doubt, surprised and delighted him very much. A
mild West show, which would be equally accurate, would sur-
prise^bim even more ; at least, if it was organized in the wild-
est pan of Texas between San Antonio and Corpus Christi.

Wheft he leaves this first city and touches at the border
of Mexico, at Laredo, and starts forth again across the prai-
rie of cactus and chaparral towards " Corpus," he feels as-
sured that at hast he is done with parlor-cars and civiliza-
tion ; that he is about to. see the picturesque and lawless
side of the Texan existence, and that he has taken his life
in his hands. He will be the more readily convinced of
this when the young man with the broad shoulders and
sun-browned face and wide sombrero in the seat in front
raises the car-window, and begins to shoot splinters out of
the passing telegraph poles with the melancholy and list-
less air of one who is performing a casual divertisement.
But he will be better informed when the Chicago drummer
has risen hurriedly, with a pale face, and has reported
what is going on to the conductor, and he hears that digni-
tary say, complacently : " Sho ! that's only * Will ' Scheeley
practisin' ! He's a dep'ty sheriff."

From San Antonio to Corpus Christi

He will learn in time that the only men on the borders
of Texas who are allowed to wear revolvers are sheriffs^
State agents in charge of prisoners, and the Texas Rangers,
and that whenever he sees a man so armed he may as surely
assume that he is one of these as he may know that in New
York men in gray uniforms, with leather bags over their
shoulders, are letter-carriers. The revolver is the Texan
officer's badge of office ; it corresponds to the New York
policeman's shield ; and he toys with it just as the Broad-
way policeman juggles his club. It is quite as harmless as
a toy, and almost as terrible as a weapon.

This will grieve the " tenderfoot " who goes through
the West " heeled," and ready to show that though
he is from the effete East, he is able to take care of

It was first brought home to me as I was returning from
the border, where I had been with the troops who were
hunting for Garza, and was waiting at a little station on the
prairie to take the train for Corpus Christi. I was then
told politely by a gentleman who seemed of authority
that if I did not take off that pistol I would be fined
twenty-five dollars, or put in jail for twenty days. I ex-
plained to him where I had been, and that rny baggage
was at " Corpus," and that I had no other place to carry it.
At which he apologized, and directed a deputy sheriff, who
was also going to Corpus Christi, to see that I was not ar-
rested for carrying a deadly weapon.

This, I think, illustrates a condition of things in darkest
Texas which may give a new point of view to the Eastern
mind. It is possibly something of a revelation to find that
instead of every man protecting himself, and the selection
of the fittest depending on who is " quickest on the trig-

The West from a Car -Window

ger," he has to have an officer of the law to protect him if
he tries to be a law unto himself.

While I was on the border a deputy sheriff named Rufus
Glover, who was acting as a guide for Captain Chase, of
the Third Cavalry, was fired upon from an ambush by per-
sons unknown, and killed. A Mexican brought the news
of this to our camp the night after the murder, and de-
scribed the manner of the killing, as it had occurred, at
great length and with much detail.

Except that he was terribly excited, and made a very
dramatic picture as he stood in the fire-light and moon-
light and acted the murder, it did not interest me, as I con-
sidered it to be an unfortunate event of very common oc-
currence in that part of the world. But the next morning
every ranchman and cowboy and Texas Ranger and soldier
we chanced to meet on the trail to Captain Hunter's camp
took up the story of the murder of Rufus Glover, and told
and retold what some one else had told him, with desperate
earnestness and the most wearying reiteration. And on
the day following, when the papers reached us, we found
that reporters had been sent to the scene of the murder
from almost every part of south-west Texas, many of whom
had had to travel a hundred miles, and then ride thirty
more through the brush before they reached it. How
many city editors in New York City would send as far as
that for anything less important than a railroad disaster or
a Johnstown flood ?

On the fourth day after the murder of this in no way
celebrated or unusually popular individual, the people of
Duval County, in which he had been killed, called an indig-
nation meeting, and passed resolutions condemning the
county officials for not suppressing crime, and petitioning

From San Antonio to Corpus Christi

the Governor of the State to send the Rangers to put an
end to such lawlessness that is, the killing of one man in
an almost uninhabited country. The committee who were
to present this petition passed through Laredo on the way
to see the Governor. Laredo is one hundred miles from
the scene of the murder, and in an entirely different county ;
but there the popular indignation and excitement were so
great that another mass-meeting was called, and another
petition was made to the Governor, in which the resolutions
of Duval County were endorsed. I do not know what his
Excellency did about it. There were in the Tombs in New
York when I left that city twenty-five men awaiting trial
for murder, and that crime was so old a story in the Bend
and along the East Side that the most morbid newspaper
reader skipped the scant notice the papers gave of them.
It would seem from this that the East should reconstruct a
new Wild West for itself, in which a single murder sends
two committees of indignant citizens to the State capital
to ask the Governor what he intends to do about it.

But the West is not wholly reconstructed. There are
still the Texas Rangers, and in them the man from the
cities of the East will find the picturesqueness of the Wild
West show and its happiest expression. If they and the
sight of cowboys roping cattle do not satisfy him, nothing
else will. The Rangers are a semi-militia, semi-military or-
ganization of long descent, and with the most brilliant rec-
ord of border warfare. At the present time their work is
less adventurous than it was in the day of Captain McNelly,
but the spirit of the first days has only increased with time.

The Rangers enlist for a year under one of eight cap-
tains, and the State pays them a dollar a day and supplies
them with rations and ammunition. They bring with them


The West from a Car -Window

their own horse, blanket, and rifle, and revolver; they wear
no regular uniform or badge of any sort, except the belt of
cartridges around the waist. The mounted police of the
gold days in the Australian bush, and the mounted con-
stabulary of the Canadian border are perhaps the only
other organizations of a like nature and with similar duties.
Their headquarters are wherever their captain finds water,
and, if he is fortunate, fuel and shade ; but as the latter two
are difficult to find in common in the five hundred square
miles of brush along the Rio Grande, they are content with
a tank of alkali water alone.

There are about twenty men in each of the eight troops,
and one or two of them are constantly riding away on de-
tached service to follow the trail of a Mexican bandit or a
horse-thief, or to suppress a family feud. The Rangers'
camps look much like those of gypsies, with their one
wagon to carry the horses' feed, the ponies grazing at the
ends of the lariats, the big Mexican saddles hung over the
nearest barb fence, and the blankets covering the ground
and marking the hard beds of the night before. These
men are the especial pride of General Mabry, the Adjutant-
general of Texas, who was with them the first time I met
them, sharing their breakfast of bacon and coffee under the
shade of the only tree within ten miles. He told me some
very thrilling stories of their deeds and personal meetings
with the desperadoes and "bad" men of the border; but
when he tried to lead Captain Brooks into relating a few of
his own adventures, the result was a significant and com-
plete failure. Significant, because big men cannot tell of
the big things they do as well as other people can they
are handicapped by having to leave out the best part ; and
because Captain Brooks's version of the same story the


From San Antonio to Corpus Christi

general had told me, with all the necessary detail, would
be : " W*ll, we got word they were hiding in a ranch down
in Zepata County, and we went down there and took 'em
which they were afterwards hung."

The fact that he had had three fingers shot off as he
" took 'm " was a detail he scorned to remember, especially
as he could shoot better without these members than the
rest of his men, who had only lost one or two.

Boots above the knee and leather leggings, a belt three
inches wide with two rows of brass-bound cartridges, and a
slanting sombrero make a man appear larger than he really
is ; but the Rangers were the largest men I saw in Texas,
the State of big men. And some of them were remarkably
handsome in a sun-burned, broad-shouldered, easy, manly
way. They were also somewhat shy with the strangers, lis-
tening very intently, but speaking little, and then in a slow,
gentle voice ; and as they spoke so seldom, they seemed to
think what they had to say was too valuable to spoil by

When General Mabry found they would not tell of their
adventures, he asked them to show how they could shoot ;
and as this was something they could do, and not some-
thing already done, they went about it as gleefully as school-
boys at recess doing "stunts." They placed a board,
a foot wide and two feet high, some sixty feet off in the
prairie, and Sheriff Scheeley opened hostilities by whipping
out his revolver, turning it in the air, and shooting, with
the sights upside down, into the bull's-eye of the impromptu
target. He did this without discontinuing what he was
saying to me, but rather as though he were punctuating his
remarks with audible commas.

Then he said, " I didn't think you Rangers would let a


The West from a Car -Window

little one-penny sheriff get in the first shot on you." He
could afford to say this, because he had been a Ranger him-
self, and his brother Joe was one of the best captains the
Rangers have had ; and he and all of his six brothers are
over six feet high. But the taunt produced an instantane-
ous volley from every man in the company ; they did not
take the trouble to rise, but shot from where they happened
to be sitting or lying and talking together, and the air rang
with the reports and a hundred quick vibrating little gasps,
like the singing of a wire string when it is tightened on a

They exhibited some most wonderful shooting. They
shot with both hands at the same time, with the hammer
underneath, holding the rifle in one hand, and never, when
it was a revolver they were using, with a glance at the
sights. They would sometimes fire four shots from a
Winchester between the time they had picked it up from
the ground and before it had nestled comfortably against
their shoulder. They also sent one man on a pony racing
around a tree about as thick as a man's leg, and were dis-
satisfied because he only put four out of six shots into it.
Then General Mabry, who seemed to think I did not fully
appreciate what they were doing, gave a Winchester rifle
to Captain Brooks and myself, and told us to show which
of us could first put eight shots into the target.

It seems that to shoot a Winchester you have to pull a
trigger one way and work a lever backward and forward ;
this would naturally suggest that there are three movements
one to throw out the empty shell, one to replace it with
another cartridge, and the third to explode this cartridge.
Captain Brooks, as far as I could make out from the sound,
used only one movement for his entire eight shots. As I


From San Antonio to Corpus Christi

guessed, the trial was more to show Captain Brooks's quick-
ness rather than his marksmanship, and I paid no attention to
the target, but devoted myself assiduously to manipulat-
ing the lever and trigger, aiming blankly at the prairie.
When I had fired two shots into space, the captain had put
his eight into the board. They sounded, as they went off,
like fire-crackers well started in a barrel, and mine, in com-
parison, like minute-guns at sea. The Hangers, I found,
after I saw more of them, could shoot as rapidly with a
revolver as with a rifle, and had become so expert with the
smaller weapon that instead of pressing the trigger for
each shot, they would pull steadily on it, and snap the
hammer until the six shots were exhausted.

San Antonio is the oldest of Texan cities, and possesses
historical and picturesque show-places which in any other
country but our own would be visited by innumerable
American tourists prepared to fall down and worship. The
citizens of San Antonio do not, as a rule, appreciate the
historical values of their city ; they are rather tired of them.
They would prefer you should look at the new Post-office
and the City Hall, and ride on the cable road. But the
missions which lie just outside of the city are what will
bring the Eastern man or woman to San Antonio, and not
the new water-works. There are four of these missions,
the two largest and most interesting being the Mission de
la Conception, of which the corner-stone was laid in 1730,
and the Mission San Jose, the carving, or what remains of
it, in the latter being wonderfully rich and effective. The
Spaniards were forced to abandon the missions on account
of the hostility of the Indians, and they have been occupied
at different times since by troops and bats, and left to the
mercies of the young men from " Rochester, N. Y.," and


The West from a Car - Window

the young women from " Dallas, Texas," who have carved
their immortal names over their walls just as freely as
though they were the pyramids of Egypt or Blarney Castle.
San Antonio is a great place for invalids, on account of its
moderate climate, and a most satisfactory place in which
to spend a week or two in the winter whether one is an in-
valid or not. There is the third largest army post in the
country at the edge of the city, where there is much to see
and many interesting people to know, and there is a good
club, and cock-fighting on Sunday, and a first-rate theatre
all the week. At night the men sit outside of the hotels,
and the plazas are filled with Mexicans and their open-air
restaurants, and the lights of these and the brigandish ap-
pearance of those who keep them are very unlike anything
one may see at home.

All that the city really needs now is a good hotel and a
more proper pride in its history and the monuments to it.
The man who seems to appreciate this best is William Cor-
ner, whose book on San Antonio is a most valuable histori-
cal authority.

A few years ago one would have said that San Antonio
was enjoying a boom. But you cannot use that expression
now, for the Western men have heard that a boom, no mat-
ter how quickly it rises, often comes down just as quickly,
and so forcibly that it makes a hole in the ground where
castles in the air had formerly stood. So if you wish to
please a Western man by speaking well of his city (and
you cannot please him more in any other way), you must
say that it is enjoying a " steady, healthy growth." San
Antonio is enjoying a steady, healthy growth.

It is quite as impossible to write comprehensively of
south-western Texas in one article as it is to write such an


From San Antonio to Corpus Christi

article and say nothing of the Alamo. And the Alamo, in
the event of any hasty reader's possible objection, is not
ancient history. It is no more ancient history than love is
an old story, for nothing is ancient and nothing is old which
every new day teaches something that is fine and beautiful
and brave. The Alamo is to the South-west what Inde-
pendence Hall is to the United States, and Bunker Hill to
the East; but the pride of it belongs to every American,
whether he lives in Texas or in Maine. The battle of
the Alamo was the event of greatest moment in the war
between Mexico and the Texans, when Santa Anna was
President, and the Texans were fighting for their independ-

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Online LibraryRichard Harding DavisThe West from a car-window → online text (page 1 of 11)