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Produced by Leah Moser and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.


A Collection of Western Camp-fire Stories




















"The Passing of Peg-Leg" and "A Question of Possession" appeared
originally in _Leslie's Monthly_, and are here reprinted by permission
of the publishers of that magazine.


[Illustration:] Bar X bar.

[Illustration:] Ohio.

[Illustration:] Barb wire.

[Illustration:] Hat.

[Illustration:] Apple.

[Illustration:] Diamond tail.

[Illustration:] Iowa.

[Illustration:] Johnson & Hosmer

[Illustration:] United States.[1]

[Illustration:] "Sold."[1]

[Illustration:] Dead tree.

[Illustration:] Tin cup.

[Illustration:] Snake.

[Illustration:] Bar Z bar.

[Illustration:] Running W.

[Illustration:] Three circle.

[Illustration:] Two bars.

[Illustration:] Broken arrow.

[Illustration:] Four D.

[Illustration:] Turkey track.

[Illustration:] Owned by "Barbecue" Campbell.

[Illustration:] L.X.

[Illustration:] "Inspected and condemned."[1]

[Illustration:] Spade.

[Illustration:] Flower pot.

[Illustration:] Frying pan.

[Illustration:] Laurel leaf.

[Illustration:] X bar two.

[Footnote 1: These three belong to the United States Government.]




It was a wet, bad year on the Old Western Trail. From Red River north
and all along was herd after herd waterbound by high water in the
rivers. Our outfit lay over nearly a week on the South Canadian, but
we were not alone, for there were five other herds waiting for the
river to go down. This river had tumbled over her banks for several
days, and the driftwood that was coming down would have made it
dangerous swimming for cattle.

We were expected to arrive in Dodge early in June, but when we reached
the North Fork of the Canadian, we were two weeks behind time.

Old George Carter, the owner of the herd, was growing very impatient
about us, for he had had no word from us after we had crossed Red
River at Doan's crossing. Other cowmen lying around Dodge, who had
herds on the trail, could hear nothing from their men, but in their
experience and confidence in their outfits guessed the cause - it was
water. Our surprise when we came opposite Camp Supply to have Carter
and a stranger ride out to meet us was not to be measured. They had
got impatient waiting, and had taken the mail buckboard to Supply,
making inquiries along the route for the _Hat_ herd, which had not
passed up the trail, so they were assured. Carter was so impatient
that he could not wait, as he had a prospective buyer on his hands,
and the delay in the appearing of the herd was very annoying to him.
Old George was as tickled as a little boy to meet us all.

The cattle were looking as fine as silk. The lay-overs had rested
them. The horses were in good trim, considering the amount of wet
weather we had had. Here and there was a nigger brand, but these
saddle galls were unavoidable when using wet blankets. The cattle were
twos and threes. We had left western Texas with a few over thirty-two
hundred head and were none shy. We could have counted out more, but on
some of them the Hat brand had possibly faded out. We went into a
cosy camp early in the evening. Everything needful was at hand, wood,
water, and grass. Cowmen in those days prided themselves on their
outfits, and Carter was a trifle gone on his men.

With the cattle on hand, drinking was out of the question, so the only
way to show us any regard was to bring us a box of cigars. He must
have brought those cigars from Texas, for they were wrapped in a copy
of the Fort Worth "Gazette." It was a month old and full of news.
Every man in the outfit read and reread it. There were several train
robberies reported in it, but that was common in those days. They had
nominated for Governor "The Little Cavalryman," Sol Ross, and this
paper estimated that his majority would be at least two hundred
thousand. We were all anxious to get home in time to vote for him.

Theodore Baughman was foreman of our outfit. Baugh was a typical
trail-boss. He had learned to take things as they came, play the cards
as they fell, and not fret himself about little things that could not
be helped. If we had been a month behind he would never have thought
to explain the why or wherefore to old man Carter. Several years after
this, when he was scouting for the army, he rode up to a herd over on
the Chisholm trail and asked one of the tail men: "Son, have you
seen anything of about three hundred nigger soldiers?" "No," said the
cowboy. "Well," said Baugh, "I've lost about that many."

That night around camp the smoke was curling upward from those cigars
in clouds. When supper was over and the guards arranged for the night,
story-telling was in order. This cattle-buyer with us lived in Kansas
City and gave us several good ones. He told us of an attempted robbery
of a bank which had occurred a few days before in a western town. As a
prelude to the tale, he gave us the history of the robbers.

"Cow Springs, Kansas," said he, "earned the reputation honestly of
being a hard cow-town. When it became the terminus of one of the many
eastern trails, it was at its worst. The death-rate amongst its city
marshals - always due to a six-shooter in the hands of some man who
never hesitated to use it - made the office not over desirable. The
office was vacated so frequently in this manner that at last no local
man could be found who would have it. Then the city fathers sent to
Texas for a man who had the reputation of being a killer. He kept his
record a vivid green by shooting first and asking questions afterward.

"Well, the first few months he filled the office of marshal he killed
two white men and an Indian, and had the people thoroughly buffaloed.
When the cattle season had ended and winter came on, the little town
grew tame and listless. There was no man to dare him to shoot, and
he longed for other worlds to conquer. He had won his way into public
confidence with his little gun. But this confidence reposed in him was
misplaced, for he proved his own double both in morals and courage.

"To show you the limit of the confidence he enjoyed: the treasurer of
the Cherokee Strip Cattle Association paid rent money to that tribe,
at their capital, fifty thousand dollars quarterly. The capital is
not located on any railroad; so the funds in currency were taken in
regularly by the treasurer, and turned over to the tribal authorities.
This trip was always made with secrecy, and the marshal was taken
along as a trusted guard. It was an extremely dangerous trip to make,
as it was through a country infested with robbers and the capital at
least a hundred miles from the railroad. Strange no one ever attempted
to rob the stage or private conveyance, though this sum was taken in
regularly for several years. The average robber was careful of his
person, and could not be induced to make a target of himself for any
money consideration, where there was danger of a gun in the hands of a
man that would shoot rapidly and carelessly.

"Before the herds began to reach as far north, the marshal and his
deputy gave some excuse and disappeared for a few days, which was
quite common and caused no comment. One fine morning the good people
of the town where the robbery was attempted were thrown into an uproar
by shooting in their bank, just at the opening hour. The robbers were
none other than our trusted marshal, his deputy, and a cow-puncher
who had been led into the deal. When they ordered the officials of
the bank to stand in a row with hands up, they were nonplused at their
refusal to comply. The attacked party unearthed ugly looking guns and
opened fire on the hold-ups instead.

"This proved bad policy, for when the smoke cleared away the cashier,
a very popular man, was found dead, while an assistant was dangerously
wounded. The shooting, however, had aroused the town to the situation,
and men were seen running to and fro with guns. This unexpected
refusal and the consequent shooting spoiled the plans of the robbers,
so that they abandoned the robbery and ran to their horses.

"After mounting they parleyed with each other a moment and seemed
bewildered as to which way they should ride, finally riding south
toward what seemed a broken country. Very few minutes elapsed before
every man who could find a horse was joining the posse that was
forming to pursue them. Before they were out of sight the posse had
started after them. They were well mounted and as determined a set of
men as were ever called upon to meet a similar emergency. They had the
decided advantage of the robbers, as their horses were fresh, and the
men knew every foot of the country.

"The broken country to which the hold-ups headed was a delusion as far
as safety was concerned. They were never for a moment out of sight of
the pursuers, and this broken country ended in a deep coulee. When
the posse saw them enter this they knew that their capture was only a
matter of time. Nature seemed against the robbers, for as they entered
the coulee their horses bogged down in a springy rivulet, and they
were so hard pressed that they hastily dismounted, and sought shelter
in some shrubbery that grew about. The pursuing party, now swollen to
quite a number, had spread out and by this time surrounded the men.
They were seen to take shelter in a clump of wild plum brush, and the
posse closed in on them. Seeing the numbers against them, they came
out on demand and surrendered. Neither the posse nor themselves knew
at this time that the shooting in the bank had killed the cashier.
Less than an hour's time had elapsed between the shooting and the
capture. When the posse reached town on their return, they learned of
the death of the cashier, and the identity of the prisoners was soon
established by citizens who knew the marshal and his deputy. The
latter admitted their identity.

"That afternoon they were photographed, and later in the day were
given a chance to write to any friends to whom they wished to say
good-by. The cow-puncher was the only one who availed himself of the
opportunity. He wrote to his parents. He was the only one of the trio
who had the nerve to write, and seemed the only one who realized the
enormity of his crime, and that he would never see the sun of another

"As darkness settled over the town, the mob assembled. There was no
demonstration. The men were taken quietly out and hanged. At the final
moment there was a remarkable variety of nerve shown. The marshal and
deputy were limp, unable to stand on their feet. With piteous appeals
and tears they pleaded for mercy, something they themselves had never
shown their own victims. The boy who had that day written his parents
his last letter met his fate with Indian stoicism. He cursed the
crouching figures of his pardners for enticing him into this crime,
and begged them not to die like curs, but to meet bravely the fate
which he admitted they all deserved. Several of the men in the mob
came forward and shook hands with him, and with no appeal to man or
his Maker, he was swung into the great Unknown at the end of a rope.
Such nerve is seldom met in life, and those that are supposed to have
it, when they come face to face with their end, are found lacking
that quality. It is a common anomaly in life that the bad man with
his record often shows the white feather when he meets his fate at the
hands of an outraged community."

We all took a friendly liking to the cattle-buyer. He was an
interesting talker. While he was a city man, he mixed with us with
a certain freedom and abandon that was easy and natural. We all
regretted it the next day when he and the old man left us.

"I've heard my father tell about those Cherokees," said Port Cole.
"They used to live in Georgia, those Indians. They must have been
honest people, for my father told us boys at home, that once in the
old State while the Cherokees lived there, his father hired one of
their tribe to guide him over the mountains. There was a pass through
the mountains that was used and known only to these Indians. It would
take six weeks to go and come, and to attend to the business in view.
My father was a small boy at the time, and says that his father hired
the guide for the entire trip for forty dollars in gold. One condition
was that the money was to be paid in advance. The morning was set for
the start, and my grandfather took my father along on the trip.

"Before starting from the Indian's cabin my grandfather took out his
purse and paid the Indian four ten-dollar gold pieces. The Indian
walked over to the corner of the cabin, and in the presence of other
Indians laid this gold, in plain sight of all, on the end of a log
that projected where they cross outside, and got on his horse to be
gone six weeks. They made the trip on time, and my father said his
first thought, on their return to the Indian village, was to see if
the money was untouched. It was. You couldn't risk white folks that

"Oh, I don't know," said one of the boys. "Suppose you save your wages
this summer and try it next year when we start up the trail, just to
see how it will work."

"Well, if it's just the same to you," replied Port, lighting a fresh
cigar, "I'll not try, for I'm well enough satisfied as to how it would
turn out, without testing it."

"Isn't it strange," said Bat Shaw, "that if you trust a man or put
confidence in him he won't betray you. Now, that marshal - one month
he was guarding money at the risk of his life, and the next was losing
his life trying to rob some one. I remember a similar case down on
the Rio Grande. It was during the boom in sheep a few years ago, when
every one got crazy over sheep.

"A couple of Americans came down on the river to buy sheep. They
brought their money with them. It was before the time of any
railroads. The man they deposited their money with had lived amongst
these Mexicans till he had forgotten where he did belong, though he
was a Yankee. These sheep-buyers asked their banker to get them a man
who spoke Spanish and knew the country, as a guide. The banker sent
and got a man that he could trust. He was a swarthy-looking native
whose appearance would not recommend him anywhere. He was accepted,
and they set out to be gone over a month.

"They bought a band of sheep, and it was necessary to pay for them
at a point some forty miles further up the river. There had been some
robbing along the river, and these men felt uneasy about carrying
the money to this place to pay for the sheep. The banker came to the
rescue by advising them to send the money by the Mexican, who could
take it through in a single night. No one would ever suspect him of
ever having a dollar on his person. It looked risky, but the banker
who knew the nature of the native urged it as the better way, assuring
them that the Mexican was perfectly trustworthy. The peon was brought
in, the situation was explained to him, and he was ordered to be in
readiness at nightfall to start on his errand.

"He carried the money over forty miles that night, and delivered it
safely in the morning to the proper parties. This act of his aroused
the admiration of these sheep men beyond a point of safety. They paid
for the sheep, were gone for a few months, sold out their flocks to
good advantage, and came back to buy more. This second time they did
not take the precaution to have the banker hire the man, but did so
themselves, intending to deposit their money with a different house
farther up the river. They confided to him that they had quite a
sum of money with them, and that they would deposit it with the same
merchant to whom he had carried the money before. The first night they
camped the Mexican murdered them both, took the money, and crossed
into Mexico. He hid their bodies, and it was months before they were
missed, and a year before their bones were found. He had plenty
of time to go to the ends of the earth before his crime would be

"Now that Mexican would never think of betraying the banker, his old
friend and patron, his _muy bueno amigo_. There were obligations that
he could not think of breaking with the banker; but these fool sheep
men, supposing it was simple honesty, paid the penalty of their
confidence with their lives. Now, when he rode over this same road
alone, a few months before, with over five thousand dollars in money
belonging to these same men, all he would need to have done was to
ride across the river. When there were no obligations binding, he was
willing to add murder to robbery. Some folks say that Mexicans are
good people; it is the climate, possibly, but they can always be
depended on to assay high in treachery."

"What guard are you going to put me on to-night?" inquired old man
Carter of Baugh.

"This outfit," said Baugh, in reply, "don't allow any tenderfoot
around the cattle, - at night, at least. You'd better play you're
company; somebody that's come. If you're so very anxious to do
something, the cook may let you rustle wood or carry water. We'll fix
you up a bed after a little, and see that you get into it where you
can sleep and be harmless.

"Colonel," added Baugh, "why is it that you never tell that experience
you had once amongst the greasers?"

"Well, there was nothing funny in it to me," said Carter, "and they
say I never tell it twice alike."

"Why, certainly, tell us," said the cattle-buyer. "I've never heard
it. Don't throw off to-night."

"It was a good many years ago," began old man George, "but the
incident is very clear in my mind. I was working for a month's wages
then myself. We were driving cattle out of Mexico. The people I
was working for contracted for a herd down in Chihuahua, about four
hundred miles south of El Paso. We sent in our own outfit, wagon,
horses, and men, two weeks before. I was kept behind to take in the
funds to pay for the cattle. The day before I started, my people drew
out of the bank twenty-eight thousand dollars, mostly large bills.
They wired ahead and engaged a rig to take me from the station where I
left the railroad to the ranch, something like ninety miles.

"I remember I bought a new mole-skin suit, which was very popular
about then. I had nothing but a small hand-bag, and it contained only
a six-shooter. I bought a book to read on the train and on the road
out, called 'Other People's Money.' The title caught my fancy, and it
was very interesting. It was written by a Frenchman, - full of love
and thrilling situations. I had the money belted on me securely, and
started out with flying colors. The railroad runs through a dreary
country, not worth a second look, so I read my new book. When I
arrived at the station I found the conveyance awaiting me. The plan
was to drive halfway, and stay over night at a certain hacienda.

"The driver insisted on starting at once, telling me that we could
reach the Hacienda Grande by ten o'clock that night, which would be
half my journey. We had a double-seated buckboard and covered the
country rapidly. There were two Mexicans on the front seat, while I
had the rear one all to myself. Once on the road I interested myself
in 'Other People's Money,' almost forgetful of the fact that at that
very time I had enough of other people's money on my person to set all
the bandits in Mexico on my trail. There was nothing of incident that
evening, until an hour before sundown. We reached a small ranchito,
where we spent an hour changing horses, had coffee and a rather light

"Before leaving I noticed a Pinto horse hitched to a tree some
distance in the rear of the house, and as we were expecting to buy a
number of horses, I walked back and looked this one carefully over.
He was very peculiarly color-marked in the mane. I inquired for his
owner, but they told me that he was not about at present. It was
growing dusk when we started out again. The evening was warm and
sultry and threatening rain. We had been on our way about an hour
when I realized we had left the main road and were bumping along on a
by-road. I asked the driver his reason for this, and he explained that
it was a cut-off, and that by taking it we would save three miles and
half an hour's time. As a further reason he expressed his opinion that
we would have rain that night, and that he was anxious to reach the
hacienda in good time. I encouraged him to drive faster, which he did.
Within another hour I noticed we were going down a dry arroyo, with
mesquite brush on both sides of the road, which was little better than
a trail. My suspicions were never aroused sufficiently to open the
little hand-bag and belt on the six-shooter. I was dreaming along
when we came to a sudden stop before what seemed a deserted jacal.
The Mexicans mumbled something to each other over some disappointment,
when the driver said to me: -

"'Here's where we stay all night. This is the hacienda.' They both got
out and insisted on my getting out, but I refused to do so. I reached
down and picked up my little grip and was in the act of opening it,
when one of them grabbed my arm and jerked me out of the seat to the
ground. I realized then for the first time that I was in for it in
earnest. I never knew before that I could put up such a fine defense,
for inside a minute I had them both blinded in their own blood. I
gathered up rocks and had them flying when I heard a clatter of hoofs
coming down the arroyo like a squadron of cavalry. They were so close
on to me that I took to the brush, without hat, coat, or pistol. Men
that pack a gun all their lives never have it when they need it; that
was exactly my fix. Darkness was in my favor, but I had no more idea
where I was or which way I was going than a baby. One thing sure, I
was trying to get away from there as fast as I could. The night was
terribly dark, and about ten o'clock it began to rain a deluge. I kept
going all night, but must have been circling.

"Towards morning I came to an arroyo which was running full of water.
My idea was to get that between me and the scene of my trouble, so
I took off my boots to wade it. When about one third way across, I
either stepped off a bluff bank or into a well, for I went under and
dropped the boots. When I came to the surface I made a few strokes
swimming and landed in a clump of mesquite brush, to which I clung,
got on my feet, and waded out to the opposite bank more scared than
hurt. Right there I lay until daybreak.

"The thing that I remember best now was the peculiar odor of the wet
mole-skin. If there had been a strolling artist about looking for
a picture of Despair, I certainly would have filled the bill. The
sleeves were torn out of my shirt, and my face and arms were scratched
and bleeding from the thorns of the mesquite. No one who could have
seen me then would ever have dreamed that I was a walking depositary
of 'Other People's Money.' When it got good daylight I started out
and kept the shelter of the brush to hide me. After nearly an hour's
travel, I came out on a divide, and about a mile off I saw what looked
like a jacal. Directly I noticed a smoke arise, and I knew then it was
a habitation. My appearance was not what I desired, but I approached

"In answer to my knock at the door a woman opened it about two inches
and seemed to be more interested in examination of my anatomy than in
listening to my troubles. After I had made an earnest sincere talk she
asked me, 'No estay loco tu?' I assured her that I was perfectly sane,
and that all I needed was food and clothing, for which I would pay her
well. It must have been my appearance that aroused her sympathy, for
she admitted me and fed me.

"The woman had a little girl of probably ten years of age. This little

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Online LibraryAndy AdamsCattle Brands A Collection of Western Camp-fire Stories → online text (page 1 of 16)