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in trailing cattle was considered the maximum where Kansas was the
destination. Many drovers allowed only five horses to the man, but
their men were frequently seen walking with the herd, their mounts
mingling with the cattle, unable to carry their riders longer.

The receiving of the herd in Williamson County was an easy matter.
Four prominent ranchmen were to supply the beeves to the number of
three thousand. Nearly every hoof was in the straight ranch brand of
the sellers, only some two hundred being mixed brands and requiring
the usual road-branding. In spite of every effort to hold the herd
down to the contracted number, we received one hundred and fifty
extra; but then they were cattle that no justifiable excuse could be
offered in refusing. The last beeves were received on the 22d of the
month, and after cutting separate all cattle of outside brands, they
were sent to the chute to receive the road-mark. Major Mabry was
present, and a controversy arose between the sellers and himself over
our refusal to road-brand, or at least vent the ranch brands, on the
great bulk of the herd. Too many brands on an animal was an objection
to the shippers and feeders of the North, and we were anxious to cater
to their wishes as far as possible. The sellers protested against the
cattle leaving their range without some mark to indicate their change
of ownership. The country was all open; in case of a stampede and loss
of cattle within a few hundred miles they were certain to drift back
to their home range, with nothing to distinguish them from their
brothers of the same age. Flesh marks are not a good title by which
to identify one's property, where those possessions consist of range
cattle, and the law recognized the holding brand as the hall-mark of
ownership. But a compromise was finally agreed upon, whereby we were
to run the beeves through the chute and cut the brush from their
tails. In a four or five year old animal this tally-mark would hold
for a year, and in no wise work any hardship to the animal in warding
off insect life. In case of any loss on the trail my employer agreed
to pay one dollar a head for regathering any stragglers that returned
within a year. The proposition was a fair one, the ranchmen yielded,
and we ran the whole herd through the chute, cutting the brush within
a few inches of the end of the tail-bone. By tightly wrapping the
brush once around the blade of a sharp knife, it was quick work
to thus vent a chuteful of cattle, both the road-branding and
tally-marking being done in two days.

The herd started on the morning of the 25th. I had a good outfit of
men, only four of whom were with me the year before. The spring could
not be considered an early one, and therefore we traveled slow for
the first few weeks, meeting with two bad runs, three days apart,
but without the loss of a hoof. These panics among the cattle were
unexplainable, as they were always gorged with grass and water at
bedding time, the weather was favorable, no unseemly noises were
heard by the men on guard, and both runs occurred within two hours of
daybreak. There was a half-breed Mexican in the outfit, a very quiet
man, and when the causes of the stampedes were being discussed around
the camp-fire, I noticed that he shrugged his shoulders in derision
of the reasons advanced. The half-breed was my horse wrangler, old in
years and experience, and the idea struck me to sound him as to his
version of the existing trouble among the cattle. He was inclined to
be distant, but I approached him cautiously, complimented him on his
handling of the remuda, rode with him several hours, and adroitly drew
out his opinion of what caused our two stampedes. As he had never
worked with the herd, his first question was, did we receive any blind
cattle or had any gone blind since we started? He then informed me
that the old Spanish rancheros would never leave a sightless animal in
a corral with sound ones during the night for fear of a stampede. He
cautioned me to look the herd over carefully, and if there was a blind
animal found to cut it out or the trouble would he repeated in spite
of all precaution. I rode back and met the herd, accosting every swing
man on one side with the inquiry if any blind animal had been seen,
without results until the drag end of the cattle was reached. Two men
were at the rear, and when approached with the question, both admitted
noticing, for the past week, a beef which acted as if he might be
crazy. I had them point out the steer, and before I had watched him
ten minutes was satisfied that he was stone blind. He was a fine, big
fellow, in splendid flesh, but it was impossible to keep him in the
column; he was always straggling out and constantly shying from
imaginary objects. I had the steer roped for three or four nights and
tied to a tree, and as the stampeding ceased we cut him out every
evening when bedding down the herd, and allowed him to sleep alone.
The poor fellow followed us, never venturing to leave either day or
night, but finally fell into a deep ravine and broke his neck. His
affliction had befallen him on the trail, affecting his nervous system
to such an extent that he would jump from imaginary objects and thus
stampede his brethren. I remember it occurred to me, then, how little
I knew about cattle, and that my wrangler and I ought to exchange
places. Since that day I have always been an attentive listener to the
humblest of my fellowmen when interpreting the secrets of animal life.

Another incident occurred on this trip which showed the observation
and insight of my half-breed wrangler. We were passing through some
cross-timbers one morning in northern Texas, the remuda and wagon far
in the lead. We were holding the herd as compactly as possible to
prevent any straying of cattle, when our saddle horses were noticed
abandoned in thick timber. It was impossible to leave the herd at the
time, but on reaching the nearest opening, about two miles ahead, I
turned and galloped back for fear of losing horses. I counted the
remuda and found them all there, but the wrangler was missing.
Thoughts of desertion flashed through my mind, the situation was
unexplainable, and after calling, shooting, and circling around for
over an hour, I took the remuda in hand and started after the herd,
mentally preparing a lecture in case my wrangler returned. While
nooning that day some six or seven miles distant, the half-breed
jauntily rode into camp, leading a fine horse, saddled and bridled,
with a man's coat tied to the cantle-strings. He explained to us that
he had noticed the trail of a horse crossing our course at right
angles. The freshness of the sign attracted his attention, and
trailing it a short distance in the dewy morning he had noticed that
something attached to the animal was trailing. A closer examination
was made, and he decided that it was a bridle rein and not a rope that
was attached to the wandering horse. From the freshness of the trail,
he felt positive that he would overtake the animal shortly, but after
finding him some difficulty was encountered before the horse would
allow himself to be caught. He apologized for his neglect of duty,
considering the incident as nothing unusual, and I had not the heart
even to scold him. There were letters in the pocket of the coat,
from which the owner was identified, and on arriving at Abilene
the pleasure was mine of returning the horse and accoutrements and
receiving a twenty-dollar gold piece for my wrangler. A stampede of
trail cattle had occurred some forty miles to the northwest but a few
nights before our finding the horse, during which the herd ran into
some timber, and a low-hanging limb unhorsed the foreman, the animal
escaping until captured by my man.

On approaching Fort Worth, still traveling slowly on account of the
lateness of the spring, I decided to pay a flying visit to Palo Pinto
County. It was fully eighty miles from the Fort across to the Edwards
ranch, and appointing one of my old men as segundo, I saddled my best
horse and set out an hour before sunset. I had made the same ride four
years previously on coming to the country, a cool night favored my
mount, and at daybreak I struck the Brazos River within two miles of
the ranch. An eventful day followed; I reeled off innocent white-faced
lies by the yard, in explaining the delightful winter I had spent with
my brother in Missouri. Fortunately the elder Edwards was not driving
any cattle that year, and George was absent buying oxen for a Fort
Griffin freighter. Good reports of my new ranch awaited me, my
cattle were increasing, and the smile of prosperity again shed its
benediction over me. No one had located any lands near my little
ranch, and the coveted addition on the west was still vacant and
unoccupied. The silent monitor within my breast was my only accuser,
but as I rode away from the Edwards ranch in the shade of evening,
even it was silenced, for I held the promise of a splendid girl to
become my wife. A second sleepless night passed like a pleasant dream,
and early the next morning, firmly anchored in resolutions that no
vagabond friends could ever shake, I overtook my herd.

After crossing Red River, the sweep across the Indian country was but
a repetition of other years, with its varying monotony. Once we were
waterbound for three days, severe drifts from storms at night were
experienced, delaying our progress, and we did not reach Abilene until
June 15. We were aware, however, of an increased drive of cattle
to the north; evidences were to be seen on every hand; owners were
hanging around the different fords and junctions of trails, inquiring
if herds in such and such brands had been seen or spoken. While we
were crossing the Nations, men were daily met hunting for lost horses
or inquiring for stampeded cattle, while the regular trails were being
cut into established thoroughfares from increasing use. Neither of the
other Mabry herds had reached their destination on our arrival, though
Major Seth put in an appearance within a week and reported the other
two about one hundred miles to the rear. Cattle were arriving by the
thousands, buyers from the north, east, and west were congregating,
and the prospect of good prices was flattering. I was fortunate in
securing my old camp-ground north of the town; a dry season had set
in nearly a month before, maturing the grass, and our cattle took on
flesh rapidly. Buyers looked them over daily, our prices being firm.
Wintered cattle were up in the pictures, a rate war was on between all
railroad lines east of the Mississippi River, cutting to the bone to
secure the Western live-stock traffic. Three-year-old steers bought
the fall before at twenty dollars and wintered on the Kansas prairies
were netting their owners as high as sixty dollars on the Chicago
market. The man with good cattle for sale could afford to be firm.

At this juncture a regrettable incident occurred, which, however,
proved a boon to me. Some busybody went to the trouble of telling
Major Mabry about my return to Abilene the fall before and my
subsequent escapade in Texas, embellishing the details and even
intimating that I had squandered funds not my own. I was thirty years
old and as touchy as gunpowder, and felt the injustice of the charge
like a knife-blade in my heart. There was nothing to do but ask for
my release, place the facts in the hands of my employer, and court a
thorough investigation. I had always entertained the highest regard
for Major Mabry, and before the season ended I was fully vindicated
and we were once more fast friends.

In the mean time I was not idle. By the first of July it was known
that three hundred thousand cattle would be the minimum of the
summer's drive to Abilene. My extensive acquaintance among buyers made
my services of value to new drovers. A commission of twenty-five
cents a head was offered me for effecting sales. The first week after
severing my connection with Major Seth my earnings from a single
trade amounted to seven hundred and fifty dollars. Thenceforth I was
launched on a business of my own. Fortune smiled on me, acquaintances
nicknamed me "The Angel," and instead of my foolishness reflecting on
me, it made me a host of friends. Cowmen insisted on my selling their
cattle, shippers consulted me, and I was constantly in demand with
buyers, who wished my opinion on young steers before closing trades.
I was chosen referee in a dozen disputes in classifying cattle, my
decisions always giving satisfaction. Frequently, on an order, I
turned buyer. Northern men seemed timid in relying on their own
judgment of Texas cattle. Often, after a trade was made, the buyer
paid me the regular commission for cutting and receiving, not willing
to risk his judgment on range cattle. During the second week in August
I sold five thousand head and bought fifteen hundred. Every man who
had purchased cattle the year before had made money and was back in
the market for more. Prices were easily advanced as the season wore
on, whole herds were taken by three or four farmers from the corn
regions, and the year closed with a flourish. In the space of four
months I was instrumental in selling, buying, cutting, or receiving
a few over thirty thousand head, on all of which I received a
commission.

I established a camp of my own during the latter part of August. In
order to avoid night-herding his cattle the summer before, some one
had built a corral about ten miles northeast of Abilene. It was a
temporary affair, the abrupt, bluff banks of a creek making a perfect
horseshoe, requiring only four hundred feet of fence across the neck
to inclose a corral of fully eight acres. The inclosure was not in
use, so I hired three men and took possession of it for the time
being. I had noticed in previous years that when a drover had sold all
his herd but a remnant, he usually sacrificed his culls in order to
reduce the expense of an outfit and return home. I had an idea that
there was money in buying up these remnants and doing a small jobbing
business. Frequently I had as many as seven hundred cull cattle on
hand. Besides, I was constantly buying and selling whole remudas of
saddle horses. So when a drover had sold all but a few hundred cattle
he would come to me, and I would afford him the relief he wanted.
Cripples and sore-footed animals were usually thrown in for good
measure, or accepted at the price of their hides. Some buyers demanded
quality and some cared only for numbers. I remember effecting a sale
of one hundred culls to a settler, southeast on the Smoky River, at
seven dollars a head. The terms were that I was to cut out the cattle,
and as many were cripples and cost me little or nothing, they afforded
a nice profit besides cleaning up my herd. When selling my own, I
always priced a choice of my cattle at a reasonable figure, or offered
to cull out the same number at half the price. By this method my herd
was kept trimmed from both ends and the happy medium preserved.

I love to think of those good old days. Without either foresight or
effort I made all kinds of money during the summer of 1870. Our best
patrons that fall were small ranchmen from Kansas and Nebraska, every
one of whom had coined money on their purchases of the summer before.
One hundred per cent for wintering a steer and carrying him less than
a year had brought every cattleman and his cousin back to Abilene to
duplicate their former ventures. The little ranchman who bought five
hundred steers in the fall of 1869 was in the market the present
summer for a thousand head. Demand always seemed to meet supply a
little over half-way. The market closed firm, with every hoof taken
and at prices that were entirely satisfactory to drovers. It would
seem an impossibility were I to admit my profits for that year, yet at
the close of the season I started overland to Texas with fifty choice
saddle horses and a snug bank account. Surely those were the golden
days of the old West.

My last act before leaving Abilene that fall was to meet my enemy and
force a personal settlement. Major Mabry washed his hands by firmly
refusing to name my accuser, but from other sources I traced my
defamer to a liveryman of the town. The fall before, on four horses
and saddles, I paid a lien, in the form of a feed bill, of one hundred
and twenty dollars for my stranded friends. The following day the same
man presented me another bill for nearly an equal amount, claiming
it had been assigned to him in a settlement with other parties. I
investigated the matter, found it to be a disputed gambling account,
and refused payment. An attempt was made, only for a moment, to hold
the horses, resulting in my incurring the stableman's displeasure. The
outcome was that on our return the next spring our patronage went
to another _bran_, and the story, born in malice and falsehood, was
started between employer and employee. I had made arrangements to
return to Texas with the last one of Major Mabry's outfits, and the
wagon and remuda had already started, when I located my traducer in a
well-known saloon. I invited him to a seat at a table, determined to
bring matters to an issue. He reluctantly complied, when I branded him
with every vile epithet that my tongue could command, concluding by
arraigning him as a coward. I was hungering for him to show some
resistance, expecting to kill him, and when he refused to notice my
insults, I called the barkeeper and asked for two glasses of whiskey
and a pair of six-shooters. Not a word passed between us until the
bartender brought the drinks and guns on a tray. "Now take your
choice," said I. He replied, "I believe a little whiskey will do me
good."




CHAPTER VIII

THE "LAZY L"


The homeward trip was a picnic. Counting mine, we had one hundred and
fifty saddle horses. All surplus men in the employ of Major Mabry had
been previously sent home until there remained at the close of the
season only the drover, seven men, and myself. We averaged forty miles
a day returning, sweeping down the plains like a north wind until Red
River Station was reached. There our ways parted, and cutting separate
my horses, we bade each other farewell, the main outfit heading for
Fort Worth, while I bore to the westward for Palo Pinto. Major Seth
was anxious to secure my services for another year, but I made
no definite promises. We parted the best of friends. There were
scattering ranches on my route, but driving fifty loose horses made
traveling slow, and it was nearly a week before I reached the Edwards
ranch.

The branding season was nearly over. After a few days' rest, an outfit
of men was secured, and we started for my little ranch on the Clear
Fork. Word was sent to the county seat, appointing a date with the
surveyor, and on arriving at the new ranch I found that the corrals
had been in active use by branding parties. We were soon in the thick
of the fray, easily holding our own, branding every maverick on the
range as well as catching wild cattle. My weakness for a good horse
was the secret of much of my success in ranching during the early
days, for with a remuda of seventy picked horses it was impossible for
any unowned animal to escape us. Our drag-net scoured the hills and
valleys, and before the arrival of the surveyor we had run the "44"
on over five hundred calves, mavericks, and wild cattle. Different
outfits came down the Brazos and passed up the Clear Fork, always
using my corrals when working in the latter valley. We usually joined
in with these cow-hunting parties, extending to them every possible
courtesy, and in return many a thrifty yearling was added to my brand.
Except some wild-cattle hunting which we had in view, every hoof was
branded up by the time the surveyor arrived at the ranch.

The locating of twenty sections of land was an easy matter. We had
established corners from which to work, and commencing on the west end
of my original location, we ran off an area of country, four miles
west by five south. New outside corners were established with
buried charcoal and stakes, while the inner ones were indicated by
half-buried rock, nothing divisional being done except to locate the
land in sections. It was a beautiful tract, embracing a large bend of
the Clear Fork, heavily timbered in several places, the soil being of
a rich, sandy loam and covered with grass. I was proud of my landed
interest, though small compared to modern ranches; and after the
surveying ended, we spent a few weeks hunting out several rendezvous
of wild cattle before returning to the Edwards ranch.

I married during the holidays. The new ranch was abandoned during the
winter months, as the cattle readily cared for themselves, requiring
no attention. I now had a good working capital, and having established
myself by marriage into a respectable family of the country, I found
several avenues open before me. Among the different openings for
attractive investment was a brand of cattle belonging to an estate
south in Comanche County. If the cattle were as good as represented
they were certainly a bargain, as the brand was offered straight
through at four dollars and a half a head. It was represented that
nothing had been sold from the brand in a number of years, the estate
was insolvent, and the trustee was anxious to sell the entire stock
outright. I was impressed with the opportunity, and early in the
winter George Edwards and I rode down to look the situation over. By
riding around the range a few days we were able to get a good idea of
the stock, and on inquiry among neighbors and men familiar with the
brand, I was satisfied that the cattle were a bargain. A lawyer at the
county seat was the trustee, and on opening negotiations with him it
was readily to be seen that all he knew about the stock was that shown
by the books and accounts. According to the branding for the past few
years, it would indicate a brand of five or six thousand cattle. The
only trouble in trading was to arrange the terms, my offer being half
cash and the balance in six months, the cattle to be gathered early
the coming spring. A bewildering list of references was given and we
returned home. Within a fortnight a letter came from the trustee,
accepting my offer and asking me to set a date for the gathering. I
felt positive that the brand ought to run forty per cent steer
cattle, and unless there was some deception, there would be in the
neighborhood of two thousand head fit for the trail. I at once bought
thirty more saddle horses, outfitted a wagon with oxen to draw it,
besides hiring fifteen cow-hands. Early in March we started for
Comanche County, having in the mean time made arrangements with the
elder Edwards to supply one thousand head of trail cattle, intended
for the Kansas market.

An early spring favored the work. By the 10th of the month we were
actively engaged in gathering the stock. It was understood that we
were to have the assistance of the ranch outfit in holding the cattle,
but as they numbered only half a dozen and were miserably mounted,
they were of little use except as herders. All the neighboring ranches
gave us round-ups, and by the time we reached the home range of the
brand I was beginning to get uneasy on account of the numbers under
herd. My capital was limited, and if we gathered six thousand head it
would absorb my money. I needed a little for expenses on the trail,
and too many cattle would be embarrassing. There was no intention on
my part to act dishonestly in the premises, even if we did drop out
any number of yearlings during the last few days of the gathering. It
was absolutely necessary to hold the numbers down to five thousand
head, or as near that number as possible, and by keeping the ranch
outfit on herd and my men out on round-ups, it was managed quietly,
though we let no steer cattle two years old or over escape. When the
gathering was finished, to the surprise of every one the herd counted
out fifty-six hundred and odd cattle. But the numbers were still
within the limits of my capital, and at the final settlement I asked
the privilege of cutting out and leaving on the range one hundred head
of weak, thin stock and cows heavy in calf. I offered to tally-mark
and send after them during the fall branding, when the trustee begged
me to make him an offer on any remnant of cattle, making me full owner
of the brand. I hesitated to involve myself deeper in debt, but when
he finally offered me the "Lazy L" brand outright for the sum of one
thousand dollars, and on a credit, I never stuttered in accepting his
proposal.

I culled back one hundred before starting, there being no occasion now


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Online LibraryAndy AdamsReed Anthony, Cowman → online text (page 7 of 22)